Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing – A Viable ERP System?

Why Should we care if we can use Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing?Given the disruption of the past year, a lot of businesses are investigating ways to work remotely and in a hybrid work environment. There are a few technologies that manufacturing companies need to use that don’t work well remotely. One of them is ERP systems. That’s why we should care about Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing.If you are looking to replace an ERP system because you want to ensure it facilitates remote work, cloud ERP is where you need to look. My experience is almost entirely with what is often called “SMB” or Small and Medium Business manufacturers.There are not a lot of good, modern cloud based ERP systems in the mid-market / SMB space. There are even less that really support manufacturing. That means that the best cloud systems are priced out of most manufacturers budget.Oh, In case you are wondering, Microsoft defines SMB as businesses with less than 250 computers. That’s a pretty large manufacturer.What is Business Central?In the simplest terms, Business Central is the new brand name for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. In all the ways that count this cutting edge new cloud based ERP is the old Dynamics NAV reimagined in the cloud.Microsoft did not shirk on the technology either! They have a boat load of money, and they were willing to spend a lot of it on Business Central.The full name of the product is Dynamics 365 Business Central. That 365 should look familiar, because it appears on Office 365, Microsoft 365 etc…This does mean that Business Central is part of the same suite of products you might already be using for your Outlook email, Teams communication, Microsoft Word or Excel productivity tools. And yes, that is a big advantage to Microsoft. It doesn’t mean that it will work in Manufacturing however – so that remains to be seen.How does it compare with more traditional manufacturing ERP?I recently wrote a blog comparing Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing with a pretty well respected mid-market pure manufacturing ERP called Infor Visual ERP.I worked extensively with Visual ERP for almost 20 years (ironically I never sold a copy in all that time). I ran the firm that people who had trouble with the system came to for help.When I migrated my business away from Infor Visual, I investigated a lot of products. I settled on Dynamics NAV (which later became Business Central) after significant research.By 2014 we had started switching Visual ERP customers Microsoft Dynamics NAV manufacturing. There are a few small areas that Visual might do a bit better in. That is more than overcome by two main factors that make Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing really shine.CustomizabilityDynamics NAV and now Business Central are extremely easy to program, which let us enhance it in ways you absolutely could not with Visual. It’s so easy to program that we are essentially giving away “Missing” Visual features when we sell the product.This customization let us plug any holes we found. It also allowed us to do the one thing Visual customers always cried about. We could make small, easily maintained, incremental changes. We could adjust the system to make it work better for the customer.We avoided any kind of massive programming (although in my time I’ve seen other partners who didn’t avoid the same). We focused on making really useful changes that allowed the customer to get rapid benefits. This made a huge difference to customers. It can be a game changer when a very small change saves staff hours every week.Dynamics 365 AppSource AddonsMore or less related is the existence of addons for Microsoft Dynamics products.When we first started selling Dynamics NAV for manufacturing, there was no AppSource. AppSource is like the Google Play store or Apple Apps store. It’s a place to go and rapidly (in seconds really) install addons.In the early days these addons existed, were certified by Microsoft, but did not exist in any central location. Today things are even better. With Appsource we can really enhance Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing. I mention a couple of those modules below.Wait! I have to get AddonsThere are 2 schools of thought about ERP systems. You want to get a really good ERP system with: great accounting; inventory control; purchasing and sales; CRM; scheduling; shop floor execution etc… Imagine you wanted to get a similarly priced personal item. Say you wanted to get a vehicle and a camping trailer. You went to 2 dealerships. A Ford and the other GMC.In our fake and hypothetical Ford dealer they sell their F150 truck, with a Ford Radio, Ford Tires, and a Ford brand camping trailer. This specific ford’s rims are totally custom and don’t fit other makes of tires. Nobody makes a radio that fits their dash. The trailer is OK but not the best you’ve seen. The trailer hitch is custom built for their truck. You have no choice. But wait! It’s all in one warranty so if anything goes wrong you can blame them and they have to fix it!GMC sells their big truck by itself. You can choose which tires you get, so you want Michelin tires. You can add a radio, and decide to get the more expensive but awe inspiring Bose Radio. They don’t sell trainers, so you buy an Airstream. You would never complain about GM not making their own tires or radio, and you would never want the Ford where you had no choice but to get what they sell.Why do you want an ERP that forces you to get their proprietary versions of things instead of buying the best you can afford?Out of the Box Manufacturing Features in Business CentralDynamics Business Central manufacturing capabilities are identical to what was in Microsoft Dynamics NAV manufacturing.There are a set of core modules in the Essentials edition of Business Central. These include: sales orders, inventory and purchase orders; assembly management; jons (project accounting and management); and warehouse management.Some customers use the Essentials version exclusively. It works fine depending on your mode of manufacturing (see below).Upgrading to the Premium version adds extra capabilities. You get Bills of Materials; Routings; Machine and Work Centers; Capacity Planning; Production Orders and other purely manufacturing oriented features.Premium also adds Service management, which is used in the Engineer to Order space quite frequently, but not often in regular manufacturing.Detailed Features in Manufacturing – in the Premium VersionProduction Order Management

Agile Manufacturing

Version Management

Inventory Planning

Demand Forecasting

Machine Centre Management

Capacity Planning

Finite Loading

Production Bill of Materials

Production Scheduling

Supply Planning
Modes of Manufacturing for Business CentralI tend to think of manufacturing ERP projects in terms of the mode of manufacturing being used. There are different definitions from different organizations (mainly APICS) but these are the ones I tend to see and my take on how good Business Central for manufacturing is for these modes.Engineer to Order – ETOThis is my favorite. I worked at an ETO for a few years before starting my own business. Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing includes a really powerful project accounting module called Jobs. Since ETO manufacturers are really project manufacturers, this jobs module is a solid foundation. There are a few additional addons that I strongly recommend (including one that we created) to make the fit even better.Overall – Business Central for ETO is really good.Make to Order and Make to Stock – Production ManufacturingMake to Order and Make to Stock are usually two separate modes of manufacturing (and they are) but I combine them into one mode I call Production Manufacturing. The out of the box manufacturing modules that are part of Business Central Premium work great for these businesses. Many of them also want the addins that I list below – which are great extra features.Job ShopsJob shops tend to come in the biggest variety and tend to actually not fit that well into either ETO or Production Manufacturing. I’d want to see the Job Shop to see whether it’s more of a micro-production shop (very common – I call these “repetitive job shops”) or whether it’s more of a custom mini-project manufacturer like a light ETO.These businesses vary a lot in what they make. A food co-packer is technically a job shop. So is a welding service business, a small machine shop etc…Whatever the case, it is a good fit for Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing.Process ManufacturingProcess Manufacturing is usually related to making one of the following:

Cosmetics

Chemicals

Nutraceuticals

Pharmaceuticals

Food manufacturing
Process manufacturing needs some heavy duty addons for Business Central to work properly. This is outside my comfort zone to be honest. The regulations and batch manufacturing processes are really unique. I have a few colleagues that I send these kinds of prospects to. Those addons for Business Central are extremely good, and handle this industry very, very well.Graphics Arts ManufacturingPrint Manufacturing is it’s own sub-type, really a form of either Job Shop or Production Manufacturing depending on what they make. These businesses don’t work as well out of the box with Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing. They usually fall into these categories.

Commercial Print (magazines, business carts, posters, flyers etc. – a real Job Shop)

Folding Cartons (think a toothpaste box, or cereal box. Can be production or Job Shop)

Flexible Packaging (these companies make the plastic bags you get consumer goods in)

Labels (could be a wine bottle label, or a shampoo bottle, or your aspirin).

Wide Format (think huge banners, giant photographs on walls in a mall etc.)
This mode of manufacturing has a really great addon for Business Central called PrintVis. PrintVis is a Print manufacturing MIS software addon that turns Business Central into arguably the best Print MIS in the market.Add-ins Recommended by MeMy team has reviewed many addon solutions since we started working with Business Central for manufacturing. Here are our top choices:InsightWorks Shop Floor Insights (SFI)This is a manufacturing execution system for collecting job costing data (time), production reporting and materials use in real time. Comes with a nifty scheduling tool also.InsightWorks Warehouse Insights (WHI)This product is my favorite wireless barcoding solution for warehouse management. It runs on most of major brands of wireless devices used in warehouses today. I think it’s a great mid-level warehouse management solution.Netronic Visual Production SchedulerFor those who need a a graphical drag and drop scheduler, Netronic is the industry standard for Business Central. Their Visual Production Scheduler is more or less for visualizing and manually editing the schedule. The Advanced Production Scheduler is more robust and will do best fit scheduling.ConclusionWe’ve taken a look at using Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing in this article. I’ve had the opportunity to oversee the implementation of this system in more than 50 companies, and so far, so good. For that SMB manufacturer with 20 employees who work in the office and 60 that work in the shop – this is a great system. We’ve got a few customers with 500+ total employees using it very successfully. We also have a few with 10 total employees, and they are able to make it work.If you are a manufacturing company that is in the small or medium market (again – less than 250 computers) looking for ERP I strongly suggest you look at Microsoft Dynamics. I can confidently say that as an ERP Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing is a great fit.

The Bank Won’t Back Your Business Because You Don’t Have a Backup Plan

The first thing that has to be said about backup plans is that there is a definition of a backup plan that your bank uses for its purposes, and a quite different definition of a backup plan that you’ll want to use for your purposes. Trust me – you don’t want to experience the bank’s “backup plan”. When a bank talks backup plans, it usually means (at least as a first step) your banking relationship being transferred to “Credit & Asset Management” or some equally ominous sounding department that is typically interested in only one thing – getting the bank’s money back as quickly as possible and then sending you on your not-so-merry way. That’s the bank’s idea of a backup plan – commonly referred to in the industry as the “secondary exit” when described in credit papers. As you may have already guessed, this secondary exit usually means selling off your assets and placing your business into liquidation.The first question that the bank asks when considering an application for credit is “Is there an underlying, viable, sustainable business here?” Or, to put it into terms that we have been using throughout this series; “Is this business bankable?” In answering these questions, a great deal of analysis is done and your business is assigned a “PD” or Probability of Default based on the estimated ongoing viability of the business. The PD, expressed as a percentage, is an estimation of the likelihood that you will default on your loans within the next 12 months. If you default, the bank has already calculated what they need to know about what to expect from their “backup plan”. Another measure called the LGD or Loss Given Default would have been calculated for your business and is an estimate of how much the bank stands to lose (also expressed as a percentage) when they move from default to recovery – selling off your assets.The backup plan I’m talking about here is the one you need to have prepared for your business. Preferably, your backup plan will kick into effect long before you start defaulting on your loan repayments. Otherwise, the bank’s backup plan tends to take precedence over yours.So how do you go about putting this backup plan together? There are really four “steps” to putting it all together, and the great thing is, the first step is already nearly done for you. That is, it’s already nearly done if you’ve taken my advice from the first few articles in this series and you are now the proud owner of a business plan that includes a sound risk management plan.Step one is all about measuring the things that you need to measure in order to keep tabs on the key risks you’ve already identified in your risk management plan. Needless to say, it does absolutely no good to identify risks your business might be exposed to and then come up with ways to mitigate those risks if you’re not going to measure key elements of your business (internal factors and external factors) to see whether or not you’re being exposed to those risks on an ongoing basis. So step one is simply to regularly measure how your business is going against the potential risks you’ve identified in your business plan in the “risk management” section.Step two is the evaluation of the things you’ve been measuring. In other words, you need to be able to critically analyze the data you’ve collected and understand the implications of them for your business. This is the most important step in your backup plan, because without it, you cannot progress to step three and four and finish the backup plan. Not to mention, you’re left with a load of useless data that you’ve been collecting to mitigate identified risks to your business and you have no clue what it all means. Proper evaluation is required to see how you’re traveling at avoiding or minimizing the risks, but it also allows you to do step three, which gives you the practical, “what to do” part of your backup plan.Step three is to adapt your business plan in whatever way necessary to improve your business, make your business more successful and ensure the long-term survival of the business as a whole. In short, step three is about “reinventing” your business regularly based on the evaluation (step two) of the data you’ve been measuring (step one) to ensure that you NEVER have to revert to the bank’s backup plan, no matter what. The U.S. Marines have a motto that reminds their troops how to perform in any situation, even in the heat of battle – “improvise, adapt, and overcome”. Now, in business, as I imagine would be the case in war, I think it’s always better to do a lot of planning to reduce the amount of improvising necessary. But you get the point – things don’t always go to plan – that’s why you need the backup plan.These first three steps sound pretty straightforward, pretty simple. But getting it right couldn’t have more profound implications for the survival of your business. And properly thinking out what to measure, how you interpret the data collected, and how to constantly improve how you do business will definitely make your business more bankable. Simple? Maybe. Easy? No way. Even the best business minds in the world know that the first three steps don’t make for a complete backup plan if you don’t include one more step…Step four is to seek out expert advice. You will not be able to run a lasting, successful business without creating relationships with trusted advisers that can help you out from time to time. In fact, having established relationships with key advisers that you trust and are willing to “share” your business with comes in handy in almost every aspect of what I’ve been talking about in this series – from putting together a business plan to creating and updating your backup plan. A business owner that thinks he knows everything he or she needs to know without the assistance of some expert advice from time to time is fooling himself and no one else. He certainly won’t come away from an encounter with a bank without giving them at least one reason not to back his business. Connections with and, to an extent, reliance upon key advisers in key areas should never be considered a weakness but an advantage. Competent, trusted advisers can help even the most talented business owners keep a proper sense of perspective on the “forest” and the “trees” simultaneously.Consider some key areas where a trusted adviser could be helpful:Accountant- Do you have an accountant that can help you understand the numbers, what they mean, what the key drivers of your business are and how to act to improve the bottom line? Or do you have “some guy” that you talk to once a year when you need your taxes done?Solicitor – Do you have a lawyer that knows your business, your industry and your individual situation to the extent that he can look out for you and proactively keep you up to date with legal issues that could potentially impact upon you and your business? Or do you have a solicitor (that you only go to when something has become an emergency) that you know only because he did the conveyancing on your last property purchase?Financial Planner – Is your financial planner creating opportunities for you and growing your investment or retirement portfolio in a manner consistent with your appetite for risk and the plans that you have agreed to in regular consultations? Or is your planner just the guy that helped you set up your self-managed super fund that now consists of a term deposit and the commercial premises you operate your business from?Business Banker – Do you have a business banker that is like a business coach; that understands how to run a business and understands how you run your business in particular? Is he proactively looking after your needs whether or not it means he’ll sell you another product? How often does he call you? Visit your premises? Do you have a business banker or a glorified bank teller?Of course, you don’t really need a backup plan if these four steps sound all too hard. Remember, the bank has a backup plan prepared if you don’t already have one. But the bank won’t back your business if they think that they are going to have nothing to rely on other than selling up your collateral. They want to see that your business has made plans to adapt to adverse circumstances and that you are not so set in your ways that you cannot think of alternative ways to run your business if a problem arises.

How, When and Why to Get a Payday Loan

A payday loan is a short term loan that is intended to cover a borrower’s expenses until his or her next payday.Payday loans, also known as cash advances, can easily be obtained by submitting an online application form. These forms usually take less than five minutes to fill out.Once a payday loan lender receives your application, they will call you to verify the information you provided on your application form online. They will also verify your employment and any other source of income you may receive. Individual companies have their own rules. Some companies require you to have held a job for at least 6 months and to have an active checking account of at least 3 months.After verifying your personal, employment and bank information, the cash advance lender decides to approve or reject your loan application based on their criteria.While most companies have a long list of requirements, some companies have very basic requirements. You must be at least eighteen years old, own a bank account and have a job (making at-least $1000 a month after taxes).Once approved, cash will be deposited directly into your checking account as early as the next business day. You have all the freedom you need to spend your money the way you want to.Now that you have spent the money you borrowed, the question is how to repay the loan and fees. In most cases, you do not have to do anything, the loan repayment and/or the loan finance charge is electronically withdrawn from your bank account on your next payday.You can turn to payday loans when an unexpected expense occurs or you are short on cash and your payday is days or weeks away. Payday loans can bridge the gap between paydays and can make any day your payday.For people who have less than perfect credit or no credit at all, a cash advance is the easiest way to get money. If you can’t get a loan from a bank, don’t sweat it. Cash advance lenders can get you the cash you need when you need it most.One of the reasons people choose payday loans is speed. You can get cash instantly when you need it.The process of getting a payday loan is very fast and convenient. You can complete the loan application online at the convenience of your own home and get the money right away. Traditional banks can take forever to process your loan no matter how little the amount of money you are asking for. They will even complete a background check on you.Cash advance can help you avoid paying penalties and late charge fees. The fees financial institutions charge for late payments or bounced checks are much higher than the fees for a cash advance. Borrowing the money from a cash advance company is the smarter choice.Another benefit of a cash advance is that it is discreet. No one will know that you have applied for a cash advance. You will also save a lot of time because the whole procedure is carried out on the internet. There is no driving around or standing in lines.Paycheck loans should be used to solve short term financial challenges and should not be overused. If possible, it is better to pay back paycheck loans as quickly as possible.Before you apply for a loan, do some comparison shopping online and see which lender is right for you. See which lenders can provide you the loan that fits your situation. Be sure to check the terms and conditions before you sign up for any loans.Once you know all you need to know about payday loan, you can go ahead and enjoy the benefits of payday loans.