Understanding Business Central Premium vs Essential versions for Manufacturing

By Rob Jolliffe | October 15, 2020
7 min reading time

What are the differences between the Business Central Premium vs Essential versions and can a manufacturing company conduct a Microsoft Business Central implementation using Essentials?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is a leading edge cloud ERP system, released by Microsoft in the Spring of 2018. By the fall of that year, the product had been finalized into two key versions: Business Central premium and Business Central essentials.

Essential Version

The essential version of business central is $70 US ($90 CAD) per full user per month, and includes about 85% of the core functionality of the product. You have full accounting, warehousing, purchasing, sales, project accounting, human resources and many other modules out of the box with Business Central essentials. There is a light weight CRM capability within the product (although many customers choose to add the Dynamics 365 Sales Professional addon for a more complete CRM capability).

Premium Version

The premium version of Business Central adds two core modules:

  • Service Management in Business Central
  • Production Management in Business Central.

Service Management in Business Central is a module that allows a company to create and book "service orders" - which are usually conducted at the customer and involve some kind of service activity and perhaps materials or parts. Service Management also allows the creation of service contracts, for ongoing maintenance activities. Businesses who sell and service products often need this module. For example, a company that sells industrial equipment might also have a service team that goes to the customer site to repair or maintain that equipment.

Production Management in Business Central is a module designed to allow a complex multi-level structure of bills of materials and routings including scheduling and managing production of finished goods. There are other ways to handle manufacturing that are not production manufacturing, and not every company needs the level of sophistication provided by this module.

Manufacturing with Essentials

Business Central Premium vs Essential - Deciding which version can be hard

When considering Business Central Premium vs Essential versions for your manufacturing business you may think that it is 100% necessary to use the Premium version. That is not the case. It depends on a few factors and what is important for your company. When Sabre conducts a Microsoft Business Central implementation, we look at these categories of requirements to find out which version (Business Central premium vs essential) is right for the customer.

Assembly vs Production Management in Business Central.

One of the first decisions in a Microsoft Business Central implementation for a manufacturing environment comes down to whether you are going to use Assembly or Production Management. This is going to define whether you should have the Business Central premium vs essential level subscription. There are a few cases where a company using Assembly might want Service also, but that is fairly rare. The Assembly module is a "light weight" manufacturing module embedded in the essential level product. The Production Management module is much more robust (described above) and is in Premium.

4 Factors impacting the Assembly vs Production Management in Business Central decision

When trying to determine Business Central premium vs essential level requirements, you need to consider a few factors. These factors are among the most critical for a Microsoft Business Central implementation in manufacturing.

Here are 4 factors that we use to determine what level of manufacturing might work for a customer.

Job Costing Detail Required

If your manufacturing business needs very detailed job costing, such as "it took 33.5 minutes to setup our CNC lathe, and we produced 548 parts on the lathe in 7.22 hours of work with a 2.5% scrap rate" then you probably need Production Management.

On the other hand, if your business needs only rough job costing, such as "we used $275 of actual material, plus an estimated $150 of labor and made 22 parts - so $19.32 per part" you can likely use Assembly Management.

Multi Step Manufacturing

Most manufacturing is multi-step. You need to perform a number of different operations in the fabrication or machining process, and each step takes a period of time after which production proceeds to the next step.

There are 2 ways to address this.

  1. Create a new item between each step
  2. Use a routing, that tracks the status of each step (started, partially done (with Qty), done).

If your business would not need choice 2 - either because the production process is so simple that you don't have any significant time between these routing steps or it doesn't matter, or the process is done in one step alone - Assembly might be workable.

If your business creates an item between each manufacturing step, then Assembly is also a viable choice.

If you need routings, and need to track the status at each step of manufacturing, then you need Production Management in Business Central. The decision about Business Central premium vs essential is pretty easy to make if that is the case.

Scheduling

If you require machine level scheduling and loading for your facility - you almost certainly need Production Management in Business Central. The Assembly Management modules in Business Central do not have a robust scheduling capability. You can sequence and plan your assemblies, and use that to dispatch work to your facility. You can have a due date on an assembly. The ability to schedule individual pieces of equipment or departments using Assemblies is very limited (almost non-existent).

Outsourced Manufacturing

The last and most important factor in the Business Central premium vs essential decision is whether your business does or wants outsourced manufacturing capabilities. This is much harder to do with Assemblies - and requires "ugly" work-arounds to achieve. It can be done - but in general if you are sending materials out to contractors to have work done on them, you are going to need Production Management in Business Central.

Manufacturing Walkthrough Video

Choosing Business Central premium vs essential licenses can be a bit complicated if you are a manufacturing company. This video outlines several of the points that we've discussed in this blog and gives a reasonably brief high level overview of most of these concepts.

Conclusion

Hopefully this document helps manufacturing companies that are looking at or considering a Microsoft Business Central implementation. Choosing between Business Central premium vs essential licenses is a fairly big decision and definitely impacts the costs of the project.

At Sabre, we usually recommend that smaller manufacturing companies making their first move to an ERP system (especially where they have limited staff time and resources) use Assembly Management to start. Although Assembly Production BOM are two different modules, upgrading from the one to the other is not a massive exercise.

Migrating bills of materials from Assembly Management to Production Management in Business Central is actually a fairly easy process. It can be done easily by exporting the Assembly BOM details into Excel, making small changes, and re-importing the same into Production BOM.

Sabre offers our Bronze manufacturing Microsoft Business Central implementation pricing in the $30,000-$35,000 range depending on the type of manufacturing. This usually involves using Assembly Management. Customers who need production management are typically about 50% more expensive to implement as the features and functions are much more complicated, and more deeply integrated into the system,

Need some help?

Have more questions about Business Central Premium vs Essential level pricing? You can find the Microsoft Business Central Capabilities page here. Want some assistance with a Microsoft Business Central Implementation? Give us a call at: (519) 585-7524 x.45 or contact our team, we're excited to talk with you soon!

Rob Jolliffe

Robert has been an ERP consultant in the Manufacturing space for over 25 years, starting immediately after graduating University of Toronto Engineering. In addition to a deep knowledge of Manufacturing (including teaching MRP at the Supply Chain program at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) Robert holds a Microsoft Systems Engineer designation and is much less of an expert in Networking and IT infrastructure than he thinks, but is still pretty good. He also has applied his engineering skills to learning programming, and is warned frequently by the professional developers who work for him that he is pretty good, but don't write any code for customers without letting them check it.

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Microsoft has been one of the biggest players in the cloud over the last several years. The ERP Play from Microsoft started with their enterprise product, Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (formerly Dynamics AX). With the introduction of their new offering, Dynamics 365 Business Central, in the spring of 2018 they began to move into the mid-market. It wasn't until the fall of 2018 (almost 2 years ago as of the writing of this article) that they finalized the migration of their manufacturing suite of features into Business Central.
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