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Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 – What’s new in Item and Product Information Management?

July 5th, 2011 Eric Shuss No comments

With the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, Microsoft has truly delivered on the promise to create a tier one ERP solution that will be the Oracle and SAP killer. With improvements in virtually every functional area of the system and an architecture that can scale from start-ups to multi-billion dollar enterprises, Dynamics AX 2012 is the product the market has been waiting for. As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that was ranked as Microsoft Partner of the year in 2011, our team has been working with the new version for over a year and to say we are impressed would be an understatement. In this next series of blogs I will discuss what we have learned about the new version and where we see real opportunity for existing customers looking to the future, as well as the top reasons why new customers should select Dynamics AX as their next ERP system.

One new feature that we applaud is the entirely new Product Information Management (PIM) Module. In previous versions of Dynamics AX the management and control of new items and SKUs was done in the Inventory module. In Dynamics AX 2012 these functions and more have been separated into the new PIM module to allow for better control of the entire product lifecycle management process. Products can now go through more formal workflow and release cycles that can be extremely useful in organizations that have many departments involved in the creation of new items, BOMS and SKUs. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, new products can be defined and released to individual companies and the Product Master data is now shared across companies. Also, an item is now always based on a product definition. This product definition level is added as a mandatory step in the item creation process, and all items are associated with a product definition and can be managed by workflow for internal processes like Engineering Change Notices and Orders. In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009, items could be created without using a formalized definition process. Now items can be restricted in their use by using the new Product Release functionality. These changes mean we need to learn some new terminology, so some definitions to make this clearer are below:

New AX 2012 Term Definition
Product An item, service, or right that results from an economic activity.
Distinct product A uniquely identifiable product. It serves as a core product that does not vary and therefore no product dimensions can be associated with the definition
Product master A standard or functional product representation that is the basis for configuring product variants. The variations are configured by selecting a configuration technology, which can be either a set of predefined product dimensions or configurators in sales scenarios.
Product variant A product variant is the configuration of a product master. Based on the choice of the configuration technology, the variant can be either predefined by using the product dimensions of its master or configured by using a configurator tool.

In Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012, the creation of new items are based on product definitions, which now allow items to be restricted in their use by using the new Product Release functionality. All items are associated with a definition and can be managed by workflow for internal processes.

The new module also includes the Product Builder module that was in its own module in AX 2009 and before. The original Product Builder is still there for this release for existing customers but has been augmented with more configuration abilities with the enhanced constraint-based configurator. There is a tool to convert the original Product Builder models to the new Product Configurator for those who are looking to maximize their investment in their current product models. The new configurator is said to have better performance and be more scalable than the previous Product Builder. I will devote a future blog to the impact of this change and our impressions.

Another great new feature is the ability to have virtually unlimited item dimensions and/or variations. This means that products can have company defined attributes to describe a product. For example, an item may come in many combinations of color, fabric and sizes, another may have different lengths, widths and depths, another product may be an electronics part with different power requirements. All of these combinations can co-exist in the same item master across companies and be priced and costed based on the various combinations. The ability to add product attributes has also been greatly enhanced and allows for extensive custom product information details without having to add fields or tables.

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Product Information Management and Item Master

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Product Information Management and Item Master has unlimited item attributes and support for Item images. In this example, the Monitor has multiple variants depending on the size, color and configuration attributes e.g. a High Definition 42 inch Black monitor and a LCD 30 inch Silver monitor are variants of the base Monitor item here.

The new Product Information Management module is a great enhancement that will certainly be well received by new customers as well as customers who are upgrading. We are excited about this new release and we will continue to share what we find, and we would love to hear your impressions and questions on Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. Email us at dynamics@ignify.com for more information.

Eric Shuss is the President of the ERP Division of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, POS, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to mid-market and enterprise businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Top-tier Microsoft Gold Certified partner and the winner of the Microsoft Partner of the Year in 2011 and 2010 and both the Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle and the Microsoft Dynamics Presidents Club in 2009. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 4 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify has employees in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Phoenix, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto, Manila, Pune Bangalore, and Hyderabad.