Gap Analysis Techniques in Training & Education to Assist MRP II Implementations

Overview of Seminar @ CIM 1999


•      Austen Jones

Manufacturing Division



Austen Jones - a researcher from UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology) currently working with MAPS (Manufacturing Products and Services) on a project concerned with the development of an impartial method of specifying the education and training requirements of people associated with MRP II systems.



MRP II / ERP Implementations

•      MRP II / ERP are established systems

•      Thousands of implementations

•      Still there are many failures

•      Research to elicit problems

•      Many problems...


MRP II / ERP systems are not new technology they’ve been around for a good number of years during which time there have been thousands and thousands of implementations.  By rights you’d expect system implementation to be something of a fine art by now.


However, implementations are, as they always have been, characterised by unacceptably high failure rates and this trend is continuing with ERP systems.


There have been numerous studies into the problems associated with implementations and these have repeatedly highlighted a common core of problems.


ERP / MRP II Implementation Problems:

•      Data accuracy

•      Top management support

•      Planning & co-ordination

•      User education and training


Initial studies focused very heavily on the system and data aspects of  implementation, so early studies concluded that BOM accuracy, Routings accuracy, correctness of inventory levels etc were important to successful implementation.  These lessons were duly heeded but the catalogue of failures continued to grow.


More recent studies have, correctly, also considered the softer aspects of implementation.  The main problems that were found to be linked with implementation failure were:

•         project management issues like insufficient planning and co-ordination of the implementation

•         lack of support for the project from top management

•         and insufficient / ineffective user education and training was found to be critical


How are user education & training requirements specified?

The majority of companies implementing

MRP II / ERP systems:

•      have standard / packaged courses

•      recommend course attendance by consideration of department / job title


Typically consultancies and software suppliers offer a range of standard courses which are closely related to the modules of the system that they implement / sell.


And the courses that a person attends are determined by what department they are from and what system modules the company has bought.  This approach is quick but is not accurate or comprehensive and often results in either over or under training.



•      Increases boredom & frustration

•      Wastes time

•      Wastes money

•      Reduces effectiveness of the training


We start with over education which is associated with a number of very real problems:

•         increases boredom and frustration of the attendees which in turn means that they will be less receptive to the parts of the course which are relevant to them

•         wastes the time of the attendees and instructor - this wastage has obvious financial implications.



•      Motivation problems

•      Resistance to change

•      Adoption of informal methods

•      Operational inefficiencies

•      Data accuracy implications


Under training on the other hand is associated with a different set of problems.  For instance, if people are not armed with all the information they need they may make mistakes or decide to revert to using a more familiar or an informal system.

This being the case, the inaccurate or incomplete data entered into the system cannot be expected to yield sensible action reports and other outputs.

This inaccuracy confirms the users’ fear and distrust of the system and perpetuates the cycle of decreasing / incorrect usage and decreasing accuracy of the reports the system outputs.


Getting it right: Gap Analysis

Gap analysis is the comparison of…

•      What skills & knowledge a person has


•      What skills & knowledge that person needs


Performing an education and training gap or needs analysis involves comparing what a person knows with what they need to know in the context of their particular job functions.  Performing a gap analysis helps to eliminate over and under training and in so doing increases training effectiveness and efficiency.


A recent survey of manufacturing consultancies and software suppliers involved with implementing MRP II / ERP systems in the UK showed that only 25% of them performed a gap / needs analysis of the education & training requirements of staff in the client company.


Other Benefits

Performing a gap analysis shows that:

•      Management are taking the project seriously

•      Implementation is also about people

•      Education & Training are budgeted for


Performing a gap analysis has a number of other important side effects.

It indicates that:

•         management are taking the whole thing seriously and competently since they are  measuring important requirements for implementation success.

•         the implementation is about the people that make it work rather than just about the systems itself.

•         if education and training requirements are not assessed then how can the associated costs be accurately budgeted for?


Logic Behind TENA

•      People in companies operating MRP II / ERP are responsible for a set of tasks

•      Each task is associated with a required knowledge / skills profile

•      The required and actual knowledge / skills profiles of the person can be compared to determine their training requirements


People in manufacturing companies are responsible for the competent execution of a number of definable tasks or activities.


In order to perform their activities they need to have certain skills and knowledge.  Comparing the required knowledge & skills profile for a particular task with the actual profiles of the person performing the task yields the person’s strengths and weaknesses.  Using this type of gap analysis information it is possible to compile effective courses that can be delivered to those people who will actually benefit from them.



•      Gap analysis increases education & training effectiveness and efficiency

•      MAPS are forward thinking and have strong links with a top academic institution

•      MAPS recognise the needs of their customer base and proactively seek ways to improve their product and service offerings


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