What do we still manufacture in the UK?

Pop stars? Possibly. But Technology Management’s long list of Manufacturing customers is testament to the fact that Manufacturing in the UK is still big business. In fact Manufacturing output accounted for nearly 12% of GDP according to the office for national statistics in 2010, making it the third largest sector in the UK economy.

Manufacturing is of course a global enterprise but Technology Management’s home, the West Midlands was once known as “the Workshop of the World.” In the late 18th century the industrial revolution began in the UK and subsequently spread through Western Europe, North America, Japan and eventually the globe.

But just because we were there first doesn’t mean we’re the most successful. In 2011, the UN ranked the UK’s manufacturing output at number six, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany and Italy. As new economies grow, this position will slip and the UK won’t hold back the tide forever.

To compete on a global scale we have to do more with less, using finite resources intelligently and economically. Technology Management share this goal with our customers throughout the project lifecycle. The product I work with, Dynamics AX, has expanded its industry focus in recent years, but it has always had a deserved solid reputation in Manufacturing. Manufacturing capability was woven into the DNA of Dynamics AX from the beginning, but customers (and indeed consultants!) are often daunted by the breadth and depth of functionality on offer.

Over the coming weeks and months I will help the readers of this blog understand Dynamics AX manufacturing from end to end, covering the various approaches- Discrete, Process and LEAN and, the depth of functionality that is available with Dynamics AX2012. We’ll start with the basics, but I’ll move on to advanced setup pretty quickly- as that’s where Dynamics AX can help you manage your finite resources most effectively.

The aim of this series of posts is to show our customers the power and agility of AX and stimulate an informed conversation on applying AX to your business. Every manufacturing customer shares a few common processes, but all customers (and Dynamics implementations) are unique.  With this in mind you can always discuss specific applications by contacting us directly- where we can help you do more with less, using Dynamics AX.

Next week we’ll start with the fundamental building blocks (literally) of manufacturing- Bills of Materials, or BoMs.

DO MORE WITH LESS with Dynamics AX2012

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For those of you who haven't yet had the chance to see Microsoft Dynamics AX2012 in action, we're holding a "Do more with Less" event at our offices on Wednesday 14th December.

The session will cover the most significant new features in Dynamics AX2012 that will help you simplify your processes, manage compliance and boost your profits.

We'll squeeze in the following topics for this half-day event, but you'll also have the opportunity to ask us anything relating to Dynamics AX:

  • AX2012 – what's new?
  • Order processing
  • Suply chain management
  • Business intelligence & Reporting
  • Discussion topics:
    •  Upgrading to AX2012
    •  The new AX2012 licensing model

To register for the event, click here to be taken to our events website.

Our AX2012 top ten features #4: Case Management

With Dynamics AX2012, Microsoft are unveiling a simple and powerful new feature known as Case Management. Read about this in entry #4 of our top 10 features in AX2012.

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Now we’re down to the last four in our Dynamics AX top 10 and although AX2012 is now available, our countdown will coincide the AX2012 virtual launch on the 8th September.

With AX2012, Microsoft are unveiling a new feature known as Case Management.

A “Case” can be thought of as an issue that requires a resolution and almost all businesses can benefit from using Case Management in one way or another. Off the top of my head, here’s a few ideas:

  • Customer product inquiries
  • An internal IT support desk, where employees log issues with IT admin.
  • Customer’s reporting issues with your website
  • Expense audits
  • HRM processes such as onboarding, grievances and discipline
  • Health and Safety- accident reporting
  • Product quality control

Cases can be linked to customers, vendors and employees and are therefore located in the Home ‘module’ although they can also be created in the Enterprise portal. Once a case is created, a service level agreement (SLA) can be assigned. The case creator can then search through a list of existing knowledge articles to see if a similar case has already occurred. Each of the similar knowledge articles can be marked as helpful in resolving a problem.

Cases can be elevated to other employees and activities can be automatically created to follow up on the case until the case is resolved and closed. Before doing this however, a new knowledge article can be created to help with the resolution of future cases.

Using case management strategically in your business will help drive down costs through faster, simpler processes and will help you manage compliance and you may have notice that these are becoming central themes with Dynamics AX2012.

To see Case management in action, or to discuss how Case management can be used in your business please contact us via www.tecman.co.uk

 

Our AX2012 top ten new features: #8 AX via the web

We continue the tour of our favourite features in Dynamics  AX2012 with the Enterprise Portal.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Dynamics AX, Enterprise portal allows business data and logic to be accessed by users via a web browser.

For those of you that are familiar with AX, you may be thinking: "Hang on- is this really new? Hasn't this funcationality been a part of in AX in various guises since the year 2000?"

Well, yes- but now this funcationality has come of age, and definitely merits a mention in our AX2012 top 10

In ealier versions of AX, the enterprise portal only provided a lighweight method of accessing business data. The look and feel of the web interface was at odds with the user experience on the rich client. The benefit of mobile and remote access to AX had corresponding cost in terms of speed and usability.

Now with the Model driven layered architecture (MDLA) in AX2012, list pages of data (e.g. the Customer form) have an almost seamless look and feel whether the user is at their desk in the rich client or working with AX on the road via the web on a tablet.

To demonstrate this, view the two screenshots below- one is a view of the customer form in the rich client, the other is via the web.

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I deliberately didn't label the images above- you can work out which is which for yourselves. You'll notice that the UI is amost the same. Users who work in the rich client can work with the web version in the same way (and vice-versa) without any additional training.

Any new list pages a can be built declaratively without writing new code, with the same model allowing the rendering of those pages via the rich client or the enterprise portal.

This means that any custom forms created forthe rich client can be deployed to the web with just a single click.

 

 

Will it cost more to license AX2012 than earlier versions?

Will it cost more to license AX2012 than earlier versions? If it does cost more, should you be preoccupied with a figure that comprises just one part of your overall ERP budget?

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That is the question we’re all asking at the moment. We won’t have a definitive answer until later in July when Microsoft release their new pricing information. Anyone claiming to know the answer is either speculating, or breaking an NDA they've signed- both of which are ill advised.

Yet it would be reasonable to assume that the most powerful and usable release of AX to date (with over 1,200 new features) will come at a premium over previous releases.

However licensing only comprises a portion of the overall cost of an ERP system and one should consider the total costs of ownership when comparing AX2012 with AX2009- or the upper mid-market competition.

Microsoft have invested a significant amount of their vast R&D budget into scrutinising and simplifying business processes, overhauling the installation process and lowering development costs and risk- thereby reducing the “time to value”- i.e. the time when your investment in Microsoft Dynamics AX starts to pay for itself. With this in mind Dynamics AX2012 will be more cost effective than ever- despite our predictions about increasing licence cost.

However some of the wiliest customers may wish to have their cake and eat it: Taking advantage of a late deal on an AX2009 license, with a view to making an “upgrade” to AX2012 may prove to be a very shrewd decision.