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Use Your ERP to Achieve Supply Chain Resilience

When the demands to a supply chain are smooth and predictable and the supply always matches the demand perfectly we can all live the life of Riley. Who is ready to take off work early this afternoon?

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6 Steps to Improving Supply Chain Visibility

Nothing affects a company’s ability to compete more than the agility of its supply chain, but supply chain agility is dependent on visibility. Supply chain visibility is something that everybody talks about, but they seldom give you concrete information on how to achieve it.

Follow these six actionable steps to increase visibility in your supply chain and you’ll see major improvements in your key metrics.

  1. Bring customers and suppliers into the forecast process
  2. Adopt EDI or another rapid communication method
  3. Open a portal
  4. Treat outsourced operations like in-house work centers
  5. Eliminate middlemen and non-value add processes
  6. Foster a relationship of open partnership
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7 Ways an ERP System Can Help You Delight Your Customers

A well-functioning ERP system not only serves as the repository and record of all your day-to-day transactions, it can also help you to become a more responsive organization that continually delights the customer by exceeding their expectations. Here are seven ways that your system will help you to become more competitive and satisfy your customers.

  1. Faster Order Cycle Times
  2. Visibility to Supply and Demand Fluctuations
  3. Better Forecasts
  4. More Accurate Inventory
  5. More Perfect Orders Shipped
  6. Reality-based Available-to-Promise Dates
  7. Mass Customization

Keep reading to learn more.

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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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Financial Reporting in Microsoft Dynamics AX

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 offers organizations with complex organizational structures a flexible financial reporting solution. Management Reporter supports the creation of statutory and operational reports based on general ledger data and is the recommended solution for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Management Reporter is used for the creation, distribution and analysis of financial statements and other financial reports and is included in the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 solution.

Management Reporter empowers decision makers to provide real-time insights into organizational results allowing business users to take action and align employee behavior with overall goals. 

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Microsoft Dynamics AX Looks Forward, Not Backward

Thanks for following along with our series “Top Reasons to Invest in Microsoft Dynamics AX and Merit Solutions” blog series. We’re now up to reason three exploring how a business transformation with Merit Solutions delivers more than just ERP. If you are just joining or perhaps missed our previous two posts - here are links to the first two reasons: It’s More Than Just ERP and Helps You Work Better, Faster, and Smarter.

This week’s reason is that Microsoft Dynamics AX looks forward, not backward.

Is your business software hindering your ability to make sound business decisions? Is it limiting your potential for growth? In today’s competitive environment, you need more than a backward-looking system of record to be successful.

However, many executives we talk to are unable to view business critical data in real-time. Instead, they have a mixture of disparate business systems - for financial management, CRM, shop floor, etc... I'm guessing this quote from Roger Mills, Executive Vice President of Finance for Trading Technologies International, Inc., will sound familiar to many: “It became apparent that our old IT platform did not have the functional capability, scalability, or data visibility we needed to maintain aggressive, profitable growth for the company. We were dealing with multiple systems that were not integrated across global entities. Many processes were being done in spreadsheets, including corporate consolidation. And we lacked the ability to perform robust analytics and reporting on real-time data, which slowed down corporate decision making.”

The problem with this approach is that it takes quite a bit of time (up to a month!) for information to make it from one system to another, hindering their ability to react and make informed business decisions. And by the time decisions are made, the chances are it’s already too late!

Microsoft Dynamics AX can address those challenges. It gives you a solution that’s proactive and predictive, with built-in workflows that guide your employees forward through their work. It also provides your people with powerful embedded business intelligence tools that help transform data into insight. With those tools at their fingertips, your teams not only can solve problems, but they also can prevent them from occurring in the first place.

As an example, Microsoft Dynamics AX, combined with the powerful features of Microsoft Excel, can transform transactional data into predictive reports. These reports include shopping cart analysis that helps your people identify future cross-sell and up-sell opportunities as well as recommend items that are the most profitable for your business. And drill-down capabilities provide deeper visibility into transactions and more detailed audit trails.

Microsoft Dynamics AX gives you higher confidence that the right people are making the right decisions to grow your business.

Just listen to Roger now: "More accurate reporting and more immediate analysis is now possible through the business intelligence cube functionality that exists within Dynamics AX. The cube reporting capability allows us to view various details on the business in real time. The Dynamics AX dimension capabilities then allow us to slice and view the data from various perspectives. This enables us to make more informed decisions."

See their full story: Trading Technologies' Microsoft Dynamics AX Case Study

Achieving Supply Chain Visibility with Globally Adopted Systems and Processes

One of the most important determinants of any manufacturing company’s success is supply chain visibility, and one of the best ways to achieve the required visibility is by adopting a global ERP system. Supply chain visibility enables companies to react quickly to unexpected supply change disruptions or changes in supply or demand. More visibility also helps companies to make better decisions based on facts and real information, rather than guesswork and rules of thumb.

Customers expect to have products that meet their exact specifications and delivery needs. As a result, inventory management and manufacturing processes become much more complex, especially when conducted on a global basis. In addition, manufacturing today requires the ability to outsource operations to suppliers or sister plants, and to distribute products globally from multiple locations.

Any company seeking to succeed in today’s environment needs to find new ways to forecast demand, and it must rely heavily on suppliers to be responsive to unpredictable demand fluctuations while controlling costs and quality. The only way to achieve both customer satisfaction and reasonable inventory levels is to provide openness and visibility into the entire supply chain to provide the most time to react to changes.

To achieve the necessary supply chain visibility companies must implement and enforce consistent business processes across all regions and facilities. While there may be local or regional variations to accommodate differences in regulations, specific plant equipment or locally supplied materials, the company should begin with the assumption that each facility will use the same business processes.

By structuring the process so that it works across all facilities, the company will achieve:

 

  • Ability to ship orders from any facility, resulting in faster deliveries, better customer satisfaction, reduced inventory and improved cash flow
  • Balanced production loads across facilities, with predictable quality and lead times
  • Access to worldwide supplier and customer expertise to improve supply chain efficiency, product quality or market acceptance
  • More efficient operations through centralized, shared services for common business functions such as credit management, procurement, order management, accounts payable or accounts receivable
  • Insight into the overall state of the business
  • Faster month end close times since financial data will be easier to consolidate
  • Reduced risk of fines or sanctions due to non-compliance with industry or financial regulations
  • Information access to make fact-based decisions faster and more confidently
  • Standardized alerts and workflows that improve operations and provide fast communication and immediate visibility
Select an ERP system designed for global visibility

Manufacturing companies need global ERP systems that are instantly familiar to people around the world without requiring a great deal of training or instruction. The user interface must be easy to navigate, and screens must display in the user’s native language. Information must be easy to understand quickly and accessible both inside and outside corporate firewalls to provide all companies in the supply chain immediate access to updates and changes.

Many ERP software companies designed their systems without considering the needs of a global manufacturing company. These products may have complex menu systems that require training or that slow down users, or they may display only a limited number of languages. Some systems can’t support the complicated financial reporting or regulatory requirements of multiple countries. Worst of all, the business processes they support are often inflexible or even hard coded.

Companies can avoid these issues and improve overall supply chain visibility by using this checklist:

 

  • The ERP system allows for centralized or decentralized business processes, with local process variations allowable where required
  • Business processes can change and flex as the company strategy changes
  • The underlying technology supports supply chain visibility through alerts, workflow and a portal or other collaboration space
  • The ERP software easily accommodates multiple companies or facilities within a single instance
  • Strong security that crosses business entities and yet keeps sensitive data safe
  • Global reference companies that successfully use the ERP system
  • Available experienced global consultants and implementation project managers
Align with company objectives

Many companies buy into the high-level benefits of supply chain visibility without any idea of how to create actionable plans for globally adopted systems and processes. Most companies need to work with an experienced global ERP implementation consultant who can help them to define processes that work across various geographies to help achieve their objectives. The global consultant can oversee local teams to ensure that any proposed process deviations are justifiable and that local changes don’t impede the company’s goal of increased supply chain visibility.

Better Informed People Make Better Decisions

Today’s social connectedness, mobile devices, and growing opportunities for interaction “any time any place” have changed the way many live and work. People are increasingly dependent on connections across the global network—interlocked in this connected reality.

In order to gain the insight needed to make better decisions, organizations need an end-to-end business solution that integrates all areas of their business and provides managers - as well as individual team members and contributors - with the information they need to make the right decisions at the right time!

Modern business solutions like Microsoft Dynamics AX not only connect people inside and outside the organization, they also give them context and insight which drives better decisions and boosts productivity. An important focus of Microsoft Dynamics AX is to drive connections with people, with customers and with business partners across processes, data and the ecosystem in which organizations operate. This focus on connected organizations includes the vision of anywhere, in-context collaboration services that links people and companies to the right people in the right place, in the right context, at the right time, across multiple avenues of communications.

By implementing a fully integrated ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics AX - encompassing everything from sales and marketing to production and accounting - organizations can improve the accuracy of the information upon which decisions are based because each module of the software is tied together and information flows freely among them. Everyone from the top floor to the shop floor can have access to the business intelligence information they need to drive business success across the organization:

  • Keep current on changing business conditions - Accurately monitor current business activity, and compare it to historical activity and future plans to give people the contextual information they need to keep performance on track. Microsoft Dynamics AX delivers many integrated monitoring tools to help your people access the most relevant, accurate, and timely information about your business.
  • Gain insight into your business - It's not enough to gather accurate and timely data—people need powerful and easy-to-use analysis tools to help them understand context and trends. Microsoft Dynamics AX business intelligence functions provide people with the insight they need to take quick action and pursue opportunities.
  • Budget, forecast, and plan effectively - Microsoft Dynamics AX offers flexible planning tools to help you compare budgets, forecasts, and plans to actual performance. It also gives you the ability to update budgets and plans on the basis of new data and analyses to help your business stay competitive.

Microsoft Dynamics AX removes the impediments that generate friction within the organization and provides people with a broader array of insights and actions across internal and external connections. With greater transparency, agility, and insight, your people can make better, more informed decisions - enabling you to transform into a Dynamic Business.

Increase Insight and Efficiency by Integrating People, Information, and Processes

For our 500TH POST on the Merit Matters Blog, let's talk about manufacturing insight.

Accurate information and the ability to respond with fast, informed decisions are key requisites for agile, low-cost manufacturing. Unfortunately, many manufacturers continue to operate with aging and unconnected information systems. Growth through acquisition, plus the valid need for custom manufacturing processes, often results in an inability to gather and roll up data from diverse manufacturing execution and control systems.

Consequently, many manufacturing organizations struggle with insight issues such as:

  • Manual forms and unstructured data not readily integrated or understood in relation to other data and systems.
  • Limited visibility of manufacturing data in the context of overall enterprise processes and information.
  • Critical machine, performance, tracking, and status information trapped in silos.
  • Labor-intensive and untimely report generation.
The resulting lack of visibility of key data can greatly hinder an organization’s ability to implement common and shared business processes, practice lean manufacturing, or even understand machine center or process profitability. That’s why many companies are recognizing the need to move to a common and shared manufacturing solution architecture that enables implementation of shared best practices while addressing the needs of local language, regulatory compliance, and integration requirements of each operating unit or location.

When companies integrate data to make a single version of the truth visible across the organization, they can deploy an appropriate manufacturing solution in either an on-premise or cloud model to:

  • Support the business across manufacturing, back office, and managerial processes.
  • Provide an integration platform for manufacturing execution and control systems.
  • Deliver accurate information to people who need it for proactive decisions and actions.
  • Facilitate the standardization of data and the optimization of processes and value.
  • Help reduce cycle times and costs through the elimination of errors, redundant or manual tasks, and data delays.
  • Link to existing or corporate systems to better understand overall performance and plan continuous improvement.
With accurate, integrated data, business managers can more easily measure and analyze performance, run “what-if” scenarios and simulations, and better predict potential problems. When circumstances change, the right business management solution can provide fast access to the historical and plan data needed to assess the right course.

The end-to-end integration of Microsoft Dynamics AX means the right information can be available to the right people at the right time, with less data reentry and fewer manual procedures.

  • Real-time, consolidated views of customer account and historical information, product data, and production or delivery status can help your sales and service teams step up their responsiveness to customers and deliver faster, more accurate quotes, pricing, and order status reports.
  • Detailed inventory and replenishment information based on actual production and materials use data can help you reduce inventories, optimize purchasing processes, and gain leverage with suppliers.
  • Automated alerts and workflows can help ensure prompt actions and keep processes on track when conditions change, while automatic posting of materials consumption, work in process, and finished production costs directly to the general ledger means less time spent on routine financial tasks.
  • Comprehensive traceability and audit control can help you document components or ingredients and more easily manage source material tracking and chain-of-control compliance.
  • Remote access to company data and processes, either directly or through the Web, boosts the productivity of field employees.
Microsoft Dynamics AX helps multisite businesses operate more efficiently with immediate connectivity across locations by using one business application and a single business object data model. You can, for example, create and update sales and purchase orders across your locations in real time. Minimize stockholding costs by making stock-on-hand inquiries in all subsidiaries and sourcing raw materials across locations. Support for multiple companies, locations, languages, currencies, and tax and legal requirements for more than 30 countries is built in. Employees, customers, and suppliers can work in their own languages and currencies, while smooth conversion and reporting functions help ensure full insight and visibility at the highest levels of the organization.

Microsoft Dynamics AX enables companies to reduce time to delivery and increase customer satisfaction by automating procedures and improving connections between all company departments, from sales and customer service through production and delivery to accounting—the entire “order to cash” process.