Smart Manufacturing: Transforming the Workforce

Smart manufacturing is the implementation of digitization to streamline processes, create efficiencies, and work smarter, not harder. Similar to Lean Manufacturing, Smart Manufacturing is taking efficiency to the next level to help organizations achieve success.

This is the third in a three-part series on Smart Manufacturing. In Part 1, we described the role smart manufacturing plays in delivering new services. In Part 2, we reviewed how smart manufacturing is optimizing digital operations. Today, we’ll discuss how smart manufacturing is transforming the workforce!

First, let’s consider what your customers want from your company – and by extension from your supply chain:

1. Accurate and timely information about supply.  Affirmative responses in terms of when product will be available to ship is critical to winning that business. Anything less may cause your Customer to reconsider their buying decision and look to other sources of supply. These inquiries come in the form of:

Second, how is your company providing these answers – the access to information – and where is that information generated:

2. Your manufacturing and inventory resources need to provide this response to Customer Service Representatives, and by extension to Customers, in a real-time manner. Asking a CSR to drill into your ERP system to ‘divine’ these answers is fraught with peril. This requires a combination of the following:

Finally, how does a company Transform their Workforce to simplify and enable the provision and communication of this kind of information – throughout your company and customer-facing systems and personnel:

3. Mobility is key. Manufacturing and supply chain employees can experience an always-connected view through mobile apps and seamless integration with the back office.

4. Connections everywhere. Connect people with products and processes. Boost manufacturing and supply chain productivity by integrating people with intelligent mixed-reality devices, IoT-enabled machines, and AI-enhanced applications.

5. Integrated self-service portals for everyone from distributors to your employees to provide the same insight.

When technology makes it easier for your workforce to accomplish their job, the results are transformative. Not only are they happier workers, productivity reaches new heights and your customers see the value of working with you.

Read about more transformative changes for the manufacturing industry in our latest white paper: Transformative Changes Taking Discrete Manufacturing Into the Next Decade.

For discrete manufacturers who struggle to meet growing production demands and innovate with advanced technologies, we provide digital transformation that brings together people, data, processes, and things. PowerObjects is a leader in delivering Microsoft Business Applications solutions and Dynamics 365 workloads through unparalleled offerings of service, support, education, and add-ons. We help manufacturers leverage Microsoft technology to meet fast production demands, connect legacy systems, automate paper-based processes, and empower the people they work with.

Smart Manufacturing: Optimizing Digital Operations

Smart manufacturing is the implementation of digitization to streamline processes, create efficiencies, and work smarter, not harder. Similar to Lean Manufacturing, Smart Manufacturing is taking efficiency to the next level to help organizations achieve success.

This is the second in a three-part series on Smart Manufacturing. In Part 1, we described the role smart manufacturing plays in delivering new services. In the forthcoming Part 3, we’ll discuss how smart manufacturing is transforming the workforce. Today, in Part 2, we’re writing about how smart manufacturing is optimizing digital operations. Enjoy!

Optimizing Digital Operations

Manufacturing as a concept is in the midst of a fourth major industrial revolution. The first and most widely recognized was the introduction of water/steam power in the early 1800’s. A century later, manufacturing was forever changed by the emergence of mass production and electricity – the second major industrial revolution. About 50 years ago, manufacturing was again revolutionized – this time by electronic automation. And now, with the advances in smart automation, manufacturing is changing exponentially right before our eyes. Indeed, machine learning and artificial intelligence are changing literally everything – and smart manufacturing is a perfect example!

Let’s consider some of the problems that used to plague manufacturing companies:

Through the relatively simple act of optimizing digital operations by implementing smart manufacturing technology, such problems are nonexistent. How is that possible? Well, a robust technology solution like Dynamics 365 – especially with related Microsoft Business Applications working in concert – is what makes it possible. And it does so by empowering all of the following for organizations:  

In addition, with Dynamics 365 for Field Service – and particularly with Microsoft’s Connected Field Service, which is tailor-made for manufacturing organizations – today’s manufacturers are optimizing their digital operations.

There’s a lot more to smart manufacturing than just optimizing digital operations to increase efficiency and revenue. Learn more by downloading this digital transformation fact sheet and in a few weeks, look for the final installment in this 3-part smart manufacturing series. Stay tuned!

Customer Service Through an Industry Lens

Most of our clients, no matter the industry, have a high priority goal of improving the customer service they can provide.

It’s a consistent theme across all the industries we serve, and rightfully so. Not only are customers demanding more immediate service, the technology available today makes it possible to serve customers in an entirely new way.

Today’s customers demand:

Organizations are exploring new, next-generation, omni-channel CRM solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement to support their innovation and enable them to differentiate for customers where it matters most. Check out a few industry-specific examples…

Read about more industry examples in our Customer Care eBook: How Leading Brands are Overcoming Five Common Customer Service Challenges.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations: Demand Planning Messages

A company evaluating Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (F&O) recently asked, “How can we know the impact on our customer orders of a change in product supply?” Excellent question that deserved some research. Let’s take a look at that scenario through the lens of the Dynamics F&O solution of Demand Planning Messages.

In this scenario, our salespeople and customer service teams are using the Available to Promise logic (ATP) in Dynamics F&O to provide visibility at Sales Order entry, to support the commitment to a customer for specific quantities of product and delivery dates. That ATP calculation is typically based on both on-hand inventory in the appropriate site and warehouse, as well as future supply orders that are anticipated to be received to inventory – based on their open quantities and due dates. (Note that ATP can be configured to consider specific sources of supply, but it is most common to consider on-hand inventory as well as future supply orders.) That commitment is recorded as an expected ship date on the sales order lines.

However, a change in the quantity or available date of supply at any time after the Sales Order is entered and prior to the ship date can render these ATP commitments invalid (a Purchase Order quantity change, a due date push out, and an inventory adjustment can all decrease available inventory – any change to supply can render the original ATP calculation invalid, without the user knowing.). The result may be that, even though a promise was made to the customer that was valid at the time of sales order entry, future changes in supply can render those promises invalid, resulting in poor customer service. So, to rephrase the initial question: “How can we know if a change to supply has affected our ATP promise?”

The answer to this question is provided by the action messages generated during a Master Planning MPS/MRP regeneration. Most users focus on the Supply Side Action Messages, generated by Master Planning, recommending changes in supply orders. As a result, little attention is placed on the Demand Order Action Messages that the system provides. However, these Demand Order messages provide the answer to our question. The system will tell us which sales order lines are affected by changes in Supply, and what that impact will be! These messages are called Calculated Delays.

The form above is found here: Master Planning module > Master Planning menu > Calculated Delays. After filtering for Sales Orders, the result is a list of all Sales Order lines that cannot be shipped per the Expected Ship Date due to changes in supply. The focus on this form is on the Days field, which represents the difference between the Desired Date and the To Date that resulted from the Master Planning regeneration. In the screenshot above, the 3rd row is a message that tells the user that the sales order 000698 line for Item D0001 will be shipped 12 days late (moved from Dec 27th to Jan 8th), due to changes in supply of that product. From this form, the user can click on the order Number field in the left column to drill to the order, review details, and take action.

Demand Order Planning messages are often overlooked, possibly because the Planners/Buyers that utilize Master Planning are more focused on supply. When sales and customer service personnel learn how to use Calculated Delays, they can be more proactive with customers and avoid the uncomfortable suprises that happen when the shipment due date has arrived and no supply is available.

Smart Manufacturing: Delivering New Services

Smart manufacturing is the implementation of digitization to streamline processes, create efficiencies, and work smarter, not harder. Similar to Lean Manufacturing, Smart Manufacturing is taking efficiency to the next level to help organizations achieve success.

This is the first in a three-part series on Smart Manufacturing. Today’s post is devoted to the role smart manufacturing plays in delivering new services. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss optimizing digital operations and transforming the workforce. Stay tuned!

Delivering New Services

According to Wikipedia, smart manufacturing is a broad category of manufacturing that employs computer integration, high levels of adaptability, rapid design changes, digital information technology, and more flexible technical workforce training. Critical technologies in the movement towards smart manufacturing include big data processing capabilities, industrial connectivity devices and services, and advanced robotics.

Automation is a crucially important factor in achieving true smart manufacturing. In fact, it is quickly becoming one of the top areas of investment across the industry. Manufacturing businesses automate because they must; likewise, manufacturers work smarter because they must.

Today’s competitive landscape is not the one to which we’ve all grown accustomed. Advancements in technology allow for new ways to create products, new ways to deliver products, and new ways to engage with customers. Recent technological developments – like Digital Twins and Machine Learning – have completely reshaped how we look at the industry. The hard truth is that if organizations in the manufacturing industry aren’t thinking progressively and outside the box, they’ll be outrun by the competition – it’s just that simple.

And with that in mind, it’s necessary for manufacturers to put on their ‘product-as- a-service’ hats when contemplating how to turn customers and vendor relationships into revenue, win more deals, and increase margins. Achieving these objectives will naturally translate to a deepened sense of customer loyalty.

A robust business platform like Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides a 360-degree view of customer engagement across sales and service channels. Manufacturers can win more deals and increase margins with best-in-class solutions for configure, price, quote, and contract lifecycle management, along with end-to-end quote-to-cash for all unique products and services.

In addition, with Dynamics 365 for Field Service – and especially with Microsoft’s Connected Field Service, which is tailor-made for manufacturing organizations – manufacturers can deliver on profitable services to enhance the customer experience even further.

There’s a lot more to smart manufacturing than streamlining a few key areas that identify new sources of revenue. Learn more by downloading this digital transformation fact sheet and stay tuned for more blogposts on smart manufacturing over the next few weeks.

How Manufacturers Take the Challenge Out of Change

Ah, industry challenges! These challenges bind us as a community of like-minded people, they force us to find answers to the difficult questions and they make us stronger.

Without these challenges, we wouldn’t have best practices. We wouldn’t have the innovative technology that simplifies the very complex supply chain operations we handle day to day. Without challenges, we wouldn’t be where we are today!

If you’re in manufacturing, you’re undergoing a fourth industrial revolution. Exciting and groundbreaking technology and automation is causing unprecedented change.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this revolution – which began in response to myriad manufacturing-related challenges – is in turn causing even more challenges. Manufacturers are dealing with an increased pace of technology adoption and having to implement change management globally, all while customer expectations keep growing and room for error continues to shrink.

Smart and intelligent automation – like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Advanced Robotics, and Augmented Reality (or Mixed Reality) – is helping manufacturers stay lean and more efficient. Did you know that manufacturers realize an average of a 47% increase in uptime as the result of implementing smart device usage?

There’s no doubt about it: it’s easy to get excited about all that technology can do. But first, it’s critical to have a strategic plan and a solid technology platform that can handle all that the future will bring to bear.

PowerObjects is a leader in delivering Microsoft Business Applications solutions and Dynamics 365 workloads through unparalleled offerings of service, support, education, and add-ons. This powerful platform combined with our unique implementation approach sets the stage for manufacturers to enter the new world of smart manufacturing, delivering new services, optimizing digital operations, and transforming their workforce.

Basic Setup for a Discrete Manufacturer in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

In today's blog, we'll explore a process familiar to many of our readers: the basic setup of a finished goods item in Dynamics 365. This will include setting up the finished good product in the released product form, along with an example of a basic route and bill of material (BOM) that we can use in the production process. As you may know, there can certainly be more complexity to the setup (and the entire process) than what we cover here. Our objective today is simply to outline the steps needed just to get started. We hope you enjoy…


Note that if your environment has no other existing products set up, for purposes of this example you will want to create a few that can be used for the BOM that will be set up later in the post.












That's it! In conclusion, we have just created the finished good product and set the parameters to allow for a BOM type and set to production. We built a simple route to define the operations needed to build our product and set up a Bill of Material to allow the production process to consume this material. Now, we can set up a production order and run the production process.

Want to take your manufacturing solution to the next level? PowerObjects can help! Learn more about our solutions for the manufacturing industry.

Happy D365'ing!

National Oilwell Varco: Making Data-Driven Decisions with D365 for Field Service [VIDEO]

National Oilwell Varco (NOV) is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture, and sale of equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling and production operations and the provision of oilfield services to the oil and gas industry. Process and Flow Technologies, a Business Unit of National Oilwell Varco (PFT) transformed its ability to effectively manage and schedule resources worldwide, collaborate across departments, and make data-driven decisions based on real-time updates by utilizing Dynamics 365 for Field Service. Watch NOV's Microsoft Dynamics 365 Success Story to see their journey in action!

5 Things We Learned at the Digital Transformation for the Modern Manufacturer Round Table

On February 15, PowerObjects met with industry professionals in the Bay Area to discuss the latest in business trends and innovative solutions. We acknowledged challenges in the industry today and explored how companies rise to the challenge to stay connected with customers and employees. Below are the five things we learned:

1. Customer Experience

It's no secret that customers today are forcing companies to re-evaluate customer experience strategies. To thrive in today's economy, successful businesses are re-focusing on superior service through an Omni-channel approach, including self-service capabilities, and empowering agents to surpass standard service levels and have informed and productive interactions with customers.

2. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Companies are leveraging tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator with Dynamics 365 for Sales to develop and cultivate customer relationships. LinkedIn Sales Navigator seamlessly integrates with Dynamics 365 and Office 365 to manage and analyze existing relationships while identifying potential opportunities. Watch our LinkedIn Sales Navigator video here to learn more!

3. Artificial Intelligence (External)

Imagine your company taking a proactive approach to issues, instead of a reactive one. What if you reached out to a customer about correcting product failure before they even knew there was a problem? Artificial intelligence and Connected Field Services are giving companies a chance to predict and analyze products and services, and increase the overall customer experience.

4. Artificial Intelligence (Internal)

AI tools are reshaping the industry, both externally and internally. Tools like Customer Insights provide customer data in real-time with visibility to departments across the company. This allows these businesses to make better data-driven decisions. For example, AI tools deployed on a website or app can observe, learn, analyze and predict prospect behaviors for a sales team to focus effectively on leads based on these AI analytics.

5. Change Management

We learned that change management is not the easiest for companies to define yet one of the biggest challenges they face. It is important for companies to recognize change management is the people side of change. Even the best software implementations can fail if the change management plan is not well thought out (or not thought about at all – yikes). Addressing the impact to employee users helps companies get the most out of their digital transformation investment. PowerObjects employs change practitioners and certified trainers to guide users through Dynamics 365 for an overall successful transition.

For more on round table experience and industry discussion, check out our Digital Transformation PointDrive.

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Happy Dynamics 365'ing!