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Innovation is Everywhere and Anywhere

Miriam and Gerry are receiving clerks. They are no different from millions of us who work hard and are underpaid. Their job only has visibility when something has gone wrong. Many days they will work hard all day and none of the higher-ups even know they were at work.

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Getting Lean with ERP

Organizations of every kind want to get lean. Adding value, eliminating waste, and automating are some current buzzwords. ERP, on the other hand, is sometimes considered a necessary evil or even a creator of waste. But these two disciplines can get along quite nicely as complementary tools in our toolbox.

The best definitions of lean consider it to be an endless cycle. We identify value and define it in terms of value to our customer. We map the value stream; we identify all the activities that create value and place them along the stream of our processes. We create flows where our products and services move easily from one step to the next. We establish pulls; nothing is completed and passed along the stream until the downstream operation is ready to receive. We seek perfection, practicing every step until it is automatic and eliminating any unnecessary steps. Then we do it all over again.

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How to Use Lean Management to Improve Profitability

Are you looking for ways to improve the profitability of your company? If so, using lean management and manufacturing practices may be just what you need.

Lean management (or lean in general) combines processes, methodologies, measurements, and training to increase profits and minimize process breakage. The whole idea is preserving value for the customer with less work. The management philosophy of lean manufacturing mostly came from the Toyota production system (TPS). TPS was renowned for improving overall customer value at Toyota and has been attributed for much of their success.

There are generally a couple of questions you should ask when you start thinking about lean management.

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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.