Comparing Supply Chain Management Capabilities in the New Microsoft Dynamics AX versus AX 2012 R3

January 6 2016

Supply Chain Management Using Microsoft Dynamics AX - 2016

Editor's Note: The following article is drawn from Dr. Hamilton's new book about Supply Chain Management using Microsoft Dynamics AX.  The book focuses on supply chain management in manufacturing and distribution businesses, and covers the software capabilities within the new Dynamics AX as well as AX 2012 R3.   

The new Microsoft Dynamics AX now in public preview contains the proven business logic of the previous AX 2012 R3 version, where both options share the same embedded conceptual models and business processes.  However, a comparison indicates some substantive differences. 

This comparative analysis of AX 2012 R3 and the new Dynamics AX focuses on changes in SCM-related functionality for manufacturing/distribution businesses.  It does not cover the many changes related to retail-oriented operations, or the changes related to business intelligence.  The major differences include the analysis of delivery alternatives for a sales order line, the approach to calculating demand forecasts, and the introduction of SCM-related workspaces.  Other differences include changes in the user experience and in AX terminology, as well as deprecated functionality. 

A previous article summarized the major SCM-related differences between the older AX 2012 version and the newer versions of AX 2012 R3 and the new Dynamics AX.

1.  Analyze Delivery Alternatives for a Sales Order Line 

The delivery alternatives for meeting a customer's requested delivery date and quantity can reflect product availability at different ship-from warehouses and different modes of delivery.  It may also reflect different product variants (such as size or color) in some scenarios.  You can evaluate these options for a sales line using information on the Delivery Alternatives page, and select the desired option for updating the promised dates, ship-from warehouse and mode of delivery on the sales line.  You can also choose to ship a smaller quantity than ordered (based on availability) and ship the remainder at a later date, which results in a delivery schedule for the sales line. 

2.  Calculate Demand Forecasts based on Historical Usage 

A different approach for calculating demand forecasts was introduced in the new Dynamics AX using the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning cloud service.  The service performs best match model selection and offers key performance indicators for calculating forecast accuracy. 

It replaces the previous approach (introduced in AX 2012 R3) where the forecast models in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Service are used to create predictions. You could review and adjust these calculated forecasts within an Excel spreadsheet, and upload them automatically into the demand forecast tables within AX.

3.  SCM-Related Workspaces 

Workspaces represent one of the major changes introduced in the new Microsoft Dynamics AX in comparison to the previous version of AX 2012 R3.  While each workspace builds on existing functionality and data structures, this new interface provides a different approach to displaying information, managing business processes, and guiding user activity.  A previous article described the SCM-related workspaces, and it is summarized here. 

Almost half of the currently available workspaces apply to supply chain management topics, such as item definition, product costing, master scheduling, sales orders, purchase orders, production orders, warehouse management, and configuration technologies.  Figure 1 identifies several examples of these SCM-related workspaces.

Figure 1. Examples of SCM-Related Workspaces in Microsoft Dynamics AX

A more detailed explanation of the workspace for Production Floor Management was provided in a recent article by Evert Bos.  

4.  Changes in the User Experience related to SCM   

The standard menu structure and user-defined favorites provide commonly used approaches for navigation in both options for using AX.  However, there are significant changes in the menu structure and in the approach to maintain favorites when using the new Dynamics AX.  For example, the menu structure is flatter, a Cost Management menu has been introduced, and the topics within the Product Information Management menu now include a broader set of relevant information.  Based on my experience, those users familiar with the previous menu structure will initially struggle to determine "where is it?"  However, an additional approach to navigation - termed "search for a page" - enables you to specify the desired topic, review a list of applicable forms, and then navigate to a selected form.  

Workspaces represent one variation in the user experience (as mentioned above) and the links within a workspace support navigation to commonly used tasks.

5.  Changes in AX Terminology related to SCM    

A number of changes in SCM-related terminology were introduced in the new Dynamics AX.  As one example, the terms "futures message" and "futures date" have been changed to "calculated delays message" and "delayed date".   As another example, the "Ship Complete" policy for a sales order line item has been changed to the "Prevent Partial Delivery" policy.  These changes more accurately indicate the significance of the term, and did not change the software functionality.  A comprehensive list of changes in AX terminology has not yet been made available.

Other examples apply to the displayed information, such as replacing a checkbox with a "yes/no switch" and replacing an infolog about warnings and errors with a message bar (for warnings) and a message box (for errors). 

6.  Other Minor Changes

Minor changes were introduced for displaying information on the Action Graph and Gantt chart; for displaying material availability information to support decisions about releasing production orders; and for reporting progress on production jobs using the touch-enabled Job Card Device page.  The new Fleet Management capabilities support rental purposes.

7.  Deprecated Functionality related to SCM  

A partial list of the deprecated features includes the "old WMS II" capabilities for warehouse management (replaced by the Advanced WMS capabilities), the "product builder" capabilities (replaced by the constraint-based configuration technology); and the shipping carrier interface (partially replaced by the advanced transportation management capabilities).

8. Concluding Remarks  

The two options for using AX - using AX 2012 R3 or the new Dynamics AX -- support the same fundamental capabilities for supply chain management, but there are some substantive differences for running a manufacturing/distribution business.  This article highlighted some of the differences.  

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About Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton has consulted globally with several hundred manufacturing/distribution companies on SCM and ERP issues. His publications include multiple books about SCM using Dynamics AX as well as two textbooks about SCM/ERP, and his books have been translated into Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. For more than 10 years, Scott has been a frequent speaker at Microsoft and AXUG conferences around the world, and a multi-year winner of the rarely given Microsoft MVP award for Dynamics AX. His regular column “The AX Solution Architect” is published in MSDynamicsWorld.com.

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