Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing: A Viable ERP System
Many businesses are looking for ways to work remotely or in a hybrid environment, given the recent disruptions. Manufacturing companies must use a few technologies that are not compatible with remote work environments. ERP systems are one of them. Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing is one reason to be concerned.
Cloud ERP is the best option if you’re looking to replace your ERP system and make it more accessible for remote workers. My experience almost exclusively with “SMB”, or Small and Medium Business Manufacturers.
The mid-market and SMB market doesn’t have many cloud-based ERP systems. Even fewer systems are designed to support manufacturing. This means that most cloud systems will not fit within a manufacturer’s budget.
If you’re curious, Microsoft defines SMB to be businesses that have less than 250 computers. This is a large manufacturer.
What’s Business Central?
Business Central, in its simplest form, is Microsoft Dynamics NAV’s new brand. This cutting-edge cloud-based ERP can be described as the old Dynamics NAV, but reimagined in cloud.
Microsoft didn’t scrimp on technology! They had a boatload of money and were willing to spend it all on Business Central.
Dynamics 365 Business Central is the full name of this product. It should be easy to recognize the 365 because it is on Microsoft 365, Office 365, and Microsoft 365.
Business Central is part the same suite of products that you may already use for your Outlook email and Teams communication. Yes, this is a huge advantage for Microsoft. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for Manufacturing. That remains to be seen.
How does it compare to more traditional manufacturing ERPs?
Recently, I wrote a blog about Dynamics Business Central and Infor Visual ERP.
Visual ERP was my mainstay for nearly 20 years. Ironically, I have never sold any copies during that time. I managed the company that helped people with problems with the system.
I researched many products when I moved my business from Infor Visual. After extensive research, I finally settled on Dynamics NAV (which was later renamed Business Central).
We had switched Visual ERP customers to Microsoft Dynamics NAV manufacturing by 2014. Visual could do a little better in a few areas. This is overcome by two key factors that make Microsoft Dynamics Business Central manufacturing shine.
Dynamics NAV and Business Central are very easy to program. This allows us to enhance the product in ways that Visual cannot. It is so simple to program, that we give away the “Missing Visual Features” when we sell the product.
We were able to plug any gaps we discovered with this customization. We were able to accomplish the one thing Visual customers have always complained about: We could make small, easy-to-maintenance, incremental changes. We could make the system more user-friendly by making small, easily maintained changes.
We avoided large-scale programming, although I have seen others who did the same. We focused on making useful changes that would allow customers to reap the benefits quickly. Customers saw a significant difference. This small change can make a huge difference in the lives of staff.
Dynamics AppSource Addons
Addons for Microsoft Dynamics products are more or less closely related.
There was no AppSource when we first began selling Dynamics NAV for manufacturing. AppSource is similar to the Apple Apps or Google Play Store. It is a place where you can quickly (in seconds) install add-ons.
These addons were not available in every central location. Things are much better today. Appsource can help us improve Dynamics Business Central’s manufacturing capabilities. Below are a few of these modules.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to ERP systems. A great ERP system should have excellent accounting, inventory control, purchasing and sales, CRM; scheduling, shop floor execution, etc em>
Imagine that you were looking for a similar-priced personal item. Imagine you were looking to buy a car and a campervan. Two dealerships were available. You went to 2 dealerships.
They sell their F150 truck with a Ford Radio, Ford Tires and a Ford Brand Camping Trailer. These rims were made specifically for Ford and won’t work with any other tires. There is no radio that will fit their dash. Although the trailer is acceptable, it’s not the best. The trailer hitch was custom-made for the truck.
There is no other choice. But don’t worry! You don’t have to worry about it.
GMC sells its big truck all by itself. You have the option to choose which tires you would like, such as Michelin tires. You can also add a radio to your vehicle and choose the more expensive, but still impressive Bose Radio. You can buy an Airstream, but they don’t sell trainers.
It would be hard to complain about GM making their own radios or tires, but you wouldn’t want a Ford where they sold it.
Why would you want an ERP system that makes it impossible to buy the best products?
Business Central Features for Out-of-the-Box Manufacturing
Dynamics Business Central manufacturing capabilities work exactly the same as in Microsoft Dynamics NAV manufacturing.
The Essentials edition includes a number of core modules. These modules include sales orders, inventory, purchase orders, assembly management, jons (project accounting management); and warehouse administration.
Some customers only use the Essentials version. It can work depending on the manufacturing method (see below).
Upgrade to Premium Version for additional capabilities. You can get Bills of Material; Routings, Machine and Work Centers; Capacity Planning and Production Orders.
Premium also offers Service management. This is used quite often in the Engineer to Order area, but less frequently in regular manufacturing.
Features in Manufacturing – Premium Version
Production Order Management
- Agile Manufacturing
- Version Management
- Inventory Planning
- Demand Forecasting
- Machine Centre Management
- Planning for Capacity
- Finite Loading
- Production Bill of Materials
- Production Scheduling
- Planning for Supply
Manufacturing Modes for Business Central
Manufacturing ERP projects are often viewed in terms of the manufacturing mode. Different definitions are available from different organizations (mainly APICS), but these are my preferred ones and how Business Central for Manufacturing is for each mode.
Engineer to Place – ETO
This is my favourite. Before starting my own company, I worked for several years at an ETO. Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing has a powerful module called Jobs that allows you to do project accounting. This module, Jobs, is a strong foundation since ETO manufacturers are project manufacturers. To make it even more perfect, there are several add-ons I highly recommend (including one we created).
Overall, Business Central for ETO is very good.
Although they may seem like two distinct modes of manufacturing, Make to Order and Stock are often used in different ways. However, I combine them to create Production Manufacturing. These businesses will love the out-of-the-box manufacturing modules included in Business Central Premium. Many want the add-ins I have listed below, which offer great additional features.
The largest variety of job shops is what makes them so difficult to fit into ETO or Production Manufacturing. To see if the Job Shop is more like a micro-production shop, which is very common – I call them “repetitive jobs shops” – or a custom mini-project maker like an ETO, I would love to visit it.
The products these businesses make are varied. Technically, a food co-packer can be considered a job shop. A welding service business, small machine shops, etc. are all examples of such a company.
It is an excellent fit for Dynamics Business Central manufacturing.
Process Manufacturing usually refers to the making of one of these:
- Food manufacturing
For process manufacturing to be effective, Business Central needs heavy-duty addons. To be honest, this is beyond my comfort zone. These regulations and the batch manufacturing processes are truly unique. These types of prospects are sent to me by a few colleagues. These addons for Business Central work very well in this industry.
Graphics Arts Manufacturing
Print Manufacturing is its own sub-type. It’s a type of Job Shop or Production Manufacturing, depending on the product they produce. These businesses are not as efficient when used outside of Dynamics Business Central for Manufacturing. These businesses usually fall under these categories.
- Commercial Print (magazines, business carts, posters, flyers etc. A real Job Shop
- You can think of a cereal box or toothpaste tube as a folding carton. It can be used for production or job shop.
- Flexible Packaging (these are the companies that make the plastic bags in which you receive consumer goods)
- Labels could be wine bottle labels, shampoo bottles, or aspirin labels.
- Wide Format (think large banners, huge photographs on walls in malls, etc.