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What’s on Midmarket Manufacturers Minds?

I could quite as easily have called this post “How Epicor Customers are Surviving and Thriving in the Current Economy,” as to be honest this piece is based on getting out and talking to a myriad of Epicor customers in a variety of industries across several continents. Yet, since many of the customers I have spoken with between November 2008 and May 2009 were primarily manufactures or manufacturer distributors, it seemed appropriate to set the context that way.

Some of you will know, as we met up and chatted, that I recently embarked on a world tour of sorts. However, for those of you who don’t, which is of course the larger number, here’s where I have been. I started out in Asia in November 2008 as part of the launch tour for Epicor 9, and then on to Mexico in December. From the beginning of April to the end of May 2009 I spent 7 weeks on the road travelling first in the northern mid-west before moving on to Europe and taking in Poland, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, by way of Denmark and Finland, before finally ending up in Minneapolis, MN once again. And yes, I am still married, just.

Why so much travel? Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, Epicor makes a habit or rather a purpose out of customer road shows, summits, and meetings each year. Of course, we host our annual user conference, Epicor Perspectives, in the USA during the fall of each year, but our smaller road shows, provide us with the opportunity to get out and meet as many customers as we can; share some ideas, and hopefully learn a thing or two about each other’s businesses that can help us with the challenges we face and the opportunities we aim to exploit.

Midmarket Manufacturers

So just what did I learn? Well it’s no secret that the period from October 2008 to May 2009 was one of the most extraordinary that many of us have lived through in terms of economic upheaval on such a global scale. So you may not be surprised to hear that the sentiments and themes I heard time again were by and large the same. Even down to the “November, December, and January were really tough, but February, March and April were better.” The majority of time I asked the question “how’s business,” I was met with similar responses. Many businesses have needed to consolidate facilities, close plants, and make the tough decision to let people go, and Epicor customers are not specifically insulated against this either. I doubt this comes as a shock to anyone. But I do want to share with you one or two of the more upbeat stories I listened to.

For example, in Shenzhen, a sub-provincial manufacturing city in southern China's Guangdong province, situated immediately north of Hong Kong and with well over 10 million inhabitants, I heard from a mold, tool and die manufacturer that times were indeed tough in a way, unlike US manufacturers, they had not known before. They were looking to Epicor to help them manage their costs, and improve their processes while they refocused at least part of their business from US export-centric to internal Chinese consumption.

Midmarket Manufacturers

In the United Kingdom, I heard from a cosmetics manufacturer, whose business was not too far away from booming - something they call the “lipstick effect.” 

And, I heard from a German fabricator whose business had been significantly affected downstream in the supply-chain from a significant reduction in spend within the hospitality sector. Yet, although this had caused the consolidation of two plants, they had also seen an opportunity through innovation and increased R&D investment to bring a new ground breaking design to market in order to gain (or re-gain) share from weaker competitors.    

Finally, closer to home, I heard how a small medical device manufacturer had lost their largest domestic client, themselves victims of the recession, but had managed through innovation, high quality yet rapid production execution to secure two substantial new customer contracts for their products in north western Europe.

Something I often discuss with prospective customers when asked about Epicor’s product strategy is our commitment to continually innovate with technology, not just for technologies sake, but if we can help yield substantial results for our customers through ERP. In today’s climate, we all need to manage costs and scrutinize capital expenditures, but we must do so with an eye to maintaining or even improving customer satisfaction and through continued innovation and improvement within our business. I for one believe that Epicor not only understands this, but is in business to help you with just that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just yours truly out on the road, jeopardizing his marriage. Across these same events (and many others) that took in numerous major cities in Europe, the Middle-East, and the domestic United States, a good number of people from the Epicor team right up to and including our CEO, George Klaus, were out there piling up the miles, pounding the street, and pressing the flesh – working out how we can succeed together. I wonder how many similar customer meetings around the world Larry Ellison and Léo Apotheker, respectively the CEOs of Oracle and SAP, have attended this year?

Entry number: EPICBLOGJN0003
© James L. Norwood 

Posted by James Norwood, Vice President of Product Marketing, Epicor

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