We all know the truth behind the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words‘. This is also true when it comes to dealing with time-related and resource-oriented planning data, especially when scheduling production orders, managing projects, or dispatching service orders. I want to share what visual scheduling means in the context of Dynamics NAV, why it is important for NAV users, and how it can be implemented and achieved in not only a very slick, but also seamless way.
What is visual scheduling for Dynamics NAV?
Typically, a visual schedule provides a comprehensive overview of a time-related, resource-oriented schedule with dependencies. It brings data from various tables into one overall picture, highlights conflicts, and keeps the user focused on the decision-relevant data. As such, the visual schedule enables corrective actions such as drag and drop changes to the schedule. This means that a visual schedule is always built in a way that keeps the user (and the not the system and/or underlying “hard to understand” rules and algorithms) in the driver seat.
The picture below is an example of a visual schedule. It shows work and machine centers and the operations/production orders that they are scheduled to work on.
Why do Dynamics NAV users need visual scheduling?
Dynamics NAV does not provide drag and drop scheduling capabilities for production orders, capacities, jobs, job tasks, job planning lines, service orders, or resources. Users always have to work with multiple tables to gain insight into the respective production, project, or service schedule. This may have been OK in the days when businesses found themselves operating in an overall more stable environment. However, the past decades of massive data growth, ever shortening decision cycles, and a continued decentralization of planning and decision making authority has caused an increasing merge of the formerly separate processes of analytics, decision making, and scheduling. Hence, especially when it comes to time-related scheduling data, users can no longer work with static data. Modern users need data to be interactive and they need a bidirectional communication with the data. This is supported by interactive Gantt charts – no longer used for long-term planning but for short-term visual scheduling. Interactive Gantt charts provide an information value, which translates into a decision value. This decision value delivers the benefit of operational agility as it enables Dynamics NAV users to quickly decide upon counter measures if they have deviations from their initial production, project, or service schedule.
How to achieve visual scheduling for Dynamics NAV?
In the past, functionality missing in NAV had always been provided as ‘external’ add-on solutions. However, in launching the role-tailored client, Microsoft provided a state-of-the-art technology to help ISVs enhancing Dynamics NAV. The Client Extensibility Framework allows fully integrated add-ins to be embedded directly into NAV so that users do not need to suffer from having to learn a bunch of add-ons. In addition to this, add-ins ‘live’ inside NAV and do not require the installation of a separate database server, which can cause data synchronization issues. Hence, the best solution for visual scheduling capabilities in Dynamics NAV is with fully integrated add-ins for production scheduling, jobs scheduling, and service scheduling. Ideally, these add-ins are based on, and do not require any changes to, the NAV standard.
These add-ins will yield a return of investment on the day of the installation. Here’s a great example: a manufacturing company will understand at one glance their current schedule of planned, firm planned, and released production orders, and the dependencies. If production orders are delayed, they will see the impact on the capacity utilization and delivery times. This enables them to proactively manage both capacity load and order complete data, thereby making better use of their resources (resulting in efficiency gains) and improving delivery time commitments (resulting in higher customer satisfaction).
With an add-in approach, there is no lengthy customization process needed. These kind of operational agility gains are achieved immediately and without any implementation delays.