The answer to this question is as follows – the Dynamics NAV (now know as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central) standard service module is not intended for automotive service management! What these two modules have in common is the word “service’.
I decided to write this article because at least 2-3 times per year I encounter a situation where a Dynamics NAV partner offers some after-sales service and fleet maintenance company to use the system’s standard service module or someone attempts to adapt this service module for the automotive industry. So why is the Dynamics NAV standard service module not suited for automotive service management? In this article, I will try to highlight the most important arguments why the use of the standard module is not the best option for the automotive industry.
A brief look into the history. The Dynamics NAV standard service module was initially developed differently from other Microsoft Dynamics modules. In essence, this standard service module was specifically developed for servicing, namely – maintenance and repair, of equipment such as computers, cash registers, etc. This is where the key difference arises – different processes and business logic. For example, maintenance is planned in due time and regularly. Because of this, there is a functionality in place that allows lending devices during the repair period. Even the system demo products are computers.
By why exactly is the Dynamics NAV standard service module not suited for the automotive industry?
1. No industry-specific data structure
The Dynamics NAV standard service module does not provide complete data entry, storage and display. For example, there is nowhere to enter the vehicle chassis number. There are no fields to display data from integration with manufacturers’ catalogs. The data structure of the standard Dynamics NAV service module is not designed for such fields and, accordingly, will contain no fields for creating and displaying such integration.
2. Service order creation is not suited to the industry business logic
A different procedure of creation of Job Cards is used in the Dynamics NAV standard service module from an industry-adapted service management functionality. For example, the Elva DMS service management module consists of:
- header where the customer number and vehicle is entered;
- row where the required work and spare parts used are entered.
Whereas the Dynamics NAV standard module service card consists of 3 levels:
- header containing the customer and the object;
- equipment units being repaired;
- the required repair work under each equipment unit.
This means that, as standard, one service order contains several equipment units. In turn, Elva DMS provides that one equipment unit is serviced and this order is created for a single equipment unit at a time. Of course, the Dynamics NAV standard service functionality also allows entering one equipment unit, but this is inconvenient for the user as several clicks are required to reach the job rows. Elva DMS provides this functionality at a glance.
3. Inconvenient service job planning and registration tools
Elva DMS planing tools are specifically designed for vehicle repair – graphic planner with drag&drop functions. Easy and quick to use. Meanwhile, the planning tools included in the Dynamics NAV standard service module are not convenient for workshop planning. For example, they do not have the concept of service bay or service ramp.
The Dynamics NAV standard service module does not contain the technicians’ work time registration function, which provides data for analyzing the technicians’ workload. Industry-adapted service management modules usually contain such functionality (e.g. time clocking).
Repair Shop graphic planner from Elva DMS
4. No reports suited for the automotive industry
The Dynamics NAV standard service module does not offer specialized reports, such as reports on service jobs or service hours.
The Dynamics NAV standard service module offers general reports, but those are not what automotive companies are interested in. Elva DMS offers ready-made, industry-adapted reports, such as:
- Service Revenue by Makes and Models
- Technician Productivity and Efficiency Analysis
- Workshop Resource Utilization Analysis
and many more.
Service efficiency / BI from Elva DMS
5. No automated parts ordering for workshop and transfer between locations process
The Dynamics NAV standard service module does not provide a ready-made function that would ensure automated ordering of spare parts and registration of handover through the counter to the workshop, or return of spare parts to the warehouse if they don’t fit. Elva DMS also allow setting status for each part (issued, ordered, etc.). The Dynamics NAV standard service module interface is completely manual and does not allow automating any of the functionalities described above. It does not have an adapted screen form, all fields need to be completed manually, it lacks automation.
6. Lack of other functionality important for the automotive industry
The Dynamics NAV standard service module lacks the following functions:
- Integrated Time Clocking
- Labour Rates by Vehicle Makes, Models, Production Year
- Quality Checklists
- Recall Campaign Management
This is only a part of the functionality required by the industry and offered by the Elva DMS solution.
It is possible to try to adapt the Dynamics NAV standard service module to the automotive industry. However, in my more than 10 years of experience in automotive ERP market, I have not seen a single successful project of this type. Such projects are often left uncompleted or are implemented unsuccessfully and the customer is left unsatisfied.
So why don’t projects of adaptation of Dynamics NAV standard service module to the needs of automotive industry succeed?
1. High and uncontrollable costs
The customer invests in the Dynamics NAV Extended pack which contains the standard service module. However, it needs to be taken into account that the adaptation of this standard module to the automotive industry may require thousands of programming hours. Furthermore, it is difficult to accurately estimate the required amount of programming hours to obtain an easy to use, secure and reliable solution. With the Elva DMS solution, the service module is already included in the basic package.
2. Lack of knowledge of the automotive industry
Thousands of programming hours are spent to adapt the Dynamics NAV standard service module to the automotive industry. While this adaptation is being made, the customer is unable to try the system out before use to assess if the functionality meets his requirements. Conversely, Elva DMS allows the customer to test and try the available service management functionality and assess its suitability even before use.
It should be also noted that high-quality, functional and easy to use solutions are impossible to develop without knowledge of the specific industry. Serious developers dedicate years of time to obtain industry specific knowledge and understand the underlying business logic and processes. In my opinion, it is naive to believe that even the involvement of the best Dynamics NAV developers, without understanding of the industry, will result in more profitable and successful projects. Ready-made industry solutions, like Elva DMS, offer the customer extra security and predictability.
3. Problems with upgrading to later versions
If adaptation of the Dynamics NAV standard service functionality is chosen, it should be considered that upgrading to later versions may be more time-consuming, complicated and costly. Microsoft Dynamics partners offer ready-made automotive service modules (add-ons). To offer them to customers, each add-on developer is required to complete Microsoft certification. This gives the customer the security of knowledge that the solution will be updated and supported by the manufacturer. Thus, the customer will be able to upgrade to a later system version within a reasonable budget. As the technology develops so rapidly, it is quite likely that a code compiled for an individually adapted service management functionality will need to be rewritten to upgrade to a later version. This is even without mentioning the fact that there are no guarantees or assurances that the developers will support the individually programmed functionality. This can lead to uncontrolled costs and the risk of getting stuck with an old version of the system for a long time.
Elva DMS and other Microsoft Dynamics add-on industry solutions are constantly being developed and their functionality expanded based on the latest trends and requirements of the industry. This is a key difference from specifically adapted Dynamics NAV service fuctionality where new features are introduced only when required and ordered by the customer.
When thinking about whether to adapt the standard Dynamics NAV (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central) service module to the automotive industry or opt for one of the solutions available in the market, consider the following comparison – would you like to choose a proven, certified industry solution for a known price that you can include in your budget, or would you rather create something from scratch without assurance of achieving the initial aim, without clearly defined costs during development and future maintenance and also being dependent on a single developer?