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.

Customizability

Dynamics 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 Addons

More 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 Addons

There 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 Central

Dynamics 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 Version

Production 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 Central

I 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 – ETO

This 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 Manufacturing

Make 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 Shops

Job 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 Manufacturing

Process 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 Manufacturing

Print 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 Me

My 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 Scheduler

For 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.

Conclusion

We’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.

Read More / Contact Us

All we do at my business (Sabre Limited) is implement Microsoft Dynamics Business Central for manufacturing. We are experts at remotely deploying Business Central for manufacturing companies all across the US and Canada.

For a deeper dive into features you can read my article where I review Business Central manufacturing features.

You may also want to learn a bit more about Sabre’s business central training here including our fixed fee pricing model.

We have extensive experience with Dynamics 365 Business Central in manufacturing, and can definitely help any company interested in that system. You can also give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.31.

About the author Robert Jolliffe holds a Degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Toronto, and is founder and president of Sabre Limited — a Microsoft Dynamics Business Central (formerly Dynamics NAV) and PrintVis MIS integrator located in Kitchener, Ontario Canada. Sabre is focused on the implementation and training of Dynamics 365 in the manufacturing industry throughout North America. Robert pioneered remote implementation methods for ERP long before it became a necessity.

As an entrepreneur, Robert frequently acts as sales, marketing, software designer, network engineer, business consultant, manufacturing expert, janitor, DJ and chief bottle washer.

12 eCommerce Legal Issues to Consider in Operating an Online Business

The following article provides a high-level summary of some key eCommerce law issues online business operators face in running a website or other eCommerce business. Conducting business online or maintaining a website may subject companies and individuals to unforeseen legal liabilities. The following is a brief survey of 12 key eCommerce law issues to consider:1. Internet Business & eCommerce A good starting point is analyzing a company’s online presence and auditing their procedures to determine how to grow their brand and online influence. As part of this, the company’s agreements and websites should comply with the myriad of laws and regulations affecting websites and online businesses, such as COPPA.2. Domain Name AcquisitionDomains are often the key to an online business, but can present a number of problems. Domain name issues include securing a domain name initially, as well as protecting domain names from adverse parties that attempt to trade off the goodwill associated with the company’s brand. Sometimes, the company needs defense, retrieval, and protection of domain names on the Internet.3. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) ComplianceCompanies operating websites, particularly where third-party content may be uploaded directly, should consider adopting agreements and procedures to shield themselves against claims of liability and copyright infringement. This procedure is sometimes referred to as a “copyright policy” or “DMCA takedown” procedure. Compliance with the DMCA can provide the online operator with a safe harbor from liability.4. Online PrivacyOnline privacy continues to become a bigger issue. With the spread of mobile devices, tablets, and apps, privacy issues are becoming more complex. Companies should consider composing or updating their privacy policies as well as adopting internal security protocols aimed at protecting the online privacy of customers and website users.5. Social Media LawWhile a powerful vehicle to build brand strength and interact with customers, social media can create a number of legal issues for online businesses. A social media policy provided to employees as well as guidelines can be effective steps to reduce risk. A few key areas to consider are employment related use of social media, confidentiality, sponsorship, and branding guidelines.6. Privacy PoliciesPrivacy policies should not be copied from online templates or rival companies. They should be drafted comprehensively to address unique issues of a specific online business and to accommodate future growth. Whether a company looks to collect analytics or more personalized information, the company should focus on its specific business needs and risk factors. Privacy policies should be updated as a business evolves.7. Terms of Use AgreementsTerms of Use (TOU) agreements can limit liability for companies that maintain an Internet presence. These agreements should be optimized to address a company’s specific business and should not be simply cut and pasted from the Internet. What works for one company may not work for another company.8. eCommerce AgreementseCommerce agreements come in many forms such as licensing, advertising agreements, and payment processor agreements. eCommerce agreements should be drafted to address the primary legal risks involved in a particular eCommerce contract or business transaction.9. Online Sweepstakes & GamesOnline sweepstakes, contests, and games create a number of legal pitfalls. Depending on the sweepstake, contest, or game, compliance with the laws of all 50 states as well as the federal government may be required. Registration in specific states may also be required. Online businesses may benefit from guidance as to whether a particular new initiative is considered a sweepstake, contest, or game.10. Domain TheftRecovering hijacked domains can often be difficult and time-consuming. Typically, avoiding domain theft in the first place is much easier than attempting to recover a stolen domain. While difficult, it is possible to recover a hijacked domain.11. Website AgreementsWebsite agreements can be customized to limit legal liability and reduce risks of disputes by analyzing an online business’s intellectual property portfolio, business processes, and brand objectives. Website agreements can be used for mobile applications in addition to websites.12. Impersonation and Username SquattingImpersonation and username squatting can occur when a third party registers a social media account using someone else’s identity. This can result in harmful posts and information being published in social media. Username squatting can also prevent a trademark or brand owner from controlling their trademark. Typically, registering usernames in advance is the best strategy to avoid impersonation or username squatting.While the above identifies a number of eCommerce and internet law issues affecting website and online business operators, an in-depth analysis may be required. For more information, you may want to contact an eCommerce attorney.Disclaimer – As with any discussion of legal topics, this article is intended to be educational only, and is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it provide legal advice or form an attorney-client relationship with the reader. Please seek legal counsel before making any decisions. Also, please note that this article will likely not be updated, so the law and circumstances may have changed by the time you have read this article.

Check For These Signs Before Starting an Online Business

Everyone wants to have a taste of the good life. This is the reason some work beyond the working hours, log up overtime work and work two jobs. And for the others who want to have their own way and be their own boss, starting a business is the best ticket to the good life. Every option works as long as you put your mind and effort to it. But the way things are shaping up; it seems that starting a business seems to be the most preferred way of many.This choice was clear during the height of the economic crisis where jobs are cut, outsourced or completely eliminated. And among the many ways to start a business, one that gained ground is starting an online business. Having one’s own online business is attractive. Just imagine, running your own business in your pajamas from the comfort of your own home! This is the appeal of starting an internet business- you have the time in your hands and you can work from your home or anywhere you see fit.But just because thousands of people have embraced their own online business doesn’t mean that this is best for you as well. Before you jump into a business venture online, you need to make sure that this kind of arrangement is best for you. Learn to check the signs that you are indeed fit for this kind of arrangement.To get you started, here are some signs that will tell you that an online business is best fit for your needs and personality. Try to assess yourself before dipping your fingers in an online business venture.• You are tired of the usual 8-to-5 routine and business is your passion. If this is the case, then the best move for you is to start your own business.• You are in control of the situation and can make decisions in a snap. Given a set of problems, you know what to do and what to rank. Having a good decision-making ability and a good grasp of the situation are important in running a business. And if you enjoy planning and undertaking the plan, then having your own business is a good idea.• In your current job, you feel that your boss is not giving you the opportunity to take the initiative and you are not given the flexibility you need to get the job done. You think that you have the focus and the self-motivation to do the job and you don’t pay much attention to the other rewards whether monetary or in kind.• You want to take advantage of the growing industry online and the growing number of freelancers and online entrepreneurs.• The chance of earning your own money, in your own time excites you. You are excited and feel inspired about the stories of start-ups that become BIG companies. From Apple to eBay, you followed their stories on how they start small and became two of the biggest names online. You also like the idea that you can make your own money that is yours and will not be pooled to become part of the company’s earnings for the year.• You want to do interesting things your way. This is the beauty with starting an internet business. You have the option to only do the things that don’t bore. For all other aspects of an online business that don’t appeal to you, you can always delegate these tasks or outsource these jobs.• You want flexibility not just in the hours worked but in the place where you actually work. When starting an online business, you free yourself from the usual 8-to-5 routine and you are no longer tied to the desk and office chair. You can work from your study, from a coffee shop or even while waiting for the bagel to be served!Learn to pay attention to these common signs before you jump into the bandwagon. Sure there are tons of success stories out there, but keep in mind that all these happened because they are fit for the task. Test yourself if you are up to the task; learn to figure out the signs before starting an internet business.Dany Cooper