What's new in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations in service industries?

May 21 2018

Field service engineering crewIn a recent blog post, I highlighted three areas where Microsoft has enhanced Dynamics 365 for the service, maintenance and asset management industries. These improvements, in the areas of field service, rental fleet management, and consignment stock, mean that key service capabilities become accessible to a broader range of companies looking to improve their digital operations.

In this article, we will see how new and existing features of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations can be deployed to these industries to take service to a new level.

Power BI

We manage assets and fleets in ERP systems for a reason: the sheer amount of data and transactions involved. Data hoarding is not the ultimate goal here. The goal is data summaries, KPIs, and intelligence into how well your asset, service or fleet management system is performing.

There are a few "out of the box" Power BI dashboards embedded in Dynamics 365 workspaces, but that's only a sample of what can be achieved with this powerful tool. It is common knowledge now that pre-configured reports will always be customised. This is Microsoft's philosophy in expanding the reporting tool with the capabilities of Power BI, which can also join static and dynamic data from other sources like your offline Excel, Access or legacy system databases. That is, of course, if you don't decide to migrate them into Dynamics 365 as extended data entities.

Machine learning

There are three levels of maintenance: corrective after the event, preventative based on some schedule, and then there is predictive maintenance based on clever algorithms and continuous condition monitoring. Microsoft has empowered its Dynamics 365 with Azure Machine Learning services as an extension to its Field Service module. Oil sample analysis results, various counters, temperature, pressure and load sensors can now be solved simultaneously to predict when the next maintenance should be performed. This way we can reduce maintenance downtime to when it is actually required and optimize maintenance stock holding cost. Safety is also improved since there are more dimensions measured and failures between preventative maintenance periods can be predicted.

A good example is the Rolls Royce and Microsoft collaboration on machine learning and Cortana Intelligence.

PowerApps

To schedule maintenance, you need both calendars to measure time elapsed and counters to measure work performed. Depending on the type of asset monitored, the counter can measure hours of work, distance covered, energy input/output or dimension measurements. Dynamics has long had calendar-based service, and now it is possible to introduce various counters using Power Apps. It is also possible to create data entities for counters then use Power App Studio to design app screens for capturing counter readings and various other condition-monitoring data.

Common Data Service and Flow

When buying a new diagnostic piece of equipment or fabricating a testing tool, it was always a manual process to keep the Fixed Asset register, the Resource list and the Serviceable Objects in sync. Dynamics 365 gives the ability to build an extended data entity that links the Asset with the corresponding resource and/or service object. Microsoft Flow can be utilised to synchronise these three entities according to business rules: like create a resource or an object when an Asset is acquired.

Existing features

There are other clever ways of utilizing these modules to fit the asset and maintenance industry. For example, the production module can be used in two different ways to serve the used parts refurbishment and replacement. Using discreet production setup, a worn component can be repaired and the costs can either be rolled up to the new component or expensed to a bottom line account. Process manufacturing has the capability of producing a main product, which can be sold to the client, and a by-product that can remain in stock. This feature can be adapted to handle part returns and replacements, as well as the refund calculation associated.

All of the exciting new features I've pointed out are but one aspect of how Dynamics 365 is capable of satisfying the requirements of the asset management, service, and maintenance industries. These features are underpinned by existing functionality in the base product that has been there for a while. Service Management, Fixed Assets and Supply Chain Management are integral parts of the Dynamics offering supported by master planning and demand forecasting. These modules are integrated with Project Management, Production and Procurement. This enables assets to be bought, made, assembled, or constructed, allowing for increased productivity and workflow for everyone.

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About Ismael Quteifan

Ismael Quteifan is an ERP manager at Avanade Australia. He has deep expertise in all things supply chain: inventory, procurement, planning and scheduling, manufacturing and sales operations planning, as well as enterprise asset management and service operations. He has a particular interest in business process improvement, change management and organisational culture.

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