Nathan Diamond, Senior Business Analyst at Ajinomoto Foods North America, Inc., and Daya H. Haddock, President and CEO of TIA, Inc., spoke to Quest about Ajinomoto Foods’ upgrade story from Oracle JD Edwards 9.0 to 9.2.
About Ajinomoto Foods North America
As a leading manufacturer in the frozen food industry, Ajinomoto Foods North America operates eight factories and one corporate office domestically in the United States. Their products consist of ethnic frozen foods ranging from Mexican, Italian, and Asian across every distribution channel, including food service, grocery, warehouse club, and custom manufacturing.
What is your Oracle JD Edwards history and footprint?
The JDE footprint before 9.2 was JDE 9.0 at all of our locations. The upgrade was primarily a technical upgrade that focused on speed and efficiency; however, there were some functional design improvements that are easier with a new system. The primary JD Edwards modules Ajinomoto is using include Financials, Manufacturing, Shipping/Warehouse, Transportation, Procurement, Sales, Maintenance, Job Cost, and DSI Warehouse and Shop Floor.
What were the key takeaways from the project’s success?
Ajinomoto Foods North America wanted to ensure that end-user training, change management, and clear and consistent communications all worked together throughout the project – right from initial design through go-live and ongoing maintenance. We were pleased to partner with TIA, Inc. to assist us on the “human side of change” for this project.
The biggest focus was to remove customizations for more predictable results. In turn, a standardized blended training program with a microlearning architecture was embraced that helped remove the tribal knowledge – training was not only learning how but why each step is done.
Communications included multiple modes from emails, digital videos, all-hands meetings, executive briefings, newsletters, and even glossy posters with easy mechanisms for providing feedback. Change management intertwined it all with specific action items to address the human side of change.
The image below helps depict what Ajinomoto Foods describes as the “human side” of change.
“Every IT project has two sides – a technical component and a human element. Based on past experiences and lessons learned, we knew that we wanted to manage expectations and include training, change management, and communications to adequately address the human side of the JDE upgrade project.”
—Nathan Diamond, Senior Business Analyst at Ajinomoto Foods North America, Inc.
What were the challenges at Ajinomoto Foods before the upgrade and what did you hope to accomplish?
Over the years, we had acquired a number of food manufacturing companies and have since grown into one much larger company. It was time to remove the tribal knowledge/processes and move to company-wide standardization. Finding a way to standardize processes, deliver effective training, and establish the way we communicate was crucial for us. It was more than an IT project and reflected the Ajinomoto Group culture of “One Team Spirit.” Also, this was the beginning of a major digital transformation with a more modernized ERP, increased functionality with supply chain and transportation, and financial streamlining. All providing a single source of data.
Tell me about the project.
We did a technical upgrade of our JD Edwards 9.0 environment to 9.2 in nine months with some quick wins and emphasized speed over elegance. This included a major blended learning program with a new self-service learning portal, multiple communication modes, and change management elements to ensure that end users were knowledgeable, productive, and ready for go-live. We built a cross-matrixed team with representation from the plants and all departments – outlining everyone’s key roles and expectations for project commitments. The executive stakeholders were steady and strong – providing leadership throughout the project ups and downs.
What were some of the quick wins?
- We implemented E1 pages in place of menus.
- We had a training icon on some of the pages, which had a link to a training simulation on how to do that specific task.
- We wanted to show the users an example of what Orchestrator could do, and we automated the purchasing printing process, which only took 45 minutes to set up. There were a lot of steps to this process. We simply put a print button on the Enter Purchase Order application, and when it is pressed, it does validation and then prints the Purchase Order. Not only is it faster, but if something goes wrong, it sends a work center notification and an email. The users were excited about this feature and anxious to see other uses of Orchestrator.
- We showcased the new micro-learning topics and self-service learning portal in the JDE Basics Course and made it available to all the Testers prior to Test 1.
Our end-users loved all of these and could see that their needs and requirements were being met in this “technical upgrade.”
With multiple locations and their own processes, how did you get buy-in on this project from the users?
We had support from the top, which was critical. We used Kotter’s model for change management, which focused on the people instead of the change itself. We empowered global participation and visited all locations to see firsthand the local processes and pain points. Communication was crucial. We implemented a multi-mode feedback loop to listen and respond to everyone’s concerns and suggestions.
During the plant meet-ups, we showcased the new learning portal with the microlearning topics using avatars and simulations. Everyone could see that a new training program was going to be available for the go-live. We also provided translated courses for easier understanding for the shop floor and warehouse employees. We updated everyone on the progress of the project and had a project email address for questions or concerns, which was the source of truth.
How did you train your users?
Daya Haddock, CEO, and a TIA team assisted us with the project. The blended training included classroom, self-paced, and virtual instructor-led, as well as supporting job aids. Everyone was directed to a new self-learning portal with over 20 courses and 200 microlearning topics. In addition, we provided numerous virtual instructor-led trainings (vILTs) prior to go-live to introduce the new learning materials. The courses included avatars as training guides, plus front matter with standardized processes containing the “why.” The simulations and videos presented the “how” for all step-by-step procedures. Animations and assessments were added to keep the learners engaged.
All of this was accessible from a new Ajinomoto learning portal that tracked the courses and provided robust reports and infographics on the effective use by the end-users. The development process actively included subject matter experts (SMEs) and plant representatives. As we showed them the prototype, we then discussed best practices to standardize processes across all locations. We did videos of work procedures using avatars and animations.
By delivering refreshed JD Edwards learning, we’ve made it interesting, easy-to-access, and self-consuming to encourage learning. We have changed the culture from traditional training to a continuous learning environment.
During the project, Ajinomoto learned the following lessons:
- We tried to stay as vanilla as possible without too many customizations.
- Onsite testing was very beneficial, and we rewarded users with a good lunch!
- SharePoint team site was not effective for receiving feedback and Q&A. You have to go get feedback.
- End-users like bite-sized learning nuggets – making it easier to learn a new task and get back to the job promptly. It is repeatable training.
- Communicate speed over elegance so that no dates would slip in the project plan. We clarified the upgrade would not solve every problem but was a major start of the digital transformation.
What are the biggest benefits from the 9.0 to 9.2 upgrade?
There are certainly technical benefits with UDOs, orchestrations, and having the ability to automate processes without customizing code. These tools have enabled the Ajinomoto IT team to provide productivity enhancements – all while streamlining procedures and providing time-savings. The JD Edwards 9.2 platform is providing a strong foundation as they continue their digital transformation.
On the human side, we have continued to recognize Top Learners based on infographics and reports. These award ceremonies are creating a drive for continuous learning, which is a benefit to all. In addition, because of the microlearning architecture, it has been very easy to update any changed process and re-publish and launch the updated eLearning topic. Also, it has been easier to expand the materials and courses with new topics as processes and procedures are identified.
“The company was so pleased with the project that they celebrated all of the IT team members, along with the CEO, and brought food trucks for all of the plants and employees in eight locations. IT was recognized as bringing strong value to the business.”
—Daya H. Haddock, President and CEO of TIA, Inc.
How long have you been involved with Quest and how have you benefited from the community?
Ajinomoto Foods North America is a new Quest member and experienced our first COLLABORATE in San Antonio in 2019. We enjoyed attending sessions and meeting fellow IT peers. We are thankful to share this upgrade story with other Quest and JD Edwards customers to be a part of the information exchange network. If anyone is interested in further information, feel free to contact us.
Connect with Nathan & Daya on LinkedIn!
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