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June 1992

Manufacturing inventory software review. (Software Review) (The CPA & the Computer) (Evaluation)

by Cohen, Eric E.

    Abstract- The MISys Manufacturing Inventory software package of Microcomputer Specialists Inc is designed specifically for small- and medium-sized manufacturing units. The manufacturing inventory program features inventory, bill of materials and purchase order modules. It also comes with pre-designed reports, a bar coding option, documentation and 30 days of technical support. The main feature of the software package is that it can track inventory data using a minimum number of data entry personnel. The software is also relatively easy to install and to use. Look-up windows are designed to facilitate ease of searches for key fields. The package is run using the ACCPAC Plus System Manager, but on its own can be made to perform inventory data management, transfers driven by Bill of Materials, and print and monitor purchase orders for vendors.

What Is It?

MISys Manufacturing Inventory is designed to help the small- to medium-sized manufacturing department track its inventory information. The package, which requires the Computer Associates' ACCPAC Plus System Manager to run, can otherwise stand alone to maintain inventory dam, perform Bill of Material driven transfers, and print and track purchase orders to vendors. It can also be integrated with other ACCPAC Plus modules to meet more complex accounting and ordering requirements.

MISys Manufacturing Inventory is particularly well suited for tracking many aspects of inventory without using many people for data entry.

Installation and Set-Up

The first steps in using the software are installation, setting up master files, and setting up users and security. The software requires the ACCPAC Plus System Manager to be installed first. Installing both the ACCPAC and MISys Manufacturing Inventory software is easy and described well in the MISys Manufacturing Inventory documentation.

Manufacturers, more than most other users, demand modifications to their software. While it is not possible to directly change the programming yourself, the software has a lot of flexibility designed into it. For example, you can specify at the time of installation the size of your inventory number, from one to 16 digits, with up to four segments.

Security is not as flexible. Each user can be given low, medium, or high priority access. Low priority lets the user look at, but not enter or change, information in the system. Medium priority allows day-to-day data entry, with little access to maintaining master files. High priority allows access to all master files.

Ease of Use

Generally, the software is easy to navigate and use, and has a "feel" similar to ACCPAC Plus. The software uses look-up windows for most key fields. For instance, if you do not know an inventory item code or vendor number, pressing <F5> brings up a look-up window you can use to locate it.

Because MISys Manufacturing Inventory uses the ACCPAC Plus System Manager, you get all of the System Manager's features. For example, reports can be printed to a printer, screen, disk file, or any combination.

There are some areas left for improvement in the user interface. In the current version, you cannot move upwards in a data entry screen--you have to finish filling a page of information before going back to make corrections. Also, when you fill out the header (the basic information) for a purchase order or bill of materials, you are not led automatically into the detail screen (where you enter the items you are actually ordering or adding to the bill). This makes properly filling out purchase orders or bills more difficult.

Here Are the Features

Inventory Module. MISys Manufacturing Inventory has a very strong inventory tracking system for a single warehouse environment. The system maintains the basic information you would expect: stock levels, costs (standard, average, recent, LIFO, and FIFO), and desired ordering levels. It also includes fields not found in most of MISys Manufacturing Inventory's competitors, such as a purchase cost history. This features both cost and related quantity and a vendor screen that tracks purchases, volume, vendor's item number and costs, all for up to five vendors. Goods can be in stock, in reserve, in work in process, or on order.

The system assists in physical inventory checking, performs batch or individual stock levels, and tracks inventory receipts, transfers, reserves for later use, and use in production.

The system does not support serial number or lot tracking. If this is an important consideration, an independent database would have to be kept.

Bill of Materials Module MISys Manufacturing Inventory has a 16-level bill of materials. One advantage is a feature to reduce data entry. If you sell items without recording their production, and the recorded quantity on hand for that item goes negative, the system can automatically enter the production information for you. Also, the inventory file can contain non-inventoried items, so you can include labor and overhead in your bills, for cost purposes.

The software does not calculate scrap or shrinkage at the component level, but does provides a yield factor at the assembly level. This weakness will become more detrimental when planning features become available in the next release of the software.

Purchase Order Module The strongest features of the system relate to purchasing. The purchase order system integrates with ACCPAC Accounts Payable. The purchase order forms can be modified by the user. Along with orders sent to vendors, the system also tracks internal requisitions.

Reports. The software comes with a number of pre-designed reports. An additional 100 popular reports can be purchased for $79, and a custom report writer is available for $99.

Bar Coding. A powerful addition to the system is their bar coding option. For $1,450 per unit, you get the software and a hand-held unit with a scanning wand that can be used for taking physical inventory, or noting production and transfers of material.

Documentation. The documentation was thorough, but not well organized. The manual includes a tutorial and a procedural guide. However, the steps in running the software are listed alphabetically, rather than in the order you would be using them on a daily basis. Also, certain terminology used within the system could have been explained better.

Technical Support MISys Manufacturing Inventory comes with 30 days of technical support. Their support line is not toil-free. After 30 days, support is available from local ACCPAC or MISys Manufacturing Inventory consultants, and from Microcomputer Specialists Incorporated, through either a service contract or on a charge-per-call basis.

Worth Considering

MISys Manufacturing Inventory tracks historical purchasing information better than most competitors in its class. By itself, it tracks inventory used in production from the purchase order sent to the vendor, through those goods being received and used in production, to transfer of finished goods. It integrates with ACCPAC Plus to meet accounting and sales order needs, although there could be improved integration between the two packages. In spite of this weakness, it is well worth considering.

MISys Manufacturing Inventory, from Microcomputer Specialists Incorporated, 800-833-1500, $1,395

By Eric E. Cohen, CPIM, CPA, Senior Systems Engineer for Computers That Work, Inc., Rochester, NY, AND Colunist for the Rochester Business Journal.

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