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Jason Gumpert is a blogger and the editor of MSDynamicsWorld.com.  A couple weeks ago he released an overview of the top news for our Microsoft Dynamics (i.e., Business Central, and one-time Dynamics NAV) users and followers.  We’ll quote a few of his key takeaways today.  Like…

  • MS Dynamics Finance & Operations product customer based tripled over the last year, and Microsoft is “preparing to make D365FO a single-version cloud solution to which all SaaS customers must align for monthly and semi-annual updates. Getting to that state by April 2019 will be painless for some customers but harrowing for others…”
  • Did you know Dynamics GP customers are now Dynamics 365 Business Central customers? With Business Central now Microsoft’s official SMB cloud business application, customers of GP, NAV, and SL are all combined with nominal Business Central users to make up a Business Central “user base” of 220,000. That number, as of October 2018, is roughly made up of 160,000 NAV/BC customers and 60,000 GP and SL customers.
  • Is it a little confusing to refer to all these customers as Business Central? Yes. Will it further irritate the GP and SL communities? Undoubtedly. But Microsoft spent 2018 positioning the Dynamics SMB product lineup to break from the past. Dynamics GP doesn’t go away, but it will continue to see less investment, slower product progress, and offer fewer incentives to partners.
  • The Business Central roadmap through 2021 calls for a focus on “proficiency improvements” in 2019, including user experience and productivity. 2020 will see Microsoft adopt the web client only for Business Central both on-premise and in the cloud. And the themes of Common Data Service (CDS), data and intelligence will persist over time.
  • Microsoft now seems committed to letting product management push cross-product scenarios forward, backed up with R&D investment. The result has been a steady stream of improvements in areas including Flow, PowerApps, Teams, and Power BI integration points.
  • Microsoft will be adding new capabilities to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (D365FO) in several areas in 2019 thanks to new IP deals with partners. The enhancements range from finance and public sector to revenue recognition rules compliance to advanced warehouse and transportation capabilities.
  • Microsoft is de-prioritizing on-premises technology.
  • MVPs (defined as Microsoft-focused technology experts who have shown a deep commitment to innovation) today don’t see nearly as far into the product roadmaps under NDA as they did five years ago. In an agile R&D environment, releases just aren’t planned that way.
  • For Dynamics developers, the acquisition of GitHub (announced last June for $7.5 billion in stock) points toward more open-source development in Microsoft’s future. GitHub already hosted projects including the XRM Toolbox for CRM or the AL language for NAV.

One thing we can count on… change and progress at an ever-increasing rate is in our future.

Oh, and that cloud thing: yeah, it’s here to stay.

Of particular interest to our ALERE (aka TIW Technologies) software is the announcement of their latest release: version 14.  The list of new features is too lengthy to detail here (but you can view it here any time: https://www.tiwcorp.com/downloads/history/new_features_v14.pdf)… So we thought we’d recap just a few today.  If you’re an ALERE user, get in touch with us about installing the new version.

Not an ALERE user?  Well then, you’re missing out on one of the premier PC-based manufacturing solutions out there today.  We’ve been proud to represent this product since its early days, going back about 25 years or so.  If you’re looking for manufacturing solutions, ask us about ALERE.

New features added to the latest release include…

  • A new Service module was added to the ALERE product to support the generation and execution of service jobs. The Service module contains the screens necessary to define the service elements (Service Catalog, Service Site Information, Resource Class, Service Ticket and Recurring Service Generation). Additionally, various service reports were integrated into the module.
  • Dispatch Module – A new Dispatch module was added to the ALERE product to support the scheduling (and reporting) of service jobs. The Service Scheduling segment includes the screens used to define the scheduling of service jobs (Resource Calendar, Dispatch Board and Service View).
  • Adjustable Supplier Item Number Fields – Throughout the entire product, the length of the supplier item number can be adjusted by changing the value in the foreign fields table, allowing for whatever lengths are necessary for an individual company’s needs.
  • Adjustment Notes – The Physical Inventory Count screen has a new field to enter notes for the inventory adjustments being made when the counts are posted.
  • UPS Integration – The product now interfaces with UPS to provide tracking, costing and label creation capabilities.
  • Error Screen for Physical Inventory – The Physical Inventory Count screen will now display an errors screen after posting which contains a list of any items that did not post along with the error message. The list can be printed or exported to Excel.
  • Expanded Serial Numbers – Throughout the entire product, the length of the serial numbers has been increased from 20 to 25 characters.
  • Standalone Appointments/Tasks – The InTouch calendar appointments and tasks can now be utilized without a link to Outlook. The information is stored within the ALERE contact management tables.
  • Copy Document Types – The Copy button on the Purchase Order screen has been changed to allow copying one document type to another document type.
  • Transfer/Purchase Order Support – The Add button on the Transfer Order screen has been changed to allow the creation of a transfer order from a purchase order. This will create a transfer order in add

These are just a few of the more than 60 new features and enhancements added with this new release, published just last week.

But you get the drift.  You can check out the entire list with screen shots via the link at the top of this post… or just contact PSSI for details.

One of our key software partners in a recent post reminds us of the long-standing value of a “product configurator.”  Because we work so much with manufacturers and distributors (almost exclusively actually) we see the value in these products every day, and find our own manufacturing software solutions well-equipped, either intrinsically or via third-party add-ons, for them.

As our partners at Insight Works https://www.dmsiworks.com/products/configurator/ (formerly DMS – Dynamics Manufacturing Systems) explains theirs…

A Product Configurator significantly simplifies the creation of production Bills of Material (BOMs) and Routings, or assembly BOMs, to make quote and order generation more efficient.

In the Insights product, new features include:

  • Easily Configurable Rules: Set combination rules for specific products. For example, when building a bicycle, if a specific style of handlebars is selected then a specific lamp will be included while the bell will be excluded.
  • Apply Multipliers: When it comes to bulk material usage, multipliers can be used to ensure automatically generated BOMs include waste and trim material. For example, a window frame may require an additional 10% of frame material for production purposes which will be cut and trimmed for the final product.
  • Build Sophisticated Rules: For anyone who may require more sophisticated rules not supported by the user interface, Product Configurator includes an API… so that rules can be done without a developer license, allowing end-users to create “scripts” for rules.

 

It all adds up to the ability configure a bill of materials so that end products can be built according to the rules that you specify.

These are ideal for companies that make to order or who build assemblies.  They typically support thousands of functions.  Whereas early configurators of the 1980s and ‘90s in large scale systems once ran in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, today’s solutions are a tiny fraction of the cost, with far-ranging capabilities available on PC-based systems.

Using pre-configured items saves lots of time… eliminates countless data entry and keyboarding mistakes… greatly simplifies order-taking for the sales team… and ensures product accuracy by ensuring that build-rules are always followed.

If you build to assemblies or make to order, you owe it to yourself to look into the world of product configurators.  They frequently pay for themselves quickly, and many times over, while increasing your competitive edge in terms of improved order accuracy, reduced order and build times, and greatly simplified order taking.

We’ve written here before about the powerful capabilities of the emerging science of quantum computing – the idea that computers using the properties of sub-atomic particles can perform calculations many orders of magnitude faster than the speed of today’s computers.  This opens entire new worlds of computing power, and of course, potentially failsafe encryption.

Today, we’ll look very briefly at the latest developments and opinions.

According to The New York Times, China is moving forward at a rapid pace, working on building the first actual quantum computer while focusing on “encryption that relies on the same concepts from the world of physics.”  That raw power could break current digital encryption, putting at risk everything from billions of dollars in e-commerce to national secrets in government databases.  Thus, the race is on for quantum encryption to protect data too.  Quantum encryption would make it evident if a message had been intercepted.

As John Prisco notes in the TheHill.com, this has to be a national priority and could turn out to be “as important as previous national contests such as the arms or space race.”  China has invested “tens of millions of dollars building networks that can transmit data using quantum encryption.”

Others think the fears are overblown, since there are currently no functioning quantum computers.  Indeed, there are “gargantuan technical challenges” to be overcome and researchers have been saying we are 20 years away for 20 years now, according to Mikhail Dyakonov in IEEE Spectrum.

But most experts are not so pessimistic about quantum.  Martin Giles in the MIT Technology Review says our nation needs to be prepared, and a recent report from the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine says “we need to speed up preparations for the time when super-powerful quantum computers can crack conventional cryptographic defenses.”

In the end, the biggest challenge may we be developing quantum-proof standards and then getting industries to upgrade their hardware and software to meet them, according to a recent tech article in The Week.  “If hackers get their hands on quantum-computing technology before there’s widespread quantum encryption, the result could be a security and privacy nightmare.”

Just what the world needs to worry about now.

 

Rather than our usual business/tech post today we’d like to announce that Productivity Strategies & Solutions, Inc. (PSSI) has at long last launched our new website, which you’ll find at:

www.pssiusa.com

Besides a more up-to-date look and feel, we think it speaks more directly to our core strengths in using ERP software as a tool for business improvement – not an end in itself.

We are excited to offer a couple of very strong ERP solutions to our clients.

We are proud to back up our offerings with over 31 years of strategic business counseling experience.

And we are delighted that those solutions can be delivered by a team that has stayed together for so very long and enjoyed so many years of business improvement insights and consulting.

Thank you… And as always, let us know how we can help!

If our “old-fashioned” Christmas scene below puts you in mind of warm memories, happy times and a cozy day of rest, then we’ve done our job here today…

 

We appreciate all our families, friends, customers and partners on this day and throughout the year.

We thank you, and wish you the very merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Holidays, and the warmest regards for you and your family!

The Inventor of Search

first search photoDone searching for Christmas gifts by now?  Then here’s a little anecdote about the real first search engine –long before Larry and Sergey became billionaires building Google.

In the fall of 1963, two men send the first known long-distance computer query (this, according to a sidebar article by April White in the September 2018 issue of Smithsonian).  Six years even before Arpanet (the precursor to today’s Internet) and more than thirty years ahead of Google, Charles Bourne, a research engineer who built the first online search engine, and Lenoard Chaitin, a computer programmer, sent the first query (the actually question they asked is, amazingly, lost to history!).

Here’s what we do know.

Bourne and Chaitin achieved their breakthrough at the Stanford Research Park in Menlo Park, California, with funding courtesy of the United States Air Force.  At that time, most information retrieval was physical, where for example data would be stored on punch cards and then sorted by a computing machine.  But the Cold War era demanded a more efficient process, and the Air Force wanted to be able to sort through its treasure trove of literature about Soviet technology quickly and efficiently.

In solving the Air Force’s dilemma, the researchers were ahead of their time, designing a program to work more or less the way Google does today.  A user could search for any word in the existing files – a database of seven memos that Bourne actually had typed into paper tapes and then converted to magnetic tapes.  350 miles away, Chaitin sat at a bulky computer terminal with a 32 character-wide screen and sent a search query.  The request went over the phone lines (that apparently were about 1/10,000th the speed of our smartphones today).  A few moments later, the correct reply was returned from the search of the distant database.

The two had proven for the first time that online search was possible.

Ironically, the Air Force shut down the project a short while later.  The world, apparently, wasn’t ready.  They estimated that an entire file search could be completed in about 30 seconds, but that “it was not envisioned that the user would always have a continual need for on-line computer facilities.”

Today Bourne, now 87, says that “You really couldn’t imagine, at that time, doing a lot of things with a computer.”