Mergers and acquisitions present new challenges in all parts of the business and in my most recent challenge it has presented the opportunity to solve the problem of allowing one GP company with inventory to resell a recently acquired GP company's stock. Both companies now members of the same holding group. As it was suspected that there would be a rapid high volume uptake of the new products, the system had to run itself.
For sound strategic, legal and financial reasons the GP companies have to be maintained as separate entities, they may be hosted on different servers in different physical locations.
How it was done
The main requirements are;
- Item enquiry and SOP entry staff should have sight of the stock held in the other company.
- The selling price in the reseller company is totally independent of the originating company selling prices.
- The cost price in the reseller company should be the FIFO cost price from the first company.
- Stock must be reserved (allocated) as soon as possible to the reseller company to guarantee stock promises to customers.
Resulting from a couple of meetings with the stakeholders and a white boarding session, we finally picked the the best fit solution from the various proposed ideas and thus crafting of the system began.
The core of the solution is to utilise stock adjustment out of the source company and a matching stock adjustments into the reseller company. Ensuring the FIFO cost from the out adjustment of the source company is used as the cost to adjust into the selling company with. This stock requisition system had to be automatic to deal with the potential volumes of transactions each day. Easy was to get eConnect to create the inventory transactions, but more challenging was the issue of how to get those inventory transactions posted automatically.
Automatic posting of Dynamic GP transactions
Automatic posting of transactions is an integration issue often faced. There is no API exposed to allow developers to post transactions in GP. This lack of a posting API is an unfortunate gap in the developer tools experience.
Recently discovered was the Post Master product by Envisage Software. this software runs as a .NET plug-in to Dynamics GP, allowing automated posting of batches. It can be controlled through a control table, providing the long sought after hook into the posting process. Post Master will be covered in another blog post, it is a well written robust solution for automatic posting of transaction batches in Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Controlling the requisition
A set of transaction tables have been created for controlling the process of requisitioning stock. These tables allow stock to be requested and track progress as the process creates the out adjustment, in adjustment and allocates up the requisitioned stock to the SOP order. It is obvious the the stock requisition system must be very robust, coping with servers restarting, connection problems and other unforeseen events. It has to be able to roll forward or backwards any transactions that get interrupted half way through otherwise stock will “leak” causing no end of horrors! The control tables give full insight into where the stock has come from and which SOP order the stock ended up allocated to.
The control tables are monitored and written to by a windows service that runs on a server. The server process constantly looks at the control tables for new stock requests. The service uses eConnect to create the stock transactions in each company and also controls posting of the stock in the two companies via the Post Master application. Finally the windows service allocates up the stock to the SOP document requesting stock, once it has been successfully requisitioned from the source company.
When the user saves the SOP document in the reseller company, the lines on the order are scanned to see if any are held by the other company. If found and stock is available in the other company, a stock requisition request is made to the windows service by adding rows to the stock requisition control tables.
An independently developed stock allocation routine is ran using custom processes every hour to allocate SOP documents. This allocation process also checks over to the source company for available stock and requests stock from the requisition system if available. This deals with requisitioning items that have a back ordered quantity as they are received by the source company.
Duplication of items
The items to be resold have to exist in the reseller company, integration manager helped duplicate the items over to the selling company. Going forward critical fields like item description, bin locations are synced in SQL to the source company items so that any changes are correctly propagated over. Price list are created for the reseller company items independently so that they can be priced appropriately for that companies market.
Pick lists are printed with the locations and bins that were synchronised from the other company. As the items have been requisitioned into this reseller, they are fully fledged products in that company by this point. Thus fulfilment and despatch is no different for these items to any other in the company’s inventory.
Deallocated stock due to cancelled lines or changed quantities show up as available stock in the reseller. The reseller should never hold free stock. There should never be available stock in the reseller as any stock is always associated with an order and will be allocated, thus free stock needs to go back to the source company. Pushing stock back to the source company it cam from, is simply a reverse process to that to used to requisition the stock in the first place. This free stock sweep is done regularly to ensure stock goes back to the source company as soon as possible in order to allow it to be sold there if required.
Sock level visibility
Visibility of the stock is provided to the users through extra fields added to the SOP and Inventory enquiry windows. These windows display the stock available from the other company.
Returned items from customers
Returned items are dealt with manually at the moment. The return has to be processed through both companies to keep everything right and proper.
The first couple of months how it has gone…
The solution has been working well for a couple of months now, fully hands off, stock is merrily moving between companies with no admin or user intervention. Very satisfying solution indeed!
I’ve cut out some of the detail of this implementation as it is very specific to how GP is ran in our environment, but feel free to leave me a comment if you would like to know more about any aspects of this solution.