A dramatic redesign of the Item Master proposed

Global supply chains have changed dramatically over the last few decades and constant innovation is required to keep the American steel industry competitive.  Strategic investments in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is one way that our client – a Fortune 500 steel manufacturer – is extracting more value from the same raw materials.  As part of a global rollout of Dynamics 365, the Item Master for a particular cold finishing mill required a dramatic redesign.

One of the main objectives of this initiative was to build a true item master across the entire line of business to improve their reporting.  This was defined as a collection of 21 individual attributes including shape, size, chemical composition, length, and others.  Any distinct combination of values for these 21 attributes represented a unique item.

One piece of the puzzle

This cold finishing mill represents only one of the dozens of divisions implementing Dynamics 365.  This steel company is vertically integrated – steel cast at one mill may ultimately find its way into this cold finishing mill where it can be turned, ground, rolled, chamfered, or annealed.  A goal for this global implementation is to integrate the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems across the divisions to streamline steel production and finishing.  That said, implementing Dynamics 365 for this cold finishing mill required meeting the requirements and matching the conventions set by divisions already live in Dynamics 365.  This mill was just one piece of the puzzle.

The sites that had already successfully migrated to D365 were all made to stock and migrated off a common legacy system.  This made the process efficient and repeatable; however, this division practiced a ‘made to order’ business strategy, meaning all material was made based on the specifications defined by the customer.  This meant the functional business requirements were going to differ vastly from the already live divisions and need to be fluid enough to accommodate a wider range of customer demands.

Overcoming documentation gaps

Decades ago, the mill purchased mainframe servers and leveraged in-house knowledge to build their supply chain management system from scratch using COBOL.  The truly one-of-a-kind solution that ran this mill helped them maintain operational excellence and profitability through turbulent years for the American steel industry.  Today, however, the hardware is at risk of failing, the software cannot scale, and the talented resources that built the legacy system are nearing retirement.  Worse still, the documentation for this complex system is sometimes buried between lines of COBOL code, relegated to tribal knowledge, or is missing entirely.

The robust Dynamics operations solution requires more detailed data on the production of the finished products, namely formulas and routes.  However, this data did not exist in a structured fashion in the legacy system.  This required a much deeper dive by Premier and the technical team to understand how this data could be extracted and migrated to the new system.  

Reverse engineering:  How we used transactional data to define items

The unique operating model of this steel mill meant that there was no true item master in the legacy system.  Deriving an item master and having it integrate seamlessly with the other divisions became a colossal task in data analysis, cleansing, and conversion.

The process began with a review of all required transactional data.  Analysis of the data behind nearly one hundred thousand sales order lines allowed Premier to build the finished goods, hundreds of thousands of lines of production scheduling to create WIP parts, and years of purchase history to derive the raw materials.

However, the redesign did not end with the Item Master. With the item master was now complete, the formula and route data was also needed.  The team faced similar challenges here true master data did not exist in the legacy system for formulas and routes. Read more about how we solved these challenges here.  Adding to this complexity, were customer specifications for highly regulated industries and critical applications that we discuss further here.

Success Today and for Years to Come

Since go live, the client is now able to identify the specific products they buy and sell, while still delivering the same experience customers have been accustomed to for years.  In addition, the facility now has a true accounting of their production processes, something that was previously confined to the minds of a few planners.  And finally, with such a drastic modernization of their technology, the client location is finally able to report on an enterprise level, rather than the silo they operated on for decades.  

If you have questions about data management, data quality, or data migration, click the chat bubble below. I'd like to learn about them and work with you to figure out solutions.