What if I told you there was a way to make the most out of using those Oracle templates for all those attributes you manage in Oracle SCM. Let me show you how you can get the most out of them that will reduce manual error and improve efficiency.
One of the fundamental setups in a Supply Chain project is the definition of items and the item attributes. The items (i.e., part numbers) have various configurable attributes that control how the item will be used and transacted in the Oracle applications. There are hundreds of attributes and their use will often depend on the specific applications being implemented. For example, there are attributes that determine the status of the item and associated values:
- Invoice enabled
- The type of item
- Lot or serial tracked
The list goes on. Assigning and managing these attributes on an item-by-item basis is not practical, so Oracle provides a set of templates that pre-define selected attributes. These pre-defined templates include setups for purchased items, finished goods, non-stocked reference items, etc. There are many pre-defined templates, but for most projects, less than 10 pre-defined templates will be relevant. These Oracle seeded templates are a good starting point, however they will need to be built out for each specific implementation.
The templates are most commonly used when creating new items, but they can also be used subsequently to apply additional attributes (e.g., after an item is created a planner applies a separate template to assign planning attributes such as planner code, planning method, lead-time). Often customers will use the templates to set some minimal attributes during the item creation phase and leave the remaining ones to be updated later by users. This tends to be problematic in that it relies on business processes to complete this critical item setup. Issues can surface days, weeks, and months later when the source of an issue is not clear and a significant level-of-effort is required to determine root cause. In my experience, I’ve seen customers pursue service requests with Oracle Support only to find out that item attributes were not properly set. Expanding the use of item templates can improve efficiency and prevent errors downstream in the supply chain process by ensuring that the attributes are correctly configured.
Let’s take a “Purchased Item” template as an example. This template will typically set the key attributes for a “Purchased Item”, like the make/buy Flag, the purchased and purchaseable flags, and the item type. However, other important attributes such as lead times, planner codes, buyer, planning method, serial or lot tracking, etc., are left to be manually updated at a later point by business users. If this manual process step is completed late, or not at all, the item will be prone to processing errors. These errors can surface in a number of ways, negatively impacting the business. It may show up as lot or serialized items not having assigned values, items not being planned, late recommendations in planning, material shortages, items that can’t be shipped/invoiced, or some other condition that interrupts the normal business flow. To resolve the issue, troubleshooting and manual intervention is required.
Simply expanding the item template from a “Purchased Item” to a more detailed one like “Serialized MRP Purchased Item –10 day” allows for the proper setup of the item during the initial creation to include the type of on-hand inventory tracking (serialized), planning method (MRP planned), and lead time (10 day processing lead time – based on the category of item). Ideally, no additional setups are required. The item is properly setup and ready for use from the start. The chance of an event stopping the flow of business due to item attributes is highly reduced. This will take some additional effort up front during the initial phases of the project to determine the number and types of templates to use, but it will benefit the organization in the long run with improved efficiency.
In summary, all customers should leverage the item template functionality to ensure that they are well defined, accurate, and driving efficiency in the business. For existing customers, review the current templates to validate that they are working to maximize the value added to the business. Perhaps they can be updated, improving the process. For new customers, a well thought out strategy for organizing and defining the templates will benefit the organization during the initial implementation and long into the future.
Ken Lewis is a Senior Applications Implementation Consultant with extensive experience in analyzing business requirements. Over 25 years of systems implementation experience with emphasis in manufacturing and distribution environments.