Office 2013: Make sure it’s the Professional Plus version for PowerPivot

For Microsoft Dynamics NAV and CRM Reporting & Analysis

Microsoft Office 2013 is released and on the shelves. Be careful though – as to which version you buy – as Microsoft have introduced some restrictions designed to move users to better Office versions. The latest discovery is that more restrictive Office 2013 licensing affects the version at which you can install its PowerPivot business reporting tool.

Professional Plus for Powerpivot for Microsoft Dynamics NAV and CRM

Microsoft made PowerPivot, its easiest to use data-analytics reporting technology, available for use by anyone with any edition of Excel 2010 by installing the PowerPivot for Excel add-in. With Excel 2013, only those with the Office Professional Plus version of Office 2013 will have full access to Excel 2013's PowerPivot capabilities.

So if you are one of the many Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Dynamics CRM users that have used Excel for reporting on your sales or manufacturing data via an analysis services ‘cube’ you need to make sure you get at least the Professional Plus version of Microsoft Office 2013.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV & CRM go mobile!

Now on your iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows mobile devices.

Now that we are all used to consuming information on the move it’s frustrating when we cannot access key business systems such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Dynamics CRM.

The trouble is that the apps that have been available to date have only published very limited information – and almost all business needs include more than just simple standard fields.

Now finally there is a solution that allows you to enquire, and update, Microsoft Dynamics NAV and CRM from your iPad or iPhone, Android phone or tablet, Windows phone or Microsoft Surface – in fact any device you can think of except Blackberry (where the graphics are not strong enough).

Microsoft Dynamics CRM on the move with an app from Rescoe and Technology Management
It’s called Resco (simply search for it in your apps store and download it) and the good news is the standard client is free. There is some work to do at the server end before it can connect though. Resco make money by having chargeable, premium versions that first allow you to customise the screens and then, via .NET, change almost anything in the same way as you are used to doing
with Microsoft Dynamics NAV and CRM.

So the next time someone rings in to the office to ask for anything from a phone number to a customer balance or check if an item is in stock, tell them that if Resco was implemented they would be able to find it on their smartphone.

P.S. Microsoft do not have mobile apps on their roadmap except for a very simple iPad app for Dynamics CRM next year.

Public Perception will drive major food industry change

With our specialism in software for food manufacturers and distributors, in particular meat and dairy processors, I’ve watched the un-folding of the horse meat scandal over the last couple of months with more than a little interest. Whilst none of our clients have been implicated, our understanding of standard food industry practice means we are only too aware of how this could happen to some pretty reputable names.

food traceability with DynamicsFood

Put simply… while traceability is total within each organisation (from the time it arrives at goods inwards to the time it departs to the customer), you cannot track on a single system the entire supply chain from farm to fork. Unless, of course, you are the first and only processor in that supply chain. That does happen but frequently it does not.

So the fraud here was easier because the meat involved passed through multiple different traders and processors in multiple countries. If a major retailer wants to understand which animals are in a lasagne then, in the instance publicised, that would have meant queries into at least eight different company systems and more if any element of subcontracting was involved. Spread that across six countries and it’s no surprise that it took some time to unravel.

All of this is despite the big six UK food retailers insisting on 30 minute response times to traceability enquiries in their supply contracts. Sure you can do it for your organisation but about before the product or ingredients got to you?

So how can technology help tackle complete traceability not just for the industry but for the consumer? Having visited many food companies in the last few years I know that most in the UK are beyond question in this area but that’s no longer good enough. Food companies need to be able to prove total transparency to the consumer – and on demand!

How can this be achieved especially at a time when there is pressure on margins? Well electronic communication of information via systems like Dynamics Food (Microsoft Dynamics NAV plus SI Foodware) has to fill the gap here. Tier one food suppliers have to send electronic delivery notes called Advanced Shipping Notices (or ASN’s for short) which state not just what’s being delivered but what’s on which specific pallet or container. If you attempt to deliver to Sainsbury’s or Tesco, without having first sent your ASN, your delivery gets turned away.

ASN’s have got to be improved so that they also include traceability information that tracks the product(s) involved through every processing step, the farm it came from and the date it was slaughtered or picked. That’s going to mean those tier one manufacturers need ASN’s complete with batch trace information from all their suppliers as well. This is huge amounts of data that cannot be exchanged manually so extensions to the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards such as EDIFACT have to be the way to go.

I guess the ultimate is that consumers can use a smartphone to read a QR code on a pack of meat in the supermarket that takes them to a website with the dates and time that every supplier touched the product right back to when and where the animal was born. Technology is capable of delivering this at little, if any, extra cost (after the initial investment). It will need industry-wide change but we believe the market will drive it.

And Dynamics Food from Technology Management will be ready when it does!

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.

Image 1 

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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 Image 6 


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

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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.


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.


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.