The Design and Implementation of a bespoke Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) for an acoustical engineering company
This paper will describe the tasks completed so far as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University of Hertfordshire and Acoustical Control Engineers (ACE) a ‘small and medium sized enterprise’ (SME) based in Cambridgeshire, UK. ACE’s 25 personnel design, manufacture and install noise and vibration control systems to solve a wide range of acoustic problems. The projects undertaken include acoustic enclosures for supermarket refrigeration plant and for generators used in many situations, together with other more diverse applications such as controlling noise in the workplace and even on a luxury boat. Before the current KTP project the company used some partially computerised systems consisting of spreadsheets to perform acoustic analyses, pricing and project management functions supplemented with a paper based system to ‘fill the gaps’. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems provide an integrated database for all parts of the organisation allowing decisions to be based on a complete understanding of the organisation’s information, avoiding the problems due to duplication of data and ensuring that the consequences of decisions in one part of the organisation are reflected in the planning and control systems of the rest of the organisation. ERP systems became popular from the 1990’s mainly in relatively large organisations due to the complexity and cost of these systems. This project is unusual in that rather than adapting an off-the-shelf ERP solution to ACE’s very specific and specialised requirements we are taking an ERP development approach in an SME whose legacy systems are made up of spreadsheet and paper based systems. For the software development an Agile approach has been used. Agile involves software development methods based on iterative and incremental development. The initial attempt was to start developing the ERP from an Open Source ERP Source Code; however this effort was futile as a result of the bespoke nature of ACE’s business and product lines. Mapping ACE’s data model to the database which any existing ERP system could be adapted to, proved to be a very difficult problem. Therefore, developing the ERP from first principles was inevitable. Several of the ERP modules have been developed, user training has taken place and the core modules have been signed off. The project is due to complete in September 2014 and by this time we will have further information on how the ERP system has increased the competitiveness of the company, as well as experience of introducing an ERP into an SME. However, as would be expected the work undertaken developing the system so far has had several significant effects on ACE and acted as a catalyst for change in various parts of ACE’s business.