International Producer of Fluid Logic Devices Jets Ahead by Choosing Microsoft Dynamics AX
Bowles Fluidics selects Microsoft technology over 14 competitors for intuitive interface, scalability and advanced EDI capabilities.
REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Bowles Fluidics Corp. has selected Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to integrate its production systems, gain essential scalability and improve electronic data interchange (EDI) performance. Microsoft Dynamics AX is a comprehensive business-management solution for midsize and larger organizations that offers a high degree of scalability, customizability and full industry-specific functionality. It helps optimize and centralize supply chain processes and improves real-time visibility into operations.
Bowles Fluidics originated the technology of fluidics, combining fluids and logic to produce windshield washer nozzles for automobiles, pulsating shower heads, spa jets and other innovative devices. The 250-person company, based in Columbia, Md., with operations in the Mexican city of Fresnillo, had been facing EDI challenges, having difficulty ensuring the correct barcode labeling and tracking of its products. The organization also struggled with processes that used as many as 10 different systems, including an Epicor ERP platform that integrated the separate applications only very loosely. Moreover, the Epicor system would not scale economically to allow the company to add new auto-industry products that would increase shipments.
“If we wanted to track a lot number to a shipment, we’d have to go through three or four different systems and manually assemble the data,” said Jeffrey Wilson, IT director at Bowles Fluidics. “We wanted to bring our processes back to a best-practices standard.”
The company evaluated 14 ERP systems before narrowing its consideration to five: Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, Oracle Corp.’s JD Edwards, QAD, Glovia and enterpriseIQ. It chose the Microsoft Dynamics solution over all competitors for its ease of use and advanced technology.
“Microsoft Dynamics functionality was greater than that of the others,” Wilson said, “and its interface was amazingly useful as well. It went beyond being intuitive; when you look at the screen it’s obvious what process steps our users should follow.”
Wilson also noted that the wireless features of Microsoft Dynamics AX were far more advanced than those of other systems, with more power and a more intuitive operation for warehouse staff carrying barcode scanners.
Bowles Fluidics will integrate its Microsoft Dynamics AX solution with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Office Project Server and the company’s current Microsoft infrastructure, including Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange Server with Active Directory, and Microsoft Office productivity tools including Microsoft Office Project and Microsoft Office Visio. The company will augment its Microsoft Dynamics AX solution with software to interface data with EDI requirements; the new system will replace the organization’s legacy ERP system and eliminate 10 other systems.
Working with Bowles Fluidics on implementation of the Microsoft Dynamics AX solution is Microsoft Gold Certified Partner mcaConnect LLC, with headquarters in New Jersey. mcaConnect specializes in Microsoft Dynamics AX and is especially knowledgeable about its application to the challenging automotive industry. Bowles Fluidics chose mcaConnect because of its automotive experience and understanding of the importance of stability and bandwidth.
Bowles Fluidics anticipates numerous benefits from its adoption of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, including the following:
Improved productivity. Previously, nearly half of the advance shipment notices issued by the company were done manually and were subject to errors. The company received an average of one complaint a month from customers about these notices, labeling or other EDI issues. Microsoft Dynamics AX will automate the EDI process to ensure faster issuance of accurate advanced shipping notifications, leading to faster collection of revenue.
In addition, the lean processes in Microsoft Dynamics technology will enable better scheduling of machining jobs and presses, and the improved visibility into customer forecasts will allow the company to schedule more effectively, eliminating costly internal rush jobs.
Microsoft Dynamics AX also will support the goal of Bowles Fluidics to become a paperless operation, removing manual processes. “Having an entirely paperless process is a vast efficiency improvement,” Wilson said.
Cost savings. Bowles Fluidics now will be able to scale to much higher levels than before without sustaining the exponential costs that would have been imposed with its previous ERP system.
Dramatically improved reporting time. Some reports had required a week or more to produce, but with Microsoft Dynamics AX, they will be generated in just minutes. Instead of needing to extract data from disparate systems and assemble it, the new technology will manage all data automatically. Moreover, the company is highly anticipating the availability of the real-time dashboard that will make key indicators available continuously, replacing a manual system that required a day to assemble information for the month.
Better customer service. Through more accurate quoting data and the technology’s customer relationship management capabilities, Bowles Fluidics expects to improve its relationship with automakers and enable the company’s marketing and service staff to talk directly with customer engineers.
Better planning capabilities. The company expects forecasting to be more accurate and no longer will need to manually translate EDI data into its legacy ERP system once a week.
Integration of facilities. The company’s operation in Mexico currently accumulates its data in a system that is offline from the ERP system, making data compilation difficult. Microsoft Dynamics AX will integrate the operations in Maryland and Mexico into a single, always updated system.
Support for IT staff. “One of the goals for our IT department is to be able to end heroics,” Wilson said. “At least once a day there’s some kind of heroic action revolving around the ERP system to ensure products get shipped and people are happy.” With the automation and integration inherent in Microsoft Dynamics AX, Wilson’s staff anticipates an end to the recurring need for heroics and more time available for innovating.
“With the investment in Microsoft Dynamics AX technologies,” Wilson said, “Bowles Fluidics will be better positioned for market fluctuations, scaling to customer needs, and continually improving our products and services.”
After the automated Microsoft Dynamics AX solution is integrated with the company’s other Microsoft technologies, Wilson expects to save considerable time and enable his engineers to work on more high-value assignments in place of administrative burdens.
“The core of competition resides in a company’s ability to connect efficiently and accurately with its customers,” said David Willis, vice president for Microsoft’s U.S. Dynamics business. “Microsoft Dynamics AX helps a business ensure that its shipments meet or exceed customer expectations, that its communications and reporting are precise and accurate, and that it is aware of the status of its production and delivery processes in real time, all the time.”
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