Implementing NetSuite in a number of manufacturing companies has exposed me to a variety of use cases that have a functional impact across multiple departments. For this post, I would like to speak specifically about a recent implementation and how we developed a solution for an issue that affected the customer service and manufacturing departments.

Just to provide a general background, this client is a light manufacturer that produces a large volume of standard and customized units on a daily basis. Their customer service department takes in hundreds of orders everyday while offering their customer base a 3-5 day lead time on most orders. When speaking to their customers, the customer service reps need to know real-time if a requested assembly item is ‘buildable’ (i.e. there is an adequate available quantity of all components to produce the quantity of the finished good on the order) at that moment – if not, they would then inform the customer that an extended lead time should be expected or recommend a different item. One point to note is that the vast majority of their assembly items have a standard bill of materials but can also be produced in alternate ways. We have leveraged the ‘Advanced Bill of Materials’ feature in NetSuite to handle primary, secondary, etc. BOMs of any given item.

To give customer service insight into the capabilities of the manufacturing at any given moment was the first part of the solution. We began by creating a transaction column field (Checkbox) called ‘Is Buildable?’ on the line level of sales orders. Customer service begins their order entry process by selecting a customer, entering a customer PO#, Memo, etc. Most importantly, at least for the purposes of this customization, they will select a location for the order. Without getting into the nitty gritty details about how the script works, it essentially performs as follows: the user will enter items/quantities line-by-line and as they move to the next line, the script determines whether or not that item at the entered quantity at that location is in fact ‘buildable’. To do so, it analyzes each bill of materials for that item and determines whether or not there is an adequate amount of each component quantity to build the finished good quantity on the order: (Component Quantity on BOM)*(Finished Good Quantity on Order) < (Component Available Quantity)? As long as there is a bill of materials for that finished good in which every component pass that criteria, that line is classified as ‘buildable’. If this is the case, the ‘Is Buildable?’ checkbox will be filled as the user moves to the next line. This allows customer service to have instant visibility into whether or not an item requested by their customer is buildable at that moment or not. As mentioned above, they can then inform the customers of the status of this item or recommend a different item if needed.

The second benefit of this customization is the impact it has on the manufacturing department. A high percentage of the items being entered on sales orders have been designated ‘Special Work Order’ items, meaning a work order is automatically generated with a ‘Planned’ status for the quantity entered upon approval of the sales order. Since customer service is entering such a high volume of orders, the production planners have thousands of work orders to deal with at any given moment. We have a script in place that takes the value from the ‘Is Buildable?’ field on the detail level of the sales order and populates a corresponding body field on the work order upon creation. The upside of this is that the ‘Is Buildable?’ designation on the work order can be used as a filter on the ‘Mark Work Orders Released’ interface for the production planners. This enables the production planners to isolate the work orders that cannot be built at that moment and strictly release those with ample component quantities to the shop floor.

In conclusion, the customization that determines whether or not an item is buildable at the time of order entry has positive implications for both the customer service department and manufacturing departments.