The effects of the Corona pandemic on manufacturing companies led to a digital boost in industry 4.0. In a study conducted by Microsoft and intel in 2022, 72 % of the 500 respondents said their organization had fully or partially implemented a smart factory strategy.
Digital transformation is progressing in other areas beyond the factory floor, too. Along with other technologies, Microsoft Dynamics 365 plays a significant role in this development. Read on to find out how the solutions of Microsoft’s business suite support and enhance manufacturers and distributors in different areas.
Intelligent manufacturing process
The heart of any producing industry is, obviously, the production. A lot has changed over the past years here. More and more factories have become so-called smart factories with automated processes and digitally connected machines.
Smart factory is the term for factories in which production plants communicate with each other via the Internet of Things (IoT). All production processes are neatly aligned and run automatically, and employees only have to get involved in exceptional cases.
In a highly automated factory, it is still indispensable for the head of production to know what is happening where. Dynamics 365 provides you with an overview of all machine and process data in real time. These insights ensure that you can intervene in a timely manner, if necessary. For example, if there is a problem with a plant that needs to be fixed, you will be alerted in real time.
Experts can support your technical teams with more complex issues without having to be in the same place physically. Thanks to technologies such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, they can simply join remotely. In combination with HoloLens 2, Microsoft’s Augmented Reality glasses, technicians on site can solve the malfunction much more quickly, and more cost and energy efficiently than if an expert had to travel to the factory grounds.
Augmented Reality (AR), sometimes also called Mixed Reality, means that the real environment users see is extended, e.g., by data or the layout of a machine. This is achieved by using digital devices, often glasses.
Resilient supply chains
The most intelligent factory is of little use if you are lacking materials to work with. You will never get supply chains to work 100 % seamlessly all the time, but there are still several things you can control and plan with Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management. Artificial intelligence (AI) embedded in the solution helps you predict supply and demand of materials and make wise decisions based on this forecast. The fewer materials you have in your warehouses, the lower your storage costs. Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management shows you the situation in your storage at any given time. Based on the stock, it is possible to have materials reordered automatically as soon as they run out. At the same time, you remain flexible and can react to unforeseen situations quickly.
All business with your suppliers – be it purchase order management, offer management or invoicing – can be done centrally in the app as well.
Delays in production, unexpectedly high material costs or not having the right team members available at the right time – many things can go wrong in manufacturing companies. However, there is a lot you can avoid if you plan realistically.
To be able to make reliable plans, you need to precisely estimate parameters like duration, material consumption and employee demand. Dynamics 365 creates exact estimations based on data from earlier projects and productions. And there is more: embedded AI can count in risk factors to consider in your planning.
Motivated team members
It gets increasingly harder to find and keep skilled professionals. Salary is an important aspect, but not the only incentive for existing staff to stay and for new talents to start working for your company. Young people in particular place great value on a modern workplace these days. Part of this can be:
- Automation of recurring routine tasks
- Role-specific solutions (not Excel for everything)
- Collaboration tools, e.g., Microsoft Teams
- Applications that enhance productivity
- If possible, the option to work from anywhere
Dynamics 365 offers the right app for every role. The common database Microsoft Dataverse connects all applications, and all data is up to date for all users at any time.
Incisive business strategy
Dynamics 365 allows managers and CEOs to keep an eye on all machines, facilities, warehouses and processes worldwide. With all this at hand, you can make sound decisions fast, either for single locations or for the entire company.
A big advantage of Dynamics 365 technology is its scalability. You can book additional licenses for one or more apps at any time; canceling them is just as easy. That means the IT landscape adapts to the growth of the company.
The variety of applications of the Dynamics 365 business suite and other Microsoft technologies open up the possibility to roll out new strategies quickly. Or you can test ideas in a virtual environment before you implement them, keyword: digital twin.
A digital twin represents physical products, machines, or other items in a virtual environment. This allows you to simulate different usage scenarios to see their effects on processes without having to invest money or fear the consequences.
Nowadays, customers expect more from manufacturers than high-quality products. With a personalized customer experience, a manufacturing company can stand out among its competitors. That means being of service to your customers before, during, and after a purchase. A Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), like Dynamics 365 Sales, supports the sales team with that. A few tasks it helps with are:
- Recognizing the needs and desires of the customers
- Creating individual offers
- Building loyalty
- Leading successful conversations with leads
Especially when you are selling (bigger) machines, your (business) customer most likely wants you to maintain them too. That is where Dynamics 365 Field Service comes in handy. The solution supports the coordination of field service operations as well as the work of the field service agents, i.e., with a field service app for mobile devices.
A multitude of apps – one secure database
Every factory follows different processes and has individual requirements for technological solutions. Among the current eleven Dynamics 365 apps, you will certainly find the right solutions for your organization. You can combine each app with the others, and all are connected via Microsoft Dataverse.
While data should be easily accessible for the people who need them, it should also be secured. Regular updates and security patches guarantee that the software is always state-of-the-art, also in terms of cyber security.
If you want to dive deeper into the topic of “digital transformation in manufacturing”, we recommend our white paper.
Does Dynamics 365 provide real-time visibility into our operations and inventory?
Yes, Dynamics 365 gives you insights into all kinds of data, like information about machines, materials and processes, in real time. Dynamics 365 Field Service, for example, has an integrated inventory management that provides a real-time overview of tools and replacement parts in warehouses or vehicles.
What kind of training and support is available for Dynamics 365 users?
If you choose proMX as your implementation partner, we will provide workshops and trainings to make sure all users know how to work with new solutions. Our support team is available and happy to help you with any issues, also after the project is completed.
Can we integrate Dynamics 365 with other software applications we use in our manufacturing processes?
Yes, probably. One major benefit of Dynamics 365 is that it is highly compatible, not just with other Microsoft software but also with third-party solutions.