Many retail enterprises have selected Dynamics AX as their main system to handle their processes for financials, procurement, logistics, merchandising and POS/retail. They have a presents globally and is true international enterprises. We also often see that they are organized through partnerships and francizing, and to be cost efficient a lot of processes like brand, assortment and logistics have been centralized.
Dynamics AX for Retail natively supports most scenarios by providing efficient processes for the retail industry. The flow of products by using intercompany trading simplifies transactions handling.
One question that arises is how clear boundaries between the legal entities should be ? What I would like to discuss in this blogpost is how to structure legal entities in Dynamics AX, and still be efficient. Let’s say we have the following 3 level structure of the enterprise.
Here we have a central enterprise legal entity, that have the responsibility of overall finance, reporting, products, recommended retail pricing, assortments and procurement.
The next tier is the regional logistics units. They can be own operated warehouses, or outsourced to third party logistics providers. The purpose is not only to serve stores and partners, but to perform logistics processes like receiving, quality control etc.
The tier at the bottom is where all the partners and stores are located. This can be based on a franchise model, partner or own stores. At least one legal entity per partner or country.
How to handle transactions between these entities?
Keeping a good track on processes and the transactions is vital. We need to know where costs occur, and how the transactions are handled. Here I would like to discuss a bit how the transactions can be handled. Let’s start with the partners and stores.
Products are purchased through a intercompany purchase order. If products needs to be internally moved, then transfer orders are used. When the stores sell products, then POS and sales orders are used. The transaction handling clean and easy with simple transactions. Some times there may be issues with costs that will arrive later, like transportation costs. This can be handled with misc. charges as described here.
In the figure above we see how inventory costs are originating from the vendor and the costs are propagated through the intercompany chain. Also how we can add additional charges like insurance, freight, and make sure that these costs flow through the intercompany chain.
The next tier, the regional logistics warehouses/distribution centers is also very simple. All goods are purchased from a vendor. This means that the vendor will have a matching sales invoice per regional logistics center.
All sales out of a regional logistics center is a intercompany sales order. If the center is a third party logistics provider, this means that the legal entity is mostly being handled by automated transactions and by integrations. What is important, is that it is an actual legal entity and is being handled as one. By doing this, it means that there are less need for customizations in handling financials and taxes.
Then we come to processes being handled in the headquarters; Enterprise processes and functions. This is the main topic of what I wanted to write about. The idea is to be able to control both the procurement/purchase and the distribution from a central perspective. It is fully possible to do this with standard AX, but it can be a bit resource intensive. I wanted to see if it was an easier way to deal with this, without making too many customizations. The concept is the “distribution order“.
Company wide distribution orders does not exists as a concept in standard AX. A distribution order is close to the “Buyer’s push” functionality that exists in Dynamics AX, but to be able to be handled in a global intercompany scenario. It means that you from a central perspective see and plan all the purchase orders and intercompany sales orders, regardless of whish legal entity that is performing the actual transactions.
The distribution order is not linked to a legal entity, but is created and controlled by HQ. The resources doing planning and procurement, and create a distribution, and add the lines/items they want to distribute. They can also add additional purchase order lines to the distribution. In the distribution lines the distribution quantity can be fetched directly from the purchase lines, or can be manually overridden.
It is also possible to “reverse” the creation process, where the planner starts with a set of manually created distribution lines, and then create the purchase orders created in each regional warehouse/legal entity.
It is also possible to create a distribution order of the type “On-hand” and “end-of-season”, that will base the quantity of the distribution lines on the available physical.
The planner can then run the process “create suggestion”, based on a distribution key. This will create a Distribution result. It will have one line per store. The planner can then choose to make manual changes. When the result is OK, then the planner can activate the distribution order. This will make the necessary intercompany sales orders from the regional logistics companies to the partner/stores.
Since the distribution order will have visibility across legal entities, the purchase lines and the intercompany sales orders can be additional linked through inventory marking. This can then enable the possibility for cross docking scenarios, and also to add the ability for direct delivery scenario’s.
We will then have the possibility to give the buyers and planes an overall view of all inbound and outbound logistics through all regional distribution centers. Also the ability to show current status and progress.
I have done this before in AX 2009 as you can read about here. And I would love to add this feature to the free Codeplex AX 2012 Global retail package. If this is interesting for you to have, please reach out to me, and we can have a discussion on an jointed cooperation.