Use of Blockchain in the Manufacturing Industry

By | IoT and Analytics, Manufacturing

Recently we talked about blockchain in the oil & gas industry, and the next logical question is…

What about blockchain in the manufacturing industry?

Blockchain is a transparent distributed ledger system that offers highly secure, highly reliable transaction authentication. As materials, products, parts and money are exchanged throughout manufacturing supply chain, blockchain technology can be used to provide better visibility, scalability and security.

Blockchain for lot tracking

Supply chain transparency is critical for manufacturers. Food manufacturers are required to comply with the “one up, one back” approach, keeping track of where produce came from and where it’s going. Automakers also need to track their suppliers through to their end customers.

Blockchain technology provides a unique identifier to each part, making it possible for manufacturers to identify defects sooner, and pinpoint the problem causation. For example, in the food industry, blockchain can track expiration dates, storage temperatures and shipping information. Rather than recalling all product, the food manufacturer could just pull the food that was tainted in the one truck where refrigeration unit failed. Product could be recalled before it ever reaches consumers.

Blockchain for preventative maintenance

Today, manufacturers concerned about maximizing uptime are adopting IoT and predictive analytics to identify maintenance issues before equipment breaks down. Blockchain will add another layer of accountability and visibility, efficiently getting the right parts and people to the right place at the right time. The maintenance work order could be sent securely to multiple service providers and the best match automatically selected based on location, skills and availability.

Blockchain for product lifecycle management

When manufacturers sell their products through integrators or distributors, they often lose visibility of where their product is being used by end customers. Blockchain technology offers the promise of improved product lifecycle management, enabling OEMs to provide end customers notifications about product sunset dates and offer extended service agreements.

Blockchain for regulatory compliance

Hazardous materials, pharma, food manufacturers and other highly-regulated manufacturing environments can provide visibility to regulators in real-time.

Blockchain to defend against counterfeit goods

An article by Automation World highlights how blockchain is being used to validate product authenticity. By registering each product on the blockchain registry with a unique ID and key attributes, the product can then be scanned for authenticity at each point from manufacturing to sale, recovering lost revenue and upholding the company’s reputation.

Blockchain for supply chain finance

Blockchain can be used to manage the transfer of goods, managing payments with each transfer. It speeds up transactions by eliminating the need for banks and brokers.  In the video below, you can see how Microsoft’s Coco blockchain distributed ledger can be used to manage smart contracts and purchase orders across the supply chain.

Blockchain for innovation

When will the manufacturing industry embrace blockchain? When customers demand it. Blockchain is in its infancy. New uses for blockchain technology will emerge regularly as the technology becomes more mainstream.

The challenge of blockchain for manufacturers

The biggest challenge for manufacturers is determining how blockchain and Smart Contracts can improve business.  To validate potential applications and assess future development opportunities, answer the following four questions to determine whether or not blockchain is appropriate in a situation:

  • Do multiple parties share data?
  • Do multiple parties update data?
  • Is there a requirement for verification?
  • Can intermediaries be removed and reduce cost and complexity?

If you answered yes to all these questions, you have a potential scenario to apply blockchain.

Microsoft is taking bold steps to develop a robust B2B blockchain framework to support Smart Contracts.  The Coco Framework extends the Microsoft Cloud to enable enterprise blockchain networks that deliver:

  • Fast throughput
  • Rich, flexible confidentiality models
  • Network policy management
  • Support for non-deterministic transactions

Microsoft Cloud technology, including Dynamics 365 and Power BI, provide an agile framework for manufacturers to modernize their manufacturing operations. Solutions like MCA’s ManufacturingCONNECT can accelerate the implementation process significantly.

Optimize Business with an ERP Tailored to Manufacturing

Accelerate the timeline of your implementation with a pre-configured ERP solution specifically built for manufacturers.

Learn More

Author: Brad Smith, Analytics Practice Director

10 Lessons Learned after 30 Years in Manufacturing

By | Manufacturing

1. Disrupt or be disrupted.

In 2017, the manufacturing industry experienced game-changing opportunities. This competitive landscape will only continue in 2018. Manufacturers agile enough to capitalize on these emerging technologies have a competitive advantage. Disrupt or be disrupted. That is the choice facing manufacturers today.

2. Prediction is possible – and preferable.

Downtime is the bane of a manufacturing executive’s day. One small defective part can wreak havoc on the entire production schedule, resulting in thousands (or millions) of dollars in lost time. Product recalls are the nightmare every manufacturing executive fears most. How can these issues be prevented?

With predictive analytics and machine learning, problems like these can be identified early and the most serious of consequences can usually be avoided. IoT (Internet of Things) sensors can provide feedback that a machine is overheating or that a part is likely to be defective, and proactive measures can be taken.

3. Giving people a voice improves performance.

Involving your team early-on in new initiatives like implementing lean manufacturing or a new ERP system is a morale booster. Having project champions and curtailing resistance early-on can make-or-break a project’s success. In addition, our customers see great success with “voice of the operator” initiatives where the machine operator’s qualitative insight is combined with quantitative data from the ERP system to provide more context to operations on the shop floor.

4. Block chain technology is the next big “thing”.

Although block chain technology is still in its early stages, we see blockchain emerging into an extremely useful business application, specifically for complex contracts in the manufacturing space. This recent technology is what drives bitcoin, but it goes beyond holding and exchanging money. Blockchain can be used for any kind of exchange, and in supply chain, it can apply to anything from self-executing supply contracts to automated cold chain management.

5. The future is cloud-y.

Cloud computing helps companies become more agile. Rather than having large IT capital expenditures, companies are opting to pay-as-they-go using SaaS (Software as a Service), gaining the freedom and flexibility to add users and functionality as needs change.

Access to the cloud has not just decreased hardware and software costs, but also brought down the costs of implementations.  For example, we offer ManufacturingCONNECT, a pre-configured discrete manufacturing accelerator for Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations available through Microsoft AppSource.

6. Integration is essential.

Many revenue leaks can be avoided by integrating systems. For example, bringing ERP and CRM together with Dynamics 365 or by using an SAP-CRM Connector, sales opportunities can be turned into orders, and pulled into the back office for procurement, production scheduling, invoicing and shipping. The customer-facing departments handling sales and support have the full picture of what’s going on with the customer, which helps them maximize revenue and customer satisfaction.

7. Big data brings big opportunities.

With the cost of cloud computing going down and speed of access going up, big data has been a game changer for the manufacturing industry. Data that used to be discarded can now be saved, analyzed and accessed for big data, machine learning and other business analytics initiatives to provide greater insight in nearly real-time. Manufacturers are using this big data a variety of ways – for defect tracking, supply planning, forecasting, and enabling mass-customization.

8. The IoT craze has just begun.

According to a recent Forbes article:

“The global Internet of Things (IoT) market is projected to grow from $2.99T in 2014 to $8.9T in 2020, attaining a 19.92% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). Industrial manufacturing is predicted to increase from $472B in 2014 to $890B in global IoT spending.”

Internet of Things devices will transform manufacturing operations internally, and provide new opportunities for product innovation.

9. It’s time to step up data security efforts.

Malware. Viruses. Hacking. With so many major data breeches in 2017, many of them stemming from employee error, companies are realizing a need for greater vigilance when it comes to data security. From creating better IT policies and procedures to enforcing physical security and augmenting user training, data security has become a top priority for many manufacturers.

10. We’ll never be “done”.

As big advocates of lean manufacturing and lean thinking, we believe in continuous improvement. The manufacturing industry has long been a software technology laggard, especially when it comes to replacing MRP / ERP systems. The ubiquity of “the cloud” has created so many new opportunities that provide major competitive advantages, that it’s time to do something, even if you can’t afford to do everything. Pick one area. Focus your efforts.  Just keep moving!

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

Technology’s Role in the Manufacturing Revolution

By | Manufacturing

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 technology can provide quantum leap improvements that can’t be realized any other way.

5 Reasons to Advocate for Modern ERP Software

There at least 5 solid reasons why you should invest in your manufacturing transformation with modern ERP software. Solutions like Dynamics 365 for Finance & 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 current manufacturing buzz phrase 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.

Find the Best ERP Solution for You

To find the right ERP solution for your business, you need to know the right questions to ask and considerations to make. Use this 20-question guide to get started.

View the Guide

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

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

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

5 Ways to Reduce Your Manufacturing Inventory Costs

By | Business Transformation, Lean, Manufacturing

Do you feel constant pressure to reduce manufacturing inventory costs? You’re not alone! 

On one hand, if you don’t have enough of the right inventory on hand when it’s needed, you risk damaging customer relationships. Your customers are counting on you to have what they need on hand when they want it.  In a worst case scenario, low inventory levels can cripple your business. Without product to ship, you won’t have revenue coming in.  Without a good reputation for delivering on your promises, customers begin to disappear.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be carrying too much inventory either. Too much inventory brings the risks of obsolescence, damage, and additional storage/carrying costs. The problem is compounded for many US-based manufacturers because it is commonplace to now outsource most high-volume manufacturing overseas to China, Mexico and other countries with lower-cost manufacturing. That means, the inventory that you have on hand is all for the high-mix, low-volume work.

How do you lower inventory costs when you are charged with producing 5-10 pieces at a time instead of 1000s at a time? 

Here are 5 steps we recommend regularly for our high-mix, low-volume manufacturing clients:

1. Adopt a single piece flow mentality

Single piece flow eliminates waste by working on one product at a time. While not always practical (like when you have high change-over times), it is an ideal state of lean manufacturing to achieve single piece flow whenever possible.  Benefits include improved quality, lower defects, less inventory holding risks and improved manufacturing flexibility.

2. Find strategic suppliers

Reduce on-hand inventory by developing relationships with suppliers so you only get what you need for a given day.  Working closely with your key suppliers, you can reduce the amount of safety stock you carry as buffer against missed deliveries once they have proven to deliver consistently on time.  Then you can reduce the lot size on your orders.  You won’t then need so much warehouse space and your manufacturing environment overall will stay more organized and become more efficient.

3. Eliminate or reduce buffer inventories

When single piece flow isn’t possible, you may need to establish some buffer inventory in WIP so that your downstream processes can keep running.  However, you always want to keep looking for ways to eliminate or reduce these buffer inventory stock levels.  Reducing downtime, yield loss and change-over times allows you to reduce your buffer inventory.  Calculate this using EPEI to get quantitative insight. If you have to use buffer stock, set up the inventory pulling process to automatically trigger the buffer stock replenishment process.  “Take one, make one” is a great motto, but again, not always possible for the same reasons that single flow processes aren’t always feasible.

4. Get rid of expensive equipment

If you have equipment that’s expensive to own, expensive to run and or expensive to maintain, ask yourself, “Can you get rid of it?” Look for how you might outsource that process to reduce your expenses and eliminate any manufacturing bottleneck for creating downstream or finished good inventory.

5. Connect sales orders to manufacturing

When the sales order processing system and the manufacturing resource management system are disconnected, you risk running into all sorts of issues.  Sales may think that materials are on-hand, but in reality they’ve been committed to another customer order.  Linking Sales Orders with Manufacturing  eliminates duplication of effort and makes it clear what is available-to-promise. Orders can be broken into digestible chunks for production. Inventory levels stay balanced.

9 Ways Manufacturers Squeeze Revenue & Sweeten Profits

If you feel the squeeze of being caught between customer expectations and supplier demands, download our whitepaper for a recipe for Manufacturing Management success.

Download the Whitepaper

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

Better, Faster, Cheaper ERP for Manufacturers

By | Manufacturing

I’m sure you’ve seen that old saying about services. There are only 3 types of services: good, cheap and fast – and you can only pick two:

Services – Pick TWO

Good & Cheap – Won’t be Fast

Fast & Good – Won’t be Cheap

Cheap & Fast – Won’t be Good

While it’s true that there is no such thing as a good, fast, and  cheap ERP system, we believe we’ve cracked the code in creating a Better, Faster, and Cheaper ERP System for Manufacturers.

ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator – Better, Faster, Cheaper ERP

Both ManufacturingCONNECT and Dynamics 365 for Operations are new to the market, but Microsoft Dynamics and MCA Connect’s manufacturing solutions have been around for a long time. We know manufacturing – and we know the ins-and-outs of Microsoft Dynamics. When Microsoft launched the AppSource site, we saw an opportunity to provide a turnkey ERP for manufacturers.

Here are the most frequently asked questions we get about the ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator.

What is ManufacturingCONNECT?

ManufacturingCONNECT is a solution configured for discrete manufacturers using Dynamics 365 for Operations as their base platform. The solution comes “out of the cloud” with standard manufacturing processes and a fixed-scope implementation to help you deploy the solution internally.

Is ManufacturingCONNECT cloud-only?

Yes, ManufacturingCONNECT is cloud-only. Deployed on Microsoft Azure, ManufacturingCONNECT takes advantage of Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS). With LCS, you can deploy, test and move your system to production using simple, automated business tools.

Why would we use ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator vs. standard ERP implementation?

By preconfiguring Dynamics 365 for Operations to meet the specific needs of discrete manufacturers, ManufacturingCONNECT substantially cuts the cost and timeline to implement an ERP system. It’s designed for companies looking for a “faster, better and cheaper ERP” who want to generally use common manufacturing best practices. Because of this pre-configuration, leveraging the ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator is the perfect solution for companies looking to accelerate a move from a legacy system.

Companies who want to deploy their ERP system on-premise or have lots of unique needs and customizations are better off going with a standard ERP implementation.

Can we further customize our solution after the initial deployment?

Yes. While the initial deployment is fixed in scope, companies can choose to add services later to suit their unique needs.

Optimize Business with an ERP Tailored to Manufacturing

Accelerate the timeline of your implementation with a pre-configured ERP solution specifically built for the manufacturing industry.

Learn More

Author: Jay Rutledge, Product Manager

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

Learn More

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

5 Myths Busted about ERP for Manufacturers

By | Manufacturing

Manufacturing and ERP systems have had a rocky relationship, one filled with big promises, missed opportunities and lots of misinformation. Companies trying to leverage manufacturing technology for competitive gain first learned about MRP, then MRP 2, then ERP…but there isn’t even a name for what ERP has become. Today’s ERP systems have transformed in to something different altogether from the previous incarnations available in the market. Let’s look at 5 common misperceptions about ERP for Manufacturers:

Myth #1: Lean and ERP are Incompatible.  Manufacturers on a Lean manufacturing journey have to ignore ERP, because ERP systems just get in the way of truly achieving a lean enterprise.

Truth #1: Lean and ERP can play well together.  Microsoft Dynamics AX can get the stamp of approval from even the most ardent believers of the lean concepts, and can do so by adding no unnecessary transactional overhead to the organization. Whether it is the ability to adjust your TAKT time to speed up the line, to creating Heijunka scheduled kanbans on cells, the system both adheres to lean standards and enables continuous kaizen improvements to the system to never stop optimizing the organization.

Myth #2: Manufacturers have to decide their preferred method of manufacturing. Once they’ve made that decision, they then configure the ERP to accommodate it, and live with tradeoffs for other approaches.

Truth #2: Many manufacturers use a combination of manufacturing modes.  I frequently work with mixed-mode manufacturers that use a combination of strategies within their organization. I worked with a company recently who processed steel coils, and output multiple items from one raw material, similar to the process manufacturing approach. Then further on in their manufacturing process they processed the steel in to cut parts on discrete work orders, but they also had processes that lent themselves to a lean manufacturing approach because the transactions were predictable and could be executed with minimal transactional overhead needed.

We were able to accomplish all three operations, running in the same plant at the same time, giving the company a way to transact easily, and giving  management the visibility they desired by having all of these strategies peacefully coexist.

Myth #3: Insights can only be found outside of the ERP system.  Manufacturing ERP systems are there to be the system of record, but reporting on trends in the business must take place in an external system, where we can aggregate, and then analyze business data from many different pieces of the business.

Truth #3:  Reports can often be run natively within the ERP system.  While we have worked with customers to create a data warehouse instance to tie together relevant data from disparate parts of the business, what we are seeing most times is that we can surface all of the data needed to run the business natively within the ERP system.

Myth #4: Global manufacturers have to buy multiple ERP systems. Manufacturers have to deploy separate instances of the ERP application to address the global needs of their organization, and account for things like intercompany trade, and local jurisdictional regulations.

Truth #4:  Microsoft Dynamics AX can handle both local and global requirements.  Microsoft has spent hundreds of man years building an application that can both handle complex multinational manufacturing needs, and stay ahead of jurisdictional changes as they occur to keep organizations in compliance in the markets they serve.

Myth #5: Manufacturing ERP systems require a big upfront investment. Manufacturers have to spend an inordinate amount of capital if they want to truly leverage technology as a competitive weapon. Because their investment is so high, seeing a return can take a long time.

Truth #5: Gone are the days of having to lay out investments, and hope to cost justify them at some distant point in the future. With the advent of the cloud, and the rapid deployment technologies Microsoft has developed, along with the technology to create solution accelerators like the AX4Discrete offering built on top of the Microsoft infrastructure, and available from systems integrators (like mcaConnect), manufacturing companies are seeing the time to value dramatically reduced.  Microsoft enables you to easily adopt the technology components you need to compete in your marketplace, in a very cost effective way.


ERP systems have come a long way to meet the needs of manufacturers. From the shop floor to the sales floor, manufacturers finally can have one complete integrated system.  If you are interested in learning more about Microsoft Dynamics AX, I encourage you to request an ERP readiness assessment. We’ll go through our 40-point plan to see if you’re ready for the changes an ERP system can bring.

Optimize Business with an ERP Tailored to Manufacturing

Accelerate the timeline of your implementation with a pre-configured ERP solution specifically built for the manufacturing industry.

Learn More

Author: Doug Bulla, VP of Business Development