Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Navision

  • Written By: Dr. Scott Hamilton
  • Published: July 5 2005


The starting point of the book Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Navision is that supply chain management requires effective use of an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Its central theme focuses on using Microsoft Navision for managing supply chain activities in manufacturers and distributors. Its target audience includes those individuals implementing or considering Microsoft Navision as their ERP system. The book addresses an overall understanding of how the system fits together to run a business, expressed in generally accepted terminology. This mental framework—in combination with hands-on experience and training courseware—can accelerate the learning process, and an overall understanding leads to more effective system usage.

Usage of any ERP system—including Microsoft Navision—is shaped by many design factors that make it easier (or harder) to learn and use. For example, consistency and symmetry in the user interface make an ERP system easier to learn and use. The same holds true for the consistency and symmetry in standardized functionality across integrated applications, and in extended functionality stemming from customizations and independently developed software. System functionality and e-commerce integration also shape usage in different manufacturing and distribution environments.

Many of the design factors related to Microsoft Navision have been covered in previous chapters. This final chapter summarizes the design factors shaping system usage and hopefully provides the capstone of an overall understanding about how the system fits together to run manufacturing and distribution businesses. The design factors are segmented into those related to the user interface, customization capabilities, and system usage in manufacturing and distribution environments. Additional design factors include those related to integration with e-commerce, relationship management, service management, and accounting applications.

This is Part One of a two-part article reprinted form Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Navision.

Part Two will cover design factors related to manufacturing environments and integration with warehouse management, e-commerce, relationship management, service management, and accounting applications.

TEC previously reprinted a chapter on "Sales and Operations Planning".

This excerpt of the "Summary" chapter is presented in two parts.

The book can be ordered on or

Design Factors Related to the User Interface

The user interface within Microsoft Navision provides consistency across all windows that assists ease-of-learning and ease-of-use. In addition, a graphical user interface supports user-defined work flows so that a user can select the desired step and access the relevant window. A few illustrations are provided below about the basic types of windows comprising the user interface.

Card versus List Format. Records can be viewed individually in card format or all together in list format, where the list format works very much like a spreadsheet. Customer master data, for example, can be viewed and maintained in card format for a single customer or viewed in list format for all customers. Both formats support access to related information and forward/backward browsing. The card format often segments data into tabs, while records in a list format can be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet.

Some windows with header and line item information employ a combination of card format and list format. A sales order, for example, consists of header information in card format and line items in list format. The header information for all sales orders can be viewed in list format.

Find Capabilities. Find capabilities can be based on any string of embedded text in a record identifier (such as customer number) or its attributes.

Filtering and Sorting. A filter limits the displayed records based on values in one or more fields, with sorting based on any field. The user can browse forward and backward through the subset. Filtering logic includes equal to, different from, greater than, less than, intervals, and wild cards.

Drill-Down Analysis. The system supports several drill-down approaches, such as drill-down to the source transactions and drill-down to the details comprising a summarized value.

Design Factors Related to Customization Capabilities

Customizations range from the simple to the complex. Complex customizations typically entail significant changes to system functionality and logic. Simple customizations typically involve minor changes to the user interface and reports, and do not impact system logic. Several tools support simple customizations as illustrated below.

Customizing Window Layout for the List Format. The list format allows an end user to tailor window layout by selectively hiding, showing, and sorting fields via drag-and-drop. This provides a simple approach to customizing window layout and the system remembers each end user's preferences. In addition, an end user can view all available fields (and their values) in the table related to a record.

Customizing Window Layout for the Card Format. The card format can be changed with an easy-to-use forms designer, such as changes to field labels, to show or hide fields, and to rearrange fields on tabs.

Customizing Reports and Documents. The format and content of reports and documents (such as an invoice) can be customized using a report designer tool. The tool also supports export/import for exchanging spreadsheet data. Customizing via Additional Fields. New fields can be added to tables with immediate visibility in list format windows and availability for customizing card formats and reports.

The object-oriented design also supports more complex customizations. Numerous case studies throughout the book illustrated some of these customizations.

Design Factors Shaping System Usage in Distribution Environments

Major factors shaping system usage include item definition, symmetry of sales and purchasing functionality, sales variations, symmetry of warehouse functionality, and the capabilities to model variations in multi-site operations.

Item Definition. Item master information consists of company-wide and location-specific information. Company-wide information, for example, includes the item number, lot/serial tracking policies, and a costing method (such as standard cost or an actual costing method). Location-specific information includes the item's costs and replenishment method for each location. Non-stock items can be defined in the item master, as well as item variant codes to handle color/size variations of the same item.

Primary Engine for Coordinating Supply Chain Activities. Planning calculations synchronize supplies to meet demands and generate suggested action messages on worksheets. Replenishment logic within the planning calculations includes time-phased order point, DRP, and MRP logic.

Symmetry of Sales and Purchasing Functionality. Sales and purchasing both handle documents for quotes, blanket orders, orders, invoices, returns and credit memos, with parallel approaches for handling cross-reference identifiers, prices and discounts, special charges, and order-related text. Symmetry is also apparent in the definition of customer and vendor information, and the handling of special orders and drop shipments.

Variations in Sales. Sales order line items can identify material items (including special orders, drop shipments, and kits of components) as well as resource time, special charges, and text. Pricing and discounting schemes can reflect product and customer groups, quantity breakpoints and date effectivity, and discounts based on total order value. Sales can be forecasted to drive purchasing requirements.

Symmetry of Warehouse Functionality for Inbound and Outbound Shipments. The same functionality for handling outbound shipments applies to sales orders, transfer orders, and returns to vendor. Similar functionality for handling inbound shipments applies to purchase orders, transfer orders, and customer returns.

Variations in Warehousing. Shipping activities can focus on individual orders or a pick document, while receiving activities can focus on individual orders or a receipt document and an optional put-away document. Put-away suggestions can optionally account for bin location considerations, such as location preferences and capacity constraints. Movement within a warehouse can reflect bin replenishment policies, such as replenishing bins from a bulk storage area.

Modeling Variations in Multi-Site Operations. The system supports different types of multi-site operations, including autonomous sites within a company and a distribution network with transfers between locations. Costs and replenishment methods can be defined by item and location, where the replenishment method can identify the preferred ship-from location (and transportation lead time considerations) to model a distribution network. Transfer orders coordinate movement between locations. Sales order line items indicate the ship-from location, while purchase order line items indicate the ship-to location.

This concludes Part One of a two-part article reprinted form Managing Your Supply Chain Using Microsoft Navision.

Part Two will cover design factors related to manufacturing environments and integration with warehouse management, e-commerce, relationship management, service management, and accounting applications.

TEC previously reprinted a chapter on "Sales and Operations Planning".

This excerpt of the "Summary" chapter is presented in two parts.

The book can be ordered on or

About the Author

Dr. Scott Hamilton, as a consultant, developer, user, and researcher, has specialized in information systems for manufacturing and distribution for three decades. Scott has consulted worldwide with over a thousand firms, conducted several hundred executive seminars, and helped design several influential ERP packages. He previously co-authored the APICS CIRM textbook on How Information Systems Impact Organizational Strategy and recently authored Maximizing Your ERP System. Scott is currently working closely with Microsoft partners involved with manufacturing and distribution, and can be reached at or (612) 963-1163.

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