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OpenERP and E-Commerce

Shield logo for Ubercart project

Image via Wikipedia

Last week a client asked me if OpenERP had an E-Commerce solution, and she was disappointed when I said no. But she was glad when I explained her why it was already integrated with existing open-source e-commerce solutions, such as Magento. And I wanted to share my thoughts on this, since some people keep asking for integrated e-commerce functionality (as well as business intelligence functionality).

To the best of my knowledge, to this day OpenERP already has connectors to Magento Commerce and Joomla. Does not have connectors to Drupal (Ubercart and Drupal Commerce projects) but I expect OpenERP to have those connectors soon since the Drupal community is growing fast (actually I am really tempted to develop a connector to Drupal Commerce but first I need a project to fund the development, and I need the time. Plus, Drupal Commerce first has to release an stable release). Which means, you can install your e-commerce solution, and integrate it with OpenERP.

What areas do you have to integrate? The product catalog comes to my mind (and the ability to manage multiple pictures per product). Then the sales orders, invoices, price lists and the delivery and inventory information. Those are the information items that should be available to the e-commerce solution, in order to make it work properly. Then the customer information, such as credit limits and order history. Lots of information that needs to be pulled from OpenERP.

OK, now why it is not a good idea for OpenERP to be a full-fledge e-commerce solution. Because the ERP and MRP problems are big enough. That’s why. E-Commerce is a different beast on its own, that demands other skills. Such as having the ability to make the page look good and the capability of implementing a design in your page. Plus, the page needs to be optimized for search, and the e-commerce solution needs to manage content the way a CMS does. That is quite an stretch for an ERP system. Ah! Have I mentioned that e-commerce packages need to integrate with payment gateways and sometimes need to be multi-lingual?

At the end of the day, the OpenERP community is not big enough to justify the development of an e-commerce solution on its own, and the e-commerce packages around already do an outstanding job. We will be much better off focusing on the development of the integration connectors, rather than developing an e-commerce solution from the ground-up.

Cheers,

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HR Attendance analysis with OpenERP

March 27, 2011 2 comments
KDE 4.0

Image via Wikipedia

My partner, Cristian Sebastian Rocha, has been working the past three months in the development of the hr_attendance_analysis module, which, as its name suggests, helps companies analyze their employees attendance.

This module allows you make calculations on the worked hours by employees. You can apply formulas and calculation rules in order to automate attendance calculation. It can also be integrated with other HR related modules, such as the clock_reader module.

This module also has a workflow for confirming the entered date on each document type, journal and payroll. The first document holds daily attendance information for the employee, whereas payroll holds payroll information on a monthly, bi-weekly or daily basis.

These are some screenshots for the module:

In this image you can see the main menu for accessing the HR module. You can also see the menu items for accessing the Payroll documents (selected) and Attendance Journals.

In this image you can see the document with the summary of employee hours (filtered by a date range). You can leave notes for each employee or for the document. It can have two states: draft and validated. We still have to develop the workflow for cancelling and re-setting the document.

In this screenshot we can see the entry for the employee Journal. Here you can see in detail the in and out time for a given date. You can also see the vacations or time off hours (such as late arrivals, early departures, sick days, etc.) To the left you can also see the result of the hours calculation.

This is a formula for summarizing the values stored in the journal, in order to be shown in the Payroll document.

This is a formula for calculating normal hours in a given  date for a given employee:

In this screenshot, you can see a rule. This rule assigns reasons for the actions of entering or leaving the plant. IN this case we can see how to calculate an early leave without a warning.

We still have things to do, but soon we will upload the module to LaunchPad. If you have any comments, or suggestions, they are more than welcome.

Cheers,

Getting started with the OpenERP MRP module

March 8, 2011 1 comment
MRP

Image via Wikipedia

Getting started with the MRP module can be a daunting enterprise, and it is easy  to get lost at it. But actually it is easier than it seems. I will cover the functional elements you need to get started with the MRP module. I will not cover how to do that, it is already covered in the documentation.

In order to start with the MRP module, you just need four pieces of information:

  1. Product information; the first information item you need. Which products you are planning to sell and procure.
  2. Bill of Materials, sometimes called formulas. They are a list of the raw materials, sub-assemblies, intermediate assemblies, sub-components, components, parts and the quantities of each needed to manufacture an end product.
  3. Stock information, pretty much how much inventory you have at hand. If you don’t have this information, you can’t even get started. MRP uses inventory information to determine when and how much to procure.
  4. Master Procurement Schedule; this provides the list of the products you need to procure (either purchase or manufacture) and when you need them. This can be provided by the stock_planning module. Or you could keep an spreadsheet updated with your procurement needs and create the procurement orders from there.

If you are planning on implementing the MRP module, you need to assess the four points I described above. Chances are bill of materials are maintained in paper or spreadsheets. The stock information might be maintained by an information system within the company. But at the end of the day, you will need to assess the quality of the bill of materials. Implementing them will be the longest item in the MRP implementation plan, and you can’t take shortcuts over there. Chances are you will need someone manually checking they are fine, and that you will need to import them manually (which might be the healthiest thing to do).

Well, just wanted to cover some information issues that come up when you are implementing the MRP module.

Cheers,

Thursday cloudy reads

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Thoughts on a modular OpenERP

February 18, 2011 2 comments
Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

Sharing my thoughts on how we have been using OpenERP these past four months. Couple of our customer (which happen to be small businesses) appreciate it as a full integrated system, and they are starting to use most of its modules. Starting with financial management for creating invoices and receiving payments. Pretty much managing its finances. Then they use the logistics and purchasing modules, and they have started planning for the CRM modules.

Those clients happen to be very small and they don’t have a large budget for a full-fledged ERP implementation, so they use it as they learn it. They started playing with it and from time to time they call us to help them with their questions or problems. And I think this list is growing for a couple of reasons. They find a lot of functionality and they love it. Second reason is, it gives them a chance to run away from Microsoft. We set world records when it comes to software piracy in Argentina, and the law has become stricter about it. Nowadays small businesses are being audited and are being forced to either buy Microsoft (plus other) licenses, or go open source. And many are choosing open source. And they are finding OpenERP a super option for getting rid of Microsoft Windows servers and Microsoft SQL servers. In the long run, this is a great scenario for cloud computing, but more on that on a later post.

Now, we finished a project and starting a new one. With different clients. We could safely say they are not related to OpenERP but we ended up using it. Why? Because OpenERP provided us with the infraestructure we needed for our projects. The system provided with the business objects (and forms, reports and views) necessary for deploying our applications.

In one project we needed to keep track of attendances with a fingerprint reader. So we used the contract, employee and attendances business objects provided by OpenERP. We just integrated the fingerprint reader module to the HR module. And the customer is pretty much happy with this, plus it saved us a lot of hours. Now we are starting a project where we need to calculate the safety stock, reorder point and order size for a manufacturing company. We will use the MRP module in OpenERP since it will provide us the business objects we need for this project (such as Bill of Materials).

Well, using OpenERP business objects is an scenario we never anticipated, and we are very happy with it. And we are very glad OpenERP is getting more and more modular. Plus, it is a good way to expand the OpenERP presence in customers.

Have a great weekend!

Giving feedback to the OpenERP team

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Software value feedback loop

Image by jakuza via Flickr

I found the OpenERP Improvement Ideas website. It is a very interesting site and it is a way of collaborating on setting OpenERP roadmap. The way it works? It is pretty simple. After creating your registered user, you are assigned a point amount (15 I think, I tried it last Sunday but I forgot, and I don’t want to create a new user). And you are able to vote for the different development initiatives. Plus, you are able to comment on them and discuss them with the development team and other OpenERP users. It is a very cool idea for collaborating in the development process, giving feedback and enhancing the community. Plus, it is a good idea well implemented, since the voters system is quite simple and powerful at the same time.

Cheers!

Learning OpenERP with videos

February 14, 2011 1 comment
Audio-Video-Concert SCRAP

Image via Wikipedia

Well, I don’t have that much time but I wanted make a quick short post on a website that helped me a lot to learn OpenERP. This website is OpenERP Video, you can find it at this URL:

http://www.openerpvideos.com/

My experience with the website has been very positive and I am very happy it exists. Actually, when I was beginning with OpenERP, I watched many of its videos since they taught me how to use the system, while at the same time reading the OpenERP book.

A couple of interesting things about this website, it has video content provided by the community and Pragmatic TechSoft. So if you have a nice video on how to use OpenERP, you can upload it and promote it at this website. The other interesting thing about this website, is how large its media library is. Keep in mind that producing a video is not easy, and producing a tutorial video is quite demanding since you need to devote the time to do it plus plan for it. Then edit it. It takes a lot of time.

These videos are brand new, and you can find videos covering the new features of OpenERP 6.0, such as OpenERP 6.0 module and UI improvement videos.

My last point is, we should have more videos online. Since end-users do not read manuals and they can’t spend weeks in classrooms. So having them watch videos is a good way to ensure the OpenERP adoption among end-users.

So… Kudos to Pragmatic!!!!