Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Case For Multi-level BOM Revisions

Many inventory control systems list a bill of material as a key feature. If you are talking manufacturing, you will need multi-level bills of material. You can do very simple assembly work with single-level bills of material, but real manufacturing requires a multi-level bill of material to describe the entire product structure.

The MISys Manufacturing System sports a 16-level BOM capability. And you can have up to 4 billion items at any level. This allows for truly massive product structures.

In the MISys system, a Bill of Material is much more than a pretty picture of what you build. MISys uses the BOM for a number of functions: from backflushing assembly operations, to mutli-level cost roll-ups, where used analyses, available to promise projections, and much more.

From time to time manufacturing companies change the way they build things. This change may be inspired by a better design coming out of Engineering, a clever cost reduction, or a substitution necessitated by a vendor part shortage. Unless you can convince me that you have been building the same assembly the same way since just after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and you promise you will never ever change it in the future, then make bill of material revision control a requirement of your dream manufacturing system. Changes always – and should – happen. Be prepared for them.

MISys gives you the optional ability to create as many revisions of a Bill of Material as you wish. Each Revision Number can be a letter, digit, or a combination of the two. In my previous experience designing and building super-mini computers, we used digits to track changes to the BOM as the design progressed through engineering. When the design was released to manufacturing, it acquired a letter revision, starting with A. So you instantly knew that any product bearing the Revision A was unchanged since its original release to manufacturing. I still like that methodology.

Check out the MISys Manufacturing System's support for multi-level Bills of Material and full revision control by going to www.misysinc.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Started With MISys: Here's What's Next

Anyone using the MISys Manufacturing System for the first time would have every reason to ask "Now what do I do?"

That's why the new version of the system includes a comprehensive Getting Started Guide designed to lead you by the hand as you configure and set up the system.

You can explore the Getting Started Guide even without installing a copy of MISys Manufacturing by watching this instructional video.

We hope you'll discover that installing and setting up MISys Manufacturing is really quite easy if you use the tools we've provided. Request a trial copy of MISys Manufacturing by going to www.misysinc.com/.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Are you familiar with the MISys User Guide?

On a regular basis I'm in touch with users of the MISys Manufacturing System who are unfamiliar with the wealth of information contained in the MISys User Guide. "Oh great! Could you send me a copy" they ask?

To their amazement, the MISys User Guide is built into the product, ready to spring into action with just a keystroke or mouse-click. And it employs some computer sleight of hand so that the Guide opens to the right page whenever you need to look something up.

If you don't have a copy of MISys Manufacturing running right now, you can explore the User Guide by watching this short video.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Selecting Multi-currency/tax Manufacturing Software

If you never trade with partners outside the United States, it is likely they will never need any multi-currency capabilities in your manufacturing software (or your accounting software for that matter).

However, in this ever-widening global economy, more and more domestic manufacturing firms are purchasing raw materials from partners who do not trade in US Dollars. If you are among these, you will need some ability to create and print purchase orders in the native currency of the raw material supplier (called the “source currency”) and convert the applicable amounts to the native currency of the accounting system (called the “functional currency”).

If you are looking for a multi-currency capable manufacturing system, ask the software supplier how the currency exchange rates are maintained. Calling the bank on a daily basis to check on the exchange between East Borindian Rallods and US Dollars is neither efficient nor a good way to make friends with your local bank CSR. Today, exchange rate information between every publicly traded currency is published online. Make sure your software can easily store this information.

If you live or work in a jurisdiction where taxes are assessed on purchases (such as in Canada or the United Kingdom) your manufacturing software must have the ability to calculate the applicable VAT, GST, HST, or PST due on any purchase order.

Governmental taxing authorities have complex rules for accurately calculating and reporting the taxes due on purchases (often involving taxes on taxes) so you will need to know whether the multiple tax capabilities of the software you are evaluating are sufficient to meet the needs of your client and the regulatory authorities.

The Sage ERP Accpac accounting system has strong multi-currency and multi-tax capabilities. You can learn how it integrates with MISys Manufacturing by going to www.misysinc.com/accpac/.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Manufacturing and Distribution Inventory Control

Regardless of the size of your company and the complexity of your manufacturing process, we urge you to enforce a strict set of part numbering conventions and inventory control procedures.

If your company is small and operating on a shoe-string, this demand may not make you many friends, but it is one you must make. Bad habits are hard to break – but in this case time never heals.

If you have only 50 raw materials and 10 sub-assemblies, insist that each have a part number and each be stored in a controlled stockroom. If you allow free access to the inventory, all your efforts to manage your manufacturing business will be for naught.

While you have your management's attention and you are in the process imposing new policies and procedures, establish once and for all how raw materials, sub-assemblies, and finished goods are to be segregated.

In general, only the items you sell belong in your accounting system’s inventory control database. Obviously this includes the finished products you make, but it may also include a quantity of selected raw materials or sub-assemblies you make available for sale as spare parts.

Ultimately, all the raw material items you naively entered into your accounting system’s inventory control database – things you don’t ever sell – will want to come out. These belong in the manufacturing system’s inventory control database.

If this looks like a daunting task, don’t make a big issue of it right now. The better manufacturing systems will offer some sort of item import feature and, if your accounting system supports item exports, an hour or so of work on your part can save many hours of tedious and error-prone re-entry. It’s something to look for in your choices of manufacturing software. Make a note for future reference.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Manufacturing and Sales Order Entry Integration

Arguably of lesser importance than integration with the accounting system’s general ledger or sales inventory module, but still of potential importance, is effective integration with sales order entry. Depending on the type of manufacturer, or the number of sales orders you process in any day or week, this may or may not be a significant issue.

The basic concept is that you will create a sales order for some product (or list of products) you will deliver to a customer on a specific date. Customers tend to be fussy about the date part. If these products are things they make rather than purchase for re-sale, then they will need to convert the sales order into some type of production order.

Here’s a question to ask yourself: “If I were to receive 100 orders for the widget I make, would I create 100 production orders? Or would I create one production order for 100 widgets?” The answer will provide you with significant insight into the way your current manufacturing “system” actually works.

If the answer is “Oh, we don’t create sales orders, we just build to replenish our sales inventory” then that’s the end of the story. No integration with sales order entry is necessary. Don’t press the software vendor for it.

If the answer is “Of course, we’d create 100 production orders” then you will certainly want to make sure the manufacturing software has some automated means to create a unique production order from each corresponding sales order. And when it does, make sure the production order includes a reference to the sales order number.

On the other hand, if the answer is “We’d obviously net all the sales orders into one production order for 100 widgets” the problem gets simpler to solve – or a whole lot more complicated – depending on your needs.

Some of the more rudimentary manufacturing systems in the market would simply add up the number of widgets on all the sales orders and produce a production order for the total quantity. That’s the simple part.

But what if each of those sales orders, even the orders placed on the same day, contain various customer ship dates based on either the customer’s need for product or your ability to produce? At this point, three types of manufacturing systems surface:

Good Nets the total sales order requirement and creates a production order for the total required quantity.

Better Nets the total sales order requirement and creates a production order for the total required quantity on the earliest customer ship date.

Best Nets the total sales order requirement and creates one or more production orders for the total required quantity on each customer ship date.

The issue at hand here is whether the sales order to production order conversion process is date sensitive.

Good systems create the production order but ignore the customer ship date issue entirely.

Better systems consider the customer ship date, but avoid thorny scheduling issues by simply using the earliest date.

The best manufacturing systems schedule production orders for that work is completed just in time to meet customer commitments. Software that performs at this level is clearly more expensive than systems that take the easy way out, but considering the objective you set for justifying the cost of a computerized manufacturing control system, it may well be a price you are willing to pay.

Remember our story about the menu-planning disabled shopper? Think what could happen if you could effectively plan your purchasing and production based on actual customer shipments? You could avoid having to horde “just in case” inventory, reduce your storage/warehousing requirements, and build nothing until you actually needed it. How much would all this be worth in monetary terms? Staggering.


Designing Your Own Custom MISys Interface

Since MISys announced the impending release of an API (Application Programmer’s Interface) for bar code system integrators in July, there has been increasing interest in developing custom applications on the part of MISys consultants and even a few end-users.

In the past, several clever programmers have figured out ways to add special functionality to MISys Manufacturing by tapping into the MISys database. On the surface, this seems like a good idea but it can actually lead to some very severe integrity problems.

As an illustration, imagine that you wish to add your own data to a table that contains four columns:

2 2 4 1
2 3 5 0
2 4 6 1
3 2 5 0
3 3 6 0
3 4 7 0
3 5 8 0

Even if you aren’t that clever as a programmer, you can probably figure out what data you should add to the first three columns in this table, right? But you would be hard-pressed to know what you should write in Column D.

Really clever programmers might be able to guess at the value for Column D. (Warning: the program depends on the correct value always appearing in Column D in order to function as designed.)

My point is that, absent an insight into how the program actually uses the data in this table, it is impossible for you to write new data (rows) without corrupting the database.

That’s a problem that is solved by the use of an API, designed by the people who know exactly what Column D is for and what data it should contain.

If an API existed for this imaginary example, the programmer would set the values for Column A and Column B, then call the API which would set the value for Column C (Column A + Column B) and Column D (1 if the values in Columns A and B are both even numbers, otherwise 0).

If ever you have the urge to write a custom program that manipulates the MISys database, I hope you’ll remember this article, slap yourself once or twice, then contact MISys Customer Service (802.457.4600) to find out whether an API is available to accomplish the results you desire.

As of this writing, the only API that is avaible is one that automates certain shop floor transactions so that bar code system integrators can write applications that interface proprietary bar code hardware to the MISys Manufacturing System.

If you have other needs, please submit them to wishlist@misysinc.com. Thanks!


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Inventory Control Add-ons for Core Accounting Systems

Possibly one of the most confusing aspects of creating an integrated accounting/manufacturing management system is about how inventory is kept. In larger, industrial-strength Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, there is usually a clear distinction between finished goods inventory (often referred to as “distribution inventory” or “sales inventory”) and the raw materials inventory. Indeed, ISO-9000 standards and other “best practices” dictate that the finished goods inventory and the raw materials inventory must be kept physically isolated and controlled separately. ERP systems respect this need for isolation.

It is likely that you have never heard of ISO-9000 – and have never given much thought to “best practices.” Consider yourself fortunate if you have in place some formal way to control inventory (a controlled stockroom). More than one of our clients, using a “take what you need” inventory control system, has wondered why their manufacturing operations seemed to be so horribly out of control. The answer is, obviously, “You must start by controlling your inventory.“
If I run into such a client, I stop the discussion right there. Deliver the dose of tough love: “Build a wall, build a fence, hire a stock clerk. Just do it – today!“

If you have an existing accounting system, there is a good chance that “Inventory Control” is listed among its many features. Of equally good chance is that the inventory control module of your accounting system deals only with the sales distribution side of the house, not the manufacturing side.
Many manufacturing companies make the mistake of trying to use their accounting system’s inventory module to help them control their raw materials inventory, work in process (WIP), and sub-assembly production. Only after typing in thousands of raw material part numbers and attempting to perform the most basic manufacturing processes do they discover how ill-equipped their software is to perform the required tasks.

Writing software to control a sales distribution inventory is relatively simple; while the software needed to effectively control the inventory needed for a multi-level product structure is quite complex. Accounting software vendors usually take the easy route and include a module which addresses sales distribution inventory. Rarely do they tackle the thorny job of manufacturing inventory control.
If you need a manufacturing inventory control system, don’t expect it (or a good one) to be included in your accounting system. Expect instead to spend significant time, effort, and money selecting a right-sized manufacturing add-on for your accounting system.

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Running at Sage Summit

Sage Summit was last month in a humid Washington, DC. Like most other frustrated athletes, I was looking for some outlet for exercise during the stand-at-your-booth, graze-all-day conference. I hit the running path early one morning, and ended up running alongside a fit, energetic guy. "You here for the Sage Summit?" he asked. "Yes, I work for a third party developer from Vermont" I responded. "Oh. You must be with MISys." Always pleasantly surprised to get that instant recognition, I asked "How do you know MISys?" "We sell your product out in California. I'm Mark Severance with Arxis." As I stopped early on that run, Mark sent me an email later that day and said "running at 5:45am with Rob Johnson," author of Kick Your Own Ass. Oh man. I recruited Sean Fitzsimmons, a martial arts athlete with Central Nervous Systems in Vancouver to join us, and the four of us hit the path on a 10k run. "I'm not a runner," said Sean. "You are today, bubba" said Johnson. DC in the summer is 90% humidity even at 5:45am. It was really a cleansing, full body kind of sweat. In the end, Rob and Mark pranced on ahead as Sean and I brought up the rear. Two days later, Sage organized the 5k National Harbor Walk and Run, an out and back along the Potomac on the same bike path. Mark had already left the conference, and Sean said "I am not a runner." So it was Rob, me and about 300 other people at 7:15 in the morning in the casual, but well organized run. Rob ended up winning the race in a 6:38 pace, I finished 5th in a 6:52 pace. (I ran as a bandit, not having signed up in advance.) This was the first conference I've attended where I have found other runners looking for some running event and camaraderie while pounding the pavement. I am definitely going to look for them again at the next conference, as it brings a different dynamic to the event the makes it better rounded. Good stuff.

Create a Report: Stock Threshold Info 2

Continuing from our previous discussions, you are now ready to add some data to our report. Considering that we’re calling this a “Stock Threshold” report, we probably want some core item information and the various thresholds. Some of this data is in MIITEM, the rest is in MIILOC.

Versions of Crystal vary, however, there should be a frame to the right that contains Database Fields and should have the two tables listed. Expand these nodes and you will see the fields that are available. Start by adding MIITEM.itemId and MIITEM.descr to the details of the report (don’t forget column headers if they don’t get automatically created). To do this, click on the field and then drag and drop it in the details section of the report. Now add the following fields from MIILOC- minLvl, ordLvl, maxLvel, ordQty.

Once you have done this, look at the Preview of the report. You should see a tight listing of items and their thresholds.

This report is a nice foundation. Next time, well discuss some filtering.

Visit us online at www.misysinc.com/support

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Create a Report: Stock Threshold Info

Previously we talked about getting Crystal Reports connected to your MISys Manufacturing (no longer SBM!) database. Once that’s done, what can you do? While there are limitations on what can be done with custom fields and some of our more complicated reports that required processes, the whole database is otherwise available to you. In this simple example, we will demonstrate getting stock threshold information so that you can display them.

While you could just go to the Item Location file (MIILOC) and display the items and their thresholds, you may want to include other pieces of information from the Item record (description, unit of measure, etc.) So, we’ll start with MIITEM.

Create a new report in Crystal. Select the Data Source you created previously (using the required credentials and select the appropriate database name). You need to drill down into | dbo | Tables to get the table listing. Control-Click on MIILOC & MIITEM and bring it into the report and click Finish.

Now you can bring in the desired fields you want. Next time we’ll discuss a little more on this report concept.

For MISys Manufacturing technical support, visit us online at www.misysinc.com/support