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Lean Enhances Competitiveness

U.S. manufacturing went through several difficult years as competition from low-wage regions caused a major uptick in outsourcing and offshoring. Slowly but surely, intrepid manufacturers are turning the tide back to on shore manufacturing by increasing efficiency and controlling both costs and quality to decrease or remove completely any price advantages in those low wage regions.

Companies have used lean manufacturing and its companion discipline, six sigma, to become more productive and more competitive than ever before in history. By streamlining business processes and reducing unnecessary steps, many companies have completely eliminated the advantage of lower wages. Where the cost differential can’t be completely eliminated, companies have offset the competition’s lower prices by offering higher quality, faster delivery, superior service and mass customization offerings.

If your company is still struggling to hold the line against offshore competition, here are a few ways that lean can help make your company more competitive.

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Improve Responsiveness and Exceed Customer Expectations by Transforming Your Business

While most companies that have been in business for any length of time have an ERP system, not all the ERP systems in use include modern, up to date business processes and best practices. Companies that have grown through acquisition may have multiple ERP systems in use at different facilities, making business processes and financial reporting needlessly cumbersome. Some companies may have interfaced their ERP system to other business systems, such as PLM or CRM, or they may have modified the system’s code, while other companies may have merely chosen not to upgrade for so long that the systems in place are hopelessly obsolete. Whatever the case, these companies are hampering their profitability and their ability to please their customers because their business systems simply cannot keep up with the current pace and expectations of business.

Working with an outdated ERP systems wastes resources as people spend time searching for the information they need, reentering data into multiple systems or compensating for lack of functionality with manual side systems. Upgrading to a new ERP system improves efficiency, reduces costs and helps improve responsiveness, leading to better customer service in multiple ways.

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Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX

Reduce waste, streamline processes, accelerate demand-pull operations, and gain tools for implementing and sustaining lean manufacturing initiatives that can give you a competitive advantage.

Microsoft Dynamics AX can empower your people to successfully implement kanban, kaizen, heijunka-board production leveling, just-in-time operations, and other key tactics by delivering the specific functionality, access to information, and process flexibility demanded by lean manufacturing operations. As an integral part of a familiar and adaptable end-to-end business management solution, Microsoft Dynamics AX can help you achieve the insight, agility, efficiency, and customer-orientation that enhance profitability and business success.

Benefits of Lean Manufacturing:

  • Achieve demand-driven production.
  • Increase replenishment efficiency.
  • Accelerate continuous improvement.
  • Understand value streams, eliminate bottlenecks, and identify improvement opportunities.
  • Free people for higher-value activities.
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Is Your ERP Application(s) Taking Your Business To New Levels?

If you're like a lot of the Executives we've been talking to recently, some of your main goals and objectives for 2014 include:

  • Driving growth by increasing margins, expanding into new geographies, and speeding innovation and time-to-market.
  • Improving operational effectiveness by standardizing processes, increasing visibility, driving efficiency.
  • Improving decision making with better access to real-time data and key performance indicators.
  • Future-proofing IT architecture by meeting the profoundly more demanding IT trends of businesses today:
    • Supporting BYOD (Bring your own device)
    • Exploiting Big Data
    • Connecting via Social Media
    • Utilizing the Internet "Store"
  • Mitigating risk and maintaining compliance with improved visibility, control, and security.

Do these sound familiar?

When Trading Technologies International, Inc. found themselves facing similar objectives, they decided they needed to integrate their company with a global ERP solution and streamline and standardize their business processes. Read more about how they did it - and the benefits they have received since undergoing their business transformation: Trading Technologies Implements Microsoft Dynamics AX to Optimize Processes, Extend Organizational Insight, Improve Decision Making, and Transform Their Business.

Microsoft Dynamics AX: Helps You Work Better, Faster, and Smarter

Welcome back to our series on the "Top Reasons to Invest in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Merit Solutions” blog series. In our first article, we kicked off the discussion with a look at how Microsoft Dynamics AX is more than just ERP - it is a complete business solution that goes beyond what stand-alone ERP or accounting software can do.

(Just a reminder, over the next several weeks we will be providing an overview of why Microsoft Dynamics AX is a great choice to help you gain greater insight into your business, so you can drive profit margins and ultimately grow your business.)

Help You Work Better, Faster, and Smarter

When you think about the most successful businesses today, you’ll realize they all have something in common: passionate employees who are engaged, committed to their company’s success, and working at their maximum potential.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is an innovative, flexible, end-to-end solution that helps makes your people more proactive and productive by giving them personalized, agile tools based on the familiar, interoperable Microsoft technologies that they work with every day. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers on the promise of productivity – by offering unsurpassed usability, easier collaboration and communication, and comprehensive business insight capabilities. Microsoft Dynamics AX was designed with people in mind – making it easier for them to work, collaborate and make informed decisions more efficiently.

The solution also features a RoleTailored user interface, designed to help your employees uncover the information and tasks relevant to their specific job functions, right on their home page. This interface maps tasks to key roles in your business, so your employees can take advantage of a tool that matches their preferences and work styles. As a result, they can work smarter, faster, and more efficiently than ever.

Check out our Microsoft Dynamics AX Demos to see how you can benefit from Microsoft Dynamics AX!

"Dynamic Business Applications" Designed For People

Today’s business management solutions, particularly enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, are evolving from a focus on transactions and data entry to one that places people and usability at the center of solution design. This includes attention to varying work styles, role-based perspectives on information and tasks, and the need to extract information in the context of business processes. This shift is being driven by workers’ dissatisfaction with rigid solutions that fail to integrate cross-business processes; adapt to changing global markets; or address the needs of individuals in different kinds of jobs. This inflexibility results in poor usability, both for the individual worker and for the solution’s fit with company-wide business processes and requirements.

According to the Forrester Research study, The Dynamic Business Applications Imperative, there is a shift toward “Dynamic Business Applications” that is helping to address this challenge. Dynamic business applications are designed for people; they greatly enhance usability and accommodate business agility to help organizations capture the full benefits of their solution. This design-for-people approach places the workers’ contextual tasks at the center of the application’s interface. The tasks, or work, are the basis for all transactions, business processes, collaboration efforts, and tools. Transactional processing and performance are still relevant, but people become the most important element of the solution.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is a leading example of a business management solution designed to optimize usability, improve user productivity, and meet the needs of people in a variety of roles to drive business success. The solution’s user-friendly navigation, familiar interface, visualization aids, and self-service business intelligence (BI) tools are prime examples of highly usable features that are designed for the people who use them.

A solution that’s accessible and relevant to a variety of people can contribute significantly to business success. Although the usability of a business management solution is only one aspect of productivity, it is critical because it can constrain or magnify all other productivity benefits of the solution.

Bad Processes Forced by ERP System?

We recently asked the CEO of a large multinational organization why they were changing their ERP system. “To improve our business processes,” he replied, stating one of the most widespread drivers companies have to change their ERP systems. As you evaluate your ERP system with regard to business processes you should first assess the level to which any bad business processes are forced on you by your ERP system; and then identify the number of disparate and sidebar systems users have created to work around your ERP. If you find significant process issues in these areas, a change to a modern ERP system that can help you differentiate your business may be beneficial to your organization.

The functionality and capabilities inherent in your ERP software have a big impact on your business processes. As you assess the effectiveness of your current system, you must first review your core business processes to determine if they enable maximum efficiency and productivity. If they do not, investigate whether the software system imposes constraints on your processes. Are your users saying “I do this because that’s the way the system makes me do it”?

When ERP systems were introduced 20 years ago, they were rigid in their functionality. They forced companies to conform business processes to the dictates of the software, or required them to significantly customize the software to meet their specific requirements. However, business processes evolve over time while the software remains static. This causes a disparity between the way the software was originally implemented and the new requirements of the business. This evolution continues until you get to the point that the processes in the system actually constrict the ability of users to efficiently run your business. In common with the CEO mentioned above, this is a major reason why your company might end up implementing a newer, innovative, and proactive ERP system.

New enterprise ERP software applications like Microsoft Dynamics AX offer flexible business processes based on best practices and process tools such as workflow. Workflow is the ability to set up and change process flows within the system. It includes many capabilities such as electronic routing of documents, event notification, and automated processes based on triggers. Many ERP vendors offer flexible rules-based workflows that allow businesses to create custom processes based on their operations. These workflows can be changed as their preferences and requirements evolve. In some of the more sophisticated systems, power users are even able to diagram and implement new workflows with drag-and-drop technology. Such flexibility allows the ERP system to evolve with changes in business processes and practices in your company and industry.

As you assess the effect of your current ERP software on your business processes, you should consider the following questions:

  • Do your current business processes decrease efficiency and productivity?
  • Are they in place to make up for inefficiencies in the ERP system?
  • Have they been dictated by the system because of lack of functionality?
  • Have your business requirements changed over the years making the reasons you selected your current system no longer valid?
  • Have users created many sidebar and workaround systems outside the ERP?

Implementation of a flexible ERP system like allows your company to take advantage of new capabilities, functionality, and fresh ideas. An implementation partner that understands business process optimization and is industry expert is an excellent resource for efficiently implementing the system and effectively setting up your business processes. Selection and implementation of a modern ERP system can reduce manual processes, eliminate redundancy, and reduce paper documentation giving your company the opportunity to:

  • Review all business processes in place and determine which are required, which can be modified, and which can be eliminated.
  • Identify and eliminate redundancy and manual data entry.
  • Standardize business processes across all departments.
  • Adopt the best practices available in new software to obtain greater efficiency over the current ways of doing business.
  • Make use of flexible workflow functionality to take advantage of automated business processes, document routing, events, and alerts.
All businesses at one time or another have to weigh the costs and benefits of retaining an older ERP system against the costs and benefits of selecting and implementing a new one. Legacy systems, although on older technology, provide companies a level of comfort—comfort that is likely at the sacrifice of increased relevant functionality and technology.

Technology to Differentiate Your Business

Merit Solutions believes that many organizations are at a point of profound transformation that won’t be sufficiently addressed via a patchwork of business solutions. That's why we are committed to helping your business be ready for what’s next with the most comprehensive range of integrated solutions today and the most complete vision for the future.

Empowering Your People

For your people, we offer an unparalleled range of integrated, connected solutions that help provide a seamless experience across people’s personal work lives. Our approach is to deliver solutions that are integrated by design across devices and services. From productivity, collaboration, and business apps, to devices and security, our goal is to deliver a connected experience that works together seamlessly and naturally, the way people expect it to work. The result? Get more done, faster, without limits.

We live in an amazing time for technology. At home, when we use our personal devices, we’ve become accustomed to a highly connected experience where all of our apps and information are at our fingertips and the experience has become highly intuitive. It’s easy to watch movies, read books, play games, and share photos and documents. We also know that people consume information in a different way depending on the device they are using—tablets, PCs, or even business whiteboards. In each case, the Microsoft business platform makes it easy to personalize the experience and get it just right. By choosing the Microsoft platform, your company's devices and applications will truly work together - and these connected devices will give you the same version of the truth regardless of the device you are using.

Maximizing IT Flexibility

Our IT customers are entering a new era - a new era for the way they manage and deploy applications and devices. Between the consumerization of IT and the move to the cloud, a lot of what IT provided, from deployment to systems integration, is being radically revised and simplified. Throughout this transformation, we are here to help our customers maximize the return on your IT existing investment and best position you for the future. Our goal is to enable people to use the devices they want to use in the places they want to work - while also enabling enterprises to protect corporate information.

At the same time, we know that you will have more than just Microsoft solutions in your business, and so we are experienced at building bridges across technology. We believe this builds choice, drives innovation, and creates opportunities.

Accelerating your Business

Finally, we’re committed to helping you maximize the return on your investments in Microsoft solutions. Whether that means saving money, growing revenue, attracting and retaining customers, or driving innovation.

In today’s business climate, people expect the technology they use at work to be as simple as the technology they use at home. Today’s technology is expanding the possibilities for connecting people and helping businesses be more proactive and dynamic to change. For example…

In summary, Merit Solutions offers companies an unparalleled experience across today’s devices, while maximizing IT flexibility and providing the business platform and process optimization services that can truly accelerate your business.

Please comment below if you have any questions or comments as we’d certainly like to continue this conversation and find more ways that we can continue to help companies differentiate their business.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is a Next Generation ERP Solution

A while back we discussed some global business and IT trends that are slowly but steadily reshaping the ERP landscape. With our emerging economic climate, these trends are posing additional challenges for business and IT professionals who are struggling to improve profitability and retain IT agility.

Global market trends are creating the need for businesses to:

At the same time, shifting IT trends are creating the need to:

  • Increase ERP adoption and access to ERP data across a broader subset of the workforce.
  • Reduce IT operational costs by investing in systems that are more flexible and scalable, and simpler to configure, maintain, and upgrade.
  • Put solutions in place that enable broad business strategies, and that enable IT to respond quickly to specific line-of-business (LOB) requests and industry needs.

When you frame this discussion with the research conducted by Forrester in 2010 detailed in our article, Key Challenges Companies Face with ERP Solutions, you can see how the needs produced by market and IT trends are affecting customers’ expectations of their ERP application.

Today’s world is increasingly flattened by technology, global complexity and new global competition - making it critical for a business to be able to rapidly see and react to signals, threats and opportunities. Going one step further, in this world where the pace of business accelerates, imagine being able to anticipate rather than react to those signals. Success today and tomorrow increasingly depends on information insight and efficient business processes.

So what would the next generation of ERP look like? See for yourself!

Risk Management Suite Questions

Merit Solutions has spent a lot of time over the past couple of months demoing our Microsoft Dynamics GP Risk Management Suite and its capabilities to new prospects while providing training to existing clients looking to upgrade. In both situations, two questions always seem to pop up:

  1. How do we make sure that we get (got) the roles and users right?
  2. How do we make sure we don't create a burden with tracking too many changes?

Interestingly enough, the answer to both is very simple. The implementation - not so simple.

  1. The first thing that each client has to ensure is that their business processes are efficient and that their ERP system is setup in a way to support those processes. The Risk Management Suite will comply to any set of rules you require - helping you increase your efficiency while making sure you comply with regulations. To receive the maximum value, efficient business processes have to be in place - and, often, that is not an easy task to complete.
  2. As for the second question, we recommend that tracking changes should be limited to business critical fields, tables, and processes, as that will make the system easier to implement, changes easier to track and will help a company meet compliance regulations.

On occasion, companies tend to track everything, including tables with high volume of transactions. While this is possible to do with Audit Trails, as with any other Microsoft Dynamics GP table, this is not recommended, as it will affect performance of your SQL Server, which will in turn affect all users and systems that use it.

In order to generate the highest value from the Risk Management Suite, we suggest that companies craft a smart tracking plan prior to implementation with procedures and policies in place that limit adding new tables to Audit Trails tracking without a strong business reason why.