BusinessMaster-Item Master Customization

Item Master


 Item Master customization

This is an neat customization we did to speed up the process of finding a part. This organization needed a fast and simplified way to get to a part, and we ended up with a "dashboard" of sorts. The user could find a part even when they had no idea of the actual part number, and then work from there to get into the Item Master and interact with the part.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

BusinessMaster-Item Master

Item Master


 Item Master overview

Items are at the heart of any Manufacturing and Service business. Whether it is something you make, buy, sell, or even use internally, managing Items is the key foundation for Inventory, and many of the transactions and decisions you make daily.

We have a very flexible, and powerful Item Master out of the box in BusinessMaster, our Small Business Software Toolkit, It is very easy to implement by importing lists from pre-existing source like QuickBooks, Excel, or other data sources. In addition, we can easily help you customize the form, the style, and the interaction for your unique needs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PaoNLylAyM

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

BusinessMaster-Address Book

Address Book


Address Book rundown, and some possibilities for use.

The Address Book is a key part of the CORE module of BusinessMaster managing the details of WHO you do business with. Often this data is in someones head, their smart phone, or their email program, yet is important for many different users within the organization.

We provide basic data elements, the classic address fields, phone numbers, emails, and a free-form list that can be used as-is, or as the base of a customized contact manager.

We also provide functional elements like  contact management, document links, and integration with Item pricing/costing. These can be expanded and developed to suit your specific needs during implementation.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Inventory Software Basics

Inventory Software Basics


Inventory is a significant element in mastering the small business.

You know you have cash in the bank (we hope you do!). You know you have some invoices out there waiting for your customers to write you a check. You also have money (in some cases a LOT of money) in other places. Are you aware of how much capital you have tied up

  • Sitting in shelves, pallet racks etc... on the shop floor
  • In bins stashed around work spaces, in trucks, and toolboxes
  • In the process of manufacturing, but not yet turned into salable products
  • Finished Goods sitting around waiting to be shipped

This is called Inventory. There are even more in depth, sophisticated elements of Inventory, but our goal is to cover what it truly takes to get the basics of Inventory up and running in a small business using Inventory Software.

Why tracking Inventory is crucial

 

Tracking Inventory is crucial because inventory is basically cash on the shop floor rather than in your bank account.

 

And its isn't just the amount of money, it's the LOST PRODUCTIVITY when the manufacturing team can't continue because there is no raw materials. I've literally seen a full stop on the shop floor, and 5-6 people stop, look at each other, and then sit down and wait.


Do the math

(Quantity of workers (lets say 6)) X (minutes sitting (lets say 10)) X (Average Burden Rate per hour (lets say $50))

This equals 1 hour lost time, and at least $50 in costs.

But wait, there is more...

How much SALES or PROFIT would that hour produce? You lost that as well.


So there is a balance to be maintained. You need enough inventory to keep production going, but every bit of inventory you have extra on the shop floor is cash you cannot use or put to work. I've also seen companies buy so much raw materials to avoid running out, they cannot make payroll.

So there are several factors to tracking Inventory, the time it takes to manage it, as well as the potential impact

Tracking Inventory: Manual vs Inventory Software Systems

Before we go further, let us be clear. You can manage Inventory using a couple of simple manual techniques. Here is a quick list of a few, some of which might work for certain organizations that are either very small or very simple:

Manual

  1. Visual: This is where your operation uses very consistent raw materials, and they are large enough and organized on shelves or racks easily visible by whomever is responsible for managing Inventory. It also presumes raw materials are used quickly in relation to when they are needed. I've literally seen organizations where someone scheduling production or materials pick up a phone, look out through the door, and manage inventory in real time with the supplier.  They simply place an order based on what they can see, and as long as they don't run out, everything is fine.
  2. Systematic: There are basic systems that track Inventory using differing kinds of structures.
    1. Min/Max: Each Item you want to track Inventory. Each container (bin, shelf, spot etc...) has some kind of label or sign that shows the MINimum and the MAXimum amount you want to have for that item. Periodically someone walks around and notes how much they need to get to the MIN amount. If the amount on hand is the MAX amount, they can decide to reset the MAX amount to something lower.
    2. KANBAN: This system uses a series of cards/signs that help the operation respond to Inventory levels, oriented around a PULL type system. Demand for inventory drives the process from consumption. It can be a very effective system, especially in LEAN manufacturing systems. You need to have very little limits on resupplying, And some good grasp on future demand.

Inventory Software

For any but the most simple, or small organizations, manual systems cost more than they can save. The time it takes, the lack of accuracy, and the inability to adjust to increased demand (even worse if the increase is temporary) make it hard to keep up. We need a small business software system.

All Inventory software is going to track 2 basic types of transactions at a minimum. There are always more and more concepts to dig into, but lets stay focused.

Inventory really is like a bank account on the shop floor, and every bank account needs a register

The Ins and Outs of Inventory

The amount of Inventory a software system calculates is basically the sum of all the Ins (deposits) and the Outs (withdrawals). The remainder is your balance. That is how much you have right now. Of course in most checkbooks, you have checks you will need to write in the future, as well as checks you wrote but haven't been "cashed" yet. More on these later.


A good small business software system will track the Ins and Outs as they happen, and calculate that information on demand for the user. Here are some simple examples of Ins and Outs

Examples of Ins

Receiving purchased materials
Putting Inventory back from a return from a customer
Receiving parts from manufacturing back into Inventory

Examples of Outs

Shipping products to customers
Consuming raw materials in manufacturing
Loss from scrap, quality rejections, and theft


Good Inventory Software will track the transactions listed above. This means that you will need to conduct those transactions within the same Small Business Software system:

Sales Orders and Shipping: Entering what Customers want, and tracking how you and when you ship them. This is normally making packing slips (for product based operations), or having projects passing a certain point in manufacturing. At this point, you have many of the elements of Invoice/Accounts Receivable, which drive accounting.

Purchasing and Receiving: Entering what you buy from Vendors, and tracking when and how you receive them. This is normally entering Purchase Orders for each item, and receiving it by entering the information from the Vendors Packing Slips. At this point, you have the elements of Voucher/Accounts Payable, which drive accounting.

Adjustments: Transactions that take away or add Inventory but don't go through the above transactions. Scrap, Rejects, Theft, and periodic adjustments.


These simple elements work together to provide inventory information to you. But like many things, just having information isn't good enough. Using it is the point. It's an important element of any good small business software system that manages inventory to provide elements that focus your attention to relevant pieces.

Part Numbers: Each item you wish to track needs it's own part number, unique and usable.
Part Elements: Costs, Prices, and groupings are key. If you want more than just HOW MUCH Inventory is on hand, but HOW MUCH VALUE is on hand, you need to track costs, prices etc... If you want to know inventory for a group of related parts, there needs to be ways to related parts like Product Codes, Inventory Codes etc...
Transaction History: The numbers are important, but also the chronology of HOW you got to your number can be very important when you need to verify or audit your Inventory numbers. Having the transaction identifiers (Sales Order Number, Purchase Order Number etc...) are very helpful.

These elements may seem overwhelming, but in reality any good system has these. They might use differing terms, or have unique elements of how they track them. The important part is to have a good strategy on what parts you need to track, how much you need to track, and what elements are the most effective. .

 

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

The best software solutions are simple, not sexy

The best software solutions don't normally look like "one of the cool kids".


When looking at small business software solutions, we tend to look for:

  • The most powerful looking, sounding, or appearing.
  • The most sophisticated, most cool, most modern (and maybe even have a new acronym!)
  • The  most intricate and detailed.

However, there is still a fundamental rule about finding a customer or vendor phone number in your organization:


"The quickest, fastest tool for getting a contact phone number in your organization is still the Rolodex"


best software solution?http://shaneb.me/tech-review-camcard/

Think about this before you rush to your conclusion that we are crazy, outdated, or perhaps even a technological Luddite . . .If your problem is you can't quickly find a customers phone number, the best software solution isn't even software. By the time you open your email/contact manager, get your smartphone, or some other technology you can reach 2 feet, and get to the letter, if not the very entry you are looking for.

Lots of solutions are like this. We can create sophisticated, multi-layered tools (and there are good reasons we will get into later in the article), but it's important to rethink what the best solutions is.

Let's bring more clarity:

  • A Rolodex is great if you only have one user needing contact information. If you have more users needing the same information, it can be horrible.
    • Anytime someone needs a phone number, you have to stop, get up, and interrupt the Rolodex master, and get what they need.
    • If the  user doesn't have a great memory, the have to write the details down before they walk away.
  • A Rolodex is great if the contact detail doesn't change often. If it does, you can find yourself in a mess.
    • Changes require copying and rewriting the WHOLE card perfectly. Any error will be permanently committed, and recopied at every change.
    • Every change has to be conducted by the Rolodex master. When someone else requests a change, they have to submit the change, and wait for the update (assuming it did get updated).
  • A Rolodex is great if you already KNOW what you are looking for. If you don't know the index name, it can be almost impossible o get the information.
    • If you index by company name, you need to know the company name. If you index by the name, you need to know the name (first or last?). What if you only remember the last name and city?
    • The index makes sense to the Rolodex master, but no one else might even think that way.

"So clearly, a Rolodex is the best solution when you only have one user who needs the information, manages the information, and knows the information."


If you are still hanging with the "Rolodex" metaphor, then lets think of how it applies generically to information within an organization. How do we develop the best software solution for your organization?

Determine the Real User(s)

Is there one central user/role in the organization? Are there other users that can benefit from this information? Can the information be used in other processes in the organization?

Determine how Dynamic the Data is

Does the data change often? Is it all the data, or just key elements? Does the data need to be validated before it is updated?

Determine how Users Access the Data

Do users already know what they want? Will users ever need to find data by partial elements? Will users need to access the data in the middle of other processes? Is the data critical to a process, or can it wat?

Determine Data Validation

Is it faster to empower users to update information directly rather than run through a "gatekeeper (or vice versa)? Do you need a history of the changes, or just the current values?


Clearly, this is a bigger thing than it seems . . .

Take the above and walk through a mental exercise. Instead of a customers phone number, substitute a vendors. Or an Inventory Item. Or a Purchase Order. Or a Sales Order. Or a Item Standard Cost. Or a received payment.

All these data elements are important. Some closing thoughts to think about:

In some cases a Rolodex (or in modern equivalence a printed report or binder) for a key user is the fastest way for them to have access to a piece of data.

Multi-User access is a key element in designing the best software solution. If you have multiple users (or processes using the data), you must centralize and possibly control access.

Controlling who updates data is worth the extra effort in designing the best software solution for your organization. Sometimes it is overkill and not worth it.

In the real world, it can often be the smallest, simplest solutions that gain you the most benefit. Let's revisit the idea of finding the contact details for a customer.

Look for Time Savings, Data Integrity/Quality, System Stability

A key element in evaluating whether a solution is effective or not comes down to the following questions:

  • Does it save time? Just think about a 10 user office, saving 5 minutes a day. Sounds infinitesimal. However that's 50 total minutes a day,  On a classic 5 day work week, that's 250 minutes (4 hours).  52 weeks results in 216 hours.  That is almost 5.5 work weeks. What would you do if you hired someone (for free) who already knew your organization, was already in your systems, didnt need retraining, for almost 6 weeks?
  • Does the data have integrity? Is it accurate? Is it relevant? Is it accessible? It is easy to manage and validate?Is it protected from theft, damage, or disruption?
  • Is the system stable? Is it sustainable? Is it backed up and can it be restored in case of errors or misuse? Can it scale and grow?

Building the best software software solution for your organization can take a lot of thought. Don't assume the latest and greatest is the answer. And don't assume it's not. Evaluate what it is you really need, and why. Then look at the solution. Avoid investing in bells and whistles, and look for the key elements of a real solution, fit for your organization.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

BusinessMaster: Overview

BusinessMaster, the Small Business Software Toolkit by Master Solutions


BusinessMaster handles the following categories of activity. Each section contains far more detail than can be described in this simple list.

BusinessMaster is broken down into a set of modules. Each module represents classic activities, however ALL of them are interconnected. Following is a short list of features as a top level overview. Click on each section as see more, along with some demo videos to help you see the potential.

  • CORE Module:
    • Address Book and basic Contact Management
    • Items and Inventory; Bills of Material, Labor and Work
    • Purchasing, Receiving, and Vouchering to Accounts Payable. Purchasing can be pegged to specific projects
    • Sales Orders, Packing/Shipping, and Invoicing to Accounts Receivable
    • Tracking of Invoice Payments
  • PROJECTS Module
    • Project based manufacturing and Project Management
    • Unlimited Phases against a Job, with each Phase having it's own schedule, and connected details
    • Project based Billing, with special advanced elements to handle Deposits and Revenue booking
  • MRP/Planning
    • Materials Planning using MRP concepts
    • Can change demand to work against BOM based Work Orders, Projects or Both
    • MRP can run against Labor separate from Materials
    • Multiple Inventory warehouses
    • Automatic planning based on projected Inventory and rules
  • Work Orders
    • BOM based work orders moving in and out of WIP.
    • Can be auto planned from MRP, as well as created from Sales Orders
  • Time Collection
    • Simple, integrated Time Collection against projects, and calculated for Payroll as well as Job Costing.
  • Job Costing
    • Roll up of materials and labor to analyze against price for profit analysis
    • Real time % to budget.
    • Breakdown by Phase, Customer, Project Type
  • Accounting Export to Quickbooks
    • Export AP, AR, Payments and Labor to Quickbooks.
    • Receive data from Quickbooks for quick startup.

Each BusinessMaster component can be customized both in HOW you use it, and the source code itself.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Why we don’t have a user manual, but you do

You don't have a User Manual?

To be fair, we DO have a manual. All 400+ pages. We still aren't sure anyone has read all of it,. After taking months to write it, spending hours trying to keep it current, we realized we were fighting the wrong battle in small business software. Iv'e said this to many clients:

"One of best things about BusinessMaster is how flexible it is designed. You can approach your situation from several different ways, and use the program completely differently than someone else in the same exact vertical market.

One of hardest things about BusinessMaster is how flexible it is designed. You can approach your situation from several different ways, and use the program completely differently than someone else in the same exact vertical market."

BusinessMaster is designed to adapt to your business process, not the other way around

The business process should drive the solution. And this has serious strengths. Too often every process has to adhere to the software package already bought. However it also means that HOW the solution is used varies from user to user, from operation to operation, and from organization to organization.

User Manuals, and how they fail

A comprehensive user manual has to assume every single context a user might encounter, and devise a method on how to steer the user to an action. This is what I call "the box" principle.Try and get every user, every action, every result into "a box". Boxes help keep things contained. Boxes are stack-able.  Boxes make most managers feel at peace.

The problem? Management is not the goal (more on that here). Mastering is the goal. Mastering requires a flexible, practical approach. Think more like a bag than a box.

What you CAN do, is build your own small business software support manual.

We believe the BEST support manuals are a combination of documents, training videos, and in house (your house!) gurus. Every user ha a different style. Some like reading, some are visual, some need instruction from a person. The reality is, no one knows better than the people on the front lines what they are doing, and if implemented properly, WHY. Taking as little as 5 minutes to record a quick desktop sharing session and building a library of actual training sessions with us can do more (at far less cost) to train (and retrain new hires) on what you are doing than anything else.

We even have elements within BusinessMaster to link key training resources to specific forms. You can build you own support systems for the way you work. And it is YOURS to develop, expand on, or limit. We help support YOUR organization.

We can also help you develop a strategy for document management, operations systems, and quality manuals. The same principle works on many different systems, not just software.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Quickbooks is awesome, thats why it won’t work

Quickbooks is one of the most installed small business software applications in the world


Quickbooks can also be one of the worst software solutions in your operation . . .

It's critical role in the majority of small operations is hard to over-estimate. There are countless support and training resources, as well as consultants and implementation specialists. There are whole armies of temp agencies that are on call to support it. You can buy it, install it, and begin entering your transactions, downloading them from your bank, write checks and pay employees.


It's so easy to get, set-up, and use.
And more often than not, it doesn't work.

It's not that the software doesn't work. It's not that it isn't a great tool (for financial reporting). Although many CPA types will argue about this in some of the finer points of accounting, Quickbooks has been a huge success for Intuit.


The real issue lies in what it's designed to do, what users want it to do, and where the limits are.


The classic issue with Quickbooks

BusinessMaster was one of the first manufacturing software applications to integrate with Quickbooks in 2001, when Intuit first opened up their ubiquitous program to data exchange. Data exchange opened up vertical markets to a horizontal application. Quickbooks is a financial accounting program, one most small businesses had (already), and it was positioned horizontally in the market. Horizontally means it did many common things every business needed to do, without specializing in any one "vertical" segment (like a specialty or business focus).

To be horizontal in a software paradigm, is to be broad, wide, covering a large, generic portion of the market.

To be vertical is to specialize in a narrow, unique focus, such as woodworking (or even more focused, custom cabinetry), or custom musical instrument repair (or even more focused, guitars).

For instance, all businesses SHOULD maintain correct Profit and Loss reporting, Balance Sheet reporting, and similar disciplines. And for the most part, it's an almost identical process. But HOW these business drive accounting transactions can be so different. A totally custom cabinet shop buys, sells, inventories, and manages capital equipment totally differently than a local retail store. Even within similar areas like manufacturing, some operations what is WIP (Work In Process Inventory) to one company doesn't even exists in another.

Quickbooks has constantly tried to add features to their application to accommodate many different processes, and stuff them inside their horizontal program. Some are successful, like Payroll. Some are not, like Inventory. And some changes, like incorporating Sales Orders and Invoicing, attempt to push multiple users into Quickbooks, which Quickbooks was clearly not designed to handle. If you have a multi user install of Quickbooks, you know the performance hitwhen more than a few users get in the program.

Here is a small list of problems we see regularly (Keep in mind of course there are users who do pull this off)

  • CRM: Customer Retention Management, or Contact Management. Quickbooks DOES maintain customers, but NOT every contact every employee works with. This requires every user that interacts with customers in any fashion to have Quickbooks installed, and enter data that isn't relevant to any account practice.
  • Item management: The fundamental piece of Inventory Management can be far more complex and sophisticated than what is needed for accounting. Many of the activities in managing raw materials and assemblies are far outside the design of what accounting requires. In fact, I feel confident in saying real accounting doesn't CARE about the part numbers or the discreet parts in general.
  • Inventory: The needs of manufacturing to manage inventory can be so different than just a simple "How much of x product is on hand?" it would take too long to write. Suffice to say, I believe I've "paid the rent" more fixing and solving problems about this one element than any other. When potential clients tell me they are running their inventory in Quickbooks, and they are a manufacturer, I can tell right away there is a fundamental lack of understanding about both Inventory AND Quickbooks. See our Evaluation War Story Part 1.
  • Partial Shipments and Purchase Order Receiving: Most accounting programs treat a Sales Order and a Purchase Order as an accounting transaction, rather than the RESULT of these as an accounting transaction. In doing that, they require back orders and partial shipments to be closed rather than left open. There are work-arounds, but they don't work in most real world scenarios.
  • Billing for Deposits: I've seen more bizarre practices trying to cope with this idea in Quickbooks than I care to remember. If you are taking deposits from customers, or progressively billing customers, ad are using QuickBooks, chances are high you have problems auditing your books up to standard GAAP.

Because Quickbooks works so well for some things, it doesn't work for everything

Quickbooks does work very well as a small business solution for financial transactions. When it comes to Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Reporting, Checkbooks, Chart of Accounts etc... I believe it is basically unbeatable. But I also believe it is limited in it's ability to truly solve the other pieces.

Large scale ERP systems do this in larger companies, but if you saw the budgets for these types of software applications (and I mean annual, not just occasional upgrades) you would understand why there really isn't one totally integrated program for the small business.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!

Is Microsoft Access “BIG” enough

Microsoft Access fit the bill back then (ver 1.0!) and still does today


In fact, Microsoft Access is FAR more equipped to handle your needs now than ever.

Years ago when designing our Small Business Software Toolkit, BusinessMaster, there were not many choices for desktop driven, relational databases. Product like Microsoft SQL, equired a separate server, which at the time meant almost full time IT staff! There was no clear front end development piece, and there just were not a lot of options for a networked environment. Microsoft Access was, and still is, one of the best relational database choices for a small business in our opinion.

We have had clients running 30+ workstations on their network. We have helped some clients avoid forcing them to make a big jump into another database system. We helped clients take advantage of the integration with other Office products (Excel, Outlook etc...). Couple that with the fact that the runtime version of Access is FREE, and you simply cannot easily beat this tool.

Yes, some IT pros and developers will complain about it. Some will make claims about scalability, or stability. However in our experience, there are a small set of factors that can negatively affect an Access based solution in the small business, and mastering them is far cheaper than the alternative:

  • Maintaining a stable network: This means your routers and switches are stable, and don't drop out. Any modern switch or router is far more than capable of this. Replacing them is cheap. Using a UPS to keep them running is even better.
  • Using a 1Gbs connection to the data storage: Most new networks we see aren't even using the traditional server, but a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, essentially a fast hard drive connected to the router. Many have multiple connections.
  • Ensuring desktop connectivity: Keeping your desktops up to date with drivers, cabling tests, and system optimization is key. These things should be done regardless of your database solution as they keep productivity at a maximum. It's far more costly to have people waiting on data than updating their network card drivers.
  • Avoid wireless connections: These are convenient, but not as fast or as stable as wired connections.

In addition, basic automated maintenance can be done to keep your database performing at maximum. We can also adapt the program through customization for your specific use. Different implementation scenarios can be employed in response to what you need to accomplish. For instance, some of our clients have lots of time collection, but very little MRP planning. Some vice versa. Some have tens of thousands of project phases, and minimal production work orders.

There are also options to hybridize the database. We can easily incorporate Microsoft SQL for portions, or even all of the data files if you need to. This makes remote use, web based interconnections, and mobile integration a reality.

Feel free to Contact Us about any needs or ideas you have regarding your organizational goals.

Want to know more?

We are very interested in talking with you about your needs. We want to make sure we are a good fit, and understand what you are trying to accomplish, and the best way we know how is some quick discussion. Please contact us via the link to get the process started.

Let's schedule a demo of our awesome Small Business Software Toolkit while we are at it!