March 28, 2011
Manufacturing and Microsoft Dynamics ERP
Please note that contributed articles, blog entries, and comments posted on MCADcafe.com are the views and opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the management and staff of Internet Business Systems and its subsidiary web-sites.
| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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While we primarily cover MCAD, CAx, and PLM technologies, we thought we’d branch out a bit this time around and discuss an area that is becoming more prominent and important in the design, engineering, manufacturing communities – enterprise resource planning (ERP). It turns out that it is not suitable just for huge, multi-national companies anymore, but also medium and even some small sized manufacturing organizations, as well, for better understanding their businesses, control, and strategizing for the future.
In its most basic form, ERP integrates internal and external management information across an entire organization, embracing finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and support, etc. ERP systems automate all of these activities with an integrated software. ERP’s purpose is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside parties.
The notion of enterprise resource planning goes back to around 1990 when Gartner Group first coined the acronym ERP as an extension of material requirements planning (MRP), later manufacturing resource planning (also MRP), and computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). Supplementing these terms, ERP encompassed a bigger picture, reflecting the evolution of application integration beyond manufacturing, although not all ERP packages were developed with manufacturing strictly in mind. Based on the markets they served, vendors began with accounting, maintenance, and human resources. In a few years, by the mid–1990s ERP systems addressed virtually all core functions required to run an
Some of the functional areas of an ERP system directly related to manufacturing include design, engineering, bill of materials, work orders, scheduling, capacity, document management, workflow management, quality control, cost management, manufacturing process, manufacturing projects, manufacturing flow, activity based costing, product lifecycle management (PLM), supply chain management, and project management.
Connecting the Back Office to the Factory Floor
ERP systems connect to real–time data and transaction data in a variety of ways.
Direct integration—ERP systems connectivity (communications to plant floor equipment) as part of their product offering. This requires the vendors to offer specific support for the plant floor equipment that their customers operate.
Database integration—ERP systems connect to plant floor data sources through staging tables in a database. Plant floor systems deposit the necessary information into the database. The ERP system reads the information in the tables.
Enterprise appliance transaction modules (EATM)—These devices communicate directly with plant floor equipment and with the ERP system via methods supported by the ERP system. EATM can employ a staging table, Web Services, or system–specific program interfaces (APIs). The benefit of an EATM is that it is an off–the–shelf technology.
Custom integration—Many system integrators offer custom solutions. These systems tend to have the highest level of initial integration cost, and can have a higher long term maintenance and reliability costs.
Standard protocols—Communications drivers are available for plant floor equipment and separate products have the ability to log data to staging tables. Standards exist within the industry to support interoperability between software products.
ERP Advantages and Disadvantages
The fundamental advantage of ERP is that integrating the dozens of processes by which businesses employ (theoretically) save time and expense. Decisions can be made quicker and with fewer errors. Data becomes visible across the organization. Tasks that can benefit from integration include:
Sales forecasting that allows inventory optimization.
Order tracking, from acceptance through fulfillment.
Revenue tracking, from invoice through cash receipt.
Matching purchase orders (what was ordered), inventory receipts (what arrived), and costing (what the vendor invoiced).
Eliminates synchronizing changes between multiple systems—consolidation of finance, marketing and sales, human resource, and manufacturing applications
Enables standard product naming/coding.
Provides comprehensive enterprise view (no "islands of information"). Makes real–time information available to management anywhere, anytime for making decisions.
Protects sensitive data and intellectual property by consolidating multiple security systems into a single structure.
Some of the possible disadvantages of ERP include:
Customization can problematic (and expensive).
Re–engineering business processes to fit the ERP system can negatively impact competitiveness and/or divert focus from other critical activities.
ERP can cost more than less integrated and/or less comprehensive solutions.
Overcoming resistance to sharing sensitive information between departments can be challenging.
Integration of truly independent businesses can create unnecessary dependencies.
Extensive training requirements can divert resources from daily operations.
A Conversation About Microsoft Dynamics ERP
To get a better understanding of what ERP is like in the manufacturing environment, we spoke with Rakesh Kumar, the global industry product director of manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics ERP. In this role, he drives the execution of Microsoft Corp.’s strategy for the Microsoft Dynamics solutions in the manufacturing industry, with various internal and external stakeholders across a broad network of partners and customers.
Rakesh Kumar, Global Industry Product Director Manufacturing, Microsoft Dynamics ERP
Kumar brings more than 25 years of industry experience, including manufacturing, supply chain operations, business transformation, sales and marketing, global IT infrastructure, and product management for discrete and process manufacturing industries. Before joining Microsoft, Kumar served as vice president and chief information officer at Marvell Semiconductors Inc., a leading semiconductor manufacturing company. Before Marvell, he spent close to a decade at Oracle as a senior director of product management, overseeing manufacturing and supply chain execution applications. Kumar started his career with Unilever, where he held various roles in manufacturing, operations, logistics and
modernization across multiple facilities in South Asia.
Kumar has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India, and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
MCADCafe (MC): Can you briefly describe the mechanics and philosophy of Microsoft Dynamics ERP.
Rakesh Kumar (RK): “We approach development and implementation of our products for automating ERP from our customers’ point of view. We have gained a lot of good experience for product development based on the Microsoft Office product line. This is especially important because our typical ERP user is not an engineer.”
MC: Please provide a little history/background on Microsoft Dynamics ERP.
RK: “Historically, ERP has been regarded as a complicated and high-cost technology that frustrated many early adopters. To address these issues, Microsoft decided to extend its positive user experience from its business software to ERP by offering simplicity through the UI, value of the software, and innovation provided by our R&D.”
MC: What makes Microsoft Dynamics ERP unique in the marketplace?
RK: “Innovation and value from our ERP products that offer customization and flexibility, continuous improvement, and our software design approach.”
MC: What types of problems are your customers (current and prospective) hoping to solve with Microsoft Dynamics ERP?
RK: “Probably the most significant problems we help our customers solve is our ability to allow them to standardize operations across large organizations by implementing ERP.”
MC: How do you view the future of ERP (generally) and Microsoft Dynamics ERP (specifically)?
RK: “We want to stay ahead of the market and continue leading best practices for the ERP market. Looking ahead to the future, we see several major trends that will benefit our customers:
Simpler, role-based UIs that don’t burden users with information they don’t need to perform their jobs.
Mobile architectures will evolve for ERP applications.
An increasing social networking aspect of ERP for greater levels of collaboration.
Artificial intelligence will be used more to aid and benefit ERP users.”
“Looking ahead to the future, our primary vision is that Microsoft wants to be THE enabler for ERP for its customers.”
Microsoft Dynamics ERP Products
Realizing that organizations today need the right ERP software to help their people drive key business processes, make smarter and faster decisions, and ensure they make the most of their assets and resources, Microsoft Dynamics ERP provides these capabilities to organizations as small as a few employees starting a new venture to organizations spread across the world—for companies with just one server to operations tied in with the home office enterprise ERP system.
Basically, Microsoft offers four ERP integrations for manufacturers -- MS Dynamics AX (Axapta), MS Dynamics GP (Great Plains), MS Dynamics NAV (Navision), and MS Dynamics SL:
Microsoft Dynamics AX is a comprehensive ERP product that helps midsize and larger organizations operate across multiple sites and countries. With a rich, flexible industry foundation Microsoft Dynamics AX can standardize processes, provide visibility across your business, and help simplify compliance.
Microsoft Dynamics GP is a scalable ERP product for growing and midsize organizations that can help you extend insight, productivity, and collaboration across your entire business. Microsoft Dynamics GP offers flexible deployment options to connect financial and operations processes, and provides fast access to relevant information using familiar Microsoft tools.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is an ERP product for midsize organizations that provides proven industry-specific functionality relevant to your needs – even for the most highly specialized industries and business processes. Available in more than 40 country versions, Microsoft Dynamics NAV is fast to implement, easy to configure, and simple to use.
Microsoft Dynamics SL is an ERP product specialized to help project-driven midsize organizations manage people, projects, and profitability. With powerful solutions for professional services, operations, field services, and construction management companies, Microsoft Dynamics SL can help you manage your projects on time and on budget.
There was a time when the phrase “works well with others” belonged primarily in school report cards. But in today’s complex and interrelated IT landscape, working together is at the heart of productivity, with businesses demanding solutions that build bridges between disconnected business systems and enhance collaboration.
Businesses depend on the efficient management of financial, supply chain and customer information to operate effectively in today’s global markets. With the release of Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010, organizations that deploy the latest desktop productivity software alongside their Microsoft Dynamics business solutions stand to realize considerable productivity gains and greater return on their software investments.
In the past decade, technology innovations have redefined how users created and disseminated information, leading to a new set of challenges: How do companies quickly and easily locate and utilize the right information at the right time? Analysts estimate that workers spend up to 30 percent of their day searching for the critical data they need to make smart and timely decisions. Business workers across diverse departments in a company require access to their information around the clock and from wherever they happen to be.
This “anywhere access” to business data is now more easily available to Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers, enabled by a new technology spanning Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 called Business Connectivity Services (BCS). By linking commonly used Microsoft Dynamics ERP information, such as customer or supplier contact details, to BCS, companies can access these details offline in Outlook 2010 or SharePoint Workspace 2010.
Once information has been made accessible, it needs to be analyzed and understood. The majority of Microsoft Dynamics customers use Microsoft Excel to analyze their business information, and with Excel 2010 they can take advantage of powerful new analysis tools that provide insights into the nuances of business activities.
Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft Dynamics now share a common user interface — the Fluent user interface (UI) — that makes them more consistent to use and easier to adopt.
Use Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions to manage critical business processes, respond quickly to change, and make the most of your assets and resources. Built on familiar Microsoft technologies, these ERP solutions are simple to use and deploy—and easy to customize and adapt as business needs change.
So, is ERP for everybody? Well, no, not yet, but it is making more sense for more manufacturing organizations as a competitive necessity.
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Autodesk has named RND Automation & Engineering LLC as the Autodesk Inventor of the Year for 2010. RND Automation designs customized automation solutions for a wide range of customers, including manufacturers of hydraulic valves, contact lenses, and insulated beverage containers. The company was originally named Inventor of the Month in March 2010 for its Digital Prototyping work. RND has used Autodesk Inventor software since its first release on a wide range of projects, tapping almost every area of the software’s functionality in the process.
Siemens PLM Software announced that IDC Manufacturing Insights’ latest PLM Marketscape Report, recognizes Siemens PLM Software as a PLM Market leader across the core categories, CAx, Discrete, and rated highly as a major player in the Process PLM segments. Siemens PLM Software’s NX and Solid Edge software, which serve the CAx PLM market segment, are ranked as leading solutions for this segment. The company’s Teamcenter software and Teamcenter Express software, which serve the Discrete PLM market segment, are referenced as the “de-facto enterprise solution standard in
the Discrete industries.” IDC indicates that the Discrete PLM market segment accounts for the strongest overall market growth. Siemens PLM Software’s strategy and capabilities held leading positions in each of the three market segments evaluated and showed positive momentum in the market, an uncommon result in IDC’s Marketscape report. According to IDC Manufacturing Insights, “Siemens PLM Software is an IDC PLM Marketscape market leader in the CAx PLM segment. Siemens PLM Software participates in the CAx segment with its NX and Solid Edge products. Best-in-class functionalities for industrial design and styling, electromechanical design, mechanical simulation machining, and so
forth make the NX platform stand apart from the rest of Siemens PLM Software's competitors' offerings.” IDC Manufacturing Insights report also says, “Siemens PLM Software’s end-users have higher satisfaction about the seamless functionality and reliability of its software.”
IMSI/Design released TurboCAD Pro 18 and TurboCAD Pro Platinum 18. New and enhanced features include:
GPU Accelerated Drawing Performance in Hidden Line, Draft Rendering, and Wireframe modes. Speeds drawing performance up to 60x faster.
Multi-Threading Support for both LightWorks rendering and ACIS solid modeling operations, taking advantage of multi-core processors so calculations are much faster.
Updated LightWorks Engine provides progressive, ray-traced rendering, improving workflow by generating fast estimates of images for early preview of light settings. Anti-aliasing for geometry and materials is also improved.
Multi-Select Drawings Command lets you open multiple drawings in one step.
PDF Underlay lets user import raster and vector PDFs and use as tracing layers with snaps.
Improved Drafting Palette, Fillet (2D and 3D) Tool, Mirror Tool, Measurement, Text, Stretch Tool, and Trim Tool boost productivity.
3D Fillet Tool allows filleting of 3D polylines and works with the sweep and rigid sweep tools.
Assembly By Axis Modes. Three new modes make assemblies faster. Plus assembly tools now work with Xrefs and insertions.
Improved Sweep Tools and Simple Extrude Tool.
Pattern Tool applies 3D patterns “On Polyline” for rapid creation of parametric patterns. (Platinum Only.)
Updated Bend and Unbend Tools enhance control and precision. (Platinum Only.)
VISTAGY Inc. announced that BAE Systems Composite Structures Inc. has purchased FiberSIM software to design and manufacture parts for commercial aircraft programs, including an auxiliary power unit plenum. BAE Systems Composite Structures has worked with VISTAGY for over a decade and has used FiberSIM on programs for Rolls Royce, Bell Helicopter, and Raytheon. BAE Systems Composite Structures uses FiberSIM to compress product development cycle times and reduce costs by eliminating the laborious processes for manually developing plies, creating templates, and digitizing flat patterns. Further, FiberSIM-driven, state-of-the-art manufacturing
processes enable BAE Systems Composite Structures to reduce layup time and improve repeatability.
Geometric Limited announced the release of eDrawings Professional for Google SketchUp version 8.0 with support for Google SketchUp 8.0 and eDrawings 2011. eDrawings is the first email enabled collaboration tool designed to ease the sharing and interpretation of 2D and 3D product design data. eDrawings Publishers are also available for Pro/ENGINEER, CATIA V5, NX, Autodesk Inventor, SolidEdge, as well as for STEP/IGES/STL/OBJ/RHINO/DGN and DWG/DXF files. The new version of eDrawings Professional for Google SketchUp includes:
Support for Google SketchUp 8.0
eDrawings viewer version upgraded to eDrawings 2011
Triad to Move/Constrain component movement to a coordinate axis or plane, or to rotate components about a coordinate axis
Search or Filter component names from the components tree
With eDrawings Publishers you can:
Generate ultra compact eDrawings (up to 95% compressed) for sharing over email
Share and receive feedback on product designs with review-enabled eDrawings and collaborate with unlimited number of recipients
Manage, track, and merge comments from different team members
Measure part, assembly and drawing geometry
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.