Pronto Xi | How to run an application service for only part of the day

 

When you have a process that you need to run on a scheduled basis throughout the day, there are 2 options in Pronto Xi ERP Software:

  • use a Linux crontab entry
  • use an Application Service

Application Services is the preferred method, and much easier to administer, with its wizard-based interface.

However, a client recently asked if they could have an application service that only runs between certain hours of the day. At first glance, this looked like the only advantage cron had over app services. An Application Service has a start date and a frequency, but no way to enter a stop time.

But, what most people don’t know is that there is an undocumented feature of Application Services that can accomplish this.

The client wanted to run a couple of application services (1013 and 1014 below), only during the day. So I created 2 additional services for each, one to start the original service, and one to stop it.

Pronto Xi Application Services List

Taking service 1013 as an example, service 1015 is set up like this, to start service 1013 in the morning. Frequency for this service needs to be ‘Daily’:

Pronto Xi Application Service Wizard

Indicate the time you want the main service to be started, and whether you want it to run on weekends:

Pronto Xi Application Service Settings

Here’s the trick – the program to run is ‘appservice’, with the parameters -start-service and the service number we want to start:

Pronto Xi appservice -start-service

This will start service 1013 at the indicated time in the morning.

Service 1016, to stop the main service 1013, is set up to run daily at the required stop time, and executes appservice with parameters -stop-service, and 1013:

Pronto Xi appservice -stop-service

To summarize:

  • Service 1015 starts service 1013 at 07:25 in the morning
  • Service 1016 stops service 1013 at 19:30 in the evening

In this way, you can have a service that runs only during a specific window during the day.

 

 

Kevin Schell
Senior Solutions Consultant

Kevin Schell has over 30 years’ experience in helping clients excel through effective use of information technology. Kevin has assisted clients in several industries, including Mining, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Financial Services.

 

 


Why do mining industry leaders select Pronto Xi ERP software to manage their operations?

With so many enterprise resource planning software packages available, we often get asked why so many mining companies select Pronto Xi ERP Software to run their operations. Pronto Xi is currently running in hundreds of mining organizations worldwide – from junior mining to large-scale producing mines that are on a global scale. Our mining clients cite many benefits as to why they chose Pronto Xi and PSA consulting for their implementation, but most frequently we hear the following:

Pronto Xi is proven in meeting the needs of the mining industry.

Pronto Xi ERP Software has been meeting the operational needs of mining companies for decades through strength in financial, project and asset management. Today over 450 mining and mining suppliers use Pronto Xi which is a testament to the quality and comprehensive functionality that Pronto Xi offers. Recognized as a mining industry leader Pronto Xi continues to be developed using direct industry feedback which boasts an edge over its competitors.

Quick Return-on-Investment

A rapid deployment and low total cost of ownership (TCO) allow Pronto Xi to deliver a quicker ROI without compromising functionality. Comparable to Tier 1 and Tier 2 ERP software Pronto Xi provides a rich feature set with deep functionality, while being available at a lower overall cost. This is a significant benefit for up and coming mines with shareholder commitments.

A single fully integrated solution with flexible deployment

Pronto Xi is a fully integrated solution with modules that seamlessly manage corporate, exploration, mining and operations activities. Modular functionality can be implemented all at once or gradually as mining production develops; and with extensive core functionality there is no need for add-ons or interfaces for other areas such as tenement and equipment maintenance management.

Reliable Remote Connectivity to Mine Sites

Pronto Xi works well in low bandwidth, high latency connectivity allowing remote mine sites to continue to benefit from real-time ERP connectivity with head office locations.

Global Mine Operations Management

Mining organizations need software that can support international transactions. Pronto Xi functionality includes multi-currency, consolidations and advanced financial reporting that is suitable for geographically diverse mining operations.

World-class Asset Management | Predictive and Preventative Maintenance

Pronto Xi helps to maximize utilization and productivity of mining equipment through comprehensive asset tracking and management. This entails tracking, usage, cost, and maintenance of mining assets that increases up-time through structured predictive and preventative maintenance planning.

Accurate mining project management and costing

Detailed project management and costing allows mining organizations to make proactive and informed decisions. Pronto Xi manages project details with accurate resource, expense and income tracking to ensure projects are on time and on budget. Pronto Xi project costing can handle project hierarchies, multiple cost centres, multi-customer invoicing against projects, charge out by cost category, profit take-up and release and more.

Business Intelligence with IBM Cognos

A strong business intelligence platform is critical for mining organizations. Pronto Xi has built-in business intelligence tools running on IBM Cognos for real-time reporting of mine performance. IBM Cognos reports are available both in the office and via mobile device for real-time performance updates.

SOX, IFRS and US GAAP Compliance

Pronto Xi ERP Software meets SOX, IFRS, and US GAAP compliance requirements to ensure that corporate regulatory obligations are satisfied.

Mining Industry Experience

Choosing an ERP software partner, is as critical as selecting the ERP software itself. Mining companies seek out ERP consulting teams with deep mining industry knowledge that will add value to the business processes that will be supported by their software implementation.

Although many industries are complex, the mining industry offers unique challenges where only experience can provide an advantage. Pronto Xi ERP Software proves time and time again that it is the best choice among competitors for mining by providing the tools to reduce operating costs and improve production efficiencies to achieve profitability. Mining companies worldwide continue to choose Pronto Xi based on decades of industry success and its ability to continue to develop to meet the evolving needs of the mining community.

For more information about Pronto Xi ERP Software for Mining, visit our mining industry page.


Improving ERP for Mining | Part 2: Job Costing

The most essential module in any ERP system that is focused on mining is the Job Costing module. It is arguable that most ERP systems have generic efficiency built into most of the common modules like General Ledger or Fixed Assets, but there is a significant variation into Job Costing functionality across the board and this is one of the primary elements that should be investigated when selecting a mining proven ERP system.  The primary requirement is that the job costing system would be able to handle multiple types of projects at the same time allowing a company to explore, construct and operate at the same time if required.

The common perception of job costing is that it simply provides the ability to track cost for a specific job or project. While this may be the case in a limited ERP, job costing must have a select list of features to truly benefit a mining organization;

 

Budget Development

Budgets develop from a number of sources, and the most efficient and accurate way to develop budgets for specific projects is to involve all required sources of knowledge and compile a budget form this information that can evolve and be accessible to all interested members of the project.

 

Typically this can be simplified into Labor, Material and Other Costs.

  • Labor costing can be directly attributed to the project by specifying resources in the HR system and when exploding the hours the associated direct costs can be applied at accurate rates immediately.
  • Material costs should primarily come from the inventory module which would track average buy price, average costs, last costs and accurate lead times and supplier information to help build an appropriate material cost into the budget. The integration to inventory also allows for the budget to form a buying plan for the purchasing team to ensure anything entered into the budget can be verified as accurate as required inventory is committed to the project and inventory is ordered. Instead of a user specifying a blanketed number for cost categories relating to inventory, the inventory could be specifically selected from the stock catalogue and once quantity is applied the value would automatically populate.
  • Other costs can come from a number of sources, and allow the user to appropriate generalized costs based upon experience and user intervention. Quotes from contractors can be included here even prior to the quotation being converted from a quote within the system to a valid PO.

Once a budget has been formed it is essential that the original budget is locked into the project and any subsequent variations or edits are stored separately so that it is possible to report the actuals of the project against all estimates.

 

AFE (Approval for Expenditure) and Capital Projects

Prior to the commencement of cost tracking a capital project there is a budgeting and approval process that should occur first. Within a job costing system that is designed for mining, users should have the ability to set up a project with a unique identifier that would then allow for multiple revisions of budgets as discussed above, and then an approval process that could escalate through management as per the organizations approval hierarchy.

The approval process typically involves the  development of the estimated budget to completion and then electronically attaching all documentation to the project in a way that allows any approving member of the organization to review all of the relevant approval information prior to committing to the project. Given that projects vary significantly in budget amounts, the most efficient ERP solution for approval would be to allow a tiered hierarchy to approve projects based upon the budgeted costs. As the project is created, it would escalate to each level of management by an automated email and workflow process which would eventually arrive in the queue of a manager with the appropriate approval levels to then initiate the approval of the project.

It is common within the ERP market that project approval is not sophisticated enough to handle this process so many mining companies look to external software and integrate back to handle this requirement.

 

Exploration

Exploration and Tenement Management provides a different challenge to managing operations within an ERP system. Statutory information such as dates, project types, royalties and analysis codes should be available to ensure that tenements can be dissected rapidly to provide timely information in a structured manner that makes sense and improves visibility.

Integrating exploration projects to the GL allows for any costs sent to a tenement to be cost tracked in the general ledger in the P&L in a way that removes any manual intervention from accounting staff to appropriately represent exploration costing. The automated integration effectively removes exploration staff from coding anything directly to the general ledger and automatically applies costing to the correct location so that information within the project itself or the GL is accurate as soon as it is posted.

Given that mine exploration may have its own costing methodology within the GL, the job costing system should allow each of its exploration projects to be directed to whichever section of the P&L makes sense for the type of exploration being conducted, otherwise it would be necessary to report on the different forms of exploration and split these costs out manually to the GL which adds significant effort to month end closure and removes the ability to report timely.

 

Cost Tracking & Work Breakdown Structure

Once any form of project is active costs will start to flow through the project and the tracking of these costs and the integration of these costs to the general ledger will provide the users with the required information to measure the success of the project as it operates and also will help determine the impact upon the financials of the project.

Cost tracking is generally done through taking a project and adding a variety of cost categories to the project to assist with the classification of costs that accumulate. These cost categories would be derived from how the project was initially budgeted, and any cost applied to the project should comply to the structured budget. Controlling these costs should be possible on a number of levels and this is dependent on the organizations budget vs actual methodology.

There is no one right way to develop a cost tracking structure for projects but the ERP should allow for this flexibility. For instance, some organizations prefer to classify their project costs in the exact same manner as the General Ledger, so any natural account for Fuel which may be code 5660 in the GL, would also be code 5600 in the project system. This allows for complete consistency between the modules and is very effectively. However, in some organizations the GL is structure in a way that makes sense for financial and management reporting but does not translate well to users of the project costing system or operational staff. In this case it should be possible that the ERP would use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) instead of the GL classified categorization of costs, so effectively the job costing system can have its own cost category schema based upon a WBS.

Regardless of how the organization wants to classify its costs and track them within the project costing system, the ERP system should be flexible enough to handle these requirements. This is commonly overlooked when selecting an ERP and can force the structure of the GL to be adapted to the poorly functioning project costing system.

 

Variation and Sub-Contract Management

It would be foolish to consider that projects always run to the exact budget and the project wouldn’t variate from its initial scope. There is enough evidence in everybody’s experience within the mining industry to realize that the industry is complex and projects cannot always be accurately measured and unique challenges can arise rapidly. In the event an unexpected change were to evolve a variations system allows the organization to effectively measure any supplemental costs associated with the project in a way that the variation can be approved much like within the AFE section that was discussed earlier.

Sub-contract management is another concept on its own that allows for the management of endless subcontracts on each project to help in tracking the progress as well as financial commitments a project has based upon an agreed quotation at the start of the project. To work efficiently the sub-contract management should be completely integrated into the project in a way that allows for project costs to be accumulated like any internal cost and measured against budget. Building out a sub contract on the project assists in building out the initial budget of the project but also allows the project management to continually analyze what costs are expected and update accumulated costs in a timely manner.

Each of these functions come with complex functionality requirements, and should certainly exist within any job costing system offered within an ERP system. It is only logical that this functionality is embedded into project costing given its reliance on the project information and its impact on the project information.

 

Conclusion

Without these elements it is inevitable that 3rd party software would be required, which provides a number of challenges to the organization that can be easily avoided. Being forced to commit to an additional software package because the existing ERP does not sufficiently deal with the requirements of the mining company is not an efficient or cost effective solution for the modern organization and the selection of an all-round mining ERP is the solution for avoiding such unnecessary variation from managing data. Given that so much information flows through the job costing module in a mining environment, the flexibility and completeness of this module have a direct relationship with how successful the organization would be able to use their ERP. 

 

Jarrad Sonnenberg
Manager, Business Development & Advisory

Jarrad is a Pronto Xi ERP software expert with over 10 years of experience in providing ERP implementation and support services to mining, distribution, field service and manufacturing industries.

 

 


Improving ERP for Mining | Part 1: Planned Maintenance Forecasting

As the mining industry matures around the use of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and users become more efficient in operating an integrated solution, it is often difficult to utilize all the functionality a mining-dedicated ERP software solution offers. In researching what mining organizations are doing around the world to manage their operations through intelligent ERP solutions, there are trends available that set best practice operators above the rest. In this series, PSA will explore important business processes that are commonly overlooked in the mining industry.

Any producing mine site should be running an ERP that has an integrated Planned Maintenance module for complete cost visibility, since the maintenance module touches more transactions than any other module, through:

  • Creation and management of work orders
  • Issuing of inventory to work orders
  • Allocation of timesheets to work orders
  • Equipment cost accumulation
  • General ledger integration
  • Rotation of critical spares

Due to high transactional volumes within maintenance, an appropriate forecasting methodology is critical in improving the visibility over costs and operational efficiency. Any ERP system has the ability to use commitments of purchases to track cost-to-complete at project levels or forecast expenditure against budgets. Even though the purchase order commitment functionality is a commonly used and important metric for measuring expected costs, it only accounts for a small portion of transactions. On the other hand, a module generating between 50% – 80% of transactions should garner a more significant focus.

A common reality for a lot of organizations is the lack of readiness or comfort in the information required to forecast accurately. When forecasting planned work over a 1, 3, 6, or 12 month period, it is possible to develop detailed forecasts for:

  • Equipment downtime, leading to accurate availability and utilization estimates
  • Materials requirements
  • Labour scheduling
  • Workshop capacity

There are obvious benefits in being able to predict any of these items with accuracy, and an integrated Planned Maintenance solution makes this possible. If every planned task that is due to be performed on the mobile and fixed plant is logged within the system as a planned task, then any of these items can be successfully forecast.

 

Equipment Downtime

Registering estimated downtime on a planned task allows the production team to plan around equipment delays when scheduling production. Any task that would trigger downtime on a piece of equipment should be tracked. That way, as work is forecast in advance for maintenance, operations can see the equipment’s availability and reduce the impact of maintenance on production. Through registering all expected downtime for each task within a maintenance solution, it is possible to visualize and forecast downtime for the operation.

 

Material Requirements

Inventory replenishment should be automated based upon min/max and commitments within the organization. To assist in the automated process, planned tasks should include material checklists.

This is commonly skipped by mining companies due to the resources it takes for setup, but the benefit is significant enough to warrant the initial effort. Once inventory is linked to planned tasks, the forecast creates internal demand for the inventory against the warehouse, which prompts the procurement team to ensure inventory needs are met for all planned work.

If 60% – 80% of inventory usage transactions are related to maintenance, the significance of material forecasting from an accounting perspective is that the expected cash flow requirements become increasingly apparent. Potential budget discrepancies can then be managed proactively.

The benefit of providing procurement advanced information on their expected replenishment objectives, notwithstanding the benefit from an accounting and finance perspective, is that the largest component of inventory costing becomes manageable and predictable, and rejecting this level of insight into future periods is an oversight that can be easily overcome by allocating resources to the maintenance planning process.

 

Labour Scheduling

Planning maintenance properly allows planners to attach labour types to every task and forecast the labour requirements of maintaining a plant. This is useful primarily because the process allows for the forecasting of labour costs and analyzing labour shortages/overages. Developing a labour schedule makes it possible to visualize where labour is being underutilized and understand how changing the size of a maintenance crew would impact upon budgeted values. In forecasting labour, it is possible to budget a headcount and a maintenance activity based budget and then measure actual hours against this budget to refine the planning process moving forward.

There is significant value in developing an accurate Planned Maintenance plan. As such, the initial efforts required will provide benefit beyond just the planning process. Forecasting costs and managing cash flow are closely related and the accuracy of a maintenance plan have a direct impact on how to manage budgets. Implementing a proper maintenance planning process not only benefits the organization from an operational perspective, but provides relevant information that will help shape the financial analysis process and structure budgets in a meaningful and accurate manner. This is seen as an area of improvement for all mining organizations. The gap between organizations who allocate budget to preparing a detailed maintenance methodology and those that do not is clearly visible.

 

Jarrad Sonnenberg
Manager, Business Development & Advisory

Jarrad is a Pronto Xi ERP software expert with over 10 years of experience in providing ERP implementation and support services to mining, distribution, field service and manufacturing industries.

 

 


New Features! Pronto Xi 730.3 Service Release

The latest Pronto Xi ERP Software Service Pack, 730.3 was released earlier this year which included some significant enhancements. Some of the highlights included in this service pack are:

Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two factor authentication helps to confirm the user’s identity by verifying multiple pieces of information to validate the user before granting access. When accessing Pronto Xi mobile applications such as Mobile Service or Employee Portal, users will be authenticated using a 6-digit, one-time passcode (OTP) issued at login stage. With users away from the office, 2FA provides the peace of mind that your data is secure.

KPI Library (Beta)
The KPI Library provides a pre-configured set of industry standard measures with a focus on fast performance. Included in this enhancement is 65 pre-configured KPIs with a combined total of 1096 metrics. The built in library allows users to gain quick access to a portfolio of business intelligence for sales and inventory, GL, accounts receivable, accounts payable, service management and project management.

New Version: TrueForm Neo 1.2
Pronto Xi 730.3 also includes a new version of TrueForm Neo. This new version provides an extensive list of new features:

  • Spellcheck function added to the Output Designer
  • Ability to send emails in HTML format
  • Improved management of design components that are shared between allqueue, preview, email and fax
  • Template optimization
  • Streamlined email process for multiple process
  • Enhancements to improve overall formatting and alignment when designing output forms

Maintenance Management | Rotable and Repair Processing
Rotable and repair processing provides for better accountability and tracking of asset components. By adding a new workflow for management of rotable tracking and repairs existing inventory management capabilities are now tied together to deliver a comprehensive repair and replacement process – for both in-house or external service providers.

Inventory Management | Stocktake Update enhancement
Pronto development has updated the Stocktake Update process to deliver considerable efficiencies in processing time. Stocktake as a whole is now faster and more efficient.

Distribution Requirements Planning | New options at order release
Pronto Xi users are now provided the option to trigger either Purchase Orders (P) of Transfer Orders (T) at DRP order release. In the past, both reports were created simultaneously. This enhancement provides increased flexibility for users.

For more information about Pronto Xi 730.3, contact PSA Inc. or download the 730.3 Marketing Advisory.