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How ERP Breathes New Life into Medical Device Manufacturing

How ERP Breathes New Life into Medical Device Manufacturing

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The medical device manufacturing sector plays a vital role in supplying essential products that impact lives. Manufacturers must adhere to the strictest compliance standards while successfully organizing and managing their operations. Effective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can be an important aspect of this organization and management. There are many benefits to implementing ERP systems, and manufacturers will find that the right solutions will improve their operations, ultimately increasing operational productivity and software functioning.

Medical Device Manufacturing

Tracking Data Health

Given the diverse range of medical supplies and their components, manufacturers require software integrations capable of efficiently tracking parts and finished products. ERP systems facilitate seamless tracking and management of order histories, revisions, and product recalls. Tailored ERP solutions offer real-time insights throughout the manufacturing process, aiding in documentation and data export for compliance with medical device manufacturing standards. These systems also enable revision tracking during manufacturing, assisting businesses during inspections and audits. Providing recall tracking, ERP systems empower businesses to identify potential concerns in medical devices, implementing protocols to prevent recalls and ensuring comprehensive tracking support for the complex manufacturing of medical devices.

Healthy Supply Chain Management

ERP systems for the medical device manufacturing industry offer robust support for supply chain management. Businesses can easily manage various aspects, including the Approved Supplier List (ASL), tracking, manufacturing documentation, data reporting, validation and revalidation, risk assessment, and quality control and inspection.

Seamless ERP Integrations

The most effective ERP systems are tailored to seamlessly integrate with existing systems and software. Customized ERP systems provide a unified approach to operational management, allowing for flexible software integrations under a single system. For instance, integration with the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) provides crucial data insights while safeguarding data and permissions. ERP systems collaborate with and enhance existing systems, enabling businesses in the medical device manufacturing industry to focus on quality and efficiency in supplying and distributing medical devices.

 

The Longevity of Med Device Manufacturing 

In a world where medical devices like artificial hips and knees are essential and can change lives, ERP systems emerge as crucial tools for meeting industry demands. A fully-customizable ERP system offers comprehensive data tracking and supply chain management, alongside flexibility in system and software integrations. Implementation of effective ERP systems empowers businesses to gain insights into their manufacturing processes, enhancing operational efficiency and productivity. A unified system with vital software integrations allows businesses to prioritize fulfilling essential orders and providing individuals with the medical devices they need.

Where Security Takes the Pulse

Meet ECHO, EstesGroup’s cloud solution for complex application management. In the rapidly evolving landscape of medical device manufacturing, top-tier security and cloud solutions stand as the vanguards of fortified operations. Paired seamlessly with effective ERP systems, these cutting-edge technologies offer a robust shield against potential threats. Advanced security protocols embedded within the cloud infrastructure provide an extra layer of protection for sensitive data, ensuring compliance with stringent industry standards.

Global Health Requires Private Cloud ERP

Cloud solutions enable manufacturers to securely store and access critical information, fostering a dynamic and collaborative environment. This integrated approach not only enhances the resilience of the manufacturing process but also aligns with the industry’s commitment to delivering high-quality, life-changing medical devices. As the medical manufacturing sector embraces innovation, the synergy between ERP, top-tier security, and cloud solutions emerges as a formidable force, propelling the industry towards a future of heightened efficiency and reliability.

An Introduction to the SYSPRO Database

An Introduction to the SYSPRO Database

An Introduction to the SYSPRO SQL Database Structure

In the early versions of SYSPRO, the ERP’s data was entirely stored in C-ISAM files. These C-ISAM files were essentially text files containing system data. They could cause a lot of trouble if you had to investigate or troubleshoot data problems as they were lacking a stable framework to review and analyze them. Thankfully, a modern SQL database structure was introduced between SYSPRO 6.1 and 7. In today’s SYSPRO 8 version, essentially all components of the ERP have now been converted and are stored in traditional SQL database tables. Knowing what SYSPRO’s database looks like becomes a vital tool if you are tasked to troubleshoot data problems, analyze company data, or build SQL queries to pull data for custom reports.

SYSPRO SQL Database Structure

So what does a SYSPRO database structure look like? 

The “System-Wide” Database

Both SYSPRO 7 and SYSPRO 8 contain what SYSPRO calls the “system-wide” database. While the name of the database can be customized to the business’ liking, it is commonly named “sysprodb” by default. The database contains information about operators, administrative settings, system information, and licensing details. Any data pertaining to system-wide configurations that span all SYSPRO companies will be found in this database. Particularly important tables to take note of in this database are:

  • AdmOperator – Contains data of all operators on file in SYSPRO along with their role, group, and other access level details. 
  • AdmSysVersion – Header table containing the database version details of the SYSPRO environment.
  • SysproAdmin – Table containing a list of the companies in your SYSPRO environment. This table becomes relevant when creating test companies or setting up SYSPRO’s default test databases. 

The Company Databases

Each company created in SYSPRO will have its own database and default company tables. By default, SYSPRO names these companies ‘SysproCompany’ along with the company’s ID at the end. Ex, SysproCompanyT, SysproCompanyA, etc. These are the databases where your company’s transactional data is stored. 

At a first glance, these databases can be overwhelming. A standard SYSPRO database can have over 1000 tables in it. The good thing is that while this full list of tables compromises all of SYSPRO’s functionality, it is unlikely that your environment is both licensed and actively using SYSPRO’s full suite of products. This means that most of these tables will be empty and will not be worth much of your attention.

Instead, there are about 25 – 50 tables in any given environment that sees most of the action. To provide a cheat sheet, here are some of the commonly used tables in SYSPRO that are essential to the daily use of SYSPRO:

  • ApInvoice – Supplier invoices
  • ApSupplier – Supplier header details
  • ApSupplierAddr – Addresses for the suppliers
  • ArCustomer – Customer header details
  • ArInvoice – Customer invoices
  • ArTrnDetail – Details about each invoice. Used extensively for sales reporting
  • BomOperations – Operations against a BOM
  • BomStructure – Structure against a BOM
  • InvMaster – Master for all stock codes in SYSPRO
  • InvMovements – Inventory transaction details against each SKU
  • InvPrice – Sell prices against each SKU
  • InvWarehouse – Master table for inventory counts of each SKU
  • PorMasterHdr – Purchase order header
  • PorMasterDetail – Purchase order details
  • SorMaster – Sales order master
  • SorDetail – Sales order details
  • WipMaster – Master for jobs
  • WipJobAllLab – Labor details against jobs
  • WipJobAllMat – Material details against jobs
  • WipJobPost – History of material/labor issued to jobs

The “Deployment” Database

Unique to SYSPRO 8, this database handles information relating to the release version of your SYSPRO environment. The “SYSPRO 8 Installer” tool uses this database exclusively to verify which products are available to you and whether any recent updates have become available. In addition, it contains information about which machines have SYSPRO clients installed on them and which versions they have installed. 

Admins, do you grasp the SYSPRO database structure for efficient data troubleshooting and analysis?

This covers the databases you will see in a usual SYSPRO environment. Knowing what SYSPRO’s database structure looks like is essential for any SYSPRO admin to effectively be able to find, troubleshoot, and analyze vital company data. 

Best Practices for Evaluating a Next-Generation B2B Platform

Best Practices for Evaluating a Next-Generation B2B Platform

How to Think about E-Commerce as a Manufacturer

E-commerce continues to be a pivotal topic in the manufacturing world – distributors caught on to e-commerce comparatively quickly, as the demand for streamlined processing became a core competency. But in the manufacturing world, where product complexity is many times greater than the items delivered over traditional distribution channels, the acquisition and fulfillment of complete, complex, and high-dollar products becomes much more complicated.

B2B E-Commerce

Manufacturing companies that successfully leverage e-commerce as part of their overall go-to-market strategy do so in a variety of ways and seek to achieve a variety of benefits. That said, I thought it would be beneficial to cover some of the ways in which manufacturing companies are successfully leveraging e-commerce solutions to the benefit of their bottom line and their strategic initiatives.

Expanding Your Spare Parts Business

As a consultant, I once noticed an interesting trend when it came to system configuration – customers routinely spend an inordinate amount of time configuring their ERP system around their finished goods. And then they go live, and we all realize that the vast majority of their orders are not for finished goods but rather for spare parts. In many organizations, these orders amount to a significant revenue stream. Why is that? The margins achieved by service parts, replacement parts, spare parts, and related value streams are generally much higher than they are for finished goods. When a customer is in a bind, their machines are down, and product is not getting out the door, the demand for simple components goes way up, and as a result, the asking price similarly climbs.

To that end, e-commerce systems can streamline the process for finding the right part you need and expediting the fulfillment process, getting the order in the queue, without the need to chase down a customer service rep.

Expedited Warranty Processing

The flip side of the spare parts business is the world of warranty. In these cases, customers need some form of service part to address an issue covered by the original product’s warranty, often at no cost. Deploying your warranty parts to your e-commerce system allows your customer base to get a hold of the parts they need as soon as possible and helps cut down your own warranty costs by reducing the degree of human interaction. The net result is a better overall service offering, without the increase in overhead.

Finished Goods Acquisition

While our discussion has thus far centered on the acquisition of component parts, many manufacturers have extended their e-commerce offerings to include finished goods. I’ve seen customers readily deploy their highly standardized and stocked finished good products to their e-commerce systems, and in doing so, provide another avenue for customer service and order taking. This can be of great value to organizations that cater to both a B2B and B2C community. It can also service the lead-time needs of existing customers – in cases where companies are short-staffed on the order entry / customer service front, an e-commerce connection allows your customer base to get “first in line” when placing an order. In many industries, such a priority can shorten order-to-deliver lead times, which can be of great value to a given customer.

Customer Portal

The ability to stay on top of your orders has become of increasing importance to customers in B2B relationships. This includes but is not limited to orders that were placed online. When a customer places an order, they often expect online status information, to be able to track their orders through the fulfillment process. This can be important both for quick-turn items, where delivery timing is of the essence, or for large, long lead time items, where status at various stages becomes critical to know. E-commerce solutions provide a natural way to provide customers with updates to order status, whether the order was placed online or through a customer service representative. This allows you to provide an easy means of constant status to your customers while saving your own team.

Dealer Interaction

One important customer channel for many manufacturers is the dealer-distributor network. Dealers and distributors are a strange blend of outside sales and end customers, and their needs overlap the two. A goal for many organizations is to make their dealer-distributor network as much an extension of their own organization as possible. How is this done? Through seamless communication, often fostered by an e-commerce-enabled dealer portal. Dealer portals often combine elements of traditional e-commerce with elements that betray the intimacy that dealers need and expect from their manufacturing partners. Are you looking to better service the needs of your dealers and distributors? Give e-commerce a try.

24/7 Customer Service

As you might have noticed, many of the above circumstances have referenced difficulties in getting your order placed. This is surprisingly common, and I am forever shocked and surprised by the challenges many companies have in finding reliable customer service and order processing resources. Customer service is a difficult business, and many workers who might have posted for these roles have found other options. That said, the time it takes for your customers to get their orders into your system and “into the queue” can be a deal maker or a deal breaker. 

Providing an easy means to enter orders and get them immediately into the fulfillment cycle can be an enticing option. Also, in our increasingly remote world, where employees routinely look to get tasks done at odd hours, the ability to provide 24/7 customer service can be of great value to many organizations. When your customer is in a pinch due to an emergency or machine downtime, the ability to immediately get in front of you can be of immense value.

Separating the Best from the Rest

As you can see, e-commerce has grown in breadth and depth over the years to cover an increasing number of avenues and solve a variety of problems for customers. But now that we know what a world-class e-commerce solution can do for you, the question remains: what are the best practices for evaluating a world-class e-commerce solution? In our webinar on October 25th, 2023, our friends at Parttrap can help you see what you need to look for when evaluating an e-commerce solution.

B2B
Unlocking the SYSPRO System Audit Query

Unlocking the SYSPRO System Audit Query

System Audit Query – A SYSPRO ERP Administrator’s Go-To Report for SYSPRO Security Events

Being an administrator of an ERP system is no easy task. Thankfully, SYSPRO ships with several convenient programs that allow an administrator to actively monitor important events that are taking place within the system. One especially useful tool that stands out is the System Audit Query program (IMPJNS).

SYSPRO System Audit Query

SYSPRO System Audit

What You’ll Find in the SYSPRO System Audit Query Program

SYSPRO creates security logs automatically as events take place throughout the ERP. These logs are created to assist system administrators to better manage and review security related incidents in SYSPRO. The System Audit Query program is the place where these logs can be retrieved and analyzed. The program allows you to filter a time period for various security and system health-related events such as:

  • Access having been denied to a company or a program
  • Any security changes made to Groups, Roles, or specific operators
  • Logins attempted and any related error messages
  • Multi-Factor authentication changes or errors
  • System setup changes and activity related to licensing

Along with information about these events, the report can tell you which operator triggered the event, any notes associated with the event, as well as the name of the computer where the activity took place.

SYSPRO Security System Audit Query

One particularly important event that the System Audit Query program can identify for you is client-server disconnects. These are common problems reported by SYSPRO users and they can be highly complicated to investigate. SYSPRO generally has limited information about these events so the System Audit Query log is one of the few places where you can obtain valuable information about when/where they occur.

Along with the use of System Audit Query, you can investigate specific events even further by using the Job Logging Query program (IMPLOG). This program allows you to review and monitor general operator activity throughout SYSPRO.

For instance, if the System Audit Query reports technical issues relating to a specific operator, you can use the Job Logging Query program to analyze whether a specific program or user behavior is the cause of the problem. Be warned that the Job Logging Query program can take a long time to process if you choose to generate the report without filters. In a busy SYSPRO environment with a high number of daily users, the activity logs for operators will be dense and can take time to compile.

SYSPRO Job Logging Query

SYSPRO ERP Job Logging Query

A Day in the Life of a SYSPRO Admin

From the perspective of a SYSPRO administrator, actively monitoring the System Audit Query program is essential for ensuring the integrity of both the overall security and general stability of your ERP environment. The role of an ERP system administrator is undoubtedly challenging, requiring constant vigilance to ensure the smooth operation of crucial business processes.

Fortunately, SYSPRO equips administrators with a range of invaluable tools to actively monitor and maintain the system’s integrity. Among these, the System Audit Query program (IMPJNS) shines as a beacon of efficiency and reliability. With SYSPRO and its robust capabilities, administrators can confidently navigate the complex landscape of ERP management, ensuring their organizations operate seamlessly and securely.

Unlock the Full Potential of SYSPRO ERP Security with EstesGroup! Discover How Our Expert Consulting and Cutting-Edge Cloud Technology Services Can Help Your Business!

SYSPRO UI & Layout Problem Solving

SYSPRO UI & Layout Problem Solving

Troubleshooting user interfaces and personal layout issues in SYSPRO

Throughout the various releases and versions of SYSPRO, user interfaces and layout issues are common. Despite several significant changes to the methods of how SYSPRO stores and saves user settings, these issues are still frequently occurring even in the latest SYSPRO releases. User changes not being saved, pane locations not sticking to where they were configured, and SYSPRO windows appearing off screen are a few of these types of problems. To effectively combat these issues from a SYSPRO administrator perspective, it is important to understand how SYSPRO handles files relating to user settings and program layouts. All these issues begin and end within a folder called “Settings”.

SYSPRO UI User Interfaces Cloud

SYSPRO stores personal operator settings in text files within a folder found both locally on the client machine and on the SYSPRO application server. The folder is called “Settings” and can be found in the following locations:

  • Client machine – “C:\SYSPROClient\Base\Settings”
  • Application Server – “C:\SYSPRO\Base\Settings”
SYSPRO User Interfaces

When a user closes out of SYSPRO on their client machine, any changes made to their layouts or personal settings will be saved to this directory. The client machine syncs the files to the application server and overwrites any non-identical files for that user. The settings are stored on the application server to serve as a backup in case the user gets a new computer or signs in from another machine.

When the user signs in to SYSPRO again, the client machine compares the local setting files to the ones on the application server and restores any missing files or updates existing ones based on the modified date of the files.

As this back-and-forth process takes place, it is possible that settings files become corrupt due to various reasons such as a disconnect between the client and the app server. Thankfully, it is almost always the local files on the client machine that are corrupt and not the ones on the application server. What this means is that it is possible to clear and “refresh” a user’s settings by renaming the client-machine’s “Settings” folder (ex, “Settings_old”). By doing so, SYSPRO notices that the folder is no longer there and recreates a new “Settings” folder based on the files stored on the application server. This is an effective solution to a variety of issues that an operator may experience in a SYSPRO client environment.

Instead of renaming the entire “Settings” folder, it is a good practice to target specific settings files first. For instance, if it relates to an issue within Sales Order Entry (IMP040), you can search the “Settings” folder for IMP040 specific files and try removing those first. When the user signs-in to SYSPRO, the app server files will be restored to the client as they are detected as missing. If this doesn’t resolve the issue, you can then attempt the full renaming of the “Settings” folder.

If you choose to target any specific files, be sure to back them up and restore them to the folder if removing them did not resolve the issue.

Troubleshooting application server file corruption

If corruption is suspected with the application server files, then there is little that can be done in terms of restoring or recovering the user’s settings. As explained above, the app server replaces the files on the client machine in the event of any discrepancies between the user’s settings files. If they are corrupt on the app server, they will transfer and overwrite the local files and remain corrupt. In this case, we recommend seeking support from SYSPRO’s support team itself as modifying the “Settings” folder on the application server can result in potential loss of layouts and user settings for all operators in your SYSPRO environment.

Also, note that SYSPRO is and have actively been updating the amount of information stored on the application server and in the SQL database with each new SYSPRO release. Prior to SYSPRO 8 2021 R1, many types of settings are only stored locally and cannot be restored by the app server. You can try this suggested fix if you are dealing with an older SYSPRO release, however, there is no guarantee that the app server has a copy to restore so the user’s layout may reset to default.

If this fix does not resolve the user’s problem, you can try to either “Repair” or uninstall and reinstall the SYSPRO client on the user’s machine itself. This may help resolve corruption within direct program files unrelated to personal user files. If you renamed the “Settings” folder and it did not resolve the problem, be sure to restore the prior settings folder by renaming the original folder back to “Settings”.

Looking for more help with SYSPRO UI & other ERP system or IT issues? Schedule a free one-on-one consulting session with a SYSPRO ERP or IT consultant today!

Employee Retention: The Attrition Mission

Employee Retention: The Attrition Mission

There’s a significant shift occurring in the job market. And our manufacturing and distribution industries will not escape the impact.

For the past few years, it has been an employer’s market and many workers were unable to find jobs. But that has changed in the last 18 months and there are growing concerns about employee retention.

In the past 5 months, over 15 million US workers have quit their jobs.

Plus, in recent surveys, 40% of employees are considering leaving their jobs in the next 3-6 months. Rather than cooling down, there are projections that more attrition is coming.

There are many reasons this could be occurring. And many strategies to consider. What’s clear is that if your organization is not understanding the root issues, it will increase your employee attrition rate rather than reduce it.

Before we can answer what it takes to retain your best employees, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the situation.

Employee Attrition vs Attraction Recruit and Retain Gears

Differing Perspectives

A recent article, by McKinsey and Company, explored this topic. It noted several disconnects between organizations and employees. These disconnects are likely contributing to employee dissatisfaction.

The article highlights that organizations often focus on increasing compensation and financial perks as a first step to stop employee attrition.

But is that scratching the itch that employees are feeling? What if there is “more at work” (pun intended) than making more money? And if compensation is not the driving issue, how should your organization respond?

Let’s start with the emotional toll of the last 18 months during the pandemic. Behind it we can learn more.

Most employees have experienced rapid change. Illness, online meetings, hospitalizations, new work procedures, vaccines, deaths, politics, changing recommendations, school closings, and daily unknowns have been their daily diet. At work their relationships were frayed by new routines and rules. Constant fear contributed to few social interactions, no get-togethers and limited travel. And with it the use of masks limited our ability to communicate visually.

Employee Expectations

The result has been a change in employee’s work needs. Studies are showing that employees are looking for these benefits in their work:

  1. A sense of value from being in the organization
  2. The potential for advancement
  3. Having caring and trusting teammates
  4. Options for a more flexible work schedule
  5. Feeling more valued by their managers
  6. A sense of belonging

Shared Expectations

Both employers and employees do agree on some things. They both believe that these issues need to be addressed:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Feeling disengaged at work
  4. Help with caring for families

Organizational Focus

This leaves us to consider whether employers are right in focusing primarily on these issues which may not be valued by employees:

  1. Creating more opportunities
  2. Accommodating more remote work
  3. Improving the health of employees
  4. Discouraging employees from looking for new jobs
  5. Taking steps to limiting poaching by competitors

Suggested Focus

The McKinsey and Company article recommends that organizations start by listening to employees and including them in discussions. This signals that employees are valued.

That doesn’t happen when management decisions are handed down without employee input. Such decisions are often seen as indicators that management is uncaring and disconnected from employees. And who wants to work in a place like this?

There are positive things that can change the tone in organizations. And they involve asking hard questions about your organization and then moving to address any problems.

  1. Is our organization sheltering toxic leaders who do not value, inspire or motivate their employees?
  2. Are the right people in the right roles in both our management and non-management ranks?
  3. How can we make our culture more collaborative and open to conversations?
  4. How do we replace transactional approaches with relational approaches that stress collaboration and value?
  5. Are our company benefits aligned with employee priorities that are top-of-mind?
  6. What career paths and development opportunities do our employees really have?
  7. How can we build community at work by encouraging better relationships?

From Ideas to Action

Each of these questions focuses on increasing the collaborated relationship across the organization. They send the message that the organization is empowered by trusted relationships and a shared future.

So, what can we say at this point?

First, it is clear is that the employee/employer relationship has changed over the past 18 months. Employees are wanting a more relational approach to their work, more connectivity and more value from their workplace.

Secondly, there are real opportunities for your organization. Those manufacturing and distribution organizations which lead with dialogue and listening will find ways to benefit from the changes.

They will retain top performers because they communicate value, a shared future and positive opportunities.

Now, what can you do to get this moving with your team?

Ask the Author

Rob Mcmillen ERP Consultant

Rob McMillen is a Senior Project Manager with EstesGroup. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years supporting multiple implementations of new ERP systems and leading projects. Because his mom was an English teacher, he grew up with a love of writing. Combined with his working experience, he has written articles for LinkedIn and User Groups, and has published numerous blog posts. He is also a co-author of a book on technology and working collaboratively. He currently lives in the DFW area.