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This podcast is primarily meant for people working in an SMB manufacturing company that either uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (or Dynamics NAV) or considers using it. (Or is on a similar system and just want to get smart). The podcast does not focus on a role (e.g. production planner or marketing or operations or IT), but just on the industry (manufacturing) and the size of the company they work for (SMB, not enterprise).Of course, this podcast is also for any person working with a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central partner (VAR or ISV) who helps manufacturing clients.

Business Central Manufacturing Show Martin Karlowitsch

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This podcast is primarily meant for people working in an SMB manufacturing company that either uses Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (or Dynamics NAV) or considers using it. (Or is on a similar system and just want to get smart). The podcast does not focus on a role (e.g. production planner or marketing or operations or IT), but just on the industry (manufacturing) and the size of the company they work for (SMB, not enterprise).Of course, this podcast is also for any person working with a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central partner (VAR or ISV) who helps manufacturing clients.

    A conversation on warehouse challenges and solutions

    A conversation on warehouse challenges and solutions

     Following last week's shopfloor discussion episode, here is the 28th episode of the Business Central Manufacturing Show. Again, this episode originates from our Business Central Manufacturing Exchange webinar series. It is a recorded panel discussion on warehouse challenges and solutions. I hosted this panel discussion and was excited to have Žilvinas Lapačinskas (Software Baltic), Mark Hamblin (Insight Works), and James Crowter (Clever Dynamics) as my guests. 

    To some extent, we regard the Business Central Manufacturing Exchange as the "event frontend to Microsoft's AppSource". With the event series, we want to provide manufacturing ISVs the opportunity to showcase their AppSource apps to a broader audience. 
    So, last week, we ran a warehouse solutions webinar in which three warehouse ISVs presented their solutions. At the end of the webinar, I hosted a panel discussion with all three warehouse experts. Namely, these are 
    Žilvinas Lapačinskas is a supply chain management consultant at Softera Baltic from Lithuania. Softera is a well-known Business Central partner in the Baltics. They understand how manufacturing, commerce, and service companies work so that they can offer fitting industrial and process automation solutions.Mark Hamblin is President of Insight Works, a Canadian-based ISV specializing in manufacturing and distribution apps for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.James Crowter is a Microsoft MVP and the Managing Director at Clever Dynamics from the UK. Clever Dynamics provides a range of clever apps for smarter manufacturing and distribution that are seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.I highly recommend that you not only tune into this podcast which is the recording of this panel discussion. Instead, I also recommend that you watch the recording of the entire webinar to see how Softera, Insight Works, and Clever Dynamics can help you with your warehouse challenges.

    • 30 Min.
    A conversation on shopfloor challenges and solutions

    A conversation on shopfloor challenges and solutions

    The 27th episode of the Business Central Manufacturing Show is somewhat different than all the others that you have been listening to so far. This episode is not a conversation with one guest. Instead, it is a recorded panel discussion on shopfloor challenges and solutions. I hosted this panel discussion and was excited to have Bent Korsgaard (Naveksa), Mark Hamblin (Insight Works), and Matthew Woodhouse (Clever Dynamics) as my guests.

    A bit of background: Recently, we at NETRONIC ran a webinar series that we called the Business Central Manufacturing Exchange. Oftentimes, when we speak to customers (and also to partners), we are confronted with requirements that are outside our scheduling core competency. Sometimes, we are asked for shopfloor solutions and time tracking. Another time, it is product configuration. And yet another time, it is that people request some warehouse functionality from us. Not seldomly, we are also asked for manufacturing solutions that are specific to one particular industry. 
     
    Hence, we grasped a general need for more transparency on the Business Central manufacturing apps and solutions landscape. We took that need seriously and launched the Business Central Manufacturing Exchange to address this need. To some extent, we regard the Business Central Manufacturing Exchange as the "event frontend to Microsoft's AppSource". 

    So, last week, we ran a shopfloor solutions webinar in which three shopfloor ISVs presented their solutions. At the end of the webinar, I hosted a panel discussion with all three shopfloor experts

    I highly recommend that you not only tune into this podcast which is the recording of this panel discussion. Instead, I also recommend that you watch the recording of the entire webinar to see how Naveksa, Insight Works, and Clever Dynamics can help you with your shopfloor challenges.

    • 28 Min.
    An insider's view into Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

    An insider's view into Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

    The guest in episode 26 of Martin's Business Central Manufacturing Show was Andrei Panko. Andrei is a program manager in the Business Central engineering team at the Microsoft Development Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. Having a Microsoft employee as a guest on the podcast was really a novelty. In the other episodes so far, all speakers were Business Central manufacturing experts working for a Microsoft partner. So this podcast provides most interesting insider insights into how things work in the Microsoft Business Central development team.
    Andrei started working as a consultant, developer, and project manager in 2004 - back then it was Dynamics NAV, of course - and was an MVP for six years running. He has extensive field experience in the supply chain and has engaged in many other aspects of the Business Central application and platform as well. Besides, he is the author of the book "Supply Chain Management in Microsoft Dynamics NAV", which was published in 2008, and he holds a patent for metadata-driven machine learning for systems.
    Before diving into how things happen at Microsoft, Martin first wanted to know how Andrei got into manufacturing and how it does matter to him. Andrei related that one of his first customers was a small manufacturing company that needed to improve its processes and for whom he purchased and implemented Business Central.
    According to Andrei, the great strength of Business Central, even back then, was that it could be easily and flexibly modified to fit specific unique company processes. While Andrei and Martin agreed that this strength still exists, they both think that the way of creating these enhancements has changed quite a lot. In their opinion what had been real customizations in the past, now increasingly get turned into apps.
    This led to a discussion about whether Business Central has become a much more core part of Microsoft's overall strategy, by e.g., providing the AppSource infrastructure or integrating it with Power Platform.
    Andrei gave a short "historical" discourse from how the ERP was deployed 20 to 30 years ago to how it is done today by way of SaaS. The red thread running through this development over time is one of the core initiatives at Microsoft Business Central. The team has been helping partners reduce the number of ad-hoc developments. This not only changed the selling and deployment model of many partners but also changed the requirements for Business Central.
    In order to help partners and customers reduce the number of ad-hoc developments, Business Central has become tighter integrated with the Office products, tools are now much better integrated with the overall ERP and there is much more tooling support also from the power platform.
    In this context they talked about another way of reducing ad-hoc developments, namely listening to, and using the feedback they get from customers and partners. Andrei related two interesting facts:
    The development teams do not receive much direct feedback from end-users and customers.Mostly, the partners only give feedback about their own needs instead of those of the end-users, and they prefer to get tools to solve their customers' problems instead of getting solutions for these problems directly.

    • 35 Min.
    Item setup - underestimated issue when implementing Business Central

    Item setup - underestimated issue when implementing Business Central

    Episode 25 of  Martin's podcast was all about the difficulties and obstacles that can stand in the way of a successful implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.
    The guest in this jubilee episode was James Crowter from the UK. He is the founder and Managing Director of Technology Management, an established Navision and Business Central partner whom everybody knows as TecMan. In addition, Microsoft has appointed him as MVP (most valuable professional) for business applications for the sixth year running. And if that was not enough, he last year volunteered to become the chairman of the Directions EMEA committee.
    James is passionate about how businesses can improve their efficiency by getting process optimal more of the time. And for the last 25 years, he has been working to help organizations of all sizes and types implement the ERP and CRM software that typically they decide they need when things are going wrong. While he has seen projects run unbelievably well, at the same time he has also had some unbelievably hard projects.

    Of course, this statement was the ideal hook for Martin and he wanted to know the reasons why projects become hard. Likewise, he asked for tips on how to avoid such negative experiences. James stated that in companies wanting to implement a new system, often the misconception prevails that buying software is a magic bullet to make them well organized.
    But there is more to it. For James, accuracy is not achieved by just implementing software but is a state of mind. Hence, in some cases, in addition to changing the software, companies also have to change their people's approach to the way that they do things.
    According to James, "garbage in, garbage out" is one of the main reasons why projects sometimes become so hard. To avoid this, ERP users should strive at having a well-structured and maintained database. You can have the best tool in the world but if you don't use it in the correct way and if you feed it poorly maintained data, you won't get a good result. Consequently, people need to know that they have to be prepared to put in the work to get the results they want. From James' experience, this bit is often what they lack. 
    In that regard, an important parameter for many ERP-supported processes in manufacturing is precise time estimations. Often the responsible people only have a rough idea about what process is going to take how much time and will be done by whom. But it is vital that the processes get quantified precisely. You have to outline them as early as possible in as much detail as possible. 
    As it is absolutely essential that a significant amount of time is put in for initial data entry and initial data structure definition, the question arose as to what extent this is manual work or can be automated. As James put it, the key question here is rather "What do you actually need?" than "What have you historically done?" and that requires not the data entry per se, but needs decisions about what the data should be. 
    This is a process of evolving and revising and hence is very individual.
    This led them back to the key message of their conversation, the importance of the manual and thorough and thoughtful parameter set up - now with a focus on item parameters. They agreed that it is vital that this is done by the production managers or whoever is in charge of the production because these people know their company's needs and hence should not delegate this task to temps or outsource it.
    The conversation then ended with Martin's admission that before the two of them would meet again - this already being a done deal - he certainly would need to get smart on item parameter setting.

    • 32 Min.
    The five phases of successfully implementing 365 Business Central

    The five phases of successfully implementing 365 Business Central

    Martin talked to Bart Vanbelle from Belgium who is Business Consultant with the Belgian partner ESC. Bart’s background is different from all the guests in the podcast so far. He started his career with international experiences as a cocktail bartender. After shortly running two catering businesses for a few years, he first came into contact with Navision, version 2009. He was a key user in a Navision implementation. Surprisingly enough, being part of an ERP implementation enthused him more than mixing drinks. 
    Hence, he decided a U-turn move for his career at the age of 30. He started studying supply chain management full-time, had his bachelor after 3 years and joined ESC. At ESC, he is mainly responsible for manufacturing implementations and just recently got promoted to being the team lead of ESCs center of manufacturing excellence. 
    In the conversation, Bart surprised Martin with the ADKAR model and mixed a delicious "knowledge cocktail" of how to successfully implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.
    Phase 1 - A like Awareness
    As Bart pointed out, every company that wants to implement an ERP, should be crystal-clear about the purpose for this step. Depending on the kind of company the answers to this will, of course, differ. Some companies want to gain some extra revenue, for example, others again aim at saving time. Just saying "we want it", would not be the right motivation at all.
    Phase 2 - D like Desire
    Once the purpose for the implementation is clear, the questions will get more specific. In the desire phase, the key users should learn the reasons why they are going to make the change and what will be in it for them, and, of course, how it will help the company in general.
    As Bart related, he has often met key users that either didn't know the answers to these questions or just said, "because we have to". And again, this would not be the right motivation.
    At this point, the implementation team not only needs to provide the technology and analyze and optimize the processes but also make clear to the users how they will benefit from the change.
    Phase 3 - K like Knowledge
    In the K phase, the key users will acquire knowledge about the new system. There will be trainings and workshops in which they will learn how the system works and see what is the best fit for their department and their end users. Depending on how the key users have adapted to phase A and D, the K phase will be more or less successful.
    Or, as Bart puts it, the learning curve will be higher or lower, depending on the reaction to phase 1 and 2. When somebody isn't interested in learning a certain topic, why should he?
    What makes Bart as a consultant the happiest is when he gets to a point where users are so interested in the solution that they start learning and doing research on their own initiative.
    Phase 4 - A like Ability
    According to Bart, a lot of knowledge is needed to work with Business Central and looking at it for the first time can be really overwhelming. But once users have acquired the knowledge, they can start to use the system independently and even try to challenge it.
    And when users start challenging the system, Bart is sure he has done a good job. If users know more than him he is sure that they will benefit from the new system.
    Ability, as Bart puts it, should be a consequence. If you have the desire to work with a system, the ability will follow automatically.
     Phase 5 - R like Reinforcement
    Once the project is live, the implementation team's work is still not finished. Every couple of months or weeks they will go back to the company and evaluate the project together with the people on site. As Bart explains, there are always things that need checking or can be improved. 

    • 31 Min.
    Business Central in the cloud - real-time data and automated processes

    Business Central in the cloud - real-time data and automated processes

    Martin met with Shannon Mullins, Chief Revenue Officer of Accelerynt, and a Microsoft MVP of business applications. She has over 20 years of experience in - amongst others - deployment implementation of CRM and ERP systems and hence has a deep understanding of the functional aspects of projects’ process automation and system design and the reporting needs and requirements for complex ERP systems. 
    While talking to Shannon for the first time at last year’s Directions EMEA in Milan, Martin quickly noticed to his shame, that he never had a woman as a guest to his podcast and decided on the spot to change this.
    So it happened that Shannon agreed to become the first in – as we hope – a long line of female guests.
     After having wondered a bit about the fact that more people from Europe visit the Directions North America than vice versa, Shannon related that some years ago, she switched into the manufacturing focus and that she liked manufacturing projects because they are a lot more complex and detailed than just a pure financial project.
    Then it was straight to the main topic of the podcast: how moving to the cloud helps smooth and automate processes in Business Central. Process improvement and automation is run by Shannon and her team by looking at how manufacturers are currently doing their processes. Then they figure out how they not only can leverage Business Central but also Power Automate, Power BI, and Power Apps so that the manufacturer gets a robust future-forward system. In short, Shannon recommends making multi-step processes into one step. Using ERP in the cloud together with the power platform leads to spending less time on development and more time on improvement in customer service, which in turn smoothes integration processes and also saves money.
    The customers’ reporting needs and the KPIs they want to see depend on who is consuming the reports and here one can distinguish two types: On the one hand, the very detail-oriented accountants and on the other hand people running a plant or part of the plant who are looking more at the summary level and want to have an overall picture.
    Concentrating on the latter, one sees that the KPIs that are important to them very much depend on whether they are more labor-centric or more machine-centric. Of course, a manufacturer with very expensive machinery is usually more concerned about those machines being up than a customer that is very retail, who, in turn, will be more concerned about keeping delivery dates.
    In this context and together with the ever more advanced automation processes, one can observe that the KPIs tend to change their nature from backward-looking into becoming forward-looking and predictive. The past approach was, for instance, that companies came to work on Monday and saw that there was a machine downtime on Friday. Then they tried to figure out why. With Business Central and the power platform, manufacturing clients now can get a real-time notification and with this can make much more real-time decisions and pivots.
    Shannon and Martin agreed that with moving to the cloud, ERP has totally transformed in that data have become much more real-time and you can automate more processes. The danger associated with an increasing automation degree, of course, lies in getting rid of people.
    But this is not what is intended - the purpose is rather to make people’s work more meaningful and also to change the scope of their work. What's more, having everything real-time and transparent certainly increases the pressure on production leaders: Now that they have to make more informed decisions, they have to make sure they have the reporting they need. And that's where automation can come in place. Rather than sitting there and watching reports all day long and trying to figure out what's going on, they get an automated notification if something happens that they should be aware of.

    • 32 Min.

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