Feeds:
Posts
Comments

dynamics NAVWe’re narrowing our blog scope a bit today to address an issue often of interest specifically to users of the Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP software system.

On the NAV platform, Microsoft offers two general kinds of “users”: the “full user” has access to all the functionality and screens of the entire NAV system to which their license entitles them.  The limited user, as the name implies, has less ability when it comes to the ability to write back to tables (i.e., perform day-to-day transactions) in NAV.  As you might expect, the limited users cost considerably less than the full users, thus meriting the attention of system buyers, who can save quite a bit of money if they are able to use limited users in some cases.

Typically, system purchasers of NAV will initially acquire one of two levels of NAV: either the “Starter Pack” or the “Extended Pack.”  The starter pack offers less functionality for a lower overall cost.  It is within your chosen “pack” that the distinction is then made between full and limited users.

With that as a backdrop, here’s a little more on the distinctions between and limited.

Both Full and Limited users have full “read” abilities.  The Limited users, however, have limited “write” abilities.  And since full users run around $3,000 apiece and limited users run around $600, it’s an important distinction: if a limited user is right for you, the savings can be substantial.

Limited users have read access to any data contained in NAV but they can only write to a maximum of three table objects – although there are certain tables they are not allowed to write directly.

A CEO might be a good example of a limited user.  They probably want to see all that data but don’t necessarily need to post transactions within the system.  If you can get away with limited users, you’ll save money.

Just be sure you know what your limited users are going to need to post to before you purchase them because sometimes that three-table limit is somewhat confining.  Consult your reseller for details, as always.

 

MFG_PIC2After the prior three posts about trends in the economy and manufacturing, we thought we were done with the topic for awhile, but… sure enough, next day the Wall Street Journal points up even further positive indications for the manufacturing sector, which we felt must be shared…

Around December 1, the Journal’s “Ahead of the Tape” column reminded us (in an article entitled “U.S.’s Forgotten Economic Engine”) that when it comes to the U.S. economy, yes, manufacturing still matters.

In 1980 one in four private-sector jobs was in manufacturing.  Today, that figure is just one in ten.  But as Journal writer Justin Lahart duly points out, this ignores a lot of other workers (truck drivers, forklift operators) who aren’t employed in manufacturing but still depend on it.

They go on to use a measure of manufacturing’s real impact on the economy: “Final sales of U.S. made goods.”  That’s the dollars fetched by goods produced in this country.  It turns out, they represent fully one-third of the U.S. GDP.  And it’s this “goods” sector that tends to “provide most of the fuel to changes in DGP, driving it up in good times, and down in bad,” according to Lahart.

And U.S. manufacturing does indeed appear to be doing well.  The Institute for Supply Management’s index showed activity in October rose to 59 from 56.6 in September, well above the 50 line that divides expansion from contraction.  That’s a high number for such an index, and a slight slip in November (to 58.7) was neither unexpected nor alarming.

The Journal article goes on to point out that “the backdrop for manufacturing looks like it will be good for awhile.”  While the stronger dollar hurts, costs go down when oil declines as it has, and cheap natural gas further bolsters the economics of producing goods in the U.S.

Finally, he notes, the “pickup in factory activity may reflect an economy that has entered a healthier stage, with increased hiring encouraging companies to step up production, and stronger production necessitating yet more hiring.”

In short, it would appear that manufacturing is on its way to a very nice year in 2015.

So, Happy New Year indeed to all our manufacturing-based customers (which is most of them).  We are all long overdue for such glad tidings.

 

 

TEC_logo

Recently one of our team here passed me a link to a good, simple article from the folks at TEC (Technology Evaluation Centers) and though we’ve written about this from the point of view of many others before (including our own opinions culled from decades of doing it…), it’s always worth pointing out the factors that help business software implementation projects succeed.

The folks at TEC looked at several major studies performed around the world, focused on the small to midsize business (SMB).  Since that’s the world in which we ourselves live, we wanted to pass their collective wisdom along to our readers.

First and foremost, the authors emphasize that “companies must first define what they expect to gain from implementing an ERP system, from both technical and business perspectives, and routinely monitor their progress toward this goal.”

They go on to cite the importance of employee motivation and involvement, and they highlight the importance of training employees beforehand – all things that seem obvious to us, but are not always so obvious to prospective clients.  TEC also point out that employee “tech-savviness and competence” turn out to be pretty important factors as well – worth noting, we think.

The TEC article, which can be found here by the way, provides a brief list of key success factors, with which we concur and thus reprise here:

In Brief: Steps to Increase ERP System Implementation Success
  • Define and monitor technical and business benefits/expectations
  • Provide employee training on new system
  • Facilitate employee communication (within and across teams and departments)
  • Obtain short-term successes in using the new system
  • Increase employee and management know-how
  • Obtain upper management support
  • Gain IT competence
  • Ensure ERP system compatibility with existing systems

Remember, these steps are worth thinking deeply about with your team, before you take the plunge.

More Trends: Manufacturing

ge_mfgA December article in Time Magazine by Rana Foroohar uses one company’s plans for manufacturing success – General Electric – to reveal a few key trends in manufacturing.  As our previous two posts were all very much about “Trends” we thought we’d push our off-topic luck once more by noting herein her observations about GE’s progress.  They provide some good food for thought for other manufacturers too.

Foroohar points out that in the recent economic recovery, 3 out of 4 Americans don’t feel the economy is getting stronger, and points out how this is likely most related to the fact that personal incomes are not rising much (except at the top).  Historically, she notes, “the key to achieving broad income growth has been creating more middle-class jobs.  And those have traditionally come from… manufacturing.”

She points out that GE borrowed $3 billion from Warran Buffett to retool while moving away from complex financial schemes (e.g., GE Capital) and toward making things (e.g., drilling equipment, LED lighting).  GE’s goal is to get “finance” down to about 25% of its business.  As its CFO pointed out, “We had to decide whether we wanted to be a tech company that solves the world’s big problems or a finance company that makes a few things.”

GE is thus betting on a few megatrends, like the fact that emerging-market economies are entering a period much like the U.S. did after WW II, where they’ll need roads, houses, bridges and airports.  GE sees a growing demand for all manner of consumer goods.  McKinsey Global Consulting estimates that these emerging economies will spend more than $20 trillion a year this way by 2025.  This serves to illustrate that future economic growth may very well be centered on making things, “rather than trading on their value.”

To that end, GE is copying Silicon Valley methods.  They’ve set up a “growth board” that operates like an internal venture capital firm, vetting employee ideas and then dishing out time and money to explore them.  The result so far has been dramatically shortened production cycles for products: ideas that previously took two years to test might go from paper to production in 45 days, says Foroohar.  GE is also sourcing new ideas from outside, and here she notes the 22-year-old in Indonesia who designed a bracket on a jet engine by tapping into a GE website where the company posts problems and offers rewards for solving them.

In the end, the question remains: How many new American jobs can thus be created?  Early indications are positive.  A recent Boston Consulting Group annual survey of senior manufacturing execs found a 20% increase in companies bringing production back from China in the past year.  A GE division launched two years ago to explore the Internet of Things (see our earlier posts) and machine-to-machine communications has gone from zero employees to over 1,000.  And they’re using more locally sourced suppliers here in the process, especially thanks to new 3-D printing technologies.

While there may still be a long way to go to replace the 1.6 million manufacturing jobs lost in the recession, such progress highlights the fact that “our post-crisis economy is smarter and nimbler and growing in the right sectors.”  While it may still have not created enough good jobs to fill the gap, the way forward is getting clearer.  Of course, as the article concludes, getting there may be another story.  But for inventive and creative manufacturers, as always, there is optimism.

trends_logoIn our prior post we looked at five key “game-changers” identified by the consultants at McKinsey & Co. in their 2013 report “Game Changers: Five Opportunities for U.S. Growth and Renewal.”

In today’s concluding piece, we’ll look at what the folks at Trends E-Magazine concluded from McKinsey’s analysis, in which the Trends editors offers their forecasts.  Be sure to read our prior one-page post first.  Then see what you think of Trends’ conclusions and predictions below.

First, say the Trends editors, the resources and leadership to realize these game-changers will come from the private sector.  For example, the private sector has taken a lead role in the first of McKinsey’s game-changers, shale energy development.  Private companies are also entering creative infrastructure partnerships, using big data to transform their operations and exporting goods and services to emerging economies.  They make the point that the oft-cited principle that “entrepreneurship follows infrastructure” is backwards: that’s often wasteful.  Instead, as the Wall Street Journal recently opined, “Let the entrepreneurs decide what infrastructure the country needs, and most of the time they will build it themselves.”

Second, because all five of McKinsey’s game-changers are “mutually reinforcing in their nature” their full potential will only be realized if they are pursued in parallel.  A virtuous cycle of growth can be created if these goals are pursued simultaneously and in parallel that could lead to greater prosperity, growth and employment.

Third, says Trends, “the biggest impediment to realizing the enormous growth opportunity associated with these game-changers is government policies that impede wise private-sector decision making.”  If we don’t already know this, we should.  From congressional gridlock to business red tape, most business owners and entrepreneurs already recognize that in today’s world, where companies can move their operations almost anywhere, it’s more important than ever for the U.S. to create an attractive business environment.  This will require a level playing field in taxes, regulations and red tape.  It’s not impossible, but it does require achieving these goals in a balanced manner that “does not reduce revenue or harm the public interest that regulation is meant to protect; it is a matter of simplifying, streamlining and considering how U.S. requirements measure up against best practices from around the world.”

Some will question the will of the people or the will of the Congress.  But McKinsey’s five game-changers in our first post and Trends E-Magazine’s prescriptions in this one form a sound basis for reform as well as hope… and together form the basis for the kind of American optimism we all could use a little more of as we move into the Holiday season, and the prospects for what we can only all hope might be a prosperous new year.

5 game changersToday’s post is a tad off-topic, but likewise upbeat in its sense of five “game-changers” identified by McKinsey Global Institute that will spur productivity (and Productivity is, after all, our first name…), as well as likely boost U.S. GDP and generate further increases in employment.

In a paper written last year entitled “Game Changers: Five Opportunities for U.S. Growth and Renewal,” the five McKinsey staffer/authors point to five factors they believe will “accelerate short- and medium-term growth and lay the groundwork for sustainably building the nation’s wealth over the long term.”  Those factors include:

Game-changer #1: Large-scale shale gas and oil production – We’ve all heard about fracking by now.  McKinsey estimates that the opportunity for shale energy, if fully utilized, could add a whopping 2 to 4 percent to our annual GDP and create well over 1 million permanent jobs by 2020.

Game-changer #2: Increased trade competitiveness in knowledge-intensive manufactured goods.  Citing areas including petrochemical production, aerospace and the automotive industries, McKinsey sees a lessening of trade deficits through knowledge-intensive industries like building world-class infrastructure for talent, a sustained commitment to R&D and innovation, an improving U.S. business environment via tax and regulatory reform, aggressive pursuit of new export markets as the consuming class grows, and attracting more production from at home and abroad to the U.S.

Game-changer #3: Harnessing “big data” to raise productivity.  With an aging population and fall in labor force participation the U.S. needs to increase productivity by over 30% — a big stretch not seen since the 1960s.  Recent breakthroughs in big data and advanced analytics could provide new efficiencies from the data collected in retail, medical, legal and social technologies, not to mention sensors, cameras, etc.  McKinsey sees major impact coming in four key sectors including retail, manufacturing, health care and government services.   In the meantime, we have a shortage of the needed “data scientists,” thus creating further employment growth possibilities.

Game-changer #4: Building an infrastructure foundation for long-term growth.  We’ve underinvested in infrastructure now for years, and it’s created a backlog of necessary maintenance in critical areas like roads, highways and water systems, to name a few.  If (and these days the Ifs loom large) the U.S. spends what’s needed (about 1% of GDP) on the necessary infrastructure, we will set the stage for future growth and investments of $150 billion and up for the next 15 to 20 years.  Here again McKinsey sees the U.S. adding 1.5% to GDP and creating nearly 2 million jobs.

Game-changer #5: Investing in America’s human capital.  Our global edge in education is eroding.  U.S. student achievement measures have fallen significantly.  And students may not be acquiring the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.  McKinsey recommends expanding apprenticeships and non-degree training programs; a concerted focus on improving learning and job prospects for graduates of colleges and junior colleges; more focus on STEM courses; and a rethinking of immigration policies.  Collectively, McKinsey estimates we could raise GDP by $265 billion by 2020.

What might we conclude would be reasonable forecasts for the future given all we’ve said today?  We’ll take a look at just that in the concluding half of our post, in an assessment offered by the folks at “Trends E-Magazine.”  Stay tuned…

It’s Thanksgiving!

FRANKLIN, LINUS, SALLY, CHARLIE BROWN, PEPPERMINT PATTY, SNOOPY AND MARCIE

 

From our families to yours… Happy Thanksgiving!  

 

There is always much for which to be thankful.  We hope your weekend is full of family, friends and loved ones enjoying food, friendship and a few good laughs.

 

We are all, in our own small ways, blessed.  May we never forget this.

 

Best wishes to all our readers, clients, associates and friends… from everyone at PSSI!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers