Cloud-powered mobility comes to inventory management
Sikich delivers solutions and services to mid-market and larger clients in our target industries, including manufacturing, distribution, construction, life sciences, and retail. Many of these companies are at a turning point where they need to modernize their systems and ways of working in order to continue thriving and staying ahead of the competition. Sikich implements Microsoft cloud solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Microsoft Azure SQL, Azure Integration Services, Microsoft Power Apps, and Microsoft Power BI to help these companies prosper.
Reaching a critical juncture.
Often, legacy ERP and specialized systems can no longer enable the agility and visibility businesses need. The challenges of remote working and the need to enable anytime, anywhere access to data and productivity tools for their employees may finally prompt such companies to reach out for help.
Valuable mobile app runs into legacy challenges.
In this example, our client, a prominent material handling company, introduced us to one of their subsidiaries. This subsidiary provides many models of forklifts, material handling products, automated solutions, and logistics optimization services. A network of dealerships across the U.S. delivers the subsidiaries’ solutions to business customers.
The subsidiary company equipped its dealers with a consignment inventory system that helped them manage their parts inventories, track consumption, and make sure they have the right quantities on hand to perform equipment repairs. The dealers’ customers also used the application to manage their own parts inventories.
Unfortunately, this app had been developed many years ago on Windows CE, a legacy operating system that is no longer supported. It only ran on specially configured and occasionally balky handheld devices that dealers and customers needed to purchase from the subsidiary. The subsidiary saw that it was time to replace the application and was curious how Sikich might be able to enhance it.
Powering a profitable parts business.
Sikich created a new mobile Power App, a “2.0” version, to replace their existing application. The new app integrates with Dynamics 365 BC to access inventory, product, order, customer account, and other data.
The dealers and customers now have access to modern, intuitive technology to order equipment parts and always ensure proper parts inventory levels. For dealers, this is a selling point as they serve customers. For businesses that may be used to paper-based or manual processes, real-time inventory visibility and timely, automatically triggered replenishment, in an easy-to-use app, provides peace of mind and allows them to avoid both shortages and tying up funds in excess inventory as a precaution.
Because the new app runs on practically any device, the subsidiary no longer needs to provide specialty hardware. Dealership employees and customers simply download Power Apps in order to access it. The app connects to Dynamics 365 BC through Azure SQL and Azure functions in the cloud, and syncs with the ERP system whenever a user takes an inventory management action.
Enhancing the app with new capabilities.
- Sikich did not just replace the new app, we added new functionality. The app now can run offline in warehouses where connectivity is weak or unavailable, and syncs with the ERP system when it can connect again.
- In the app’s user setup, managers can determine exactly which tasks a worker may perform with the app. They can also assign workers to specific customer accounts.
- Power BI enables real-time, dashboard-driven reporting from the app in Dynamics 365 BC. Dealers can assess inventory levels, inventory consumption over time, usage of parts per customer, orders per month, spending per inventory item, and more. At a highly detailed level, warehouse managers can also see how many inventory items their workers interact with and how their activities relate to inventory levels and costs.
- Through Azure Functions, the app integrates with another parts ordering system built by the subsidiary. Users can get from inventory management to parts ordering with a single sign-on and just one click. The integration with speeds up revenue generation for this important part of their business. The company generates a healthy return on its investment in app development and makes it easier for dealers and customers to conduct business.
- The new app also uses the camera on smartphones and other mobile devices to read product and parts barcodes, making warehouse workers’ lives easier and saving them time that would be spent entering information.
Parallel mobile app and cloud ERP tracks.
By leveraging Microsoft’s cloud-based tools, the subsidiary was able to create real value through the mobile user experience, with Dynamics 365 BC as the engine for enabling back-office processes and delivering data.
Right time, right platform.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (BC) is the perfect platform for companies to make their move to the cloud, often replacing multiple legacy software tools and manual processes. Companies are generally quick to embrace the opportunities of Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft Power BI once they understand how they can take advantage of these technologies.
Integration meets industry expertise.
Many clients want to maintain the value of specialized systems they have developed on their own or purchased. For them, we create integrations between Dynamics 365 BC and existing software, using Microsoft Azure Integration Services whenever we can. We leverage Microsoft Azure SQL as the cloud database to deliver data to users, Azure Logic Apps, and Microsoft Azure Functions to orchestrate the cloud ERP environment and develop specialized integrations.
Model for modernizing business networks.
This app served as a blueprint for similar technology modernization initiatives that involve networks of dealerships or sales outlets and their customers. We are in the midst of creating a mobile app that enables sales reps to enter orders while they are onsite in retail stores that stock the client’s products. Our clients appreciate our ability to use the Microsoft solution portfolio creatively to address their requirements and even achieve objectives they weren’t sure could be accomplished this way. By sourcing all your cloud software from a trusted innovator, like Microsoft and qualified ISVs, you can deliver better user experiences, simplify technology management, operate more reliable systems, and reduce the total cost of technology ownership (TCO).
If you’re interested in exploring cloud inventory management with Dynamics 365 Business Central, Azure, and the Power Platform, contact us today!