In an earlier post, we looked at how smaller businesses were using e-commerce to establish brands, even premium ones, while getting closer to their customers. Along with the benefits that e-commerce provides smaller concerns comes new business requirements. Faster shipping is one of main ones.
While brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled to bring in customers in recent years, e-commerce has steadily grown and shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers, however, want more than just the convenience of shopping in their pajamas. They expect their purchases to arrive more quickly than ever, and e-commerce giants like Amazon are obliging with more same-day shipping capabilities. Small and midsize companies are feeling this trickle-down pressure to speed up their shipping times, and many are turning to their business application vendors in hopes of rising to the challenge.
Leslie Hand, research director for IDC Retail Insights, an IT analyst organization based in Framingham, Mass., observes that more manufacturers than ever are embracing e-commerce as a business model. According to Hand, by partnering with e-commerce sites such as Amazon, manufacturers can sell a broader range of products and deliver them more quickly to a wider range of customers than they could reach on their own. “In addition to finding the right software, small and midsize manufacturers that really want to reach consumers directly and quickly need to foster relationships with partners that can facilitate unit-level picking, the process of taking products directly from inventory to shipping,” notes Cole.
One of the benefits of speeding shipping times is doing a better job of juggling multiple sales outlets and logistics services. Cole cites a colorful example in her piece: Savvi, a manufacturer of novelty temporary tattoos in Tucson, Ariz. Savvi has been using Epicor's ERP system since June 2010, after 10 months of due diligence exploring vendor options. "We have three distinct divisions," says Chris Huff, vice president of operations at Savvi. "One deals with retailers like Walmart and Target. Another is a custom product, make-to-order division. A third is our vending machine division." The company also has a stock division, where an order can be shipped either same day or next day, depending on what time of day the order is placed.
We've got hundreds of thousands of stock images that you can pull up on our website," notes Huff. "You can place your order and get a confirmation number as soon as it ships. We have the same thing with our vending division, where orders that come in before 2:00 p.m. will be shipped same day."
The challenge for Savvi is multi-channel: it must juggle a number of different sales models and outlets when distributing its products, including e-commerce, major retailers, made-to-order manufacturing, and inventory control. Its shipping models are also varied, including overnighting products, shipping container loads overseas, sending truckloads for domestic sales, and going through FedEx and UPS.
According to Huff, Epicor ERP has helped simplify operations and speed order fulfillment. "This has been great for putting all our needs in one package," he says. "We were a mom-and-pop company initially, with a home-grown system. We acquired two or three competitors and at one time had five disparate systems running simultaneously; you can image the chaos that ensues from that." Now that the chaos has been put to order, orders are reaching customers when they expect them—a requirement for anyone operating e-commerce.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
Having just returned from the Epicor Insights
conference, I thought to review some information that I ended giving out in conversation with attendees in our Solutions Pavilion, including some basics of help installation.
The help installation is, of course, covered in the Epicor installation guide, but there are a few items to highlight. Once you run the basic help installer (which more or less just unzips the help), there will be a folder below the Help folder named Setup. You could theoretically use the help without the next step but then the help files would be served up via the file system and performance would suffer. For best performance, go into the Setup folder, right-click the EpicorHelpSearchSetup.exe, and select Run as Administrator.
Technical reference guides
Now that you have your help installed and configured, in the help enter this search: technical reference guides. The first search result should link to an overview topic of the Epicor technical reference guides. Use the links in that topic to access the dozen or so guides we have that are aimed at the power user or system administrator who needs an end-to-end explanation of a subject. You can use the online or PDF versions of the guides.
Web resources/downloading documentation
All of the Epicor documentation is posted on the Epicor customer portal Epicweb – http://epicweb.epicor.com
. After logging into Epicweb (contact your Customer Account Manager if you need an account), click the Documentation menu item on the top level menu and select Epicor 9 from the sub-level menu. The documentation deliverables are organized by release. You’ll notice that a major release (usually one with schema changes) will have the largest number of items. For example, release 9.05.700 has something close to 100 deliverables while release 9.05.702 has 70. Some deliverables are not regenerated in each service pack, so if you are not finding a deliverable in a service pack, remember to go back to the last major release and look there.
User guides are another great resource. These are our illustrated guides that go step-by-step through application and system processes. Because of their size (due to screenshots), they are broken into several PDFs per guide. To find the user guides on Epicweb, click the Documentation menu item on the top level menu and select Epicor 9 from the sub-level menu. Then look to the right-most column under the heading More Information. You will find a link to the user guides there (as well as links to hosted versions of help and feature summaries).
I hope I covered enough in this entry to accelerate your use of Epicor documentation. Feedback is always welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Charles Lloyd, Sr. Content Manager, Epicor University
Companies justify moving to a standard enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution based on a number of compelling reasons. By supporting a single system rather than several smaller and disparate systems, they can enjoy economies of scale and a single application architecture with fewer user interfaces that creates lower integration costs. And through common tasks automation (as well as easier access to more information), best practice systems and procedures allow for efficiencies not available when using multiple systems.
While the case for standardizing on a single ERP system can be relatively straightforward to make, the costs and impacts are sometimes easy to overlook. In this series of blogs, we will review a number of factors to help ensure a successful implementation. These include:
1. Build a cross-functional team
2. Set proper expectations to manage change
3. Create new business processes in sync with the new system
4. Implement in a phased approach
5. Make the necessary time and financial investment
Addressing these areas early on in the process can be the deciding factor whether the ERP implementation is a success in the long run. This blog series will highlight recommendations and the importance of each of these factors, starting with the first-- building a cross-functional team.
Creating new business processes, determining the necessary reporting, and identifying possible software customizations require input from many areas of the organization. By building a cross-functional team, companies not only improve the likelihood that all areas of the business are addressed, but also help create buy-in that can drive the overall project’s success. All cross-functional teams should include certain key organizational functions such as: project management, IT, and executive management.
To successfully take on a new ERP system, an organization also needs to address its corporate culture, which can be best driven by executive management. Corporate culture is a combination of two things: the type of people who are employed by a company, including their personal values, skills, habits etc.; and the way the organization works, including the focus, decision making process, attitude towards its staff, stability, etc. Both feed off one another.
Due to the nature of an ERP system, organizations need to become almost obsessed with detail. They need to have business practices that are adhered to, rather than just being documented once and forgotten. Employees also need to increase focus on profit and how the whole organization is impacted by their work, because ERP makes profit far more measurable, down to the department, customer, and material levels. ERP requires employees to understand the “big picture” and how their individual areas have impact in places they may never have envisioned. Employees can no longer just leave a problem for the next employee in the process because it makes their job easier, as ERP is truly a shared environment.
Look forward to the next blog post on how to set proper expectations and manage change with your team.
Posted by Amy Baker, Manager, Product Marketing Epicor
At “Manufacturing’s Next Chapter,” a recent business summit hosted by The Atlantic, industry leaders, government officials, and economic experts discussed a range of issues focused on the manufacturing sector. The increasing role of Lean manufacturing was evident in the proceedings. Also known as lean production or lean management, Lean manufacturing refers to a complete business system for organizing and managing product development, operations, suppliers, customer relations, and the overall enterprise. It requires less capital, material, space, time, and human effort to produce products and services with fewer defects to precise customer desires, compared with traditional modern management.
John Shook, chairman and CEO of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Lean Enterprise Institute, spoke to what he termed “right shoring,” an approach he said manufacturers should think of instead of re-shoring or off-shoring. “Things will be made in different places and they should be,” Shook said, “but we can be smart about it. Being smart about where to make products usually means locating design and production closer to the markets where products are sold.” But it also means knowing the total costs—not just labor costs—of each location where manufacturing facilities are, and Lean can be an invaluable asset in this effort. Shook noted that many companies who chased lower labor costs a decade ago discovered to their chagrin that labor savings were more than offset by higher supply chain costs. Decisions were made without understanding the implication of “hidden costs.”
In a recent post on “Leaning out” manufacturing processes with ERP, we noted the benefits that are establishing Lean manufacturing as a best practice for manufacturers: shorter lead times, better quality, lower costs, higher productivity, and improved levels of customer service and satisfaction. While we noted five ways ERP can help the application of Lean in manufacturing (i.e., reducing waste, facilitating continuous improvement, identifying sales and customer service opportunities, extending the benefits of orderless manufacturing and Kanban, and collaborating across the supply chain), of particular value in understanding real costs is the critical role enterprise systems play in documenting and communicating the records of enterprise activity. As American manufacturers come to realize how their ERP systems can work to support the goals of Lean manufacturing, they may find a competitive advantage heretofore not fully considered or leveraged. They certainly are positioned to do so.
According to industry analyst Dave Turbide, good enterprise system support is an essential component of virtually any Lean initiative. We couldn’t agree more.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
The realities of competition in today’s global marketplace have made Lean manufacturing a megatrend. This shouldn’t be surprising. Lean delivers what companies need to survive and thrive: shorter lead times, better quality, lower costs, higher productivity, and improved levels of customer service and satisfaction.
It also shouldn’t be surprising that what was often seen as a conflict between Lean and ERP is increasingly understood as a synergistic alliance: the bottom-up methods of Lean and top-down perspective of ERP together can form a powerful, holistic approach to making organizations and their processes more efficient and effective.
A white paper by industry analyst, Dave Turbide, details five ways ERP can help manufacturers implement leaner processes:
Reduce waste. As the “central nervous systems” of manufacturing organizations, ERP solutions carry the definitions, data, and records of enterprise activity. They provide the measurement systems for knowing where opportunities for improvement lie, and for determining the progress of efforts to reduce and eliminate waste.
Facilitate continuous improvement. ERP systems contain the definition and documentation of processes and procedures—the “as is” state before any changes. As improvements happen and changes are made in the system’s records, these new definitions enforce and perpetuate the improvements.
Identify sales and customer service opportunities. Lean initiatives strive not only to remove waste from customer-facing processes, but also to improve customer service. When waste is eliminated from these processes, the things that imperil customer satisfaction (e.g., delays, hassles, mistakes, and costs) are history, making it easier for customers to do business with the manufacturer.
Increase orderless manufacturing and Kanban. To meet the challenges of increasingly turbulent work environments (due in part to more volatile markets), ERP systems can support flow/Kanban production by issuing signals to match demand and optimize resource utilization while meeting schedules. This expands the benefits of flow/Kanban across the manufacturing enterprise.
Extend through collaboration. Collaboration tools built into or integrated with enterprise systems help extend Lean principles beyond the traditional “four walls,” supporting both the demand and supply sides of the business. Initially, it may seem that ERP may not fit the ten technical elements of Lean, but in fact it can support and extend them.
“Good enterprise system support is an essential component of virtually any Lean initiative,” concludes Turbide.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
Oil and gas (O&G) are some of the most important raw materials on earth. As an evolving market landscape, the O&G industry faces increased competition in response to growing pressure for better and newer revenue streams. Few other industries demand the scope and complexity of management required by the oil and gas industry, and this can have a dramatic impact on global commerce and economics.
Through today’s integrated and automated tools like enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, O&G companies stand a strong chance of meeting market demands, optimizing their productivity and sustaining their industry’s contributions to global progress. In order to succeed in the industry now, the oil and gas industry suppliers need enterprise applications that:
Integrate the working processes across disciplines, including engineering, fabrication, on-site construction, aftermarket service management and project management.
Standardize processes to better secure quality, including work performed internally as well as work performed by outside contractors and subcontractors.
Provide a complete overview of projects, along with tools to manage the project pro-actively and in real time.
Project resources planning tools- allows customers to better schedule tasks in parallel rather than in sequence. In this environment, for instance, you often start fabrication long before drawings and product structures are completed.
Engineering functionality and a centralized Product Data Management deliver what is in essence a combined ERP and PLM (product life management) solution. For companies that are involved in both engineering/design and purchasing/material management—and maybe even fabrication/installation—this central repository for engineering data that is shared throughout the enterprise allows for efficient and error-free handover of data between functions. It facilitates handover from engineering to purchasing, between fabrication and installation and maybe even, in the case of last-minute changes to the design, between engineering and installation. This level of integration with enterprise applications deliver detailed tracking of those difficult and unexpected project changes.
Posted by Kathie Poindexter, Manager, Product Marketing at Epicor
Ask ten people what you need to know before beginning your first ERP software evaluation and you’ll get ten different answers. The number of documents addressing the topic is voluminous. One of the best and most straightforward that we’ve seen was posted by Eric Kimberling of Denver, Colo.-based Panorama Consulting. He summarized 20 items that every CIO and ERP project manager should know before beginning an ERP implementation. Here is his list:
1. ERP is about your business, not the technology.
2. ERP initiatives are very challenging.
3. Selecting the right software is the first step in a successful ERP software implementation.
4. No ERP software is perfect. All have their strengths, weaknesses, and tradeoffs.
5. A business blueprint is the second step to an effective ERP software implementation.
6. Business process re-engineering should happen before, not after, you implement your ERP software.
7. ERP software best practices and pre-configured solutions do not solve all the challenges of ERP.
8. SaaS ERP won’t eliminate all your risks, either.
9. Your project will fail without adequate organizational change management.
- Executive buy-in and support is critical to ERP software success.
- The “A-Team” is critical to ERP software success.
- There is no “one size fits all” ERP software strategy.
- If your operations and ERP software system are misaligned, it’s probably not the software’s fault.
- Expectations are high, but most ERP software implementations don’t properly define the “finish line.”
- Most organizations strive for “no customization,” but most fail to do so.
- You don’t have to implement ERP software all at once.
- In addition to planning, implementation is also about execution.
- If you don’t measure it, you won’t achieve it.
- It is important to recognize the “canary in the coal mine,” or signs that your implementation may be in trouble.
- ERP software success and benefits realization is largely determined before the implementation starts.
While no list is comprehensive, this is a good, common-sense start for anyone considering an initial ERP software implementation. Another excellent white paper on the subject, by the president of independent consultant 180 Systems, can be downloaded here.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Among the trends in ERP software this year, the most touted may be the continuing strong emergence of SaaS ERP. As Forrester Research analyst, China Martens notes in a recent post, “It’s now the norm for clients to ask us about SaaS ERP. In fact, it’s unusual to field a call where SaaS isn’t mentioned.”
This reinforces an earlier post in ERP Software Blog that cites the rise of SaaS ERP as a trend for the year:
SaaS solutions first became widely accepted within the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software market; however, in recent years the growth of SaaS Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software systems is accelerating and analysts predict continued growth of SaaS ERP systems through at least 2012. SaaS ERP applications have matured to the point where ERP as a service is a strong consideration for many companies looking to upgrade their ERP applications. For most companies, the hosted delivery model requires no initial cash outlay for IT resources, a faster software implementation, on-demand scalability, and improved ROI. These factors collectively create a material reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) and acceleration of time-to-market benefits realization.
A post in the Strategic Information Group blog wags a finger at a Forbes.com post that smacked of the “death of ERP” mania (comparing it to the “death of Paul” rumors that dogged the Beatles for years), specifically citing SaaS ERP as a rebuttal: “The fact is, the established principles of ERP systems are being converted to new deployment methods like SaaS and the cloud, and to new devices like smart phones and tablets.”
Other important trends being noticed this year include:
- The development of mobile applications with ERP software functionality
- Greater scrutiny being applied to the ERP software selection process
- A diminution of “do it yourself” ERP software projects
- Realignment of ERP software to business objectives
- The enhancement of ERP software with social media capabilities
- More user-friendly ERP software
Among SaaS ERP software vendors, Martens sketches a quartet of common themes she sees as trends:
- Repurposing existing applications by expanding the scope of an existing small and midsized business product to take it upmarket or taking functionality from an existing application suite to create a new enterprise application
- Determining infrastructure options, such as whether to provide platform as a service or integration as a service, and if so, whether to develop these products internally or with third-party providers
- Establishing application showcases as a means of creating an ecosystem around SaaS ERP software
- Acquiring SaaS software resources and expertise to expand their footprint
In introducing his company’s annual ERP survey, Michael Burns, president of independent consultant 180 Systems, takes a longitudinal view, looking back to the turn of the century:
For the past 12 years it has been a buyer’s market for ERP systems. But today business has picked up and vendors feel less compelled to sweeten their deals. I consider ERP vendors to be a bellwether for the economy because organizations usually don’t invest in their systems unless things are going well and they are confident about the future. So what’s good for the ERP vendors is good for all of us.
That’s a trendline we can surely endorse.Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
In a recent webinar, Mike Tatara, product marketing manager for Epicor, takes a no-nonsense look at the challenges faced in managing today’s supply chains and how ERP can help businesses meet those challenges. As someone who spent over a decade in wholesale distribution, Tatara’s take on the subject should be particularly interesting to those in this sector.
Business relationships are more tenuous than ever for distributors. Trading partner expectations are at an all-time high, while loyalty can no longer be taken for granted in a volatile, rapidly changing marketplace. An agile technology strategy can help a business cope in this environment by preparing it for long-term viability and sustainability.
According to Gartner, IT leaders must put the brakes on perfectionism and take calculated risks that may surprise their own business and their competitors. “This is not the time to retrench,” says Peter Sondergaard, senior vice-president and global head of research at Gartner. In the webinar, Tatara discusses the early origins of the “means versus risks” dichotomy, and agrees with Gartner that winners are more likely to ask, what if we don’t?, rather than staying with the status quo.
ERP is expanding and evolving dramatically as business strategy and technology are increasingly intertwined. Epicor ERP is used as an example of a purpose-built yet nimble technology that enterprises can leverage to build a stronger supply chain.
The top supply chain management concerns are detailed:
- Globalization and increasing complexity
- The need for visibility and business intelligence across the supply chain
- Increasingly volatile markets and increasing demands
- Effective collaboration as a core tool
- Costs and revenue: the bottom line
The case is made that Epicor ERP, built from the ground up using a service-oriented architecture (SOA), provides an essential triumvirate of technology, features/functionality, and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) that enables companies of any size to optimize their supply chains, In particular, the SOA architecture features five characteristics (customizability, open standards, configurability, global engines, and distributed or local data scenarios) that Tatara says are essential to compete in today’s markets.
For distributors, the benefits are clear, including:
- Improved order management
- Streamlined WMS operations
- Greater control over inventory
- Additional capabilities to make companies stronger, more attractive trading partners.
A recording of the presentation is available here. It’s a good listen, and well worth your while.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Manufacturers sometimes find themselves with multiple ERP systems, at times from different vendors. Often the result of mergers and acquisitions, the ramifications can be confounding: complexity, cost, and inflexibility, not to mention a lack of accurate data for decision making.
A recent article in SearchManufacturingERP examined approaches to formulating plans for consolidating ERP systems. The chief requirement: understanding how the consolidation will map to business goals; if it doesn’t map to those goals, the company shouldn’t do the consolidation.
According to Murali Raghavan, vice president and head of horizontal IT services for global consultant iGATE, manufacturers are asking how they can increase responsiveness to create a better experience for their customers. ERP consolidation fills the gaps left by fragmented, disconnected systems.
Rajeev Ranjan, associate vice president of global IT consultant Infosys, suggests that ERP consolidation plans be assessed across four dimensions: business processes, user perspective, technology, and cost.
- Business Processes. Consider the health and productivity of particular business processes. If something is amiss, see if there is a system-based reason for the dysfunction and, if so, how much an ERP consolidation might help the situation. The quantification of benefits from optimizing business processes should go into the consolidation business case, along with other expected benefits.
- User Perspective. Dealing with multiple ERP systems can be difficult for employees; they have to learn more than one interface and feature set. Improving the user experience is often a significant benefit of ERP consolidation, with positive ramifications in terms of employee performance and satisfaction.
- Technology. The technology questions that arise are the same ones associated with an ERP upgrade, plus more. Is the organization running one or more systems that will soon be obsolete? Has it outstripped the system’s capacity? Do the ERP systems interoperate or does it take a lot of custom integration to pass information between them? These factors and more will affect the type of ERP consolidation a company eventually decides to do.
- Cost. From a total cost of ownership standpoint, it is significantly more expensive to keep multiple ERPs running compared to consolidating on one system. Along with licenses and maintenance, the cost of enhancements can be prohibitive, so companies learn to live without the enhancements they need to keep competitive. That is not a good thing.
A Forrester white paper that addresses this issue from a global enterprise perspective concludes that to reconcile potentially conflicting enterprise and business unit requirements, firms should adopt one of three ERP hub-and-spoke deployment models:
- Require all business units to use a single common instance.
- Mandate enterprise hub and business unit spoke applications.
- Allow business units to choose from an approved list of spoke solutions.
According to Forrester, which ERP deployment model is best for your enterprise depends critically on your operating model and the role of business units in your overall enterprise strategy.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team