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.

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.

AX2012

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 features: #6 Excel data upload

A significant portion of Microsoft’s annual $9bn R&D spend goes into integrating their products. In post number 6 of our AX2012 top ten, see how easy it is to import data directly into Microsoft Dynamics AX using Microsoft Office Excel.

So what's new about using Excel to import data into AX? Haven't we had this option since the Axapta days?

Yes, but this involved the creation of templates in AX first, and importing anything remotely sizeable or complex typically required the writing of scripts.

Now this process is much simpler and definitely warrants an entry in our top ten.

As mentioned in entry number 9, of our AX2012 top ten, it is possible to pull AX data directly into Excel.

To push data back the other way- it's as simple as this:

1.    Open up Excel and click on the Microsoft Dynamics AX tab. Click "Connection" and check the legal entity you are connected to. Use the dropdown to change this if you wish.

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2.    Click Add Data, select Tables and in the filter box, type the name of the table you want to populate. In this example we'll add a couple of customer groups by selecting the CustGroup table.

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3. Drag and drop any other Customer group fields you wish to populate.

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 4. Click the Design Mode button, to exit the design mode. Then click refresh if you wish to view existing data.

5. Enter data into the table, optionally using the Field Lookup button to view existing data in lookup tables. In this example, I've added customer group 50 and 60.

6. Click Publish Data to send this data to Dynamics AX.

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7. Let's switch over to AX to view the results

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 Simples!

 

 

   

Our AX2012 top ten features: #7 Mutli-mode manufacturing

We continue the rundown of our favourite features in AX2012 with an overview of Manufacturing functionality.

AX2012 
 

Dynamics AX has always provided a powerful and flexible set of manufacturing features for customers who run a discrete manufacturing operation.

Manufacturing could be configured to manage something as simple as kitting a BoM with no routes, right through to advanced setups such as creating route networks and selecting work centres based on finite capacity, finite properties (e.g. red paint, blue paint) and even requirement based capabilities (e.g the CNC machine can perform a basic milling operation, but preferably use a lathe as it's cheaper).

These kind of features have always been great for Discrete manaufacturers. However Dynamics AX wasn't especially well regarded for its out of the box Process manufacturing capabilities. It is true that many "process type" manufacturing operations could be managed in a discrete solution by running a manufacturing process as a large batch, but customers with fairly simple requirements such as Catch weights, Reverse BoMs and a requirement to manage co- and by-products always had to find workarounds. 

In recent years, an excellent process manufacturing add-on solution came to market which solved many of these problems, but this came with additional costs, complexities and an increased time to ROI. In addition, if the company had adopted LEAN principles and wanted to use Dynamics AX to manage Kanbans for example, then a further add-on solution would be required.

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AX2012 Kanban scheduling 

In Dynamics AX2012 it is now possible to run discrete and process manufacturing in a single installation and in combination with LEAN manufacturing. Customers won't find themselves having to compromise on functionality and shoehorn themselves into a manufacturing ERP solution that provides most, but not all of their needs.

So regardless of the products you manufacture (or however you make them), you now have a solution in the form of the powerful simplicity of Dynamics AX and the Manufacturing knowledge and experience of Technology management.