Great Plains 8.0: Bringing Flexible Control to Manufacturing and Distribution

Last Modified 05 February 2014
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By Leslie Knudson
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When designing Great Plains 8.0, we did some heavy thinking about what kinds of issues our manufacturing and distribution customers face on a daily basis—like how making simple changes to large numbers of bills of material or manufacturing orders takes an excessive amount of time. Or how easy it is for customers to lose track of inventory while it’s in the warehouse—not to mention when it’s out the door. We also spotted instances where customers weren’t always getting the best price on long-term purchase order agreements. And that was only the beginning.

As a result, distribution and manufacturing companies will be glad to know Release 8.0 comes with a bulk of new features geared primarily toward their industries.

With mass update capabilities for handling bills of material (BOMs) and manufacturing orders (MOs), making changes is pretty snappy. Finding inventory—whether in the warehouse or out the door—isn’t a needle-in-the-haystack kind of search with cradle-to-grave tracking of serial and lot numbers. And with features like blanket purchase orders and customer priority ranking, it is possible to create the kind of relationships with customers and vendors where everyone involved benefits—including you.

Before and After 8.0

Manufacturers and distributors alike will definitely notice a clear distinction between how they ran their organisations before Release 8.0—and how they’ll move forward with Release 8.0.

“The release delivers better workflow control and simplicity with the ability to schedule out releases and use semiautomatic functionality,” says Chad Sogge, product planner for Great Plains® Distribution. “You can more tightly control warehouse activities to get products in and out of distribution centres as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

To give you a snapshot of Distribution and Manufacturing enhancements, we took a look at how Release 8.0 comes into play in a few common scenarios faced by typical manufacturing and distribution companies.

Mass Changes

Typically, the one-by-one data entry approach used when dealing with manufacturing orders or bills of material is time-consuming and error-prone. That’s why Release 8.0 included two significant enhancements to do away with those repetitive procedures: mass updates to BOMs and MOs order status change.

“We made some major usability enhancements that should save customers a great deal of time,” says Melissa Paulik, product manager for Great Plains® Manufacturing.

Now you can add, remove or edit a component on multiple BOMs in a single step, perfect for times when you need to make a change to a component that appears in many bills, such as when a part becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced by another part.

For example, let’s say you manufacture bicycles and you need to replace a certain kind of seat covering. Previously, you would have to find every BOM that contains that part and update it manually. Now you can make that change once and it automatically updates each BOM that contains that bicycle model part.

Likewise, now you can also change the status of multiple MOs at once. Let’s say you have 20 MOs just released to the shop floor. Instead of updating each MO individually, you can simply select the entire group of orders and apply ‘released’ to all the orders rather than changing each individually. Faster updating of each MO’s status—whether it’s still open, released, on hold, cancelled or complete—is much easier and more timely, which means the production floor can better manage its workflow.

Inventory Matters

Particular companies or circumstances sometimes require sharp inventory radar. Maybe you need to maintain a trace because of compliance guidelines, or there’s a recall on a specific range of serial or lot numbers and you need to immediately track what happened to the material.

With Release 8.0 serial and lot tracing capabilities, it’s easy to find and retrieve inventory. Simply, pull up the serial number, track it all the way back to the vendor, or look forward to see which MOs the material was used in or which customer bought the product. It’s a function important for customer service, as well as required by law for companies producing products such as medical devices.

Release 8.0 also helps you take into account inventory that’s on its way out the door so you have a more accurate gauge to work from when promising deliveries. Availability to Promise allows you to promise a delivery date based on future inventory movements by simply entering the quantity needed and letting Great Plains calculate an available date. Release 8.0 also adds visibility to the shop floor so you can make promises based on what you have in production.

Maybe there’s a huge shipment going out in mid-June that slipped your mind. With Availability to Promise, it already takes into account forward-looking inventory projections so you’re not working from a false impression. That means you can say, “I’ll get you 100 widgets on 1 July” and know you can deliver it.

Customer and Supplier Relations

The key to securing ideal customer and supplier relationships is making sure they’re beneficial for all involved—including you. That means you shouldn’t have to sacrifice pricing for timing and vice versa.

Perfect for dealing with a high volume of goods, blanket purchase orders let you set up extended-term purchasing agreements based on a total currency amount or total quantity. Because you’re committing to a larger quantity, you can negotiate a better deal and product release schedules make sure you get the exact amount of the product you need at the time you need it.

Let’s say you plan on buying 60 print cartridges over the course of a year. But maybe you only need 10 every 2 months. Blanket purchase orders allow you to send a release schedule and get a price break, which makes it ideal for both parties: You won’t have to do sporadic (and pricey) last-minute requests or bog yourself down with excess inventory. The vendor can plan ahead for the exact amount of parts it needs and when.

Last but not least, Release 8.0 helps you keep your most important customers in mind. Maybe you miscalculated and are facing a limited inventory supply. When demand exceeds supply, you won’t have to incur further damage by disappointing your top customers.

Customer Priority Ranking lets you identify key customers and allocate inventory based on customer prioritisation. You can check the number of back orders for an item and decide who should get what. Basically, you can fill the most important orders first with the ability to maintain groups of work and rank jobs by priority. That means you can give the best service to your best customers when supply is limited.

Watch for the upcoming Release 8.0 article in the next Insights issue featuring enhancements for analytics and reporting.

Leslie Knudson is a contributing writer to Insights, the Microsoft newsletter for medium-sized businesses in the U.S. She is based out of Fargo, N.D.

GP 8.0