All Posts By

Adam Jenkins

When Lean Manufacturing isn’t Worth the Effort

By | Lean

As a company who has been doing manufacturing ERP implementations and has been evangelizing lean manufacturing principles for a long time, we believe in lean principles, and believe they can be applied to industries outside of manufacturing.

People ask us, “Is there ever a time when lean manufacturing is not worth the effort?” The answer is yes.

1. When you just want to cut costs. Yes, lean is about eliminating waste, but the primary directive of lean is to increase the value to the customer. Lean is more about increasing the top line (increasing sales) than decreasing the bottom line (cutting cost). If you use lean as a headcount reduction tool, you may lose loyal, valuable employees in the process. If you instead assign those employees more meaningful work, you can bet customers will pay you more. You will either have more capacity to produce more of the same product at the lowered cost basis – or you will be able to increase your prices due to the added value.

2. When you don’t have executive buy-in. Lean manufacturing is more than a process, it is a philosophy, a way of operating a business. Lean is about adding customer value through every touchpoint across all business processes and departments. If only one department is embracing lean and cannot get leadership on board, the results will be minimal. For example, if you build more value into every product, but accounting and sales don’t increase the price, your effort has been wasted.

3. When every job is a custom job, with dynamic changes. Lean depends on having a stable business process that can be improved over time. If every job is different, and it changes as you get into the project, you’re not ready or right for lean. Start by focusing on process improvements and creating standardization.

Interested in learning more about Lean Manufacturing?

Download our Lean Benefits Whitepaper

Author: Doug Bulla, VP- Business Development

Tired of MAPICS? You’re not alone.

By | ERP

MAPICS was created by IBM more than 35 years ago as an operational control system for manufacturing and accounting information. In 2005, the product was purchased by Infor Global Solutions and re-branded as Infor XA.

However, if you are one of the companies who have not upgraded MAPICS and you’re still running software on a AS/400 or IBM i-series, you may be starting to consider more modern ERP solutions. And before you can decide between upgrading to Infor XA or moving to something else, you first have to decide if it costs you more to stay on MAPICS.

Why would you stay on MAPICS?

The easiest thing in the world is to do nothing, make no changes. The days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into years. You get comfortable.

  • No retraining of users.
  • Less business disruption.
  • Less capital expenditure.
  • The system works. Why change it?

The problem is…

While you’re standing still, your manufacturing competitors are moving full steam ahead. Modern ERP systems give them the opportunity to leap frog over you.

Without debating the differences between Infor XA and Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations or any other ERP system, the truth is that most modern ERP systems will give you an advantage over the MAPICS ERP system you’re running today.

What do modern ERP systems have that MAPICS doesn’t?

Well, of course, this answer depends somewhat on which older version of MAPICS you’re running, and which modern ERP system you move to. But generally speaking, the benefits are:

  • A modern interface – Nearly everyone knows how to use a PC today. The screen is colorful. Menu options are intuitive. The ERP system looks and feels more like all the other business productivity tools in your office.
  • More support options – Fewer consultants and programmers still work with MAPICS. By contrast, there are thousands of Microsoft Certified Professionals and ERP specialists.
  • More functionality – If there are features you need that aren’t part of the core ‘out of the box’ system, you can often find a partnering solution that can do anything from RFID/bar-coding to EDI to analytics.
  • More flexibility – When your business model changes, you can easily re-configure the system, usually without any programming.
  • Better insight – Marry your system data with big data. Use machine learning and predictive analytics to forecast customer demand and reduce data quality issues.

Cloud computing has changed the landscape.

In years past, you would have had to buy all new hardware and new software – have a large upfront capital outlay. With cloud-based software like Dynamics 365, you can have a new server in hours. You can easily flex the scale of your environment. There’s never been an easier time to switch ERP systems. You’ll have to move off MAPICS eventually. Why not now?

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Mike Green, VP Solution Consulting

Even old-school CFOs are demanding modern manufacturing technology

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

“How do you achieve better profit margins?”

That’s the bottom line question for every CFO. Your job is to make sure there’s enough money in the bank to keep operations running smoothly, and to decide how your company will invest in its future.

Your company’s profit margins come from:

  • Controlling costs
  • Increasing revenue
  • Creating operational efficiency

In addition, you have to manage risk. You don’t want one mistake to wipe out your business – or set you back for years. Only technology has the capacity to consistently improve your business in all 3 areas.

If you’re in tier 1 automotive supply manufacturing, your business is depending on orders from the big automobile companies. Modern manufacturing technology can help you with:

  • Accurate forecasting – Sophisticated data models and predictive analytics can provide clear forecasts, enabling you to better manage inventory, cashflow, and production schedules to optimize operations.
  • Reduction in errors and product defects – Using IoT devices and machine learning, you can spot products more likely to fail or have defects. Automation workflows built into modern ERP and CRM systems speed up approvals and collaboration across global cross-functional teams.
  • Distributing knowledge across the enterprise – Collaboration is critical. Your sales, marketing, production, R&D and service departments each need their own insight to do their job. Role-based dashboards in your ERP and CRM system speed up collaboration, provide visibility into key performance indicators and identify issues early on.
  • Creating competitive differentiation – One way to increase profit margin and market share is to offer products and services that deliver greater value to customers. You need an easy way to customize and modify your business systems to adjust for changes in your unique business process.

One reason that even the most old-school CFO is embracing technology now is cloud computing.  With cloud software like Microsoft Dynamics 365, you’ll find new opportunities to improve profit margin.  Here’s why:

  1. There’s no big upfront costs for hardware or software – less capital expenditure.
  2. Cloud software is automatically updated and upgraded – less risk, less administrative overhead.
  3. Many industry and functional packages are available – if you buy a solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365, you have access to thousands of add-ons (less risk, less cost).
  4. Employees can access the system wherever they have an internet connection. That means your engineers in Michigan can easily collaborate with your factory in Mexico.
  5. Now, more data means more information and insight. Prior to the cloud, data would be discarded because it was too expensive to store. That information can now be used, and even combined with big data and historical data to provide even better information.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

5 Pillars of a Joint Venture Accounting Solution for the Oil & Gas Industry

By | ERP

The oil and gas industry has unique accounting needs. When you evaluate new ERP solutions, how easily the system manages joint venture accounting is going to be an important consideration.

The 5 Pillars of a Joint Venture Accounting system give you the ability to:

1. Comply with IFRS or GAAP Accounting Rules

Whether your organization follows IFRS or GAAP joint venture accounting rules, a sound JVA solution needs to manage different methods of Joint Venture asset accounting; full cost and successful efforts including acquisitions, DD&A, transfers, impairments, and asset retirement obligations.

Joint interest billing should be able to account for and allocate expenses for all stages of the exploration, drilling and production process, based on owner shares. When the exploration is successful, the system should also manage the payout of royalties.

2. Manage Budgeting and Authorizations for Expenditure (AFE)

To control costs and manage investor expectations, budgets have to be created, managed and adhered to. Authorizations for Expenditure (AFEs) ensure proper authorization has been obtained before drilling begins or expenses are incurred. The AFE typically estimates project expenses including the costs of equipment rental, fuel, drilling, well testing, and labor – plus it sets limits on how long or how deep the exploration will go before the well exploration project is pursued or abandoned.

Oil exploration projects must be authorized before drilling begins – and again when the well goes into operation.

3. Track Owner Shares, Land Interests and Other Agreements

Tracking landowner and mineral lease rights is a complicated process. A Joint Venture Accounting system can help you manage these contracts, and comply with your obligations. Over time these contracts may be transferred through sale or inheritance. Your JVA system should have processes to manage the transfer of rights and be able to handle the over-lift or under-lift that may occur due to production schedules.

4. Generate and Track Owner Communications

Related to tracking Mineral Rights Leases and landowner interests is maintaining records of your communications. Oil and gas companies are obligated to notify and/or request permission from interested parties about production schedules, damages, mineral excavation results and all expense / royalty information.

5. Spot Insights and Trends

The ability to use your ERP and Joint Venture Accounting data in a meaningful way is critical. You want to be able to drill down to find root causes and zoom out to find big picture trends.

Looking for a Joint Venture Accounting Solution?

If you’re in the oil and gas industry and are looking for new ERP software with strong Joint Venture Accounting features, we encourage you to look at Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with our EnergyCONNECT Joint Venture Accounting package.

Learn How MCA Connect Helped Oil and Gas company, TGS, Improve Sales

Download our case study to learn how MCA Connect helped get TGS back-on-track and how the results have changed their business.

Download the Case Study

Author: David Huether, VP – Engagement & Alliance Management

What is Manufacturing CONNECT Accelerator?

By | ERP, Manufacturing

Since manufacturing enterprise management software (ERP) was first developed, a truth that “everyone knows” is that implementing new MRP / ERP software is a long, expensive and complicated process.

Worth it? YES! Usually.

Easy? NO! Almost never…at least that’s how ERP implementations USED to be.

Technology has changed radically over the past decade. Costs are coming down. Complexity has been simplified. Modern cloud ERP systems have removed financial, technological and geographical barriers. There is less software and technology infrastructure to buy, build and maintain.

In the Fall of 2016, Microsoft launched Dynamics 365, a cloud-based subscription-based option for implementing ERP and CRM software across a global enterprise.  ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator takes Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (ERP) a step further, preconfiguring the settings for the needs of a discrete manufacturing company.

ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator is not a “light” or scaled down version of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Once the initial implementation is complete, you can easily customize or add any additional features you want. Think of ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator as an industry package. All the typical configuration a discrete manufacturer needs is setup before you even get your hands on the software. We provide process guides to lead you through the implementation, and to help train your users.

Is ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator right for you?

  • Do you plan to use Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations as your ERP system?
  • Are you a discrete manufacturer?
  • Are your manufacturing and ERP requirements relatively straight-forward?
  • Do you appreciate saving time and money?

If you answered YES to these 4 questions, you’re likely a good candidate.

Contact us to schedule a demo or visit the resources listed below.

Learn More About our ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator

Download our Fact Sheet to learn more.

Download the Fact Sheet

Author: Jay Rutledge, Director – Product Development

5 Secrets to Improving Bid Responses for Auto Suppliers

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Automotive supplier sales reps and engineers spend a lot of time responding to RFPs (Requests for Proposals). With so much time and energy going into formulating each response, what can you do to increase the odds of winning the opportunity?

1. Build relationships. Become a supplier that automotive manufacturers trust to deliver on your promises. When other automotive suppliers swoop in to provide lower prices, your track record of consistent excellence and commitment to the automotive manufacturing community will set you apart from competition.

2. Keep innovating.  Car buyers want a reason to upgrade to a new vehicle. Car manufacturers want buyers to switch to their brand. One reason they attract new buyers is because of the products companies like you produce. From offering fuel savings to safety improvements to the latest upgrades in navigation and audio, the automotive products you create help drive new car sales. Having something your competitors don’t offer is a sure way to differentiate from the crowd.

3. Keep better track of the sales process.  When will that RFP be posted? When is it due? Who needs to be involved in the engineering, design and price costing process? The only way to properly manage the bid response process is to use bid management software.  There are too many moving parts to rely on Excel spreadsheets and homegrown Access databases.

4. Create re-usable templates.  As a software consulting company, we believe in building processes. Rather than re-creating the wheel with every new RFP, or digging through folders to find that one paragraph you needed, Dynamics 365 integrates with Microsoft Excel and Word templates to create consistent quotes, proposals and email communications.  Another advantage of using a system like Dynamics 365 for Sales to generate quotes is that costing and engineering changes can be made in one central location and will automatically flow throughout the organization.

5. Communicate changes.  Employees, suppliers and customers need to be notified as costs and design changes are made. Workflows in your bid response system and customer relationship management systems can help ensure the right people are being kept in the loop.

We hope these 5 tips will help you improve your bid response success!

Learn 8 Ways Auto Supply Manufacturers Can Improve Sales Success with CRM

Download this free whitepaper to learn the top 8 ways Automotive Suppliers are utilizing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement and MCA Connect to improve their Sales success.

Download the Whitepaper

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

Understanding your Power BI Options

By | Business Analytics

Power BI is cloud-based business analytics service that allows you to build your own BI dashboard using data from a variety of sources. The solution can also be available on-premise through the Power BI Report Server.

Power BI comes in multiple versions:

• Power BI Desktop – Perfect for companies just starting to use dashboards to visualize data, the desktop version is FREE for authoring and publishing! If you’re familiar with using Microsoft Excel, you’ll find Power BI works much the same way – but with better-looking graphs, charts and reports. Power BI Desktop is a great way to proto-type and try out the SaaS.

• Power BI Premium – Power BI Premium is a paid cloud-based service designed for the larger enterprise, corporate user. The Power BI premium has built-in collaboration capabilities and provides dedicated capacity (to ensure high speed service). This option is designed for large scale deployments and large “reader” audiences. Estimate the pricing here.

• Power BI Mobile – Whichever version of Power BI you have, adding Power BI Mobile will keep you connected to the latest office insights. This solution is automatically available with the Cloud version. Simply downloaded the Power BI app on your smartphone and sign in.

• Power BI   for Developers – Pull Power BI data into your apps so you can make better real-time decisions. Companies are combining Power BI with applications to visualize customer data, customer defects, scheduling in real-time. Because Power BI is embedded within the application, users retain the ability to drill down into source data.

• Power BI Report Server – This is the only version of Power BI that is deployed on-premise. This software is a customer version of SSRS. You can deploy on-premise today, and move to the cloud whenever you are ready. If you are already using SQL Server Reporting Services, Power BI Report Server help you find patterns quicker, and an easy-to-explore visual format.

Developers can take Power BI to the next level, creating custom visuals and using an API key to push data into a dataset. Those charts can then be embedded into a software application to be shared internally or externally. Streaming data for IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives is also available, and become popular with Azure and Cortana Analytics. Power BI is putting analytics into the hands of users who need real-time insight.

All Power BI deployments are not created equal. Having a partner who understands Business Analytics best practices can help you maximize your technology investment and insight.

Learn more about Power BI:

Learn More about our Business Analytics Practice


Download the MCA Connect Business Analytics Brochure

Author: Kevin Ballew, Solution Architect

Life After Moving to a Modern ERP System

By | ERP, Lean, Manufacturing

Anytime you switch out your ERP system, you can expect a certain amount of grumbling. Change doesn’t come easy to most people! But if you are moving off an older system that hasn’t been upgraded in a significant amount of time, you are likely to see employees quickly get excited about the possibilities, especially if you’ve been communicating the changes and providing training on the new ERP system throughout the implementation process.

Here is a detailed list of what you can expect:

  1. You’ll hear lots of suggestions! While some people may be trying to figure out how to do things the old way with the new ERP system, most people will be filled with ideas on what ELSE they could do to make their job easier. Build a process for evaluating input from employees. Sometimes there really is a better way.
  2. You’ll see fewer spreadsheets and hold fewer meetings.  Less meetings?! What will you do instead? Be productive! When company information isn’t centrally stored and easily accessed, organizations see a proliferation of emails, spreadsheets, access databases, and meetings – lots of meetings. Having a modern ERP system will enable you to reclaim your time, and be more productive.
  3. You’ll discover new KPI’s. With a modern ERP system that can synthesize data from across the organization, you’ll have one version of the truth, and improve your ability to uncover the root causes of issues. With better insight, you’ll be able to produce even better results.
  4. You may need to re-distribute your resources. If you choose a modern cloud-based ERP system like Dynamics 365, you won’t need those same resources to manage the hardware, software and servers. Instead, those IT administrators may be re-deployed to other projects or to handle software configuration and security.
  5. You’ll want everything to integrate. Once you see how much sense it makes to have procurement, engineering, scheduling, production, shipping, sales, etc. all in one integrated system, you’ll start looking for ways to bring in the pieces that weren’t identified in the initial project scope. You’ll experience how workflow, automation and predictive analytics makes your system more “human-proof”, reducing errors, improving collaboration and accelerating innovation.

Success with your new ERP system won’t come overnight. Implementations take a concerted effort over a significant period of time, but perseverance pays off.

Decide which Modern ERP System is Best For You

Download this Free ERP Evaluation Guide to help you decide which ERP solution is best for your business.

Download ERP Evaluation Guide

Author: Doug Bulla, VP-ERP Business Development

Starting your Lean Manufacturing Journey

By | Business Transformation, Lean, Manufacturing

Every journey begins with a first step. And the first step is deciding, “Where do I want to go?”

Lean Manufacturing is a process that is designed to take your manufacturing production from supplier to customer with no wasted effort or steps:

  • Perfect flow
  • Zero safety incidents
  • Zero product defects
  • Zero waste

In an ideal lean manufacturing scenario, you deliver exactly what the customer wants, exactly how they want it, and exactly when they need it.

SCREEEEEECH!

That’s the halting sound of reality. While the utopian dream of constructing a perfect lean manufacturing system may remain eternally elusive, that doesn’t mean that the effort is futile.

As defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute, lean manufacturing is the principle of “maximizing customer value while minimizing waste.”

Step 1: Pinpoint your destination

Like every journey, we begin with the end in mind. For a lean manufacturing journey, we begin by asking these two questions:

  1. Where can we maximize customer value?
  2. Where can we minimize waste?

Some organizations have clear priorities. Others may have to do some discovery work to figure out where they should prioritize their efforts. If you’ve never embarked on a lean journey before, it’s wise to hire a “lean Sherpa” or as we more commonly call it, a consultant to help guide your way. Pick a few key priorities where you believe you have the most to gain.

Step 2: Decide if the lean journey is work the risk, time and effort

Can you forecast a high enough ROI (return on investment) to take on this project? We use a tool called ManufacturingCONNECT for Lean to visualize various “what if” scenarios. Other companies use complex Excel spreadsheets to forecast potential costs and savings.

Step 3: Build Your Lean Team

Lean is more than tools and takt time. It’s a mindset. For lean to be successful, lean principles must permeate throughout the company culture. The Lean Leaders you select should have time to devote to the project, be passionate about the company, and willing to embrace change. As the Lean Team builds the Lean Project Plans, they also need to create a communication and change management strategy to help the entire company learn and embrace Lean Manufacturing.

Step 4: Set Bold Goals

Make them visible. Build a vision for each area about why change is needed and what the expected results may look like. These goals must have buy-in from Executive Leadership.

Step 5: Build Your Lean Project Plan

Identify all the resources you need to execute your lean manufacturing plan. Your manufacturing systems may need to be upgraded, changed or replaced to support your lean manufacturing initiatives. Develop a reasonable timeline, but one that gets you into action as soon as possible, creating visible results. Start small and expand scope as you build momentum.

One final piece of advice is that we recommend you begin evangelizing Lean Principles as early as you can. Develop a strong communications plan. Develop training programs to get lean into the hands of your supervisors and engineers. Our “Learning Lean with Legos” training program is one of the most popular and fun ways we’ve taught lean concepts.

Learn the Benefits of a Lean Transformation

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Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director – Manufacturing Excellence

3 Technology Trends Giving Manufacturing Executives Shop Floor Insight

By | ERP, Internet of Things, Manufacturing

In a rivalry as old as time, management and workers each think they know what’s REALLY going on in a manufacturing plant. The manufacturing management team has business analytics and dashboards. Workers have their own personal experience about how the factory is functioning.

In fact, in the acclaimed manufacturing study by Sidney Yoshida, “The Iceberg of Ignorance,” they found that factory workers were aware of 100% of shop floor issues where they were involved in the process – and frequently they also had a solution.  Executives and management knew much less about each individual situation, but were also handling a wider variety of issues.

Get close to the problem

Experienced manufacturing management teams know that they sometimes need to get out from behind their desk and walk the production floor. These executives regularly solicit input from their best workers to find out what’s not working – and what might be the cause.

When “the walk” becomes impractical

Today’s global manufacturing enterprises frequently have factories spread across the world, making a tour of production facilities expensive and inefficient. Plus, in each plant, there may be hundreds of issues that come up on a daily basis. The point of having shift managers, production managers and facility managers is to handle situations as they arise, and communicate bigger issues up to management to be addressed.


The problem is that, like a game of telephone, critical information gets lost along the way.


The 3 technology trends transforming manufacturing

Just as modern ERP systems and cloud computing technology have made it possible to create and manage worldwide supply chains, these systems can now provide better shop floor insight. The cost of data storage and management has dramatically decreased. At the same time, internet coverage has reached nearly every corner of the globe. This combination provides the perfect storm for manufacturers to collect BETTER data and use it more efficiently.

Trend #1: The Voice of the Operator

Can technology efficiently collect feedback from shop floor workers? YES.  In an initiative we call, “The Voice of the Operator,” we’ve been working with several of our manufacturing clients to add a layer of qualitative data to the volumes of quantitative data already being collected.

Shop floor workers involved in the process frequently know the cause of the problem. By creating a structured feedback loop for workers to share their insight, management can then create adjustment production models and test potential solutions, creating continual process improvement.

Trend #2: IoT Devices

Manufacturers are replacing PLC (programmable logic controllers) that cost thousands of dollars with inexpensive IoT (Internet of Things) devices. Not only are  IoT devices a fraction of the cost, they also provide more information than ever before available. Since more data can be captured and stored in the cloud, companies use this information to reduce defects and improve overall customer experience.

Trend #3: Predictive Analytics / Machine Learning

Tied in with both trends 1 & 2 is the opportunity for predictive analytics and machine learning to do the heavy-lifting when it comes to identifying opportunities for improvements to shop floor production processes. Using massive data warehouses and big data, these business analytics tools can provide insight with greater reliability and speed than ever before imaginable.

Join the digital revolution!

Don’t let your manufacturing practices hold you back. The future is digital. Let us show you how a blend of a modern ERP solution with business analytics, combined with innovative manufacturing strategies can support your manufacturing growth.

Request a Free Value Assessment

Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director – Manufacturing Excellence