An Introduction to Product Life Cycle Management (PLM)

Successful companies focus on core competencies to produce truly valuable products and services. Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) helps manufacturing, as well as architecture, engineering and construction firms to manage product design and production details in order to achieve just that. 

Product Life Cycle Management
Product Life Cycle Management - Cycle Components
But what does a PLM system actually do, and what should it include? 

By integrating people, data, processes and business systems, a PLM system provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise in order to unite business processes and solve varying business needs.

In general, PLM refers to the upfront parts of the product cycle - the management of CAD, product design data, documentation and BOMs as well as integrated product and project management. In an Aberdeen survey in 2012, respondents denoted which capabilities should be part of an integrated PLM solution -  the top five can be seen in Table I. 

In essence, an effective PLM needs the capabilities that can centralize product data and manage the related workflows. 

Benefits of PLM Software

The traditional benefits of PLM software focus around time, cost and quality, and as a result has significant impact on internal (improving use of cost-center resources like core R&D, engineering, prototypes, and samples), supplier-facing (enhancing the ability to purchase materials, parts, and customer services) and customer-facing (increased knowledge for product characteristics and development) operational efficiency.

Potential business benefits include: 
  • Greater visibility to critical information
  • More efficient business processes
  • Improved supplier collaboration
  • Faster time-to-market
  • Improved compliance to industry standards
  • Higher product quality 
  • Faster response to market dynamics
  • Improved program and project visibility
  • Reduced waste
  • Greater component reuse

Overall, when deciding whether or not to adapt a PLM solution, it is important to assess business objectives that highlight the 'pains' or needs that you desire to solve with a PLM system.


Pay Employee Expenses on Payroll via Direct Deposit

It’s more convenient for everyone involved to reimburse employees via direct deposit for expenses on their payroll check - two payments accomplished in one transaction. If your employees submit Expense Reports, those approved reports can be included automatically in your payroll process.


There are a couple of limitations to be aware of before implementing this feature in your company’s workflow. Payments for expenses to employees can only be made on payroll day. (If you need to make one on a non-payroll day, you’ll have to use a “Pay Bill” transaction.) If you are reimbursing employees for an amount on an Expense Report, you will have to reimburse for the whole amount. This method does not allow for partial reimbursement.

Configure Direct Deposit

If you want pay Employees via Direct Deposit, you will first need to configure an account for these payments. NetSuite uses Ceridian for processing Direct Deposit, so you will need an account with Ceridian to be able to use Direct Deposit Payroll (If you are using the legacy Basic Payroll module, you will need an account with Coastal for processing).

To discover whether or not you are set up with Ceridian, go to Setup> Payroll> Setup Payroll. If there is a Service Start Date then you are using the Premier Payroll (Direct Deposit ready via Ceridian).

If there's none, then you’re just using basic payroll. Basic payroll users can also do Direct Deposit through Coastal, but NetSuite no longer sells Basic Payroll module. If you are using Basic Payroll, you will need to setup the Direct Deposit directly with Coastal.

After configuring NetSuite to work with Direct Deposit, you will also need to configure the payment for each employee. This involves entering their bank account and routing number as well as sending a prenote to the employee’s bank account to verify that the transmission is working properly.

Configure the System to Pay Expenses on Payroll

So let’s assume your Direct Deposit has been configured and your employee bank accounts entered. Now it’s time to set up your payroll for reimbursing expenses.

First, you will need to enable the Pay Expenses on Paycheck preference within NetSuite. This preference simply turns on the feature for use in your system.
  1. Go to Setup > Payroll > Set Up Payroll;
  2. Check the Pay Expenses on Paychecks box;
  3. Click Save.

After enabling the feature, you will need a payroll item you can use for reimbursing employees. So the next step is to create a payroll item.

Because we do not want this reimbursement item to affect tax withholdings or the employee’s gross pay, we will use Earning:Expense as the item type. This means that the dollar amount posted will be added to the employees net pay. Also, the amount will not be included on the employee’s W2 form.

Create a Payroll Item

  1. Go to Lists > Employees > Payroll Items > New (Administrator)
  2. Click on the Earning:Expense link
  3. On the Payroll Expense Item page, if you have a NetSuite OneWorld account, select a subsidiary from the drop-down list in the Subsidiary field
  4. Enter a name for the earning item
  5. The Type field displays payroll item type - this type determines how this new earning will be taxed and reported.
  6. Select a Report Section from the drop-down list to specify which section of payroll reports should display this amount.
  7. Check the Inactive check box to prevent the use of this Earning Item - clear the check box to make it available.
  8. Click Save.

If you would like to pay approved Expense Reports on an employee’s paycheck, you will need to add this new Payroll Item to the Employee’s Payroll record.

Add an expense payroll item to an employee record

  1. Go to Lists > Employees > Employees
  2. Click Edit next to the employee name
  3. On the employee record click the Payroll subtab
  4. Click the Earnings subtab
  5. In the Earnings field, select the expense payroll item
  6. Click Add
  7. Click Save.

Reimbursing Expenses On Payroll Day

  1. Go to Transactions > Employees > Create Payroll
  2. On the Payroll Run page, verify that the Pay Expenses box is checked
  3. Check the box in the Pay column next to each employee you want to pay
  4. Click Calculate
  5. On the Payroll batch page, click View next to a paycheck
  6. Click the Expenses subtab
  7. Verify that the expense amounts are correct and that the box is checked in the Pay column next to all expenses you are paying
  8. Click Accept.


Using Custom Criteria in Commission Calculations

Commission calculations are usually complex and can vary widely from organization to organization.  Previously, you may have been manually calculating & maintaining these calculations in an Excel application, but NetSuite has an Incentive Compensation module that can assist with these calculations, as well as tracking, authorization, and payments.

The NetSuite Incentive Compensation (commission) add-on module functionality allows users to qualify, calculate, and pay on a variety of options.  These options include qualifying commissions on Sales, Quota, Quantity, Inventory, etc. as well as calculations of eligible amounts on either Billings, Collections, or a combination of both.

As a standard function, NetSuite allows for further categorization of these amounts by classes, departments, or location.  The option for a “custom” selection allows users to categorize commissionable amounts using Saved Searches with standard and customized fields.  For example, “I would like to pay commissions at different rates depending on tenure (date) of the customer relationship” - this option would not be possible using classes, departments, or location; rather you would use the ‘Commissionable Item saved search’ to either source from an existing NetSuite field or from a new custom field.

Section 1 – Define Commissionable Item Saved Search

Step 1.  Create Commissionable Item saved search
Under List > Search > Saved Searches > New, select "Commissionable Item Saved Search".  Define and save the desired criteria; this search will then be available as a drop down selection using the ‘custom’ categorized field in the commission schedule.

Step 2.  Define the Saved Search criteria or calculation fields that you will use to ‘qualify’ the date and show on the results tab.

Step 3.  IMPORTANT:  Please verify that the Internal ID is selected as a column display on your “Results” tab - it is required for commissions to calculate properly.

Step 4.  Review the Commissionable Item saved search for data integrity to ensure it is pulling the correct data.  Please keep in mind, that we are only sourcing data here and not actually completing the commission calculations.

Step 5.  Feel free to setup and create additional searches as needed for different rates or qualifiers, for example you will pay a different rate of commission on different years, etc.

This Commissionable Item Saved Search now needs to be attached to a commission schedule to perform the calculations.

Section 2 -  Create New Commission Schedule 

Step 6. Select 'New' under Lists > Commissions > Employee Schedules. Name and define the commission schedule according to your commission plan.

Step 7. Select the appropriate "Commission On" qualifier; once this is selected, you will be able to further categorize by Classes, Locations, Departments, or in this case, select (Custom).

Step 8. Select your Saved Search that you created in Section 1.

The final step of the setup is to assign the schedule to a commission plan.

Section 3 – Assign Commission Schedule to Commission Plan

A commission plan defines the schedule and what employees are assigned to that plan.  You can have multiple schedules to help you define various calculations for different sets of employees.

Step 9. Under Lists > Commissions > Employee Plans,  select 'New' to create a Commission Plan. Name your Commission Plan and select the commission schedule name (under Schedule) containing the ‘custom’ Commissionable Item qualifier you desire.

Step 10. Assign your employees to the appropriate plan.  Please note, a sales rep can only be assigned to one commission plan during a given period of time.

After completing these steps, your custom commissions are setup and ready for testing.  By using a customized saved search, a NetSuite user now has the ability to further qualify commissionable amounts by a variety of custom and standard fields used in many transactional forms.  You can also use multiple customized saved searches to differentiate different payout percentages, and amounts.

By having this flexibility to further qualify commissionable amounts using custom fields and saved searches, this further enhances the ability to use the Incentive Compensation module and report functionality to ensure calculations are paid correctly, accurately, with little or no possibility of dual payments or overages.


Leveraging NetSuite to 'green' your business

Over the last few years, the interest in “greening” among the business world has grown exponentially. As the recognition of the impact of human activity on the planet has increased, the call for change and greater corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been demanded of companies by society, employees and consumers.

More and more companies are responding this call, realizing not only that their actions can have a positive impact on the planet and society, but also that by acting more responsibly towards the planet and their communities, they can generate greater business value.

To illustrate this point from a high-level, simplified standpoint, let’s say that from a basic economic point of view that pollution is waste, and waste costs money.

Greening, however, is not just about saving money; it’s about creating value not only for your business, but also for those around it (society, consumers etc). Acting more responsibly can be highly beneficial for your business.

There are many studies and testimonials on the benefits of greening and CSR, but justifying this is beyond the scope of this post. A simple search on the Internet will give you enough results to support this growing trend.

Now, you might be wondering: ‘Where can I find tools to support my green initiatives?’ Perhaps you feel that you (or your company) do not have the necessary tools to carry out green initiatives and practices, whereas the reality is quite different.


Well yes. The tools you or your business already have at your disposal may come in handy to support your green initiatives.

Let’s step back a bit and think about it for two seconds...Why do you use NetSuite?

Perhaps it’s because it’s a powerful tool that:
  • Elevates productivity, through real-time access to critical business data, anywhere, anytime;
  • Drives decision making with personalized dashboards;
  • Improves accountability and compliance with strong traceability;
  • Equips you with the visibility you need to make better, faster decisions;
  • Arms your finance team with real-time, role-based dashboards and summary to detail financial analytics, scorecards, and reporting to accelerate your financial close.
And so on…

Now, if NetSuite allows you to do all of this as part of your daily activities, why not use these extensive capabilities to propel your green strategies?

For example, NetSuite can allow you to track, monitor, report and communicate your green indicators.

So you could very well leverage NetSuite’s capacities to:
  • Improve decision-making on environment-related topics through better information
  • Keep track of your environmental performance
  • Measure the effectiveness and efficiency of your green initiatives

And much, much more...

‘But what is the link between my business strategy and my green strategy?’ , you may ask.

The logic is quite simple. To make sense, a green initiative should make sense for your business. By that, I mean that to make sense, the green objectives you pursue must be aligned with the context of your company and your business strategy. As such, the green strategy to advocate is the one that will not only have a significant positive impact on the planet, but also that does not compromise the profitability of your business, and may even allow it to optimize economic returns or positive brand image. In short, a win – win strategy.

Sounds simple, but in practice this is a bit more complicated. Knowing what’s best for the environment and your business might not be self-evident and may require a little bit of thinking. But once you are settled, you are ready for action... or almost!

So the first step would be to define your strategy and identify the relevant indicators. Then, you need to actually measure yourself – gather the data on these indicators .This is where NetSuite comes into play; You can record that information on custom records and then use NetSuite’s advanced capabilities to analyse and report upon this data.

In this blog post, I have given you a very high level overview of how you can leverage NetSuite to support your green initiatives.

This was meant simply as an illustration... and maybe also to fuel your appetite. Next step would be to present a use case in NetSuite, which will be the subject of an upcoming blog post.


The Barcode Scanner

Recently, we worked on a project where we had to integrate a bar code scanner into Netsuite. This is very convenient solution for companies that have copious amounts of data entries.

In our case, the customer was entering a few hundred Sales Order numbers per day; in order to reduce this manual entry we developed a solution that would facilitate the entire process using a Bar code Scanner, a Suitelet, and Sales Orders (printed using the 128 bar code format for the transaction and tracking numbers).

The initial step involved programming the bar code scanner using "Scan123" software. The advantage of this software is that it allows you to combine the set of instructions in order to fit your needs. Once you have arranged the instruction set, you simply scan the set of bar codes that were generated by the software to configure the device.

The following step involved creating a Suitelet that would be populated with the transaction and tracking numbers scanned using the bar code scanner. We added logic that would require minimal human interaction on the user interface - a simple click at the beginning to position the cursor in the sub-list, and click 'Add' add to submit the form.

This solution was developed because one of our customers found the existing process too long and not very user friendly. They were able to scan the Sales order number, but couldn't append the tracking number to the corresponding transaction.

Below is a screenshot of the old solution that was in use:

Old Mark As Shipped form

1. Easy to type in the Sale Order number

1. Limited to 200 transactions per page - this means that if the bar code of a transaction that isn't on the page is scanned, it won't be picked up and the user won't be informed. 
2. There was no way to append the tracking number to the Sales Order other than looking for the transaction number and then type in the tracking number.

The solution that was developed allows the user to scan the transaction number followed by the corresponding tracking number. Up to 50 items can be scanned in a row and then, once the user is done they can simply hit the "Mark As Shipped" button and a script is triggered to change the status of all of the scanned transactions to "Marked" as well as adding the tracking number.

The process is very easy; on the sales order both required bar codes could be found. The user simply has to scan the first one, which was the sales order number, and then after running a few checks on the scanned value, the cursor jumps to the second column field to allow the user to scan the tracking number.

Once both values have been scanned, the line is automatically submitted and we restart the same process, until the user reaches 50 lines or until he's done, which ever comes first.

1.Very quick process
2. Able to append the tracking number to the transaction

1. You can only scan 50 items at a time

By implementing a solution using a bar code scanner, companies are able to better leverage NetSuite to meet their exact demands, and to reduce the manual entry workload.