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Streamlining Manufacturing ERP With Microsoft

A new approach to enterprise resource planning (ERP) for manufacturing is transforming the harried expressions of operations managers into smiles.

A new approach to enterprise resource planning (ERP) for manufacturing is transforming the harried expressions of operations managers into smiles by enabling them to dramatically streamline their operations, run much leaner, automate more processes and avoid complex modifications to their core technology.

ERP, of course, resides at the heart of today's production operations; without it, manufacturers simply would never be able to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of their customers and the requirements of a global economy. Until recently, manufacturers often found that the capabilities of their generic ERP platforms did not match the shifting real-world requirements of their operations. As a result, they have been compelled either to work with multiple applications or to develop awkward workarounds to represent a process outside the software's capabilities.

Recently launched Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, however, is a solution specifically designed for the manufacturing industry. Microsoft's global partner ecosystem extends this solution further to meet even the most difficult requirements of verticals within the manufacturing industry. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 is the first ERP platform to match its software capabilities with the way that manufacturing companies and people actually work today and will work in the future. It has a powerful support for multiple manufacturing methodologies including discrete, process and lean. It also simplifies the full range of business operations, from generating instant real-time reports to capturing quality information, tracking inventory, managing accounts receivables and supporting customer service. It also automates manual processes, establishing workflows to guide processes and generating always accurate information that can be accessed across the enterprise by any authorized managers or employees.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 streamlines every step in processes like order entry and the gathering of business intelligence data. These processes have been overhauled to remove steps, eliminate any potential for errors and accelerate interactions between people and the technology.

Moreover, with this latest version of Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft SQL Server becomes the single repository of data, unifying all the information in the manufacturer's enterprise in a centralized system that allows trends to be spotted easily and ensures the accuracy of information accessed throughout the business. Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 also integrates bi-directionally with Microsoft Office 2010, so data can be brought into Word and Excel for analysis and document creation and can be sent from Office applications to the database. The platform integrates as well with Microsoft SharePoint 2010, furnishing a very powerful way to search for information and collaborate throughout the organization. Collaboration takes another tremendous stride with the ability to integrate Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 with Microsoft Lync, a collaboration application that allows employees to instantaneously convert messages to audio or video one-to-one sessions or conferences and to conduct online meetings.

The simplicity, innovation and value of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 allow lean-conscious manufacturers to slash their reserve stock quantities, increase their control of processes, eliminate costs associated with cancelled orders and increase collaboration with suppliers through the Web.

Hydra-Power Systems, based in Portland, Ore., was one of the earliest adopters of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, participating in a special program prior to the software's official release. That company's results are likely to serve as a model for what other manufacturers can expect from the latest ERP advancements. Hydra-Power manufactures custom hydraulic manifolds and power units and is also a national distributor of hydraulic and pneumatic systems. Their customers are original equipment manufacturers and resellers. Hydra-Power has used Microsoft Dynamics AX since 2007, but it has continued to look for ways to introduce new efficiencies and enhancements to help its business run smoothly and improve the responsiveness of customer service.

As the company has gradually phased in the functionalities of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, employees have discovered that their tasks have become much easier.

  • Company leaders can rapidly access reports based on ERP data to review business performance and make decisions on company activities.
  • Sales teams both inside and outside the office work through the software's Enterprise Portal, where they can set up new customer accounts, check the status of customer orders, monitor sales commissions, verify stock, and generate production and purchase orders.
  • Engineering managers can track production orders and run manufacturing projects through Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 accounting module.
  • The finance team uses the software to collect data, thereby streamlining the management of accounts receivable.
  • Managers find it easier to perform consistent quality management using the software's case management functionality.
  • Warehouse employees can scan lot numbers of materials ready to be shipped to customers. Then they use Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 to connect directly with UPS WorldShip and FedEx Ship Manager systems for efficient inventory, receiving and shipping management.
  • Employees at a branch office in Birmingham, Ala., are set up as a separate company on the same instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and can generate their own sales and purchase orders, as well as assist customers.

Hydra-Power reports that it plans to use the software's touch-screen capabilities to allow shop-floor workers to more accurately record production times, replacing manual time cards. This system will help the company establish proper cost for jobs and become even more competitive.


Manufacturing executives all around the world have been eager to adopt the types of capabilities offered by Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 so that their production operations can recognize their true potential and they can gain the greatest return on their investment in technology. Manufacturers can learn more about Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012's capabilities and try them out firsthand online through interactive demonstrations by visiting