In his latest podcast episode, Martin was pleased to welcome Andrew Good, CEO of Liberty Grove Software in Toronto, Canada.
Andrew is an engineer, project manager, analyst, manufacturing expert, and Microsoft Certified Trainer. His extensive knowledge and background have been built from personal experiences with a lot of companies, working in a variety of operational and management roles. Projects have ranged from new implementations, special projects, and upgrades to streamlining business operations. 21 years of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Dynamics NAV experience mean that he can fall back on many different perspectives when working with customers.
Andrew has not given up on his commitment to continuous personal and professional learning. To support the end users and partners that he works with, he is an MCT, DCP (Dynamics Certified Professional), MCP, and Professional Engineer.
He has helped clients get the most out of their Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central/NAV systems through integrations, upgrades, and extensions that allow them to deal with their changing business environments, regardless of whether financial operations, rentals, distribution, and manufacturing.
As an attentive host, Martin is always curious about his guests' backgrounds, and so he started by wanting to know how Andrew came to work with Navision and Manufacturing and why he has been sticking with both for more than two decades.
Andrew related that having started at a time when ERP was not even called ERP and having experienced the development of Navision towards Business Central, the desire and the opportunity to work with people, to understand what they need, what their pain points are, how he can address them with the base solution has never stopped to be tremendously engaging and a lot of fun to him.
Being asked whether providing the master data that are so essential for a functioning planning process also means fun to him, Andrew admitted that, overall, from an organization's perspective, it is a painful process. Nevertheless, as he pointed out, the dividends that are paid to the organizations are huge both in the short and long term because, in the end, they are rewarded by getting a single system that provides them with trustworthy financial, inventory, and manufacturing information. And according to Andrew, the process of providing and maintaining master data is an ongoing one. The system needs to remain trustworthy and stable also after go-live, and for this, the data must be kept in good shape continuously. Depending on the organizations' size, there are a variety of techniques at hand for this.
Martin then brought up the claim "Transform your business with human-friendly solutions to power progress" that he read on Andrew's website when preparing for the podcast and that he would like to investigate further. Starting with the "transform your business" part, Andrew outlined that when you look at the transformation necessity for the manufacturing companies, it is not primarily related to their "direct processes", meaning everything connected to manufacturing, but mainly concerns all their indirect processes, like engineering, purchase, finance, etc. where the day-to-day work can be significantly streamlined and improved to make people more efficient. Andrew sees a second area of transformation opportunity in leveraging the already massive data that are available in the organizations by using tools like Power BI to provide insights into how the factory is run. Of course, this also will impact production itself because Power BI can also be used to monitor real-time production data, thus finding out if production is running to its quote, finding fundamental issues with a certain part, etc.
Discussing the "human-friendly solution" part of the claim, Andrew stressed that he is no fan of productivity initiatives being introduced by top-down directives. Not including the experience and opinions of all staff members will generate a lot of resentment and resistance to those initiatives. Andrew advocates for a more collaborative approach where also the view and the voices of the "direct" people in the project count. According to Andrew, it is always key to get people on the shop floor involved.
Regarding the third part of the claim, "to power progress", Martin wanted to know whether and how Andrew measures and documents the progress his customers make. Andrew related that he encourages his customers to gather and analyze data and examine how it changes over time. They should also keep track of the activities having been executed during the same period to see the impact of these changes. He is a firm believer in constant measuring, monitoring, and then acting based on the monitoring. The typical metrics that get tracked in manufacturing companies, of course, depend on the companies' focus. To mention just a few: production performance to manufacture the end items, tool performance, raw material consumption, yield, on-time deliveries, etc.
The last minutes of the podcast were dedicated to discussing the question of whether Business Central is the right tool to accomplish the above-mentioned transformation in a human-friendly way. According to Andrew, the web UI and the ease of deployment make getting it out in front of individuals straightforward so that employees have easy access to the data they need in the environment that they are used to working with. More specific requirements or additional metrics a company might have can be covered by tools like Power BI, Power Apps, and Power Automate and by supplementary tools. All this helps get information into users' hands and gives them the ability to take action and record that activity immediately to get a richer body of data. As Andrew puts it, the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.
With the prospect of meeting at the Community Summit in Charlotte, USA, in October and perhaps doing another podcast, the two ended their talk.
You can tune in below 👇 or anywhere you get your podcasts.
📢 What to listen for
[2:41] Why ERPs and manufacturing are so fascinating
[5:17] Providing master data is painful but essential
[7:14] The techniques of maintaining master data
[11:03] Why must manufacturing companies transform?
[18:06] What is a human-friendly solution?
[23:07] The key metrics to track progress in manufacturing
[28:36] Is Business Central suitable for accomplishing the transformation in a human-friendly way?