Improved formula management in process manufacturing AX2012

Formula management is a key requirement for process manufacturers. In most cases, process manufacturers process raw materials that are found from natural sources which inherently means they have to deal with a lot more variability than discrete manufacturers. This variability could result from lack of control over physical properties of the materials. Which in turn means process conditions need to continually adjust in order to produce a finished product within certain range with some consistency. Natural ingredients, variable physical properties, altering process conditions and highly controlled & regulated environments mandate that process manufacturers manage their formulae with good discipline. Formula management in Dynamics AX is built on Bills of material which is the natural place it should be, however in previous versions the formula was less secure and there were several inconsistencies in the behaviour.

Usually in food & drink, chemicals and pharmaceuticals manufacturing, organization that creates and maintains formula or the secret sauce that makes a company successful can wield a large influence and by extension have a significant effect on the buying decision. Keeping this in mind, we decided to enhance the security on formula management while balancing it with ease of use to setup & maintain these formula. We improved some and added new capabilities that will hopefully help you influence the buying decision.

This post describes key enhancements made to formula management in process manufacturing AX2012. Help document that describes full details is available here.

Security of approved formula

In previous versions, formula lines could be created without a header and co-by products could be attached and deleted at will. While this is great from ease of use point of view, feedback that we received clearly showed that customers expect more stringent measures since most people used formula in a regulated environment. Therefore following enhancements were made in process manufacturing AX2012.

  1. Formula header is required before a version or lines can be entered
  2. Formula version is required before co-by definitions could be setup
  3. Formula version is required before lines could be setup so that per series can be defaulted from formula size on formula version
  4. Furthermore the BOM modification policies were made extensible to formula, this means the following
    1. When block editing is turned on, no fields on an approved formula or version or on co-by setup can be changed
    2. When block removal of approval is turned on, formula or version cannot be unapproved
    3. When block editing is off, fields can be changed on formula, version and on co-by setup any time

This allows stricter discipline in formula maintenance and makes it easier for design or product department or any other authority to secure the formula definitions from intentional or unintentional changes unless authorized.

Scalable formula

Consider the scenario where manufacturing site has a standard approved formula to produce a certain dye blend in certain size vat. Normally, the formula will be used every time the blend is scheduled to be produced. But not always, all the required ingredients may be available in right quantities. You can enter the quantity of short ingredients and the other ingredients will scale accordingly and will change the formula size. This will allow you to determine what quantity of dye blend can be produced. Similarly if the normal vat is busy with another process and you have an alternative vat, putting the size of the vat in the formula size will allow you to see the quantity of scalable ingredients required for this vat. This is a powerful capability that gives you flexibility to configure the production based on available ingredients and equipment without affecting existing production in progress.

Formula for different vat sizes

Taking the previous example a bit further, in most cases plants, processing lines do not have just one vat/vessel/equipment for processing something. They have multiple size equipment - for samples, for small orders, for medium to large orders for standard products. In previous versions it was only possible to have scalable ingredients tied to one formula size. If you created another version with another formula size, ingredients on the formula line will not scale. In process manufacturing AX2012 it is possible to setup multiple versions with different formula size. A new field "use for calculation" determines which formula size from which version is being used to scale the ingredients. So, in previous example, now it is possible to setup all versions for all vat sizes that you have. Depending on which vat is available at the time, you can switch the "use for calculation" flag and scalable ingredients will scale based on that vat size.

Step consumption

Please see this post for more details.

Electronic signatures

This capability has existed since AX2009, now it works together with BOM modification policy and the new security framework. As previously, you can setup if you require users to authenticate any changes to formula or versions. If you would like to capture authentication on change of any other fields on the formula or for that matter anywhere else in the application it can be setup. For more details on how to do this, please see the documentation.

Miscellaneous updates

Now it is possible to copy co-by lines when a formula is copied. Behaviour of Percent controlled items have been modified to ensure that use for calculation flag does not change the quantity of percent controlled items when a different vat is used for calculating consumption of scalable ingredients.

Cost calculation

Based on customer feedback, we have modified the previously implemented cost calculation for co-by products and now the new method is called Total cost methodology and among other aspects, it uses price of co-products to determine the ratio of total cost that should be allocated. For more details please see this link.