All Posts By

Adam Jenkins

5 Reasons Oil & Gas Companies Choose EnergyCONNECT

By | ERP

With all the name changes around Microsoft Dynamics 365, plus all the Microsoft Partner-developed solutions, it can be difficult to understand all the solution offerings and how they are built and delivered. In this article, let’s break down the components of EnergyCONNECT.

What’s EnergyCONNECT?

EnergyCONNECT is a set of solutions that extend the functionality of Dynamics 365 for the Oil & Gas Industry. EnergyCONNECT is designed for oil and gas companies involved in:

  • Oilfield Exploration and Production
  • Oilfield Services
  • Midstream Operations

What do the EnergyCONNECT applications do?

Why choose EnergyCONNECT?

Companies choose EnergyCONNECT over other oil and gas ERP solutions on the market today for these 5 main reasons.

1. The Microsoft Platform.  With EnergyCONNECT, you get all the standardization and availability of a Microsoft solution. It’s built to work with the Microsoft Azure cloud, Office 365, SQL Server, Power BI and all the other Dynamics 365 and Microsoft productivity applications.

2. The Microsoft Eco-System. In addition to the solutions available from Microsoft itself, a multitude of ISV software solutions are available to extend Microsoft Dynamics functionality.

3. Standardized and Supported Software.  With EnergyCONNECT, you get industry functionality without paying to build and maintain custom code.

4. Access to MCA Connect’s Energy Experts. We’ve worked with nearly all the major oil & gas companies, and many of their subsidiaries, partners and suppliers.

5. Full Spectrum of Dynamics Services.  MCA Connect is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with a wide array of services – from developing your business strategy, to understanding metrics with business analytics, to outsourcing your Dynamics 365 application support, we’re a technology partner you can depend on long-term.

If you’ve been looking for a better Oil & Gas ERP solution, we encourage you to take a closer look at Dynamics 365 and EnergyCONNECT.

Discover the 5 Keys to Unlocking Strategic Value from your next Software Implementation

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Author: David Huether, VP Engagement & Alliance Management

Would you use 40-year-old ERP software?

By | ERP

In 1977, ERP software was called MRP software, which stood for Material Requirements Planning.

At the time, most MRP software was custom developed on big mainframe computer systems that were expensive to build and maintain. Seeing the opportunity for packaged software solutions, companies like Lawson, JD Edwards, and Oracle were founded around this time.

The SQL server relational database had yet to be invented.

What else was happening in 1977?

  • The Dow Jones industrial average was 831.
  • Gas was 65 cents a gallon.
  • Star Wars became the biggest summer movie blockbuster of all time. The camera George Lucas used to film Star Wars is less powerful than the cameras most people have on their smart phones today.
  • Atari introduced the Atari 2600 video game system, which didn’t become popular until Space Invaders was introduced in 1980.
  • The first all-in one personal computer, the Commodore PET, was introduced. It had just 4 kilobytes of memory.
  • Apple II computers were also released in 1977, also with just 4 kilobytes of memory.

ERP Software has been re-invented.

The technology landscape has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. Internet. Email. Mobile Phones. ERP software has changed too, but some of the older ERP software programs are still built on decades-old code, and use out-of-date business processes.

Just in the last YEAR, the cost of cloud storage has decreased significantly. Today’s modern ERP systems like Dynamics 365 are in the cloud, connected, providing greater supply chain visibility and nearly real-time insight through predictive analytics and machine learning.

Re-invent your business.

You have an opportunity to re-invent your business as you implement Dynamics 365! Add more innovation to your products. Add new services. Streamline efficiency.

Not sure where to start? Talk to our Business Transformation team about your business goals and ideas. We’ll show you how to align your people, processes and technology for maximum advantage!

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

How will IoT and Analytics Impact the Future of Manufacturing?

By | Internet of Things

This article was originally published in Industry Week, click here to read original article.

What Role Will Big Data Analytics and AI Play in the Future of Lean Manufacturing?

Ask the Expert: Lean Leadership’s Larry Fast says manufacturing is on the cusp of a new age.
“We’ll all be wise to sign up and help make it happen.”

By Larry Fast

Question: What role do you view big data analytics and AI playing in the future of lean manufacturing?

Answer: Wow, this question came out of the sky. Not in my wheelhouse. My initial reaction was, “How in the world would I know? I have enough trouble keeping up with the lingo, e.g., IoT, big data analytics, AI (artificial intelligence) and a partridge in a pear tree!” But then I reached out to a good friend in Chicago, John Shelby, who recently completed his master’s degree in analytics at Notre Dame. I asked if he could educate me in plain English on the question posed. He shot me a link to a McKinsey study in which they are tracking their 2011 forecast of how these evolving technologies would impact retail, supply chains, healthcare and, yes, manufacturing.

John’s input helped me understand the difference between “lights out” manufacturing operations versus AI. In the case of “lights out,” it is an advanced state of operations where machines run with no human interaction, i.e. “robots.” This has been done modestly in factories the last several years but has not yet been widely adopted. The machines are programmed by humans and are still subject to human inefficiencies.

In some forms of AI, on the other hand, machines can actually teach themselves how to optimize their performance as they can run through various scenarios at lightning speeds, identify the best processes and train themselves to achieve a desired outcome. Talk about a brain stretch! I think it’s likely that AI will ultimately be the real game changer in the factories once new ERP platforms are in place, but this may still be a decade or more away. But imagine manufacturing companies that can absolutely guarantee 6 sigma, every time, on the customers’ critical-to-quality requirements. If your company is among the leaders in achieving this kind of breakthrough, what would that be worth to your company in terms of increased market share, low costs, perfect service, operating margin, shareholder value?

This all sounds like Star Wars hype to me. This scenario is likely a decade or more away. What I want to know is this: Can any of this technology be applied where I’m most comfortable, i.e., in a factory, on the shop floor? What can manufacturing leaders do with this thinking and application on a practical basis?

As John and I had a back and forth on these topics, he pointed out that big data analytics has been around for a decade or more and, while it continues to expand, storage is cheap and readily available and should represent no barrier to moving forward. That’s when my lightbulb started to come on more brightly, and it hit me that the issues for big data and IoT are more along the lines of outdated thinking in the programming of ERP systems.

Corporations are still spending untold millions of dollars buying “new” ERP systems that still rely mostly on traditional thinking and reporting. Further, report formatting, because of the same outdated thinking, isn’t structured in a way to get actionable, real-time reporting. Why can’t the ERP system simply be linked to the machine’s PLC and provide data in real time? Or must we always have a secondary system, often not integrated with anything else, to have what shop floor people need to more effectively manage the business minute by minute, hour by hour?

Historical reporting is of no value on the shop floor. We can’t fix yesterday or last week or last month — or even the last hour. We need to know if we’re making the numbers in real time. I wish I could look around corners and know if this is about to change. What will the next generation of ERP systems design look and act like?

It is a real brain stretch trying to think about the possibilities of how we might use these developing technologies in the coming years of manufacturing. These developing technologies and their implementation will be the next big paradigm shift that will cause manufacturing companies to either take a huge leap forward or else be left in the competitions’ dust.

I hope our readers find this prospect as thought-provoking as I have. It starts a conversation in each company whose time has come and, yes, it’s a bit overwhelming to contemplate right now. But now is the time for all C-Suite leaders to follow these technologies carefully, partner up with thought leaders in this area, and strategize how to be among the companies who get up to speed early and commit to the new technology — in fact, even help develop it. Some recognizable manufacturing names like Rockwell, GE and Siemens are already out front. Frankly, our software friends need manufacturing practitioners’ input desperately to maximize the potential of the technology. Throwing the next release over the wall without our input would be a serious mistake. But aren’t the prospects exciting?

Interestingly, I just returned from the AME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence) International Conference in Boston and had a wonderful chat with a representative of a company called MCA Connect. I was attracted to their booth when I saw a bullet point that said: The “Voice of the Operator.” They are partnering with Microsoft and designing a system that enables easy data migration, i.e., that allows you to pull in traditional manufacturing data from any ERP system, convert it into lean manufacturing data and assign it to the right fields in their “Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations,” built with lean manufacturers in mind.

I asked a couple of penetrating questions that hadn’t yet been considered in the system design (reread comment above about seeking practitioner input). In fact, the system they showed me had been hurried along so they could introduce it at the AME conference. But it has great promise. I asked to see scrap information, OEE, etc., and got a clean dashboard of color-coded metrics. I looked at some causes of availability problems in the OEE data and saw specific maintenance issues that had been identified. Tremendous potential. Oh yes, and we need to add one more acronym to our vocabulary, i.e., IIoT, Industrial Internet of Things.

My excitement calmed when reality set in and I realized this: While the potential is enormous, it will only be fully realized when the software writers of ERP systems catch up with current thinking. Why? Because using this slick new access tool to tap into the wrongly designed ERP system data will simply give manufacturing the same wrong information at the speed of light. ERP programs must be redesigned and cleaned up in concert with these new access systems. In fact, one might wonder why access programs would even be required if the ERP systems provided the same capability? In any case, until ERP programs smash long-standing paradigms and catch up with state-of-the-art manufacturing needs, they will continue to represent a formidable constraint to achieving the full impact of the improvement potential that is now obviously possible.

Yeah, I know, it still sounds like a Star Wars kind of fiction. But here is the information I picked up at the MCA Connect booth:

  • 79% of companies have started an IoT initiative.
  • 44% of manufacturers have a defined digital strategy.
  • 47% believe their business model will be obsolete in three years.
  • 89% see customer experience as a basis of competition.

I wonder how many of us will be ready when the Star Wars world becomes reality in the next few years. At first, just thinking about this gave me a headache. But the more I thought about the possibilities, I was overcome with excitement and optimism that manufacturing is on the cusp of a new age. We’ll all be wise to sign up and help make it happen.

“Those that say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of the people who are already doing it.” – Joel Barker, futurist and author

Larry Fast is founder and president of Pathways to Manufacturing Excellence and a veteran of 35 years in the wire and cable industry. He is the author of The 12 Principles of Manufacturing Excellence: A Leader’s Guide to Achieving and Sustaining Excellence.

Click here to read the original article

Automotive Manufacturers Sell More with a Better Bid Response System

By | CRM, Manufacturing

Do you want to win more bids?

You need a better bid response system.

Without a strong automotive manufacturing bid response system in place, your team is going to be spending too much time putting together quotes that may be late, not competitive, or not complete, and seeing far too few sales successes as a result.

Bid response is a major challenge for most automotive manufacturers.

If you don’t respond well, your competition will, and you won’t win.

If you do respond, you’d better win… because the bid response takes a significant amount of company time and resources.

An automotive manufacturing bid response system like the one we’ve built using Dynamics 365 for Sales can help you win more bids by:

  • Creating one single solution to globally manage all bid responses
  • Coordinating efforts across departments – Sales, FP&A, Engineering and Production Planning
  • Centralizing pricing and all response documentation for quick and easy reference
  • Enforcing standards to create better consistency
  • Automating the approval process
  • Improving employee efficiency through familiar Office 365 tools
  • Analyzing what’s working – and what isn’t

You’ll be able to see every opportunity at every stage of the bid response process, which helps you analyze which opportunities need more attention, and can improve accurate sales forecasting.

Ditch the spreadsheets. Get a professional bid management system that helps you win more business.

8 Ways CRM Helps Manufacturers Improve Business

Learn More

Author: Mark Schindler, Sales Representative

Why Field Service Automation Software is Essential

By | CRM

Field service automation software used to be a ‘nice to have’ option for manufacturing companies and professional service providers. Field service workers routinely showed up at job sites with a clipboard of paperwork and the inventory they needed to complete the task at hand. Once they were done, they had the project paperwork signed and moved to the next job.

While many field service-based companies today still run their business that way, those companies are at a distinct disadvantage.

If that scenario describes your company, this is what you’re missing!

• Faster payment from customers – Electronic routing of signed paperwork can cut DSO invoices by 7 days or more.

• Increased first-time fixes – Ensuring your field service workers have the right parts, but also the equipment history and access to maintenance guides, increases the opportunities for you to finish the job the first time, improving customer satisfaction and increasing worker efficiency.

• Improved operational efficiency – From optimizing dispatch to increasing service call capacity, companies can improve overall efficiency by 10-20% – at least!

• Reduced costs – Leverage scheduling and routing to ensure the most applicable field technician is deployed for the job. This leads to reduced length of site visits and number of revisits.

• More revenue, new revenue streams – As more OEMs push service back to their suppliers, and service companies work to create and manage profitable Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Field Service Automation software provides an efficient way to know exactly what’s included and excluded in your company’s warranties and SLAs. Stop your field service teams from giving away services because they’re unclear what the customer is entitled to. Additionally, field service technicians have more visibility to customers than anyone else within the company which allows them to identify opportunities for new revenue streams such as obsolete items and lack of spare parts.

• Happier customers – Your field service personnel may be the only company representative your customers ever meet. Help your field service workers make a great first impression by keeping in constant communication with customers about project progress, and when your staff is expected to arrive. Creating happier customers increases your wallet share and market share.

Considering new field service automation software?

Asking the right questions is critical. Download our field service evaluation matrix to decide what software is best for your business.

Download the Field Service Evaluation Matrix

Author: Marty Heward, Solution Architect

5 Things to Know About Moving from a Legacy System to Dynamics 365

By | ERP

Do you know your existing ERP system is out of date, but you’re still not sure if you should make the switch? The average traditional ERP on-premise deployment is at least two versions out-of-date, but many are even further behind.

And even if the software version has been updated, many ERP solutions are still using a code base that is 30-40 years old.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that a lot has changed technology-wise in the last several decades!

5 Things you need to know if you’re considering Dynamics 365.

1. You won’t need servers. The entire Dynamics 365 eco-system is available as a service / subscription in the cloud.

2. You’ll barely need IT staff. Well, you’ll always need IT staff, but the new breed of IT personnel will work on valuable projects instead of administrative tasks. Your Dynamics 365 system will automatically be backed-up and kept-up, significantly reducing overhead cost.

3. Your teams can be anywhere in the world. The beauty of cloud-based software is that it’s available on any device at any time. Work from home. Work from Paris. Work in French and in Euros. Or in the US and in Dollars. The global supply chain has never been more connected.

4. Getting support is easy. Fewer and fewer IT professionals and software consulting firms know the older ERP systems, and underlying technologies. By contrast, “everyone” knows Microsoft and you have layers of support options from Microsoft partners like us and from Microsoft itself.

5. Building the right solution is easy. Instead of being “locked in” to fixed processes, Microsoft Dynamics 365 gives you the opportunity to grow, changing features and functions as you need them. Buy what you need, when you need it.

Request a Free Readiness Assessment

What are you waiting for? Make the move! We’ll even help you determine what your company needs to do to get ready for a new ERP solution like Dynamics 365.

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

What do CFOs like about Dynamics 365?

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

CFOs are constantly balancing the company’s limitations of today with the possibilities of tomorrow. They look for hidden risks and ways to capitalize on unseized opportunities. With these priorities in mind, let’s look at how Microsoft Dynamics 365 meets the evaluation criteria for CFOs.

What we hear from CFOs about what they value in Dynamics 365:

1. Dynamics 365 is industry specific. Yes. Even as a broad software application, Microsoft has created hundreds of industry-specific features. ISV partners have extended Dynamics 365 into niche industries even further (you can find these Dynamics 365 industry solutions on AppSource). Microsoft partners, like ourselves, tie the solution together by providing industry-specific consulting services and support. CFOs are vocal about their preference for ERP solutions that have been proven in their industry, with consulting resources who can add value from day 1 of the software project.

2. Dynamics 365 is globalized. ERP software solutions running in geographic silos often run into trouble. When your supply chain is global, your ERP solution needs to be available in multiple currencies, multiple languages and follow-the-sun support services.

3. Dynamics 365 is scalable. With Dynamics 365, you buy what you need today, and add as you grow. You can add additional Dynamics 365 applications to extend functionality – like Sales, Field Service, Project Service Automation and the like. You can also add users and additional services. If you were to merge or divest a business unit, your ERP software adapts to the size and scale you need.  That means you’re never over purchasing just to ‘future proof’ your technology investment. When you’re ready to grow, your software will grow with you.

4. Dynamics 365 provides insight for innovation. Gaining a competitive edge requires having the knowledge of what to do, and the capability to act. Business analytics tools like Power BI provide almost real-time information in a context that makes sense to your business users. Because Dynamics 365 allows you to easily configure your software without coding, you have the flexibility to extend it to meet new business needs.

5. Dynamics 365 is always up-to-date and offers a great user experience. Because Dynamics 365 is a SaaS solution, available in the cloud, versioning is automatically taken care of by “the system administrators in the cloud.” Being cloud-based also makes Dynamics 365 inherently mobile, available via any mobile or tablet application. Studies repeatedly show that enterprise software project success depends on user adoption. By offering familiar tools that make it easy to collaborate with colleagues and work with other everyday productivity applications like Office 365, CFOs increase the likelihood of project success.

The bottom line for CFOs is that Dynamics 365 is a great tool to improve the bottom line, while reducing risk to the organization.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

3 Ways Engineers are Staying on Top of Auto Regulations

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Automotive engineers involved in the sales process have a responsibility to ensure that your automotive supply company stays on top of the latest regulations. Changes in regulations often drive design changes, which changes cost structures, which requires an intense amount of communication and collaboration amongst the sales, finance and engineering staff.

How are Engineering heads managing regulation changes?  They manage by:

1. Staying informed of automotive regulations.

Websites like SEMA and SAE international publish automotive engineering standards, but also automotive engineering standards under development.  As the VP of Engineering, a critical part of the job is staying informed and finding ways to influence change internally as well as externally. Commit budget to go to conferences and network with peers.

2. Communicating automotive regulatory changes throughout the organization.

It’s not enough for you to know when a regulation has changed. Your team needs to understand as well. As a critical part of the engineering team, you may need to understand the impact the regulation change will have to cost, design, timing and production. You can also share regulation documents through Microsoft Team and SharePoint or use Dynamics 365 to automatically post notifications to other users who need to be aware of and understand relevant regulation changes so they know how to adjust appropriately.

3. Manage regulatory changes within the engineering project automation system.

Software applications like Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation enable engineers to define and track milestones for changes to the automotive part, and have status changes reflected throughout every stage of the process from sales to production. That will keep you ahead of production issues and be more proactive in communicating and resolving problems.  Project templates can also be developed and used to ensure consistency and adherence to best practices such as APQP.

Learn the 8 ways auto part manufacturers can connect the dots to improve marketing, sales and service.

Learn More

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

Top 10 Signs your Company Needs DataCONNECT for Dynamics

By | Business Analytics, ERP

DataCONNECT is a data warehousing solution for Microsoft Dynamics that enables you to create a single source of validated company data you can trust.

Is DataCONNECT a wise investment for your organization? Let’s count down the top 10 signs your company should look into DataCONNECT:

10. You have no idea whether the information in your Microsoft Dynamics system is accurate or not. Maybe…maybe not. Hard to tell. I should go ask Joe…

9. You still have lots of information that’s never been put into Dynamics. Extra information is stored in spreadsheets, specialty databases, old ERP systems, and other line of business systems.

8. You just bought Microsoft Dynamics and don’t have an easy way to populate your new Dynamics system with records from the prior system. DataCONNECT includes data extraction and data import functionality for historical and archival data.

7. You just bought Dynamics and want to keep the new system clean, but still compare data from the prior ERP system. And…you want to be able to drill down into the historical detail.

6. It takes forever to run reports.

5. By the time your reports have finished being created, the information in the report is already obsolete.

4. Your budgets and forecasts are consistently inconsistent and they don’t have the detail you need.

3. You’ve invested in Business Analytics tools, but the underlying data isn’t reliable and can’t easily be shared with the rest of the team.

2. You want to benchmark and manage your KPIs, but creating the right data model is too large of an investment or too complicated.

1. You just want your ERP data to be correct, and easily accessible – preferably without spending hours managing and manipulating data.

DataCONNECT provides one version of the truth. It’s fast, reliable, and we don’t know what you’re waiting for.

Learn more on how DataCONNECT can improve your business.

Download the Fact Sheet

Author: Mark Hatting, Business Analytics Practice Director

How to Get Started with IoT

By | Internet of Things

The key to launching your first IoT project is to start small.

IoT devices (Internet of Things) are taking the manufacturing world by storm. At Industry of Things World 2017, we were proud to take the stage along with Dell Technologies and Microsoft to share how Dell Technologies approached their first couple of IoT projects.

Talking to participants at the show, we realized that many manufacturing companies are feeling overwhelmed by all of the options and opportunities that IoT presents.  In a prior blog post, I shared 5 Key IOT Takeaways that we learned from Dell’s IoT implementation. But if I could give just one piece of advice, I would say… start small!

Starting small is the key to starting an IoT project

So many people envision using IoT for these massive million dollar MES replacement projects, where the IoT sensor is used to route materials down the assembly line. Getting funding and approval for a project of that scope and scale is going to be very difficult and comes with a lot of risk.

Instead, I would encourage you to find a very small scale project that has low expense, low risk and high value to the organization.  And rather than thinking about IoT in terms of having the device “take action”, think about the data you’d like to collect. How can you use that new information to improve efficiency?

Author: Doug Bulla, VP – ERP Business Development

Learn How Dell Transformed Operations with IoT

Watch our 30-minute recorded Keynote presentation from Industry of Things World Conference to hear Dell’s full story.

View IoT Keynote Recording