Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Interview with Talley Group - Medical equipment company finds clinical IT solution for Lean operations using Microsoft Dynamics AX

Talley Group, makers of medical equipment, had expanded their product range and markets rapidly in recent years and needed very specific operational requirements from their IT. Talley’s Tyrone White tells The Manufacturer Magazine why the business chose Microsoft Dynamics AX delivered by MS gold partner and Lean manufacturing solutions provider eBECS.

Matching information technology to a business’s needs can be straightforward. Often though, a business has very particular needs – a big, diverse product range; a rental business that requires product tracking; or the need for the IT solution to incorporate Lean manufacturing criteria, like waste identification. The best solutions can then be narrowed down to a special few, who are not always the obvious tier one ERP vendors.

Talley Group manufactures a large range of medical equipment products for global healthcare markets from its Romsey, Hampshire base. Its core products are pressure ulcer prevention and therapy products, including dynamic alternating pressure mattresses. The product range has expanded to include negative pressure wound therapy devices and dressings, TECcare antimicrobial fluid technology, specialist pillows and duvets and more. The product expansion has been driven by success in all healthcare markets and Talley have direct sales and service operations in the UK along with distribution partners in most European countries, and the US. The company now boasts a 50 strong product range in six geographical markets, with over 10,000 individual items rented to its two core customer markets, the NHS and private institutions like hospitals. It is now in its 55th operating year.

In early 2009 Talley, supported by Microsoft gold partner eBECS, implemented Microsoft Dynamics AX, its Lean manufacturing module, and the eBECS rental module customised to Talley’s requirements. When it went live with the Lean module on October 5, it became the world’s first company to operate AX 2009 with Lean manufacturing.

To read more please view the article.

The Manufacturer Magazine Oct 09 interview with Andrew Rumney - eBECS Solutions Director

With efficiency drives representing an ever more central aspect of thriving manufacturing operations, Lean business solutions must accommodate the values, processes, and organisational culture that both drives waste reduction and increases customer value. eBECS, an industry leading specialist which utilises Microsoft Dynamics AX in the design and delivery of world class lean and agile business solutions throughout the extended supply chain, terms such a framework ‘Lean ERP’.

To read more please view the article.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX Partner Training and Certification.

Please make plans to join us in Atlanta, December 7th-11th, 2009 for Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX Training and Certification.

Microsoft requires partners to have at least 2 employees attend the certification program (consisting of course 1 and course 2) and pass their certification test to fulfil the requirements to sell Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX.

The 5 days partner certification programme consists of 2 courses:

Course 1: Positioning Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX in your Sales Engagement

General Overview of basic Lean principals, How to position Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX for sales opportunities, as well as a high level look at Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX functionality. $1,100.00 per participant. 2 days.

Course 2: Demonstrating Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX

Discussions and demonstrations around functionality within Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX including Lean Parameters, Kanban Processes, Pull and Flow, Lean Order Schedules, Sales Schedules and Other Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX Functionality. $1,650.00 per participant. 3 days.

To find out more and register please join The Lean Centre of Excellence and view the event details.

Training is not confirmed until full payment has been received.


Friday, 6 November 2009

Lean Discrete Manufacturers not measuring up!

Lean Discrete Manufacturers not measuring up!

Microsoft and the MPI Group recently published an article entitled ‘Lean Operational Improvements That Last.’ Being an eBECS Lean ERP consultant, this immediately peaked my interest and as I read further had some lasting takeaways.

The article began with some interesting statistics, showing that Lean companies relative to non-lean companies have higher figures for sales per employee, on time delivery and inventory turns. This did not surprise me at all as you all know these are the commonplace statistics that drive companies to Lean initiatives. What did surprise me was the next statistic: ‘median gross margins are 10 percentage points lower (median) among Lean discrete manufacturers than non-Lean discrete manufacturers.’ How can this be? If all of the KPIs above are increasing, why would gross margins be lower?

They then proposed that the reason for this explaining that Lean companies often choose the simplest and easiest to use tactics, an example being extrapolating the 5S concept into ‘being Lean’, resulting in low-level results. Taking this a little further, the article reported that while 97% of Lean discrete manufacturers use Lean in production, only 23% use Lean in finance, 26% in customer management and 29% in administration.

These statistics reaffirm what I’ve seen in real world ‘Lean’ companies. Whether it be joining the Kanban, 5S, or production Kaizen ‘bandwagons’, most companies have focused on a particular concept or tool in Lean and have failed to grasp the entire picture. Without fully embracing Lean concepts throughout an entire organization from the back office processes to strategy deployment, companies will continue to ‘silo’ themselves losing the synergies achieved through enterprise wide improvement.

In my experience, this ‘silo’ concept becomes glaringly obvious as you look at how various functional departments of an organization operate utilizing IT ‘systems.’ The sales department needs this piece of software to better meet the customer’s needs, Planning needs this Excel spreadsheet, Finance uses a different but similar Excel spreadsheet than Planning. Each department is working as their own unit, trying to improve their unit albeit, but not with an organization wide view. They create informational and functional ‘silos’ that lead to independent goal and target setting, and ultimately wasted time, effort and money trying to apply ‘Lean’ tools. Without the backbone of Lean as an organization wide measure with corporate visions that drill-down to meaningful and measurable goals for the entire workforce, the most impactful benefits of Lean are lost.

The article continues to examine this concept of a ‘Holistic Lean’ through the methods deployed by Toyota. Toyota have used both A3 reports and value stream mapping to build problem-solving into all areas of their business to promote a problem-seeking and solving culture throughout. As the article began describing these two concepts, my mind naturally moved to how Microsoft has so many great tools to holistically help Lean companies. While A3 reports and Value stream mapping software is not within Dynamics AX, Microsoft SharePoint helps breakdown organizational silos and broadcast to an organization wide audience. Further with Microsoft BI tools, KPIs at every functional level become a reality with drill down functionality to real time data to understand the measures and a user’s impact on organizational KPIs.

What’s more obvious within Dynamics AX Lean Manufacturing is the outcome of the value stream itself where each person in the value stream has the visibility to see their impact on the value stream in real-time. With the customer service representative taking an order and immediately seeing the result hit the manufacturing floor with Lean Order Schedule functionality to production seeing the direct sales link to the order they are manufacturing, even with alerts on the floor to show where the customer ‘s delivery date was pushed out due to an issue. With one enterprise wide system, the dramatic increases in visibility through software drive an understanding of the impact that each user has on the entire value stream. While this can be a scary realization for users at first, it more importantly leads to collaborative efforts across functions to both eliminate waste and improve the entire value stream for the end goal of satisfying the customer.

The article fittingly ends with this take away, “Today, modern and flexible and enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems work together with Lean to bring real-time visibility to planning, scheduling and tracking (checking) capabilities – across plants, companies and countries.”

What have your experiences been with Lean companies that have done just this, departmentalized their Lean initiatives without regard for the holistic Lean Enterprise? Please join the Lean Centre of Excellence to comment.

The eBECS Lean Team

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The third in a series of articles following the implementation of Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to a Medical Equipment Manufacture

The summer is nearly over and go-live is getting terribly close! The emphasis over the past month has been a combination of practice, practice, practice and trying to pin down the inevitable last minute fixes and occasional items which, somehow, have been hanging around for months but still need a final decision.These little surprises are designed to test the nerve of the most experienced implementer and no matter how hard we try to pin down every possible circumstance, unplanned cases and new scenarios often emerge only as a result of using the new system in action for the first time.

This tends to take us back to standard work and whether the steps we have identified can stand the test of repeatability and clarity. In the earliest stages of the implementation, processes tend to be painted with a broad brush: what is it the business actually does, how do the parts interact and how can we apply the tools in our toolbox in the most effective manner?

Once the broad picture has been painted, we move into the minutiae: agreeing the exact steps in a order process, identifying the codes we use to identify individual types of transaction and getting into the detail of data, its migration and how each individual field will apply to the new system.

The final stages need to strike the balance between the two: we know the broad picture and we know the detail so what we need to do next is provide a clear and unambiguous set of user instructions - standard work if you prefer - which breaks the process down into ‘bite-sized chunks’. Lean practitioners are already familiar with this approach and it pays dividends for two good reasons: the brain finds it easier to absorb small pieces of information at a time (well, mine does) and it is far easier to change one small part of a process than reissue the whole volume, both in terms of retraining and the sheer effort of ditching one version and replacing it with another. Even in this world of SharePoint, getting the message around can be slow and imperfect.

It is inevitable that variations, exceptions and even new processes or sub-processes will crop up at the last minute: people cannot remember every circumstance and sometimes only a chance remark or an order from that difficult customer who insists on a special delivery or a modified document triggers a person to remind you that we really need to go back to that process which we thought had been nailed-down months ago. But, if you have good standard work, broken down in to simple instructions in discrete steps, then even a last-minute change of process stands a good chance of being picked-up and understood by everybody who needs to use it.

Now, where’s my to-do list...

Friday, 11 September 2009

The 2nd in a series of articles following the implementation of Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 to a Medical Equipment Manufacturer

Last month I detailed how my customer is preparing to implement Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX. Part of this preparation involves the implementation of a Plan for Every Part and over the past few weeks our customer team has been preparing this plan in detail. Much of this has been of a fairly mundane nature, converting existing spreadsheets into a format that can be used by Dynamics AX and although this part seems more like an exercise for the techies, there is something pretty exciting seeing the Kanban data in the system and ready for testing.

There's no substitute for seeing real data in the system and it does help reinforce the message that the new system is not far away.

Although receiving the data in spreadsheet form saves one heck of a lot of legwork, when it finds its way into Microsoft Dynamics AX and testing follows, several inconsistencies come to light. Sometimes the supply chain turns out not to be entirely continuous with materials being called-up by one work centre not necessarily being supplied by the right warehouse. The other 'biggie' we encountered was one work centre which seemed to hold its inventory in several warehouses. When I asked about this, it seemed that the reasons were entirely sound (largely to do with available space), but the method of controlling this overflow inventory seemed to be surrounded with a little mystery as nobody seemed to know why it was controlled in the way that it was!

This is entirely reasonable and it's good to find these 'funnies' now, rather than after go-live. There is not a company in the world that doesn't have a few inventory skeletons in the closet, and although the reasons may not seem sound today, chances are there was a good reason for them once. The secret now is to address these anomalies and find a solution which can be tested before the Big Day when it all becomes live. Lean transformations are often triggered by compelling events and in turn, our ERP implementation can be used as an equally compelling event to identify, question and eliminate the inconsistencies in your internal value chain.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Microsoft and eBECS Launch the Lean Centre of Excellence - PLEASE JOIN US

Microsoft and eBECS established the Lean Centre of Excellence to serve as a collaborative facility for organisations looking to utilise Lean capabilities within Microsoft Dynamics AX. Microsoft recognises that a successful Lean implementation is not simply about providing the right software tools; just as important are the skills of the team that architect and deliver the solution.

If you are an organisation considering the implementation of Lean ERP; investigating discrete areas of the functionality to enhance your traditional approach or already a customer using Microsoft Dynamics AX and perhaps looking to adopt the lean functionality; a Microsoft Dynamics Partner interested in achieving the certification required to sell, support and implement the Lean solutions; a Lean Professional interested in helping others by sharing practical experiences or just simply interested in learning what Lean has to offer, then we would encourage you to become a member of this lean community by visiting to sign up for free membership.

Becoming a member of this community will provide you with a place to ask questions, share your experiences, access the latest materials and ultimately expand your knowledge. Joining The Lean Centre of Excellence will ensure you are kept up to date with news, events and training opportunities through the Centre. You will also be able to learn about the additional capability that eBECS provides in Lean Manufacturing II, III and the Vendor Portal, which addresses some of the more advanced Lean requirements of a Lean Enterprise including the key Lean requirements for the Automotive, Aerospace & Defence, High Tech and the Medical Devices & Equipment Manufacture sectors.

Microsoft recently acquired the Lean functionality from eBECS and we are now pleased to announce that Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX became available as a fully integrated Microsoft product on 1st August 2009 for the UK, US and Canada.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Partner Certification Training - Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX

Q: What is eBECS’ role going forward?

A: The solution is sold, maintained and supported by Microsoft. eBECS has a very good knowledge of the solution, and they are the "Lean Centre of Excellence for training and certification”, visit for more details..

Q: Will a partner need any certification to sell, implement and support Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009?

A: Partners must be certified through the certification program provided by eBECS in order to sell, implement and support the solution.

The partner certification programme consists of 2 courses:

Course 1: Positioning Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX in your Sales Engagement

Course 2: Demonstrating Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX

Please visit the Microsoft Event Registration to book a place, the first training is scheduled in Atlanta, US August 17th to 21st.

In order for a partner to be certified to sell Lean Manufacturing in Microsoft Dynamics AX the partner will need to ensure that a minimum of two of their consultants have attended and passed this certification program. It will be expected that attendees are experienced in the areas of Inventory, Production and Master Planning and have achieved relevant certification on Microsoft Dynamics AX in those areas.

In addition to the certification course, a one week follow-up course is available for attendees who have already completed the certification course. This 5-day classroom based course “Implementing a Lean Enterprise on Dynamics AX” will build on the certification class and include an introduction to the additional capability that eBECS provides. The course will provide attendees the opportunity to practice their knowledge on more advanced case studies. This is not a certification requirement, but is strongly recommended for those consultants who will be expected to install and configure the Lean Manufacturing module following a successful sales engagement.

It may take some time for partners to achieve certification and it maybe that some partners, whilst interested in including Lean in their marketing campaigns, will not want to undertake the certification program. To help partners either as an interim support mechanism or as a longer term relationship, eBECS provides a sales and implementation support service agreed uniquely with each partner. For more information on this please get in touch with us at to understand how this can work for your partner organisation.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Lean around the corner - August 1st Go live

Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX and additional Lean functionality provided by eBECS will be generally available on August 1st 2009.

Microsoft has engaged eBECS to establish the Microsoft Dynamics Lean Centre of Excellence. The mission of the Center is to serve as an educational outreach/training facility for organisations that require training on the Lean capabilities in order to further their Lean initiatives. Microsoft recognises that a successful Lean implementation is not simply about providing the right software tools; as important are the skills of the team that architect and deliver the solution.

The Centre is currently ready to serve the Microsoft partner community for sales and implementation training and is scheduling training for late 2009 for current Microsoft Dynamics customers, as well as companies that are considering Microsoft Dynamics solutions. To register your interest please email

The first partner trainings will be offered in Atlanta, Georgia during in the week of August 17th - 21st, with two back-to-back courses available. An invitation will be sent to Microsoft Partners with registration instructions within the next 10 days.

In addition to training, the Centre will also serve as a magnet for collecting new ideas and requirements from existing and future users of Microsoft Dynamics.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The first in a series of articles following the implementation of Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX to a Medical Equipment Manufacturer

Roll With Lean: New ERP Systems Work With Lean Principles, Not Against Them

Part 1 Synopsys: Lean transformations require transformation of IT systems to reflect the new realities of operation with pull systems, kanbans and the requirement to respond immediately to changes in customer demand.

It's all very well leaning-out your manufacturing and supply chain processes but if your ERP systems aren't up to the job, then all that might happen is that balancing production gets progressively more difficult as your supply chain backs up in a maze of spreadsheets, guesswork and finger-pointing.

The nice part of my job is playing a direct role in helping my customers move their businesses from MRP-driven platforms, usually backed-up with an acre of spreadsheets, to something that closer-reflects how to operate in a Lean environment: Kanbans and all.

I have a customer in the UK who manufactures medical equipment. Over the past five years, they have embodied some of the best aspects of a Lean transformation: not only have they implemented all the best aspects of cellular manufacturing, but their product range has been rationalised in an extremely intelligent manner, combining a simplified range of common product families with a broad market reach for both domestic and export markets. In some cases, product variation can be controlled through a software change alone, such has been the extent of Lean product design.

Unfortunately, the supply chain was creaking and causing a familiar pattern of shortages, expedited deliveries and stock obsolescence, especially for component parts. What had happened was that as the manufacturing areas moved toward cellular production, the MRP system could not adapt. The traditional structure of production orders and MRP had gradually diverged from how the production processes were evolving, while the hard-pressed purchasing manager needed to maintain an alternative set of inventory and demand figures for much of his portfolio.

A significant part of the problem lay in the MRP system's structure. The traditional MRP model of forecast-based demand generating a range of production orders throughout the bill-of-materials didn't match a kanban-based environment where replenishment of finished products, components and key subassemblies was now managed by physical kanban cards. MRP was retained to generate production orders, as much as to generate documentation for the shop floor, as to use the system to consume inventory through backflushing.

The problem was that the generated orders simply did not match what they were making. Orders were created to reflect batch quantities far in excess of the daily capacity and this led to a backlog in system bookings: physical inventory would routinely diverge from system inventory and not only would this lead to problems with the despatch of finished goods, but component and subassembly inventories would diverge far from reality.

Now let's look at purchasing and stores. Here, system inventory could not be relied-upon and this led to the purchasing manager having to initiate regular physical checks of inventory which then had to be loaded into his own spreadsheets which were used to control the supply of key raw materials and components.

This pattern of operation is familiar to many of us. Slowly but inexorably, traditional MRP and production order-based systems fall out of synch with reality and gradually the number of spreadsheets and workarounds increases. System transactions are processed merely in an attempt to keep on-hand values in line with physical inventory and they become increasingly irrelevant as they fail to provide worthwhile information that helps people do their jobs. Meanwhile, as the transactions often fail to reflect the sequence of activities in the shop floor, it becomes increasingly difficult to post the transactions and so the cycle becomes progressively worse.

Some Lean practitioners have an easy solution for this: pull the plug on the MRP system and run things manually either fully or by "phantoming" out parts of the process! Great in theory and for the purist, but not much use in the Real World where we want to manage our business. ERP systems happen to be rather convenient for keeping track of where the business is, not to mention managing the cash and other key assets. What a pity to have a huge black hole in the middle of the whole process!

A better solution might be to implement an ERP system that works with Lean principles rather than against them. The system being implemented by my customer uses electronic kanbans to control the entire internal supply chain, from generating pull-to-order instructions directly from customer orders, through to launching replenishment kanbans to restock inventory throughout the internal supply chain from major subassemblies right down to withdrawing components from the stores.

The benefits of this approach are twofold: first of all, electronic kanban tickets can be set-up to reflect the physical layout of the production area and second, these tickets become transactional documents which can be used to provide feedback immediately they have been satisfied: the pull-to-order tickets for the top-level items can be scanned to perform a real-time update of inventory status, while triggering backflushing transactions if they are required. Similarly, those backflushing transactions can trigger the kanban replenishment of components and subassemblies; again, real-time and ensuring accuracy throughout the internal supply chain.

The key thing is to roll with lean and support it, not fight against it. Lean works and we know it, but traditional ERP systems generally don't get it. There is -shock, horror - still a place for MRP in this process; many companies acknowledge the value of extending the Lean supply chain externally, but often suppliers have to be coaxed to operate within a kanban environment and it may often be a better interim strategy to use traditional reorder management processes to keep the shelves of the main store stocked. It might not be true Lean as the theorists know it, but then again many of them haven't had to deal with your day to day issues, and it is pragmatic. Similarly, MRP can still provide a medium-to-long-term view of requirements to give suppliers an indication of where the market is heading.

My customer will be going live later this summer. Stage One will be to create a manual kanban board so we can schedule the shop floor, allowing us to mix products and level the cells in a visual and intuitive manner. Electronic kanbans still work in the physical world; they give us a traveller to accompany the work and, by carrying barcodes, allows receipts to be booked with minimal effort, thus ensuring that the ERP system maintains an accurate picture of what is going on. We are also developing the Plan For Every Part (PFEP) to ensure we have a clear and easily understood course of action for the supply of materials to the shop floor, while the first preparatory steps towards the generation of purchase kanbans for a pilot group of suppliers are underway.

Our customers have operated ERP with a Lean core for over many years and have succeeded in enhancing their own Lean transformations by operating in an environment where ERP supports Lean and does not work against it. Very soon, one more British manufacturer will join this select group and allow their systems to catch-up with the superb progress they have made with their physical processes.

Please follow this story through the coming months:- It will also be published on the eBECS blog, the eBECS Customer Update, and the Lean eZine.

Neil Ferguson-Lee

NB - Lean Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics and additional Lean functionality provided by eBECS will be generally available on August 1st 2009. To find out more please visit

Lean & Green Manufacturing: Real Solutions to Cost Cutting - FREE On demand recorded webinar

Missed the live webcast on June 23rd? Watch the recording online or download for offline viewing

Click to watch the recorded Microsoft Dynamics webcast: Lean and Green Manufacturing: Real Solutions to Cut Costs

Despite being around for decades, most manufacturers have still not implemented Lean manufacturing processes and systems to their advantage. Many more still do not understand how to improve operations and manage energy consumption without available environmental performance indicators. With current economic conditions, government regulations and the importance of cutting costs and improving customer service, going "Lean & Green" are the vehicles to accelerate you past your competitors.


  • Why Lean is a must-have business initiative in this economic crisis.
  • What solutions are available to support your lean initiatives and environmental sustainability
  • How companies are going "Lean and Green" for greater advantages
Click to watch the recorded Microsoft Dynamics webcast: Lean and Green Manufacturing: Real Solutions to Cut Costs.

If you only have a limited amount of time I would suggest you go straight to hear how WIKA have progressed with their lean journey - 30 minutes into the webinar.