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

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

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.


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

Download the Whitepaper

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

The Fastest Way to “Go Live” on Dynamics 365!

By | ERP, Manufacturing

A typical ERP implementation may take months, even years, to deploy. But Microsoft has made it possible for companies choosing Microsoft Dynamics 365 to go live in just weeks!

Go to Microsoft AppSource

Microsoft AppSource is a website containing hundreds of partner-built apps and services to fast track any implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365, Office 365, Power BI and Cloud solutions.

Find an Industry Solution

MCA Connect has a solution on AppSource called ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator.  Our solution was built specifically for discrete manufacturers, but similar solutions exist for other industries. The beauty of these bundled solutions is that they truly offer “software as a service.”

How Does an Accelerated ERP Implementation Differ?

An accelerated implementation of Dynamics 365 for Operations is so much faster than a regular implementation because most of the decisions and setup have been done for you in advance.

  • There’s no hardware to setup.
  • Requisitioning a hosting environment is a snap.
  • Industry best practices have been built-in to the system’s dashboards, workflows, templates and processes.
  • Data import is easy.
  • Comes with walk-through tools and user guides.
  • Includes a limited scope implementation from Dynamics 365 experts

The best part is, you still have still have the option to add customization and complexity down the road. AND – you still get the same great integrations with Office 365, PowerBI and other Microsoft productivity tools you use to run your business.

Want more information on ManufacturingCONNECT?

Download our ManufacturingCONNECT Fact Sheet to learn more about how MCA Connect can help you accelerate your ERP implementation and improve your key performance indicators.

Download our ManufacturingCONNECT Fact Sheet

Author: Jay Rutledge, Director – Product Development

Top 5 Engineering Auto Supply Trends

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

As the auto industry embraces brave new technology like driverless cars, what does that mean for auto suppliers? How is the engineering department being impacted? What trends will be embraced over the coming 5 years?

This blog was written to help answer some of your questions. From our deep experience within the automotive industry, here are the top 5 engineering auto supply trends we’re seeing:

1. 3-D Printing

Engineering departments are becoming increasingly reliant on 3-D printing, and not always just for prototyping. Low-volume, high mix auto suppliers are turning to 3-D printing to keep production costs down.

2. Machine-based Learning for Connected Cars

As car manufacturers outsource more of their software development work for navigation systems, entertainment and security, engineers are increasingly relying on machine-based learning. Rather than programming all the variables, engineering departments are leveraging Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to create connected car technology.

3. Predictive Analytics

With already tight margins, automotive suppliers want assurance that they’re producing the right components. Using predictive analytics can help you build a collaborative R&D/Engineering relationship with the auto manufacturer that will differentiate you from other auto suppliers.

4. Strict Change Management from Sales to Production

The product pitched in the RFP often bears little resemblance to the first product to come off the assembly line. Auto supply engineering teams are using engineering change management software to ensure design, costs, safety and pricing stay in alignment every step of the way.

5. Engineering for Aftermarket Service

As the line continues to blur between OEM and supplier, automotive suppliers are being asked to become aftermarket service providers. Engineers must take into account FIT (failure in time) rates and service requirements on the products they engineer.

What trends and technologies has your auto supply engineering department embraced?

Identify gaps that could exist within your organization.

Request a Free Value Assessment to identify what gaps could exist within your organization and speak to a MCA Connect expert on how to best implement these trends in your department.


Author: Doug Bulla, VP- ERP Business Development

How Manufacturers Can Turn Data into Insight

By | ERP, Manufacturing

“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

This line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner aptly describes how most manufacturers feel about their data. Despite drowning in data, manufacturers are constantly at risk from lack of information.

Product defects can be costly – even deadly.

Defects for automotive manufacturers, high-tech manufacturers, food/beverage manufacturers and consumer product goods manufacturers can mean loss of human life. Every year, defects cost manufacturers billions of dollars in recalls and reparations.

Unlike other industries, manufacturers have an extremely low margin for error. And unfortunately, reducing product defects is only one of many KPIs that create risk for manufacturers. Proper inventory management, accurate sales forecasting, and visibility into the supply chain can also make or break a manufacturing business.

Do you need to collect more data points?

Probably not. How much production data does your company collect today? Typically, A LOT! We’ve seen companies that collect tens of thousands of data points, and still don’t have a clear picture in how to take corrective action. You don’t need more data, you need the right data.

Embracing digital transformation

Manufacturers are often the last to embrace emerging technology because both the costs and risks can be high. Risk tolerance is low. However, there comes a time when the cost of inaction becomes significantly higher than the cost of action.

Other industries have embraced digital transformation with great success. Banks use machine learning to detect credit card fraud almost instantly. Advertisers use predictive analytics to target the right people at the right time.  Health care providers have moved to digitized medical records, reducing health care fraud, cutting waste and improving patient outcomes.

Seizing the advantage against analog competitors

On a typical shop floor, hardware is often 20+ years old. Data collected is often just as quickly discarded because cloud computing wasn’t as affordable or available when the hardware was first installed.

Tremendous opportunity exists for manufacturers who embrace digital transformation. Leveraging modern technology like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations, the Azure Cloud, Predictive Analytics, IoT sensors, and the like, manufacturers have a golden opportunity to leap frog the competition.

Improving operational efficiency for manufacturers comes from:

  • Gaining a clear understanding of your company’s KPI’s
  • Leveraging cloud computing and business analytics to find patterns and trends that were inaccessible until recently
  • Modernizing your systems to allow more flexibility on your business processes
  • Creating a feedback loop using workflows and machine learning to continually improve operations

Learn How Dell Technologies has Transformed their Manufacturing

Watch the keynote presentation from IoT World, where Dell Technologies talks about transforming their business operations with IoT and their partnership with Microsoft and MCA Connect.


Author: Doug Bulla, VP- ERP Business Development

The Role of the VP of Manufacturing in the Manufacturing Revolution

By | Manufacturing

The VP of Manufacturing is usually heavily involved in all manufacturing-related purchasing decisions. When you have money to improve operations, what is the best use of that budget? Do you hire more workers? Buy new equipment? Or do you invest in software technology?

Because manufacturing executives are mechanically-minded, improving shop floor production through the purchase of new equipment, tools or dyes is the default way of creating improvements. But today, modern ERP software can provide quantum leap improvements that can’t be realized any other way.

5 Reasons the VP of Manufacturing Should Advocate for Modern ERP Software

As the VP of Manufacturing, there at least 5 solid reasons why you should advocate for spending your manufacturing transformation budget on modern ERP software. Solutions like Dynamics 365 for Operations can help your organization:

  1. Better understand production challenges by including the voice of the operator

When we work with manufacturers, we see that production floor personnel often know ‘the truth’ about delays and defects. This information is not always correctly relayed to the ERP business management system, which makes it difficult for other departments to understand your manufacturing challenges. Recently, our clients have been incorporating “the voice of the operator” into the ERP data to make better sense of the information, and to know the best way to respond so issues are solved at the root level.

  1. Optimize maintenance schedules and reduce product defects through predictive analytics, machine learning and IoT devices

Rather than running your maintenance schedules by fixed intervals or hours of run time, machine learning can help you predict equipment failure and schedule a convenient time to take equipment offline for maintenance. Over time, you’ll be able to develop an optimized maintenance schedule.  As a safeguard, inexpensive IoT devices can alert the ERP system and production floor operators if equipment is overheating or has an abnormal pressure reading, so you can react appropriately.

Machine learning can also help reduce manufacturing defects by identifying the components most likely to fail, and routing those units for additional testing. As defect testing information is relayed back to the ERP system, the organization can take proactive measures to increase the quality of the defective component parts. Higher quality control increases customer satisfaction.

  1. Reduce risk by increasing supply chain visibility

Today most software and servers exist virtually in the cloud. Cloud computing has made it possible for people who can’t even speak the same language to connect through systems and create a global seamless global operation. Systems can connect to give you better insight into component production, delivery and shipping dates. Automated inventory replenishment processes help ensure you always have the right quantities of raw materials and finished goods in stock.

  1. Predict accurately by improving demand forecasting

How much product should you manufacture? Manufacture too little and you have nothing to sell. Manufacture too much and cash flow is tied up, sitting on shelves, risking obsolescence.  Using historical data and recent trends, you can nail your demand forecasts, understand cash flow and improve overall profitability.

  1. Add new revenue streams by better managing the complete product lifecycle

Increasingly, manufacturers are being required to service the products they manufacture. Field service solutions can help you monetize your service delivery, and keep you in compliance with your SLA’s. No more lost paperwork. No more calling back to the office to find out what the customer’s contract says. No more complicated scheduling. An all-in-one field service solution takes away the stress and logistical challenges of getting the right people with the right skills to the right place at the right time.

Having a modern ERP software solution is critical to today’s manufacturing success

The buzz phrase of 2017 is “digital transformation”. Companies who embrace modern technology have an opportunity to leap ahead transforming products, empowering employees and improving operational efficiency. Start with a modern ERP software that is flexible, easy to use and can be the foundation for business growth.

Written By: Doug Bulla, VP of Business Development, ERP