Using Cloud POS as your retail mobile device

Handheld functionality for retailers is a question I get a lot. Then typical in the area of counting, replenishment, receive and daily POS operations. In version 8.1 Microsoft have taken a small step forward to make it easier to use any handheld device that supports a common browser. Because Cloud POS (CPOS) runs in a browser, the application isn’t installed on the device. Instead, the browser accesses the application code from the CPOS server. CPOS can’t directly access POS hardware or work in an offline state.

What Microsoft have done is to make the CPOS change according to the screen size, to work more effectively on your device. To make it simple, I just want to show you how it looks on my iPhone.

Step 1: Direct your browser towards the URL of where the CPOS is located. In LCS you will find the URL here:

Step 2: Activate your POS on mobile device by selecting store and register, and log in

Step 3: Log into CPOS and start using it. Here are some sample screens from my iPhone, where I count an item using CPOS.

You can also “simulate” this in your PC browser, but just reducing the size of your browser window before you log into CPOS. Here I’m showing the inventory lookup in CPOS.

What I would love to see more of is:

– Barcode scanning support using camera

– The ability to create replenishment/purchase orders in CPOS

– More receive capabilities like ASN/Pallet receive etc.

– Improved browser functionality (like back-forward browsing etc)

To me it seems clear that we will see additional improvements in CPOS, making it the preferred mobile platform for Dynamics 365 for Retail. As we get a little, I hope to see more of this as Microsoft is definitely investing in this area. In our own customer projects we will be developing more and more functionality using RTS (Real Time Service calls) to add more features to be used together with CPOS.

To take this to the next level, please also check evaluate to create a hybrid app, that incorporate CPOS in a app friendly way. Sources say that this will also allow us to build extensions like camera barcode scanning

The direction is right and my prediction for the future is that: Mobile Retail device = CPOS.

DAX 2009 – Shipping overview, a mirror of arrival overview

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Dear AX 2009 customers. You are not forgotten, and Microsoft have support options available until year 2021 J. I wanted to write a blogpost to show that there still happens a lot of local innovation at the customers that are relying on this version of DAX.

Often, when we talk about purchase orders and sales orders, we often refer to them as mirrors. On the transaction level Purchase and sales can be seen as mirror processes, with just the opposite sign. But in standard AX the processes to handle the supply chain can be quite different. The question was therefore if it was possible to also mirror the supply chain processes. Taking the ideas from arrival overview and mirroring it to a shipment overview.

For receiving many reply on the Arrival overview to group together expected receipts and to create arrival journals. The Arrival overview is actually a quite good tool when you learn to use it. For the more the more advanced outbound logistics shipments are used to handle the picking, staging and loading of the goods. A customer came up the suggestion to create a “shipment overview”, but based on the arrival overview. This way the warehouse operator can search across shipments, but also have some volumetric indication of the load that is being released to the warehouse floor.

The arrival overview differs from other screens, because it actually consists of temporary tables that is build based on a query. The same thing happens here. The shipments are loaded on the upper grid, while the picking lines is loaded on the lower grid. There are advanced queries to control the loading of the data. Since it is a temporary table, the fields like address, weights, pallet quantity is real fields on the temporary table. This means that after the result have been fetched, the user can perform additional search and filtering. Like sorting and filtering the shipments in a based on addresses, pallet quantity, weight etc. Also the ability to multi select shipments or lines to be able to move lines between shipments. The screen will mainly be used for inquiry and for activating shipments.

And in relation to performance.. It is acceptable J

Distribution orders in a cross company scenario.

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.

Dynamics AX 2012: At your service!

Dynamics AX Service management can be used for service agreements and service subscriptions, handle service orders and customer inquiries, and to manage and analyze the delivery of services to customers. You can use service agreements to define the resources that are used in a typical service visit. You can also use service agreements to view how those resources are invoiced to the customer. A service agreement can also include a service level agreement that specifies standard response times, and offers tools to record the actual time.

What I wanted was to see how much we could simplify the registration of needed repair materials and service hours.

The Dynamics AX service orders is tightly integrated to the project module, and sometimes our customers react that they feel the registration of materials in a warehouse scenario is a bit confusing. The reason for this, is that there are two ways of registering used items on a service order.

  1. You can key in the material in the service order (As you can see in the picture above), and then post it. Then the items will be SOLD from the specified location using a project item journal. There are now way to implement proper warehouse processes in this scenario.
  2. You can create item requirements, that essential is a sales order line, and so support warehouse processes. The drawback, it that the lines posted in the item requirement isn’t visible on the service order screen.

So I decided to create a very easy to use Data Collection Studio application, that allows a more simpler en easy to use approach, and that it closed to the expected process flow.

In this service order I need some items that is not on the list, so I scan item 100, and I need 2 pcs

On the service order, the new line is added, but is marked as “posted” :

But this is “just-for-show” to create a better visibility for the service operator.

The real transaction is located on the item requirements:

The next stage is packingslip update or invoicing.

By this added functionality it means that we have a very simplified way for allowing service personnel into the warehouse, and still maintaining 100% inventory accuracy.

I end this blogpost with a picture from WMD warehouse:

Turn your Dynamics AX WMS from ‘Where’s My Stuff’ to an actual ‘Warehouse Management System’

Problem 1

“Your receiving area is so packed that you haven’t seen the floor since 1994.”

Ask for Advanced shipping notice (ASN)

With the technology available in Dynamics AX companies have EDI capabilities using the AIF. Sharing container level detail via ASN’s has become common practice. ASN’s can reduce the effort to receive by as much as 70%. It can eliminate the need for detail receiving from trusted vendors. It will simplify labeling, counting and sorting.

Since it is known upfront what is expected, it can also reduce the need for receipt breakdown, with the use of pre-sorted containers and pre-calculated system directed put away path.

Perform receiving sortation

Receiving sortation can improve productivity when receiving breakdown and detail receiving are required. Receipts of partial pallet quantities contain a mix of products that will be stored in different areas can be improved. Products are received in small quantities that don’t justify a trip into the warehouse on their own can be collected and wait until the require quantity if reached.

Receiving sortation involves separating products based on put away area. Master licenses can be constructed for given areas. Put away can be postponed until there are enough items destined for the same area to warrant the travel. System directs operators in the most efficient travel path.

Problem 2

“It takes so long to get product put-away you composed a new song called The Fill Rate Blues

Staying on top of put away tasks

When push comes to pull, put-away is one of the work tasks that takes a back seat to picking, replenishments and loading.

Pulling resources from put-away can have several negative effects like lower fill rates, congestion in the aisles and obstructions to picking that leads to lower productivity.

Managing the put away process

The process becomes manageable by defining the put-away as a process, where you plan, execute and monitor the put-away process.

Plan:

  • Review expected receipts
  • Review current backlog
  • Calculate resource requirements based on standard rates per zone

Execute

  • Assign resources based on plan
  • Consider factors such as:
    • Zone congestion
    • Hot receipt priorities

Monitor

  • How many tasks are outstanding
  • What part of the facility are they destined for
  • How many people are currently doing put away tasks

Then repeat the process!

Problem 3

“Your wave templates have become so numerous and complicated your actively recruiting a rocket scientist from MIT to run the allocation process”

Document and analyze

Document how many waves you run each day for a one week period. Capture reasons why so many waves are needed, and document perceived benefits and negative results.

Analyze your current process and look for ways to:

  • Pre-define and save wave templates
  • Develop a daily schedule that governs
    • Which wave templates to run
    • When to run them
  • Automate the allocation process when it make sense
  • Apply some general rules of thumb

General rules of thumb

One word; KISS (keep it simple stupid). Reduce the number of wave templates used and work to a schedule like “I need to run wave templates at 9:00AM everyday”

Allocate as close to picking as possible. The Dynamics AX WMS has a better picture of inventory at picking time: Pending put away tasks, moves, etc.

Allocate a few large waves vs. many small ones, because when Dynamics AX WMS has a larger group of orders allows optimal work assignment size and allows for better order grouping to optimize pick path.

Problem 4…

“The warehouse is so full you set up an overflow storage area in the lunch room where employees sit at full pallets rather than tables”

Re-warehousing and consolidation

Re-Warehousing is the process of moving goods from one warehouse to another or to a different location within a warehouse. Re-warehousing can be performed in several ways, like based on storage strategies and on picking strategies. Also use Dynamics AX WMS transactions to identify and execute on consolidation opportunities. Then create a set of re-warehousing/transfer moves and schedule them accordingly.

Problem 5…

“Product demand and velocity change so often that you begin using an ouija board to slot product”

Warehouse optimization

Objective is to improve picking productivity by reducing travel time and improving ergonomics for high demand product. WMS supports opportunity based optimization (slotting) through strategy changes and re-slot products through normal picking and storage processes.

As velocity changes so does optimal pick and storage locations. By changing master strategy products can be cleaned out of non-optimal locations as a normal part of picking. Also products can be stored to new optimal location as a normal part of put away.

Storage/put-away examples

High velocity product. Always try to store to prime locations first.

Sequence

Zone/sub zone

Pallet

Carton

Each

1

10 (reserve)

Y

N

N

2

20 (forward)

N

Y

Y

3

30 (forward)

N

Y

Y

4

40 (forward)

N

Y

Y

Low velocity product. Always try to store to non-prime locations first.

Sequence

Zone/sub zone

Pallet

Carton

Each

1

10 (reserve)

Y

N

N

2

40 (forward)

N

Y

Y

3

30 (forward)

N

Y

Y

4

20 (forward)

N

Y

Y

Picking examples

High velocity product. Always try to pick from none-prime locations first and clean stock out of none-prime locations first until there is only stock left in new prime locations.

Sequence

Zone/sub zone

Pallet

Carton

Each

1

10 (reserve)

Y

N

N

2

40 (forward)

N

Y

Y

3

30 (forward)

N

Y

Y

4

20 (forward)

N

Y

Y

Low velocity product. Always try to pick from prime locations first and clean stock out of prime locations first until there is only stock left in new non-prime locations

Sequence

Zone/sub zone

Pallet

Carton

Each

1

10 (reserve)

Y

N

N

2

20 (forward)

N

Y

Y

3

30 (forward)

N

Y

Y

4

40 (forward)

N

Y

Y

Product profiling steps

The saying “A place for everything, and everything in its place” almost sums up the idea behind warehouse slotting and profiling. A more accurate version might be, “An ideal place for everything, and everything in the most efficient place.” Analyze for optimal product placement based on

  • Velocity
  • Demand
  • Bin trips
  • Compare to actual product location.
  • Identify and prioritize opportunities to relocate product.
  • Schedule and execute moves.

Slotting

Balancing picking efficiency and replenishment frequency is an important factor in achieving least-cost labor associated with both activities, while also maintaining adequate inventory in pick slots to attain high customer service levels. Steps to achieve this is to:

Analyze

  • Racking requirements (linear length of racking)
  • Recommended fixture type to SKU (bins vs. pallet flow lanes)
  • Overall productivity rates, replenishment requirements, etc.

Slot

  • Ideal SKU to Location assignment throughout warehouse
  • Precise Location sizing (opening size, capacity) to meet on hand inventory requirements
  • Exact SKU slotting characteristics (# faces, orientation) to maximize utilization of racking space

Maintain

  • Analysis of SKU moves required to improve overall profile
  • Generation of moves to maximize utilization of labor in completing moves

Problem 6…

“Your picking productivity is so low you’re considering benchmarking it as a reverse logistics operation”

Picking productivity

Picking is the most labor intensive time critical operation in the warehouse. Optimizing other operations at the expense of picking costs more in the long run. Manage the flow of picking work to avoid congestion, bottle necks and shipping delays

Improving picking productivity

Ergonomics – take the time to make product pick ready. Develop special storage fixtures when warranted. Orient product to make it easy to pick. Remove excess packaging. Locate heavy or odd shaped product in easy to access locations.

Properly slot product based on Ergonomics and demand/velocity, and develop an ongoing slotting program to analyze and relocate products. Even minimal effort can reap significant benefits.

Validate that you are using the appropriate type of picking. The theme is eliminate non-value added steps. Evaluate pick and pack vs. pick and consolidate. Eliminate packing processes where appropriate. Minimize travel time – keep the pickers in the aisles. Look for ways to pick multiple orders at a time by using batch and bulk picking. And measure, measure, measure!

  • Establish a benchmark
  • Implement adjustments and compare to benchmark
  • Incremental improvements add up over time

Communicate productivity expectations to employees

  • Engineered time standards
  • Standardized work assignments

Give employees feedback on performance and evaluate one on one vs. public. WMS provides all the necessary productivity data. Develop daily work plan and communicate it to the team. Communicate progress throughout the day and remember that co-workers are the best motivators.

Problem 7…

“You handle products so many times in the warehouse you may have to start selling them as used”

Eliminating waste

Map your processes. Flow charts or process flows are proven tools and analyze each step for the value it provides. Eliminate non-value added steps and look for ways to streamline and simplify. “We always did it this way”… doesn’t cut it anymore. Great new ideas get bogged down by exceptions. If you spend more than 10% of the time dealing with an exception then it probably is not an exception.

Focus on incremental approach because silver bullets are rare and small improvements add up over time

Problem 8…

“You are considering purchasing turbo charged fork lifts to help your material handlers get Replenishments done in a timely fashion”

Replenishment do’s and don’ts

Stock one day’s inventory in forward pick locations where possible. If space is short – focus on the highest velocity items. Manage the priorities of replenishment tasks through the WMS, can classify emergency vs. regular. Avoid fit problems and let the WMS release replenishments when they will fit.

Employ the correct replenishment model by zone

  • Real time – when flow is fairly even
  • Allocation based – when spikes in demand are common
  • Scheduled – when there is enough stock in forward to support daily picking demands

Avoid excessive replenishments and set thresholds properly. Don’t streamline replenishments at the expense of picking. The true measure of success is keeping enough stock to support picking with a minimum of effort.

Monitor replenishment activities through the WMS

  • Look for backlogs from zone to zone
  • Identify the number of employees currently assigned
  • Adjust as needed

Problem 9…

“The auditors are so carried away with inventory accuracy they want you to cycle count the contents of vending machines in the lunch room”

Warehouse Manager vs. Auditor

Warehouse Managers and Inventory Auditors have different objectives. Managers want accuracy with minimal effort and auditors want minimal risk of errors. Dynamics AX WMS is very good at maintaining inventory accuracy… Take advantage of that fact! Negotiate with your auditors to reduce the requirements and propose a pilot with verifiable results.

Minimize your effort

Reduce your dependence on cycle counting to correct errors. Look for ways to ensure accuracy on the front end.

  • Simplified processes
  • Procedures that promote accuracy
  • Thorough training
  • Validation, validation, validation
    • Bar Codes
    • Check Digits

Look for incentives to motivate employee accuracy.

Minimize the risk

Standardize your accuracy reporting and track accuracy on a weekly basis. Research and correct root causes like training, problem employees or complicated processes.

Leverage the data available in your Dynamics AX. Establish benchmarks both you and the auditor can live with. Build a solid track record to support future changes.

And the number 10…

Turn your Dynamics AX WMS from ‘Where’s My Stuff’ to an actual ‘Warehouse Management System’

Happy DAX’ing, and with R3 we will be closer.

AX2012 : Use queries as criteria

In Dynamics AX 2012 the relation between different records is often defined as a “table-group-all” relation. One example of this is the setup of supplementary items, where you can define the relation as a Table-Group-All relation.

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Even though this approach is easy to use and understand, it does have limitations.  Often you would like to pin-point the relationships even further.  It can be based on other fields in the source record.

I wanted to look against another approach, where I can use a query as a criteria.  Normally queries are used to fetch specific records based on a set of ranges and defined sorting criteria.

I have a label software, that integrates Dynamics AX 2012 with BarTender, and it is generic, meaning that it can produce labels based on all data sources in AX.

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So in this case, I can setup that when the user wants to print a label, I can search through a set of label templates, and check this record if it fits the query criteria.  I then have a endless possibility to specify all kinds of criteria to select the best matching label template.

The trick is to add the source recid as a range to the packed query criteria exactly when checking for it.  Also to add the “firstonly” hint, so that you don’t query for more than you want.

Here is some sample job, I used to test out this approach:

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Microsoft is also using the same approach when selecting is a WMSorder can be added to a existing shipment.  Take a look at  WMSShipment.canWMSOrderBeAdded() or at wmsShipmentTemplate.canWMSOrderBeAdded(), then you see the same pattern.

I hope you see the value in this, and that it can open a complete new way of adding rules and relational information to Dynamics AX 2012.  With this approach we can generically pinpoint our criteria for our rules.

Take care and happy DAXing 

Reservation sequence in AX 2012

I have received some questions on how does Dynamics AX 2012 decide what on-hand to select when reserving. Some thinks it is the inventory model (FIFO etc), but it is not. Some times it can seam like AX 2012 has it’s own will can selects randomly.

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If the same item is located in many different buffer locations, there is a rule. It all comes down so sorting of inventory dimensions, that is specified in the InventoryDimensions group on the table InventDim.

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So this means that the Inventsum is sorted on these inventory dimensions alphanumeric ascending. Meaning that items on location A001 will be reserved before A002 if available physical.

If you dig deep into the following method you find the code (InventSum::newQueryReservation()):

image

image

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There are ISV solutions that addresses this, and that solves this in a very elegant way.  But now you know where to look if you want to challenge reservation sequence in AX 2012 with a good old customization.

(There are FEFO reservation sequences in AX 2012 but this is not addressed here)

Happy Daxing