Real Life Comparisons Illustrate the Energy Business Material Description Standards Problem

  • Analogy 1: Having inadequate material / item master description standards is like a person going through life with chronic gingivitis (inflamed and bleeding gums). It is a relatively minor disease that most can live with for a long time. The big but is, it is completely unnecessary, resolvable at low effort or cost, and contributes to other health concerns like cardiovascular issues, diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s that really can have a negative effect on your life. You can live with the initial problem, but is effects are real, ongoing, contribute to other problems and totally unnecessary.
  • Analogy 2: As a thought experiment, imagine human resource processes operating with their primary business object, personnel records not being subject to standards for uniqueness? All HR processes including pay, shift scheduling, skills and qualifications would quickly fail or be extremely onerous to run. Users would be frustrated. It would be a disaster. People have unique government identification numbers supporting tax collection that have a secondary benefit when used in business processes to ensure personnel records are unique and match one individual, so the people to materials comparison is not apples to apples. However, it does point to the weakness in materials related business processes not supported by detailed description standards implemented to improve the uniqueness of material records.

The primary way material master records in a business system are matched to the real physical objects needed at the end point of business processes, are by their descriptions. If the description is sufficiently free form (not based on a standard template or equivalent), the records will not effectively distinguish one from all others. Users struggle to identify the needed record to use, slowing down every business process that uses material masters, necessitating more review, frustrating users and causing rework, material returns and working as a safety agonist. When businesses attempt to improve material identification by developing maintenance bills of material (BoMs), development efforts are impeded by the ambiguity of many items with weak descriptions.

The smoking gun for weak material master identification are when any of these exist:

  • Descriptions for new materials are the ones proposed by the requestor subject only to formatting rules applied by the central material admin desk.
  • The central material admin desk is solely responsible for description creation but is not adequately supported by appropriate specification requirements and description rendering process.
  • There is not a sufficient material master governance process that connects the business ownership and accountability for material records with various end user functions, and locations

Nobody wants to go through life with a persistent unnecessary challenge debilitating their work for success across many other efforts. If you do not address it, the problem will remain, so the first step is to open your eyes and see if this problem applies to your organization?

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