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

4 Best Practices for Oil and Gas Service Companies

By | Energy, ERP, IoT and Analytics

Now that oil prices are rising and energy companies are renewing exploration operations, it’s time to re-evaluate what you, as an oil and gas service company, can do to get your fair share of the profit.

We’re seeing oil and gas service companies focus their time and energy in 2018 in these 4 areas:

1. Innovation and Differentiation 

The best way to fight the profit squeeze is to offer something your competitors don’t – and can’t easily replicate. Technology, particularly IoT, predictive analytics, machine learning, and dashboard reporting through tools like Power BI, can be used to create unique service offerings and analysis of your business drivers that provide your energy clients with more visibility of their wells, jobs and production equipment. By providing more value and helping your clients increase uptime and lower downtime maintenance costs, you make it harder to displace your services and avoid the low cost provider from taking your business.

2. Developing a Digital Transformation Roadmap

There’s no question – the future is digital. The pervasiveness and ease of cloud computing, software as a service (Saas) solutions, and mobile apps have made digital transformation initiatives a priority across many industries, but especially in oil and gas services.

Because your business model is complex and your resources are spread across remote regions of the country, you may have found it challenging to collaborate effectively. Where do you invest? In field services software? In expanding your ERP software? You have a lot of choices – and challenges.

As a first step, we recommend building a digital transformation roadmap. You can’t do it all today, but with a solid strategy in place, at least you’ll keep moving in the right direction towards your business goals.  Along the way you can invest in hiring and developing a digitally-savvy workforce who can help your business grow in this direction.

3. Invest in IT Assets that Provide Agility

The oil and gas companies who survived the plummet in oil prices either had enough reserve cash to keep operations going or were agile enough to change their business as needed. Although we’re on the other side of that dip, you never know when another economic change is coming. Agile IT assets like Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations provide you with the flexibility to:

  • Change business processes without custom programming
  • Add/remove/change job roles & software licensing as needed
  • Add or remove functionality to support multiple lines of business
  • Gain greater insight into your business to become more proactive in changing market dynamics
  • Easily absorb an acquisition or parse out a divestiture from your business.

4. Strengthen Your Relationships

At the end of the day, business-to-business is really human-to-human. Strengthening your relationships with employees, vendors, partners and clients keeps your business healthy, both culturally and financially. By providing personalized customer experiences, like sending clients texts about job statuses, or providing unique customer dashboards, you increase customer loyalty. By improving collaboration with suppliers, you can gain greater flexibility in delivery and credit terms.  Tools like improved oilfield rental billing and tracking and field service software can help with the mechanics, but it begins with the leadership team embracing a relationship-centric philosophy.

Learn the 5 Ways Energy Companies Unlock Strategic Value from Software Implementations

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Author: David Huether, VP- Engagement & Alliance Management

How Oilfield Service Companies Combat the Profit Margin Squeeze

By | Energy, ERP

Are you one of the “lucky” oilfield service companies who survived the downturn? Whether you sailed through thanks to saving ahead, or you barely survived, thanks to downsizing and scrimping wherever you could, congratulations! You made it. Oilfield service companies are once again in growth mode.

While growth is certainly good news, margins remain tight. If you’re like most of the oilfield service companies we work with, you’re still stuck in a profit margin squeeze for a few reasons.

1. Energy companies are investing in exploration and fracking operations again. However, well operators still expect to pay the low rates you negotiated when times were tough. Meanwhile, overhead costs keep climbing. Yes, oil prices have improved, but budgets remain tight as everyone is trying to make up what they lost during the downturn.

2. With a large fleet of equipment to maintain, high labor costs, and larger overhead, large oilfield service providers have a tough time competing with their smaller, more nimble competitors.

3. The combination of high customer expectations and a highly competitive industry environment creates challenges in determining the best way to compete and win business you normally would have been assured to win.

How Oilfield Service Companies Are Responding

You haven’t made it this far only to stop now! You can no longer rely on being able to upcycle to increase profits through higher oil prices. For large oilfield service companies to compete effectively, you need to think about:

1. How can you differentiate? What services can you offer that your competition can’t? How can you add more value without adding more cost? Some companies are using IoT remote sensors and predictive analytics to anticipate equipment and resource needs in advance, which improves responsiveness and ensures production uptime.

2. Where can you adjust operations to meet contract commitments, but optimize margins to ensure continuity? Field service software and mobility can help the oilfield services team stay connected to corporate, and have instant access to contracts and service level agreements with electronic processing of delivery tickets through to invoicing.

3. How can you operate overall with greater efficiency? EnergyCONNECT, built on Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, helps control costs through improved operations, including industry must-haves like AFE Management, and Equipment Rental Management. Managing the cradle to grave lifecycle of your equipment will help you run more efficiently and improve your margins.

Learn How EnergyCONNECT Improved Business Operations for Rubicon Oilfield International

Learn More

Author: David Huether, VP- Engagement and Alliance Management

4 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018

By | CRM, ERP, IoT and Analytics

It’s that time of year again, where everyone wants to know what the hottest technology trends will be in 2018. We see these four areas having the biggest impact for the customers we serve.

1. Data Security

With so many well-trusted, major corporations experiencing data breaches in 2017, organizations are making data security a top priority for 2018. Having software in place to prevent data security problems is critical. Solutions include:

  • Anti-virus/anti-malware software
  • Backup and recovery / disaster recovery planning
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Being able to remote-wipe devices
  • Updating security policies and procedures

2. Cloud Computing

The move to SaaS solutions like Dynamics 365 will continue to be a major focus for companies in 2018. Cloud computing offers greater agility, while preserving capital. And although some organizations have concerns about the security of the cloud, many experts assert that having private servers is actually riskier. Cloud computing shifts most of the IT Administration responsibilities to the SaaS provider, which lowers both your ongoing cost and risk.

3. Blockchain

The technology that launched the Bitcoin / cryptocurrency craze to stratospheric heights is garnering the attention of the tech world. Blockchain is a distributed database that enables everyone to work together simultaneously. Using a series of validations, the end result is information that is transparent, secure and incorruptible. Blockchain can be used for identity management to secure financial transactions around the world. We are also starting to see great opportunities within business applications using block chain to support IoT applications, reduce security challenges and secure intellectual property.

4. Machine Learning

Companies in every industry are seizing the new opportunities presented by machine learning. As more data is processed, sophisticated algorithms systematically seek out anomalies, and learn how to respond without human intervention. From approving credit lines to spotting trends in product defects, machine learning provides big advantages in speed and accuracy.

How does Microsoft Dynamics 365 capitalize on these trends?

Companies moving off MAPICS or another legacy ERP solution will find that Dynamics 365 is a leader in each of these tech trends.  Security and cloud computing are innate features of Dynamics 365. The Dynamics Community site has a great article about blockchain integration with Dynamics 365.  And another one about the future of Dynamics 365 and machine learning.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

5 Questions Auto Supply CFOs Should Be Asking

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

As the CFO of an Automotive Supply company, your role is to be equally visionary and pragmatic. How will you build the business of tomorrow, while ensuring you have the cash flow, materials and resources to sustain your business today?  The key is in asking the right questions. Modern ERP systems like Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations can help Auto Supply CFOs answer questions like:

1. How can we improve our planning? 

Most ERP systems include some planning and scheduling capabilities, but how easily can you run different scenarios to understand the best plan for your business? Can you run a variety of “what if” scenarios? Solutions like LeanCONNECT enable you make data-driven decisions before you make the financial investment.

2. How can we quickly and easily find business insight?

The quicker you can resolve a problem, the better off your business will be. Some insights can be automatic. Our clients have used IoT devices and predictive analytics to pull suspect units off the line for further quality testing. You can use tools like Power BI to create and distribute business analytics dashboards across the organization. The Voice of the Operator concept is becoming popular because it adds a human interpretation to the data collected by the ERP system.

3. How can we improve our forecasting capabilities?

The best thing you can do to improve forecasting is tie your sales orders with your manufacturing BOMs. That way, you have clear visibility of what’s available to promise, and what’s already been committed. Then, by adding your planning forecasts, based on sales order history and other information, you have a much clearer picture of your expected cash flow, and can build a reasonable production schedule.

4. How can we better manage our inventory levels / mix?

“Take one, make one” is the ideal scenario for replenishing buffer inventory – but it isn’t always possible. What should be possible, however, is to identify a targeted stock level for your buffer inventory. Then, when that inventory is drawn down below its reorder point, the replenishment process is triggered to build more. If you want to learn more about inventory mixing and leveling, you may be interested in our whitepaper on lean production scheduling best practices.

5. How can we better store and retrieve documents? 

Auto supply manufacturers have reams of virtual documents that must be stored, sorted and easily retrieved. CAD drawings, proof of compliance, engineering change orders – all must be catalogued for future reference. Cloud storage solutions link these documents to customer, vendor, product and other ERP system records for easy retrieval.

The Automotive Industry has been Digitalized.

View our infographic to learn how modern technology has enabled auto suppliers to create a competitive advantage and report measurable results.

View the Infographic

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

What happens after Dynamics 365 goes live?


The day you “go live” with your Dynamics 365 ERP or CRM system is a major milestone achievement, but it doesn’t mean your work is done. Companies have to choose how the system will be supported after the implementation project is finished.

You have 4 major choices for ongoing Dynamics 365 support.

1. Use internal staff

In theory, using internal staff to support your ERP or CRM system should save your company money. However, we find that frequently staff members are stretched too thin and don’t have the expertise they need to maintain the system – at least not in all areas. Having people “guess” how to fix the system can create bigger, more expensive problems that then require the help of an external consultant.

We are a big believer in fostering an environment that creates Dynamics power users. BUT – we also believe that having an external support system is critical.

2. Use a Microsoft Dynamics partner for support as needed

The good part is that Microsoft Dynamics partners know Microsoft Dynamics – and if they just implemented your system, they probably already know your company. The challenge is that most Microsoft Dynamics partners don’t have a business model with a focus on support. Instead of having dedicated support personnel, they have consultants who are now engaged on another implementations, and are trying to juggle your support requests over lunch and whenever they have a spare moment. If your system isn’t being continually managed and updated, problems can start to creep in.

3. Using Microsoft Support for support

While Microsoft Support is good, it is ONLY support. Their technicians will resolve your support cases, but they won’t be proactive, you don’t have an assigned team, and they can’t go beyond the scope of their assignment.

4. Finding a partner that offers Managed Services

Not all Microsoft Dynamics partners offer a Managed Services / Support option, and those that do, don’t always have full-time dedicated staff devoted to servicing customers who have already gone live. The advantage of using a managed services team is that your systems are continually managed so they run smoothly, rather than dealing with break/fix support. The managed services team becomes a virtual extension of your team, with fixed costs, but more versatile skills.

Differences in Dynamics 365 Application Support / Managed Services

We can’t speak for how other Dynamics partners offer application support, but we can tell you how MCA Connect’s Managed Services team works to anticipate our clients’ needs. We help with things like:

  • Building technology roadmaps
  • Upgrade project management
  • Short-term staff augmentation
  • System support
  • ISV management
  • User training
  • Customizations and workflows
  • Plus, each of our clients have a designated client delivery team – a service delivery account manager, functional lead and a technical lead. This way, you get access to a spectrum of skills. And when we’re stumped? Our close relationship with Microsoft helps us escalate issues, and get answers more easily.

Want to find out the cost? Get an instant online Managed Services quote.

Does your Microsoft Dynamics Support Measure Up?

Use our checklist of criteria as a guide to help you determine which Microsoft Dynamics support option is right for your business.

View Support Checklist

Author: Steve Walsh, Managed Services Practice

Priorities During the Oil and Gas Rebound

By | Energy, ERP

Why Oil and Gas Companies Should Prioritize ERP and Technology Infrastructure Projects

Oil and gas companies have had to make difficult decisions in order to survive the last few years of low prices and weak demand. Cost cutting measures included spin off’s, layoffs, asset liquidation, consolidation of operations and a hold on most non-essential projects.

As the oil and gas industry begins to recover, companies that made it through those tough years need to start thinking about how they will compete and thrive in the next upcycle in addition to the next 5, 10, 20 years.

Companies who have held off on investing in new ERP systems and new technology infrastructure may actually be handsomely rewarded by waiting, because ‘the perfect storm’ exists right now to seize an advantage.

Why are Oil and Gas ERP systems a smart investment right now?

The Microsoft Cloud has changed the game. Not just Dynamics 365 for Operations, which is a flexible, cloud-based ERP software solution, but also:

  • Productivity apps like Office 365
  • Business analytics software like PowerBI and Cortana Analytics
  • Microsoft Azure hosting

Disruptive digital innovation is happening 100X faster than physical disruption ever did. Companies are using technology to:

1. Lower costs. Cloud computing has made ERP information widely available at substantially lower cost. As a Microsoft Partner who specializes in implementing and supporting Microsoft Dynamics 365 for oil and gas companies, we can tell you endless stories about how much the game has changed. Rather than investing in servers and having to do your own maintenance, ERP systems can be setup quickly with a much lower capital investment. When you run the numbers, you find that the savings continue to add up over time.

2. Improve operational efficiency.  ERP software was specifically developed to improve operational efficiency. Technology makes it truly possible to do more with less.

1. Predictive analytics can reduce downtime by predicting equipment breakdown.

2. Inexpensive IoT sensors can relay information from remote locations.

3. Complex, repetitive tasks like AFE ManagementJoint Venture Accounting, and Oilfield Rental Management can be managed and automated.

3. Use insight to innovate. How can you make more money? Can you add new products or services? What can you do to get more oil and gas out of the ground and into the marketplace faster? Leverage big data, machine learning, and predictive analytics to sharpen your competitive edge.  Give employees tools and nearly real-time information so they can better manage their own job functions, and understand their role in meeting enterprise goals.

Request a Free ERP or CRM Readiness Assessment

Software implementations require a large amount of time and effort. Not sure if your company is ready for the undertaking? We will perform a Free Operational and Readiness Assessment to pinpoint specific areas for improvement within your business before implementation.

Request a Free Assessment

Author: David Huether, VP- Engagement & Alliance Management

The Top 5 Automotive Trends for 2018

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Big changes coming in 2018! Changes in consumer demand are trickling down to provide new opportunities for automotive suppliers. Some of the trends include:

1.  Autonomous / Self-Driving Cars

As the public starts to embrace the idea of a3ssisted-driving and self-driving cars, new opportunities are being created for suppliers who can offer this type of technology. This new type of vehicle will require collaboration between multiple partners to integrate the GPS, cameras, sensors, big data and other technology.

2. Predictive maintenance

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are being used by automotive suppliers on the shop floor – and being embedded into consumer vehicles – to indicate when preventative maintenance is needed. Rather than recommending oil changes or tire rotations by mileage, IoT sensors can provide more accurate indications about when maintenance is needed.

3. Variety of fuel cell options

Over the next few years, we’ll see an increased demand for alternative fuel sources like electricity, hydrogen and bio diesel fuels. Automotive suppliers will have to consider how to innovate and service these new niches, and be able to handle the compliance requirements.

4. Personalization

Rather than looking through the newspapers for available cars, today’s car buyers turn to the web to custom build the car they want. Sophisticated technology enables buyers to pick out the exact paint and packages they want. Personalization continues into the driving experience. Newer “intelligent” cars are collecting information about driving habits, and patterns to provide a better driving experience for customers, and more marketing insight for car sellers.

5. Data Security

These new internet-connected technologies are requiring more vigilance from a data security standpoint. Information relayed over the Internet poses a risk, and manufacturers must be mindful of preventing cyberattacks.

Automotive suppliers looking to capitalize on these emerging trends need to consider:

  • How their supply chain will be impacted
  • How their ERP systems and business processes will need to change
  • Where they will find the skilled workers
  • Whether the margins and risk levels are reasonable

Learn How Digitalization Has Transformed Automotive

Modern technology enables automotive suppliers to create a competitive advantage and report measurable results.

Click Here to Learn How

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

How Manufacturing CFOs are Preparing for 2018

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

What’s in store for 2018? Changes are ahead for the manufacturing industry, largely due to new technologies that are becoming more affordable, and provide significant strategic advantages.

Some of the trends we see manufacturing CFOs considering for 2018 include:

1. Moving to SaaS-based, integrated ERP/CRM solutions

Cloud-based ERP all-in-one systems like Dynamics 365 shift much of the IT department’s administrative work to the vendor. With the solution continually kept up-to-date and widely available from any device in any location, workers are freed up to focus on innovation and customer value-adding activities. Manufacturing CFOs and CIOs can then work together to balance risk and return as they identify new opportunities.

2. Merging structured and unstructured data, including Voice of the Operator

Manufacturing CFOs have long recognized that Excel spreadsheets, and even sophisticated business analytics tools, don’t always reveal the whole truth. Data gets hidden in emails, documents, side databases, and even in the knowledge of the plant floor operators. Data warehousing tools like DataCONNECT bring disparate source data into one central repository to create ‘one version of the truth.’

In addition, companies are finding innovative ways to incorporate the voice of the operator to provide context to the results seen on the plant floor and in the MRP / ERP systems.

3. Leveraging Predictive Analytics / Machine Learning

Business analytics is booming! The combination of inexpensive IoT devices, the availability of cloud-based data, and the advent of sophisticated business intelligence software has created the perfect storm for manufacturers to be better able to predict defective products, craft ideal preventative maintenance schedules, and improve sales forecasts. According to IDC, spending in this area should surpass $30 Billion by 2019.

4. Adding IoT – Internet of Things

According to Gartner, over 8.4 Billion “things” are on the internet today, and that number continues to grow. The IoT trend impacts manufacturers by improving the efficiency of plant operations, but also product innovation. As customers demand more IoT-things, it will be up to manufacturers to produce and support IoT devices.

5. Creating new revenue streams with Field Service

If you have to provide support to customers, you may as well make money doing it. Manufacturers are realizing that their service business today has too many revenue leaks, and isn’t profitable. BUT by adding field service software to manage and maintain service level agreements, warranties, and improve the efficiency of the service call, supporting your customers (or your customers’ customers) can increase profitability and customer satisfaction.

In addition, we see manufacturers putting greater focus on staying agile. Some manufacturers may approach agility by using rolling financial forecasts. Others are working toward improving their relationships with suppliers and reducing on-hand inventory.

8 Ways Manufacturers Can Leverage CRM

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Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

Why the Oil and Gas industry is Buzzing about Rental Management Software

By | Energy, ERP

The main thing about the heavy industrial equipment needed for oil and gas exploration is that it’s HEAVY – expensive to manufacture, expensive to move, expensive to maintain and work can’t get done without it. Without software, the accounting is complicated and it’s easy to miss out on revenue opportunities.

Have you experienced any of these problems?

  • Can’t see which equipment and orders are still unbilled
  • Equipment isn’t available to be rented because it’s being maintained or in the wrong geography
  • You don’t account for when equipment was actually returned, and bill properly for usage
  • Income and expenses aren’t applied to the fixed asset to get a full picture of asset value

That’s where Oil and Gas Rental Management Software is making life a whole lot easier. Instead of using scrambled spreadsheets and crumpled rental agreements, rental management software enables companies to:

  • Price each rental asset – by daily, weekly or hourly rate as well as by utilization
  • Measure rental use – how much time each asset has been rented, on standby or in operation
  • Link rental assets to fixed assets for a full accounting picture
  • Manage rental agreements
  • Track rented assets by location, usage and availability
  • Link to Project Accounting (optionally) so you can manage asset movement and scheduling

Adding EnergyCONNECT Rental Management Software to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations gives you a complete end-to-end picture of your business operations.  Stop the revenue leaks. Take control of your rental equipment.

Energy companies are choosing EnergyCONNECT to better manage their equipment.

From allowing you to better negotiate rental rates to providing feedback to vendors on equipment performance; EnergyCONNECT helps you control the costs associated with renting industrial oilfield equipment.

Learn More

Author: David Huether, VP – Engagement & Alliance Management