Each Wednesday, with the exception of those that we devote to tradeshows, conferences and holiday coverage items, we focus on topics related to inventory, warehouse management and manufacturing.
And while I realize we’ve been off our regular schedule for the past few weeks, I’m going to get us back on track by looking at specific products, including software, that are related to the core purpose of our "Warehouse Wednesday" column. Our miniseries, which still has one or two in the queue, compares and contrasts QuickBooks to other third-party products that offer assembly functionality.
In Part 11, we're going to look at how AdvancePro configures and makes use of assemblies and bills of materials in the manufacturing process.
AdvancePro is Windows software that provides manufacturing, inventories and order management. AdvancePro and QuickBooks can be easily used together, eliminating the need for double entry of information since many essential data elements exchange freely between the two systems..
In order to examine how AdvancePro handles Assemblies, Bills of Material and Manufacturing processes, we first must look at how you create products in AdvancePro. Please note that AdvancePro uses the terms "products" rather than "items" as used in QuickBooks.
Creating Products in AdvancePro
Within the AdvancePro Products menu, select the Add Product option to begin the process of creating component products for an assembly:
AdvancePro Add New Product
The New Product entry window opens to the Product Information tab, which captures the product name, category, units of measure, weight per unit and other basic information (common to all items):
AdvancePro - Product Info
The Vendor & Pricing Info tab allows you to designate the vendor for the item. You can select multiple vendors and designate your primary vendor. You also will specify the product name and SKU used by your vendor if they are different than the information you assign to your item. This is where pricing information is captured in terms of costs, markup and sale price.
AdvancePro - Vendor & Pricing Tab
The Additional Info tab allows you to capture a lot of other data about the product, including the QuickBooks Item to which it corresponds. We’ll see more about this when we look at the assembly section of this article.
AdvancePro-Item Additional Info
There are a variety of other tabs that are used to capture data related to your product. But since many of these also will be used in the creation of our assembly item, we’ll cover them as we go through that process rather than here under the component items.
AdvancePro - View All products
Returning to our Product menu, click on the View All Products option to open a listing of all of our products:
AdvancePro - Product Selection
Products can be searched and selected by Product Name, SKU #, UPC, Product Description or Category. Details of transaction history can be viewed by clicking on the “eye” icon (shown near the right end of Row 1 above):
AdvancePro - Product Histories
The transaction history, average cost and quantity available are all viewable from these history screens.
With our essential products in place from which to create assemblies, we can proceed to setting up our finished goods. Creating assembly items (finished goods) in AdvancePro is a lot like creating products. In fact, the screens look almost identical, but instead of beginning in the Products menu, we begin in the Manufacturing module menu.
Creating Assembly Items in AdvancePro
From the Manufacturing module, you can create Assembly Items in AdvancePro. You also can create manufacturing work orders and assign serial numbers to your built products.
AdvancePro - Manuf Menu
Within the SKU list, assembly items are represented by a unique symbol shown by the arrow in the figure below.
AdvancePro - Assembly SKU List
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of similarities between assembly items and products within AdvancePro. The same essential information is captured on the Product Information tab for an assembly as is captured for a product.
AdvancePro - Assembly Product Info
This tab, as it did in products, captures basic information like the assembly name, Internal SKU number, UPC number, any associated categories you have defined, as well as the descriptions and units of measure. One important feature is the “days to build” field, which represents critical data in terms of manufacturing work order completion.
The Additional Information tab contains some critical data if you’re using QuickBooks with AdvancePro. This is where you map your AdvancePro items with your QuickBooks items. You also define if an item is a parent level item or a sub-item (child) level of another QuickBooks item.
You have an option of linking the item as a “non-inventory” item in QuickBooks, even though it’s stocked in AdvancePro. Any custom fields that transmit data also are configured on this tab.
AdvancePro - Assembly Adtl Info
You will define reorder alert levels and quantities per pallet, as well as the item dimension characteristics. Another option is to set an item as “can not be returned,” which limits the ability to process customer returns of any item so marked.
The Build Pricing Information tab includes the computed cost from the components within the Bill of Materials. It also provides you with a method to set an adjustment amount and mark-up percentage. Based upon these factors, the selling price is computed. A “landed-cost” function also is available from this tab, so you can incorporate freight, handling and other related costs as part of the total cost of the item.
You also can establish volume discount pricing for an assembly item from the bottom section of this tab.
AdvancePro - Assem Build Pricing
Of course, what would an assembly item be without a bill of materials. The AdvancePro assembly BOM Info tab is where you define the components or other characteristics of the assembly.
AdvancePro - Assem BOM Info
The various SKUs that makeup the assembly, along with their quantity, scrap quantity and BOM component type are defined here. AdvancePro offers four types of BOM components: Basic, Add-ons, Variable and Add-ons/Variable. These options are selected from a Wizard as shown in the next illustration.
AdvancePro BOM Component Wizard
Basic BOM component types are SKUs reflecting traditional inventory and non-inventory items that are essential to the manufacturing/fabrication of the assembly or required in the production process.
Add-ons items are components that represent “options,” which may be added to, or subtracted from, the standard BOM configuration. Variable type items have quantities that may vary per the specific build requirements at the time. Add-on/variable items are those components that define options with variability.
Most sophisticated manufacturing systems have some form of component substitution functionality. AdvancePro is no exception. The assembly item BOM tab allows you to define acceptable substitutions at the BOM level for each SKU.
AdvancePro - Assem SKU Substitution
The Vendor Info tab provides information specific to the vendors for the various components of the assembly. You can either accept the default vendor or assign different vendors, designating which is your primary (or preferred) vendor.
This tab also allows you to identify the Vendor’s name for the product, Vendor SKU, minimum reorder number, unit break down, units of measure and specific identification/registration related data.
AdvancePro - Assembly Vendors
Assembly items may have both component and finished product tracking using various identification numbers. The Serial # tab allows you to configure lot number tracking, serial number tracking, manufacturer serial number tracking, expiration date and manufacturing date tracking.
AdvancePro - Assem Serial #s
AdvancePro assemblies can contain a lot of extra details and data that help define the assembly, provide guidance in the manufacturing/production process or identify details, as might be found in plans, specifications, drawings, illustrations or other formats. The Images/Hyperlinks tab contains fields that associate your assembly with such documentation.
AdvancePro - Assem Images
AdvancePro offers an option to import QuickBooks assembly items into AdvancePro as either AdvancePro Kit-products or AdvancePro Assembly Items. During this product comparison, we did not attempt to use either of these options.
AdvancePro - Import QB Assemblies
Let me also add that AdvancePro does have a “kitting” option, which is similar to what QuickBooks calls “group items.” Kits are defined within the Products module and can include any number of other products as shown below.
Essentially, the items making up a kit then can be sold under the single “kit” item. You can configure cost and price the kits based upon a number of options in the same manner as assemblies. The big difference is that kits are simply sold, and the components are picked as part of order fulfillment. There is no actual fabrication, production or batch process required as with assembly manufacturing orders.
AdvancePro - Kit type product
Manufacturing Assemblies in AdvancePro
Let's assume we manufacture on an “assemble to order” basis. The first step occurs when a customer places an order for an assembled finished good. We would expect the stock related to this finished good to be insufficient, since we in fact “assemble to order.”
So the sales transaction shows the deficiency and we select the option to create a work order to begin the manufacturing process.
AdvancePro - Manuf Work Order Open
Any modifications can be made to the manufacturing work order. You don't have to modify the original bill of materials or create a new SKU to make modifications.
AdvancePro Manuf Work Order Modify
If any of the components for the assembly are “out of stock” AdvancePro will automatically generate a Vendor Order. When the components arrived, they would be received into your warehouse.
AdvancePro Receive Products
Once everything has been received and we’re ready to begin the manufacturing process, you will pick the component products from the warehouse and deliver them to the production staging area.
AdvancePro - Pick Components for Mfg.
Returning to the manufacturing work order, now that all of the items required for the assembly are in a “can be filled” status, we can process the order. You can elect to print the manufacturing work order for the production floor to follow as assembly instructions.
AdvancePro - Print Manuf Work Order
As each of the various assembly stages are being completed, the status of production is being reporting.
AdvancePro - Production Stage Completion
If you need to assign serial or lot numbers to your finished product, or when using serial/lot numbered components, you will have the opportunity to review, pick or auto-assign the specific numbering requirements during production.
AdvancePro - Manuf Serialization
When production is completed, you will finalize the work order:
AdvancePro - Finalize Work Order
You now are prepared to fulfill your sales order for the finished product, pick, pack and ship or otherwise arrange for delivery or pick-up.
Of course each manufacturing environment can be different. A given manufacturer may “custom build to order” or “build to stock” in order to meet regular on-going demand. There can be multiple warehouses and manufacturing sites, as well as the stocking of pre-assembled sub-assemblies.
Of course, some manufacturers may purchase all of the component sub-assemblies and only produce the final finished good from those sub-assemblies. The options are almost endless.
As a member of the QuickBooks Marketplace for the desktop product line, AdvancePro has been around a good long time. One testimonial appearing on the AdvancePro website read: "I've been a long time user of Advance Pro and considered switching a while ago due to previous issues. However, over the past several months, I have gained more confidence with AdvancePro as a company. Things like webinars, new releases and timely support response have shown the company have come back to life." (Dan George – Administrator, Bestway Casters & Wheels Ltd.).
While some might not consider this testimonial very flattering, it shows two very important things to think about AdvancePro. First, as the writer mentions, the company is showing new lifeblood breathed in by its most recent releases and enhancements.
Second, it shows that the company is open and honest with those reviewing its product. It certainly could have chosen not to post this testimonial, but rather shared it with its website visitors. Good for you AdvancePro.
When I began this series on assemblies, I was only remotely aware of AdvancePro. It simply was not one of the products I routinely had used for either inventory or manufacturing in my long career as a ProAdvisor.
But I can say that I’m glad to have researched the product. You definitely should consider AdvancePro as one of the many options for advanced inventory capabilities and light manufacturing requirements when your QuickBooks clients need to expand beyond QuickBooks Desktop functionality.