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The Need for Adaptive ERP
From their inception, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have been deployed with an overarching purpose: reduce costs by managing processes and materials. Until the middle 1980s, enterprise systems were built for narrowly defined business needs such as order management, account payables, and inventory control. The first real ERP systems integrated the data and processes once handled by individual programs into a single system capable of managing almost every aspect of running a sizable business. They transformed how modern businesses work.
 
The principal benefit of a consolidated ERP strategy was ensuring that data wasn’t duplicated across departments, eliminating “islands of information.” Processes once separated could now be linked, enabling enterprise-wide planning and optimization. For years, the focus of ERP was top-down implementation of this strategy: the imposition of processes and measurements from an executive perspective. As the marketplace has evolved into a global competition, where facilities, suppliers, and partners are dispersed geographically and supply and demand signals occur over increasingly complex and nuanced value networks, the top-down orientation of traditional ERP is proving to be less than adequate on its own.
 
In this new business environment, change and innovation are accelerating; risk and opportunity are dynamic elements across networks, and business practices and processes are evolving at a pace heretofore unimagined. Response to this changed competitive landscape demands that ERP not only support the executive agenda but also the needs of individuals, regardless of where they are in an organization’s value network. Only then can companies mobilize quickly and respond effectively to events as they occur at breakneck speed, whether in Singapore, Stuttgart, or the Silicon Valley. So ERP has had to evolve into adaptive ERP.
 
Why Adaptive ERP Is Important
In a global marketplace where speed, change, and the demand for innovation are accelerating challenges, the expectations of ERP have changed. ERP is no longer simply about cutting costs, but rather about enabling businesses to grow and take advantage of new opportunities (and avoid unexpected risks) as they emerge. Competition may come from anywhere, often from unfamiliar players; disruptive technologies (e.g., additive manufacturing, social networks) may also change the game radically in a short time. Companies now need ERP systems that can adapt to unique and dynamic business environments, drive growth, and control costs.
 
A large part of business innovation is trying new things with less risk, modeling ideas and outcomes, or simply changing how people work with information. Today, ERP systems have to be approachable by all employees, changeable to waste less time, and readily integrated with other systems. To put it bluntly, ERP needs to adapt at the same speed as business—or get out of the way.
 
Epicor ERP version 10: Designed to Support Adaptive ERP
A principal way Epicor ERP version 10 helps meet these challenges is through flexibility. Processes can be defined and changed easily, and the system can be deployed as a single instance or in loosely coupled peer instances, on-premises or in the cloud. The solution has been designed with the knowledge that a company’s ability to innovate is at least partly coupled to business process strategy; specifically, agility is realized when processes are easily and inexpensively changed.
 
A recently issued white paper details the new functionality in ERP 10 that enables genuinely adaptive ERP. You can access it here.
 
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
Efficiency and ERP
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”  — Bill Gates
 
Because Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are central to today’s business operations, let’s consider the words of the Microsoft founder and how they apply to ERP. Today’s global business environment has transformed what enterprises need from their ERP systems. Global competition has led to the development of extended value networks, with facilities, suppliers, and partners in every part of the globe; moreover, it is much more nuanced than was ever imagined. Change is constant. Innovation is accelerating. Competitive pressures and customer expectations are higher. In this dynamic and challenging environment, technology must support the goals of better collaboration, increased agility, real-time responsiveness, and higher performance while reducing complexity in what is inherently a complex structure. Failing to do so may hinder what technology is meant to drive: growth and opportunity.
 
Epicor ERP 10 has been built from the ground up to comprehensively respond to these needs and provide the support organizations require to thrive in today’s competitive global business landscape. Guided by the needs of 21st century organizations, Epicor ERP 10 streamlines the use of ERP across multiple devices while providing greater deployment choices, reduced complexity, and remarkable ease-of-use. Built on agile technology to provide rich, global functionality, we believe it is a truly inspired ERP solution, one that not only unleashes the full potential of ERP, but also changes its role from necessary infrastructure to active and efficient facilitator of business growth and sustainability.
 
A recently published white paper details how Epicor ERP 10 has been architected for efficiency. You can download it here.
 
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
The Manifold Productivity of ERP

A post on TechAdvisory.org points to the advantages of enterprise resource planning (ERP) for small and mid-sized businesses considering the technology for the first time; however, its list of how ERP supports today’s business requirements in terms or productivity and profitability extends to enterprises of all sizes. They cite 10 top requirements for today’s businesses and how ERP helps meet them:

  1. The need to make decisions fast. ERP delivers reports and dashboards that combine data from every department to managers no matter where they are.
  2. The need for highly productive employees. ERP automates most of the manual processes that takes workers away from more valuable labor.
  3. The need for great customer service. It’s never been easier for customers to find a new supplier. ERP connects information across the organization so that you can answer your customer’s questions quickly and accurately, every time.
  4. The need to support multiple distribution channels. To expand market reach, Internet, channel, and direct distribution need to be supported. ERP connects all systems across supply networks to improve market performance in all market channels.
  5. The need to accurately match costs with income sources. When you execute work, you need to know whether you are really making a profit on it. ERP tracks all costs related to projects or jobs to ensure profitable engagements.
  6. The need to support remote employees. Employees need to be productive wherever their work is. ERP systems allow remote workers to access and enter information where they are, when they want to—increasingly on the mobile devices they choose to use.
  7. The need to manage industry-specific requirements. Every business is unique; business systems generally aren’t. With ERP, you can build workflows and reports that specifically address the specialized requirements of your industry.
  8. The need to simplify compliance. Meeting the reporting requirements of increasingly stringent regulations can take a huge manual effort. Instead of spending weeks and months on manual documentation, ERP’s automated functionality speeds and simplifies compliance while allowing your human capital to focus on more productive and value-added tasks.
  9. The need to support global commerce. Increasingly, business crosses international markets. ERP eases complicated currency translation and supports staffing overseas by providing accurate information without undue latency (essential for efficient operation of dispersed business networks).
  10. The need to attract young workers. The aging workforce places a premium on attracting young talent. A generation that has only known the digital age has little patience for tasks they know can be simplified with technology; to this group, the technological prowess of ERP not only makes intuitive sense, it reinforces their belief in the company’s commitment to stay current with technology—something they see as highly important.

When ERP matches your business, the best practices that are part of the system can be used to automate the flow of information in the business. The key is finding an ERP that is a good fit—the general flow of the system needs to match your business practices. When this happens, many good things follow, including greater productivity and higher profitability.

Posted by By Christine Hansen, Manager, Product Marketing

Chirch Global Leverages Epicor SaaS ERP to Streamline Operations and Deliver Consistent Results

In a recent post, we addressed how manufacturers are seeking greater vertical functionality from their ERP providers. A perfect example of how this is succeeding can be seen at Illinois-based Chirch Global Manufacturing LLC (Chirch Global). Consistent with its mission of creating an optimal customer experience, the leading Chicago-area manufacturer of metal stampings and sheet metal fabrications strategically chose Epicor Software Corporation as its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider.

“The core reason why we selected Epicor was that its roots were in manufacturing,” says Anthony L. Chirchirillo, CEO of Chirch Global. “With their robust service available in the cloud, we’re able to focus on our end goal: fulfilling customer needs in the best way possible. This adoption comes at a key time for us, and has already helped us further improve our responsiveness to customers.”

Operations manager Michael A. Chirchirillo adds that using the Epicor ERP solution has improved communications across the Chirch Global enterprise, enabling better, faster reactions to market demand changes and customer needs.

The partnership with Epicor reflects Chirch Global’s continual commitment to innovation, to staying abreast of technological advancements, and to serve as an all-encompassing resource for the manufacturing community. With the inception of the Chirch Global Manufacturing Network that currently consists of 15 best-in-class businesses, the company is poised to become the single-source provider for nearly any type of manufacturing need in the year ahead.

For an up-close interview with the Chirchirillo’s regarding their selection and use of Epicor ERP, you can watch here.

   

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

Momentum Continues to Grow for Vertical Functionality in ERP

An article in CIO points to the strategic conundrum that is giving rise to increasing vertical functionality in ERP, for manufacturing as well as other business sectors:

If your enterprise has customized your mission-critical ERP systems over the years, your future upgrades will likely be more troublesome and terrifying because the changes can conflict with the patches. On the other hand, if you are running out-of-the-box ERP with little customization, maybe you're not getting all the important features your business needs. So what's a CIO to do? And how do you figure out what to do next if upgrades or replacement are looming in your future?
       
According to Rebecca Wettemann, VP of Research at Nucleus Research, an increasing number of CIOs are choosing the less customization path. A major driver of this development is that ERP vendors are building applications with greater industry-specific vertical functionality. “Part of the reason for this recent trend is that ERP vendors are now recognizing that if they build applications that include verticalization, they will be easier for more companies to adopt with fewer problems and far less customization,” says Wettemann.
       
CIO defines verticalized applications as those “built with specific industries in mind, so they are essentially designed to fit different kinds of businesses out of the box.” Typically, to help the applications better conform to a specific industry vertical, they include role-based views and components that users can easily configure so they more closely suit business and process needs, without requiring code writing and deep code customization.
       
Wettemann says that this approach—which she describes as install vanilla—is good for many companies using ERP. "I think it depends to a certain extent on the application that is chosen. If the application has vertical functionality with role-based sourcing and other possible configuring, then, yes, you're better off going vanilla," she says. "Clients see this as a less risky move, a more predictable way to deploy ERP and a way that is more likely to minimize disruptions and costs over time, which is even more important."
       
In fact, a survey cited in Industry Week showed that 96 percent of manufacturers “need or want” more specialized ERP. The single greatest need for more industry-specific functionality was cited among manufacturers who say managing return on assets is a core part of their business. The rationale is straightforward:

Manufacturing in North America has become more complex as long-run repetitive manufacturing has become less common. More and more manufacturing in the Western Hemisphere centers around demanding processes like engineer-to-order (ETO), product lifecycles are becoming shorter and manufacturers are focusing more on the specific needs of the vertical industries they serve.
       
As manufacturers themselves have become more sensitive to the vertical segments they serve, manufacturing companies are increasingly valuing ERP solutions that have been developed and maintain vertical functionality with their industry in mind.  This trend gained traction at the outset of the decade, and has been building momentum ever since.

Posted by Tom Muth, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Epicor

RAPID Onboarding of Acquired Companies to your ERP

Many companies do not realize successful economies of scale and resource synergies from a merger or acquisition because they are unable to rapidly consolidate disparate organizations and business systems. Organizations currently on or considering a Merger and Acquisition (M&A) path will be tasked with bringing those companies together. One of the most critical projects in this endeavor will be implementing the selected go-forward ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. A properly executed onboarding strategy will enable you to recognize ROI by leveraging the scale of the new organization, and capitalize on the synergies of the merger or acquisition.

“RAPID” in the title of this article represents an acronym and a framework for executing a fast-tracked ERP implementation. RAPID actually includes an acronym within an acronym.

  • Reports: Reports include any business intelligence output, such as: dashboards, printed reports, transactional information, external data sources, etc.
    • Interfaces: Interfaces are any systems that may push or pull information from the ERP.
    • Conversions: All activities related to data conversion or data transfer.
    • Enhancements: Any functional gaps between your current ERP and the acquired company’s ERP should be fully documented, focusing on the impacts to your value stream.
  • Actions: The near-term action items resulting from each meeting should be tracked to completion.
  • Policies: All policies—especially customer-facing ones—of the acquired company should be documented, and policy changes should be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Issues/Decisions: As operational, personnel, or technical issues are uncovered, it is important to track those issues to completion with ownership and due dates. The resolved issues should have the decisions or solutions documented and filtered off your list.

Decreasing the amount of time to assimilate all entities onto one system will improve your timeline to return on investment of the merger or acquisition. Another tactic to rapidly implement acquired companies includes an effective project kickoff session, i.e., a Change Acceleration Process (CAP) workshop, to minimize employee resistance, attrition, and general dissatisfaction.

Communication is a key part of change management, and having an expert onsite that is skilled in this area is helpful. After all, if you fail to clearly describe the reasons for the acquisition and its expected impacts to your customers, your competitors will certainly do it for you.

Along with the technical migration, equally important projects to pursue during the
M&A process should include:

  • Human Resources Plans, Systems and Policies, such as: payroll, benefits, etc.
  • Marketing: A co-branding program is typical, with the acquired company’s logo being phased out over time
  • Sales territory alignment
  • E-commerce Web site shopping permissions

Approaching each aspect systematically, via the Actions, Policies, and Issues/Decisions execution steps of the framework above, will allow you to properly scope the project, manage the strategic deliverables, and work towards a RAPID implementation.

Posted by Jon Snow, Director, Business Consulting Services at Epicor

Line Metrics Changed a Culture: How Plant Data Can Inspire the Best in Your Business

Are your line operators "checked in," engaged, and excited about the impact they have on business results? How about managers and executives? Are the top floor and shop floor connected?

Businesses achieve some amazing things with line metrics – but the most surprising improvement of all is around human capital. When manufacturing data and information starts to flow throughout the business, it becomes a story of uniting your team around performance. An engaged workforce translates to passionate, empowered individuals – operators right on up to plant management and the executive suite – working together to build, sustain, and multiply improvements in operations performance.

While there is an unquestionable link between employee engagement and organizational performance, unfortunately, engagement is a real problem in manufacturing. According to Gallup’s 2012 Employee Engagement Index, only 1 in 4 production staff was engaged last year – line operators ranked last among the 12 manufacturing occupation types. The Gallup Index also shows that among disengaged workers, 50% were “mentally checked out” and about one-quarter of them were unhappy and actively undermining the employer.

Any manufacturer who is concerned about factory performance might also be concerned that plant staff might reject line metrics en masse. However, a new and entirely unexpected trend is emerging among businesses that use metrics and analytics to drive performance improvement. Manufacturers who leverage technology to establish a connection between the top floor and shop floor see a dramatic and unexpected shift in culture – one that unites and inspires operators, supervisors, plant management, and corporate executives to work together to build and sustain performance, and extend improvements across the production network.

The information-sharing loop begins with line and plant performance, then involves and engages people across the organization, from operators on up to the executive suite. These passionate, empowered individuals have what they need to drive financial and operational directives into specific, meaningful action.

Join us and special guest John Oskin, leading industry advisor on operations performance, this Thursday at 11:00 AM Pacific / 2:00 PM Eastern to learn more. Oskin will discuss how companies blend corporate initiatives and technology to drive operations performance – and along the way create collaboration among operators, management, and executives.

Epicor Webcast Event: Line Metrics Changed a Culture.

Sign up for this webcast today!

Posted by Diane Murray, Manager, Product Marketing

The Rise of Country-Specific Functionality
Key emerging markets offer excellent demand for enterprise applications. This is especially the case with Brazil. The country’s ongoing economic expansion continues to place it at or near the head of emerging markets. Bill Adams, senior international economist for Pittsburgh, Penn.-based PNC Financial Services group, described the Brazilian economy in a recent Forbes article: “Brazil’s economy is in a self-sustaining expansion. A tight labor market fuels persistent wage gains even in a slow economy, and these wage gains fuel higher consumer purchasing power and domestic demand and sustain economic growth.”
 
According to a recent report from Gartner, Inc., Brazil’s overall IT spending will near $124 billion (US dollars) in 2013, with IT modernization at the top of the list of priorities for Brazilian IT leaders. Furthermore, within the context of IT spending, the report also indicated that in 2013, ERP, CRM, industry-specific software, office and personal productivity tools, and e-commerce software lead the application software investment initiatives for organizations.
 
Such development is leading to an increase in customer-specific functionality (CSF) in software solutions, a trend underscored by the new release of Epicor iScala that integrates with the Epicor ICE Business Architecture to help customers gain increased agility, mobility, and flexibility while incorporating CSF functionality. “The new release of Epicor iScala represents a significant investment, bringing new capabilities designed to increase system performance, improve stability, and deliver long-term support for the latest technologies. This will enable our customers to realize even greater business value from the solution,” says Robert Sinfield, senior manager, product marketing for Epicor. “The increasing demand for enterprise applications within key emerging markets such as Brazil offers growth opportunities for Epicor iScala, while supporting our customers who are moving into this new market space.”
 
As companies increasingly target emerging economies as part of their strategic growth initiatives, support such as CSF is increasingly seen as an essential software component.
 
Posted by Robert, Sinfield Senior Manager, Product Marketing
Addressing Traceability Challenges with ERP
Food Manufacturing interview with Tom Muth, senior manager of product marketing for process manufacturing, Epicor Software Corporation.
 
Food Manufacturing spoke with Tom Muth of Epicor Software Corporation about the challenges processors face regarding food safety and traceability, and how ERP software can help mitigate these issues.
 
Q: What unique challenges do food manufacturers face regarding documenting food safety and traceability efforts?
 
A: Food safety is seen as the single most important issue among manufacturers, and the demands to document information relating to food sourcing, material flow, traceability and more present an ongoing challenge. These complex demands have a real cost, one very critical to bottom-line profitability as major food retailers take on a larger role in controlling. Forward and backward traceability of processed products, batches and lots requires detailed tracking from the point of materials receipt throughout production and delivery to customer shelves. Food manufacturers also require strict ingredient and environmental control throughout the manufacturing process, driving the need for food manufacturers to have the flexibility and details recorded across lots, batches, co- and bi-products. Lastly, food manufacturers are increasing the value of traceability responsiveness to quickly and efficiently respond to recall events or customer inquirers within minutes versus days.

Q: How can ERP systems help food producers meet these challenges?
 
A: ERP systems are providing the means to meet these challenges while improving internal business processes. By providing a framework to meet regulatory compliance demands, ensure product safety and control costs, ERP is proving increasingly essential as a tool in the food manufacturer’s arsenal for traceability. The ERP role is automating traceability of ingredients from origin to the final customer, as well as speeding and simplifying the audit process. A holistic electronic quality management approach is essential for meeting the challenges associated with traceability and quality. With ERP systems such as Epicor Tropos, quality workflows are integrated from the time of a sales order, to purchasing, to production, into inventory and finally to dispatch. ERP maintains quality specifications, sampling regimes and QA test results from order to dispatch and also may dynamically link to material lot and product release controls to help control quality and ensure full traceability.

Q: What are some best practices food companies should put in place regarding their supply chain management to help their business succeed?
 
A: Food manufacturers can help improve their bottom line by having standardized procedures for order management and delivery fulfillment. Another is to have standardized workflow and procedures for production planning and execution, and to ensure their operations are integrated and coordinated with customer service, logistics and delivery to improve process visibility and improve efficiencies. By doing these best practices, food manufacturers can better manage items throughout the whole value chain: improve controlling and planning stock, production, packaging, and distribution; and improve the collaboration between departments to optimize production capacity, perishability, warehousing and cash flow.  

Q: What are the latest trends with process manufacturing that food manufacturers can take advantage of to lower operational costs?
 
A: Some of the latest trends with process manufacturing that food manufacturers can take advantage of to lower operational costs include:
  • Optimizing materials consumption (reducing waste)
  • Extending shelf life of final products by speeding throughput
  • Lowering energy costs through real-time visibility
  • Benchmarking energy usage 

Q: What should food manufacturers consider before implementing an ERP system?

A: Food manufactures should consider an ERP system that has been designed for their unique business requirements for the food industry and representative success in their particular segment. Effective food ERP solutions such as Epicor Tropos are designed for process manufacturing and have a built-in process model and recipe and materials management support aimed at driving efficiencies and improving margins specifically for food and beverage industries. The ERP system should also be able to monitor and manage the variable nature of yields and product quality, shelf life and accurately forecast, optimize scheduling, manage materials, labeling and transportation in order to properly fulfill order to promise with a short notice. Lastly, an ERP package designed for food manufacturers will also have industry-specific functionality designed to minimize customization and include support for date code management, rebates and commissions, consignment costing, day one for day one order and delivery, multiple product attributes and grades, retailer-specific packing, and catch weight labeling.
 
Posted by Lindsey Jahn, Associate Editor, Food Manufacturing
Quote to Cash: ERP Drives Performance One Play at a Time
In the game of baseball, there is a strategy of each player knowing who gets the ball and who they throw it to; no matter where on the field it lands.  Not only is there an automatic response; the outfield is talking; the infield is talking; the outfield is talking to the infield, and a good coach is sitting silently because he knows his team is prepared and has the tools to get the job done.  He knows that each player understands that when a ball is hit to center field, the center fielder calls it, catches it, and immediately throws to the second baseman.  It’s automatic.  This is a process that happens without thinking and that transcends departmental boundaries.  Can the same be said of the plays that happen in your manufacturing business when your customers throw a curve ball with a new product line, a change in release date or added requirement? 

For businesses with silos of information and fractured processes, the answer is ugh .. yet another change.  But for those that understand the value of end-to-end ERP systems where business processes flow from department to department, change is like expecting a bunt when a man is on first base and there are no outs.  The play is already set. 

In today’s fast paced business environment, speed and the ability to quickly respond are many times the name of the game in filling customer demands. Manufacturers that deploy ERP systems that cover end-to-end business processes know immediately as the product ships what their profitability looks like on each production job for the customer and can in tune see historically, every time I ship this, how my profitability is improving.

How you may ask? These manufacturers are doing this by enabling their business data to flow from estimating to production to procurement and finance as well as production.  This data is captured as it happens and every employee understands the benefit of accurate information – to not only help their business determine what customers to keep happy, but also to help their business determine what customers to charge more to or to fire.  Each department doesn’t run as a silo, with its own systems to support it.  Rather an ERP system supports the entire business and provides a natural flow of data between departments, not unlike the strategy deployed by a good coach.  In the game of business, reduce the silos to see improved profitability.  ERP technology can help. Epicor can help.

Please plan to join us this Wednesday at 1pm Central to learn more.

Epicor Webcast Event: Improve Efficiency by Streamlining Quote to Cash Process!

Posted by:  Christine Hansen, Manager, Product Marketing at Epicor
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