4 Steps to Product Configuration Management

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Steps to Product Configuration Management Using Dynamics AX


Product Configuration ManagementAre you a Manufacturer, Maintenance, Repair and Operations facility (MRO), or Job Shop that needs to customize products for different customers?  Are you finding that Microsoft Excel  (or even your own installation of Dynamics AX) and other legacy systems can't keep up with thousands of variables, options, growing demand for real-time production visualization, not to mention a quote process that connects smoothly and precisely to production? Gartner reports that over half of companies lack a single repository to review, analyze, approve and track changes across products. Dynamics AX can help by being one unified solution that can handle these must have's for any manufacturing company but particularly for companies making custom, made to order goods through a feature called Constraint Based Configuration.  Clients First has experts to implement this function in AX.

Product configuration is a constraint-based product configuration tool that uses the Microsoft Solver Foundation® (MSF) product technology that is designed for modeling and constraint solving.  Or to put it in layman's terms, modeling and constraint solving helps companies solve production planning problems dealing with (x) number of constraints.

The problem is how much of the different quantities of  to produce of your products to maximize profit. And the constraints are (1) having (x) number of machines (2) the budget, and (3) the profitability functions for each of the products produced.

By adopting product configuration management, manufactures have an opportunity to meet customer demand for unique products while reducing or eliminating obsolete inventory items. By doing so one immediate challenge that arises is that the need for short lead times must be balanced against low inventory levels.

The key to success here is to carefully analyze the product portfolio, and to look for patterns in both product features and processes. The goal is to identify generic components that can be manufactured by the same equipment and used in all variants and maximizing all constraints.  In order to help your company better, Dynamics AX includes a user interface (UI) that provides a visual overview of the product configuration model structure, and also a declarative constraint syntax that doesn’t have to be compiled. Therefore, companies that want to support a configuration practice can get started more easily.

As the following sections explain, a product designer no longer requires the support of a developer to build a product configuration model, test it, and release it to the sales organization.4 Steps to Set-up Product Configuration Management

4 Steps to Set-up Product Configuration Management Using Dynamics AX

1.Product configuration setup: This includes setting up the product configuration parameters.

2.Building a product configuration model: This is the largest and most complex area; however, many of these processes are setup ONCE and can be used across many product configuration models. It involves components, attribute types, product configuration model, attributes, constraints, sub-components, user requirements, BOM (bill of material) lines, route operations, and product configuration APIs.  Here are the most common definitions of items used in Product configuration:

a. Components: Components are the main building blocks of a product configuration model. Components are displayed in a tree structure in the Constraint-based product configuration model details form.
b. Attribute types: Attributes describe all the features of the product configuration model. You can use attributes to specify the features that can be selected when a distinct product is configured. Attributes are used in constraints and conditions. When attributes are created and added to a product configuration model, the related attribute types are referenced.
c. Product configuration model: Represents a generic product structure that can be differentiated to specific instances based on values selected by the user.
d. Attribute types: Attribute types are defined to specify the set of data types for all attributes that are used in a product configuration model.
e. Attribute group: An attribute group can be defined to increase the usability of the configuration user interface. A subset of attributes defined for a component can be grouped and a title is attached to the group.
f. Attribute value: A specific value for a product characteristic.
g. Constraints: Constraints describe the restrictions of the product model configuration. Constraints are used to guarantee that only valid values are selected when the product configuration model is set up.
h. Sub-components: Any finished product that finishes out the main component.
i. User Requirements: A user requirement has all the constituents of a sub-component. The only difference is that a user requirement is not bound to a product master. This has the practical effect that any BOM lines or route operation defined in the context of a user requirement will be collapsed into its parent component BOM structure or route. This behavior resembles that of a phantom BOM. User requirements are used to represent pre-selected options for a product configuration model.
j. BOM lines: BOM lines are included to identify the manufacturing BOM for each component. A BOM line must reference an item and all item properties can be set to a fixed value or mapped to an attribute.
k. Route Operations: Route operations are included to identify the manufacturing route. A route operation must reference a defined operation and all operation properties can be set to a fixed value. All properties except resource requirements can be mapped to an attribute rather than a value.
l. Product Configuration API'S: a dedicated application programming interface (API) has been implemented, so that partners and others who have a developer license can extend the capabilities of a product configuration model. The main goal has been to establish a mechanism that lets partners and customers who use the existing Dynamics AX Product Builder migrate the code that is embedded in Product Builder models to the API. In this way, they can migrate their models from Product Builder to a product configuration. However, new partners and customers can also benefit from using the API to extend new product configuration models.
m. Product master: A product master serves as a template for models for variants. The variants of a product master can be predefined or created in sales scenarios by using product configuration.

3.Preparing a product configuration model for release: It involves customizing the configuration user interface, validating a testing a model, building configuration templates, adding configuration translations, and creating, approving, and activating versions.

4.Product configuration access: You can configure lines by using the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Windows client or the Enterprise Portal.

To learn more about the benefits of Dynamics AX and constraint based product configuration, download Hope Enoch's presentation given during the ultimate User Group experience at Dynamic Communities Summit 2016.

Benefits to Product Configuration

  • Flexible tool that promotes re-usability for areas that require constant setup.
  • Provides access to frequently selected data by using configuration templates.
  • Provides a visual overview of the component structure.
  • Components and attributes can be easily arranged into logical groups by using attribute groups.
  • Respond to the specialized needs of the customer.
  • Reduce high costs tied to overproduction.
  • Become more lean by reducing expenses tied to stocking and moving inventory.
  • Lower records maintenance by reducing the number of products and BOMs’ managed.
  • Developer license is not required to create and maintain product configuration models in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 and above.
  • Even does translations to help with global operations.
  • Product configuration allows you to activate users in the Enterprise Portal with access restricted to only the tasks that they have to complete. This can also be used when employees in your organization are in many locations.

While there are several product configuration modeling principles, such as rule-based, dimension-based, and constraint-based modeling. Studies show that the constraint-based methodology can reduce the number of code lines in models by about 50 percent compared to other modeling principles.  To find out more about implementing Dynamics AX and Product Configuration Management using constraint-based methodology reach out to Clients First.

Clients First operates both nationally and internationally, our AX consultants headquartered in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and Minneapolis/St. Paul at 877.428.7205, Minnesota are committed to making your work life easier through implementing ERP and better business processes. We would be glad to help you make the manufacturing and distribution process less complicated.  Give us a call at 800.331.8382. Or email us by clicking on the links above.

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