Epicor ERP Software
Report on Manufacturing and ERP: Part Two

In our first post on manufacturing and enterprise resource planning (ERP), we covered the key findings presented by Kevin Prouty, senior vice president, research, at Boston, Massachusetts-based industry analyst Aberdeen Group, based on an Aberdeen survey of manufacturers. He reviewed key findings, figures showing how best-in-class manufacturers get more from ERP than average manufacturers, and how those using mobile ERP are getting better performance from their enterprise systems than those not using mobile capabilities. Today we conclude with what Prouty reports about manufacturers upgrading their ERP systems, as well as their use of cloud-based technology.

Results show that best-in-class manufacturers are much more likely to stay current with their ERP than average and laggard competitors:

Pouty cited four reasons that drive replacing ERP systems:

  • Lack of support from ERP vendor (55 percent)
  • Inability to tailor ERP to integrate changes to the business (42 percent)
  • Lack of qualified resources to maintain and support current system (29 percent)
  • Obsolete technology foundation or infrastructure of current ERP (24 percent)

Those who were reluctant to upgrade cited three reasons:

  • Current release satisfies needs (45 percent)
  • Lack of new features to build a solid business case (38 percent)
  • Fear of disruption to the business (37 percent)

With the rise of cloud-based ERP usage, manufacturers were asked why they would choose a cloud-based system. Sixty-two percent indicated lower cost of ownership, 46 percent cited the ability to scale the solution, 39 percent indicated reducing the cost and effort of upgrades, and 38 percent cited configuration flexibility. Other factors noted included ease of use and seeking the best fit.

Leaders found it important that cloud-based ERP fits into a multi-tiered strategy; they were more than twice as likely to have implemented a multi-tiered ERP strategy featuring corporate standards along with second-tier ERP to support local business models.

The benefits of cloud-based ERP in terms of performance metrics were considerable:


Prouty concluded his presentation with five points and recommendations, based on the performance of industry leaders:

  • Use as much of an ERP system as you can.
  • ERPs don’t fail, organizations do.
  • Extend ERP beyond the box it came in.
  • Look at all implementation options.
  • Strive to continuously improve.

The one thing not to do to keep competitive: nothing.

Posted by Manufacturing Insights Team

Report on Manufacturing and ERP: Part One
Kevin Prouty, senior vice president, research, at Boston, Massachusetts-based industry analyst Aberdeen Group, recently gave a presentation on manufacturing and enterprise resource planning (ERP) based on an Aberdeen survey of manufacturers. Respondents were scored across selected performance criteria and companies were segmented into best-in-class (top 20 percent), industry average (middle 50 percent), and laggard (bottom 30 percent) categories.
Key findings of the research included:
  • A lack of visibility and predictability is driving manufacturers today.
  • ERP is the single most implemented enterprise application.
  • ERP lays the foundations for standard business processes among manufacturers.
  • ERP is a living system that is maintained, extended, and evolved after initial implementation.
  • Best-in-class manufacturers are much more likely to have a multi-ERP or federated strategy than average or laggard organizations.

Respondents ranked the top pressures in manufacturing as unpredictable demand (41 percent), increased volume and complexity of data (40 percent), availability of skilled resources (35 percent), inability to collaborate across the extended enterprise (22 percent), and maintaining the security and stability of data (22 percent).

A comparison of best-in-class manufacturers with industry average manufacturers across performance metrics shows significant differences:

ERP is pervasive among manufacturers, with leaders indicating 97 percent adoption and followers 88 percent. The top five ERP extensions were CRM, warehouse management (beyond inventory management), standalone financial planning and budgeting, BI or analytical tools, and EDI translators. Across the board, industry leaders get more out of their ERP than followers; for example, seeing a 12 percent improvement in operational costs (versus 4 percent for followers), 39 percent improvement in inventory turns (versus 18 percent), and 20 percent improvement in stock-to-sales ratios (versus 7 percent).
An important finding of the study documented the benefits of mobile ERP:

These compelling figures point to why manufacturers are increasingly demanding mobile ERP capabilities.
In Part Two of this post, we’ll look at what the Aberdeen study said about upgrading ERP and the use of cloud-based ERP. Stay tuned.

Posted by Manufacturing Insights Team
Analyzing Your Risks for Business Success

We manage risk in our personal lives from issuing car insurance to dental cleaning, in hopes to reduce the consequences of potential unwelcome events. No one wants car accidents or dental problems, right?

Yet what we often fail to do is identify and manage risk in a business environment, similarly as we recognize risk in our private lives. More often than not, companies do not investigate everything that could impact their business, but rather, look only at the obvious areas of risk. They need to engage in proper risk management.

Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing, and controlling risks that arise from operational factors, and making decisions that balance the risk costs with the benefits.

You might be asking, why manage risk at all? What would happen if we choose to cliff dive in an area that no other swimmers have dove into before, and all it took was a minute of our time to prevent a catastrophe? All businesses encounter circumstances that can be identified and mitigated appropriately to gain positive risk benefits and reduce the impact of negative risks.

Typically, risk is considered to have a negative connotation, but in reality, risk is what provides a business the ability to succeed and we often fail to differentiate between good risks versus a bad risk. For example, if a company decides to increase its product lines to service a different customer demographic, this risk could potentially increase revenue while growing the overall business. If this risk is not taken, the company may remain at the same growth level, or have negative growth due to lack of innovation and customer retention.

That said, there are two types of risk:

  • Good risks are called opportunities
  • Bad risks are called threats

The goal of risk management is to really minimize potential negative risks, while maximizing potential positive risks.  While some companies go without a defined strategy, hoping everything will “work out for the best,” the reality is that businesses must be proactive in assessing risk versus the “hopeful” alternative.

Risk management helps establish the framework in which the project team will identify and develop strategies to mitigate or avoid the risks associated with activities such as a new project, ERP implementation, or upgrade/migration venture.

The risk management process should include the following tasks:

  • Risk management planning
    • Define the risk management plan
  • Risk identification
    • Risk register
    • Risk statement
    • Categorizing notations of risk
  • Risk assessment
    • Rating scale
  • Risk responses planning
  • Risk monitoring & control

We can take control by consistently evaluating and adjusting our processes to achieve the greatest impact on the success of the business. The process of implementing effective risk management will result in a more predictable and profitable business. To learn about analyzing risks for your businesses, visit our consulting services page to download the whitepaper:


Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

Upgrading Your Inside Sales & Customer Service Teams Part 3: MS Word Tips

In our previous blogs, we started discussing the need to focus on upgrading employees through skills enhancements, and shared some cool tips and tricks that can be applied in Microsoft Outlook to provide added efficiency and organization.  Now let’s expand upon that and discuss another application from Microsoft Office, Word.

Quite often, I see front line employees using the mouse and keyboard to accomplish tasks within Word, which is sometimes a necessity. However, many individuals heavily rely on using the mouse when the keyboard is faster (and thus more efficient). Here are the basic keyboard shortcuts that individuals can use to save time and eliminate the need to drag a mouse all over the screen:

Ctrl + N: This creates a new Word document
Ctrl + O: Open an existing Word document
Ctrl + C: Copies highlighted text or objects in the document
Ctrl + X: Cuts text or objects from the document
Ctrl + V: Pastes text or objects from the document
Ctrl + Z: Undo the last action performed
Ctrl + Y: Redo the last action performed
Ctrl + P: Print the current document
Ctrl + A: Select all text and objects in a document

All of the above keyboard shortcut keys have contextual drop-down menu equivalents, which is where the inefficiency lies. It requires the physical movement of a mouse to drop down menus, oftentimes in multiple, in order to find the command the user wants. If you were to conduct a time study, you’ll likely find it takes 10-25 percent longer to use the mouse with contextual menus than to use the keyboard keystrokes.

Here are some other quick keystrokes and mouse combos your users may have never heard of, but could provide significant value:

The Triple Click:  By triple clicking anywhere in a paragraph, a user can highlight the entire paragraph. No more clicking and dragging down, hoping to not race past the paragraph; only having to start the process all over again.

Alt & Drag:  This allows the user to create rectangular boxes across text, and then apply the formatting window to change only the area they’ve selected.

Hide the Ribbon:  Users can hide the ribbon at the top of the screen by double clicking the Ribbon Name. This creates more visual real estate, and therefore less movement to read a document.

Ctrl + Click: Allows users to select an entire sentence.

Format Painter: Use the paint brush icon to apply a particular format to another area of the document.

Ctrl + Shift + <&>:  Users can increase or decrease their text font size by selecting the text to change; to increase, use “Ctrl + Shift + >” and to decrease, use “Ctrl + Shift + <”.

Create an Excel Table: Users can quickly create an Excel table within a Word document by typing a plus sign (+), then pressing the Tab key. Repeat this for however many cells you want in the table and then press “Enter.”  The table will magically appear.

Ctrl + H: This opens the traditional Find and Replace window.

Ctrl + Tab: Allows users to jump between the document and the Find menu.

F7: Initiates a Spell Check.

Shift + Arrow Keys: Allows the user to quickly select entire rows of text. This works very well with the Copy, Cut and Paste keys.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of shortcuts, but you should find a majority of them will provide lots of value and efficiency to you and your fellow users.  Stay tuned for the next blog, where we’ll be covering great tips and tricks using Microsoft Excel.

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

Manufacturing Trends for 2015

According to the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, manufacturing will continue to grow faster than the economy as whole in the coming year. Manufacturing production is expected to grow 4.0 percent in 2015 and 3.6 percent in 2016, with growth drivers being energy infrastructure, the housing supply chain, transportation infrastructure, medical care expansion, widespread growth abroad, and less domestic policy uncertainty.

An Industry Week article addresses five manufacturing trends likely to shape the market in the coming year:

  • “SMAC Stack” adoption [will] gain speed. A manufacturing comeback is being driven by SMAC: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. The SMAC Stack is becoming an essential technology tool kit for enterprises and represents the next wave for driving higher customer engagement and growth opportunities. The need to innovate is forcing cultural change within a historically conservative "if it's not broke don't fix it" industry, and SMAC is helping early adopters in the manufacturing market increase efficiencies and change.
  • Social media [will] further impact business model innovation. Social media is forcing manufacturers to become more customer-centric. The traditional business-to-business model is becoming outdated because today's connected consumers are better informed and expect products on-demand. This consumer purchasing style is not only having an impact on brand-oriented value chains, but is transforming traditional B2B to B2B2C models.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) will increase automation and job opportunities. A renewed focus on science and engineering education is cultivating a manufacturing workforce that can manage highly technical systems and allow for greater automation. This frees up employees to put their talents to work on R&D, which is helping to redefine what it means to have a career in manufacturing. Further, IoT allows for condition-based maintenance, which is driving efficiencies as businesses save on labor and service costs.
  • Greater capital investment. Recent government and industry reports show an uptick in capital investment funding. As manufacturers become focused on capturing value through innovation, original design, and speed to market, they are increasing spend for upgrading plant, equipment, and technologies.
  • The emergence of "next-shoring." The rise of a more technical labor force to manage supply chain operations—combined with rising wages in Asia, higher shipping costs, and the need to accelerate time to market to meet retailer and consumer demands—has led to more companies shifting their manufacturing strategies from outsourcing overseas to developing products closer to where they will be sold.

A recent column in Forbes sees the last point as a question, with reshoring (i.e., next-shoring) and offshoring remaining an ongoing debate in the sector. According to the piece, both strategies have their challenges:

  • For reshoring: labor (i.e., finding skilled labor), rising electricity costs despite the decline in natural gas and coal prices, a more stringent domestic regulatory environment, and the fact that for many companies overseas markets are growing faster than domestic ones
  • For offshoring: rising labor costs (particularly in China), the inherent disadvantages of a longer supply chain, and issues related to quality management

Finally, while manufacturing production is rising, manufacturing employment will not grow remarkably because of it. Manufacturers continue to get greater productivity from their established assets.

Posted by Manufacturing Insights Team

Implementing Epicor Helps IMCO with Growth and Revenue

Perrysburg, Ohio-based IMCO Carbide Tool (IMCO) manufactures carbide cutting tools—specifically carbide end mills—that are used in shops for all kinds of milling operations. The company serves clients worldwide in about 40 countries. Family owned and operated, IMCO was founded in 1977.

“Epicor has been an important part of our growth,” says Perry Osborn, president and CEO of IMCO. “Our prior ERP system was a bit outdated in that it didn’t incorporate a lot of modern technology.”

When IMCO put in Epicor, it gained greater visibility into what was happening on the shop floor. They also incorporated Epicor Mattec MES to leverage real-time data from manufacturing operations for the first time. Mattec MES provides instant monitoring and control for IMCO’s production and manufacturing. The system improves productivity by providing accurate, 24/7 manufacturing information of all plant operations.

“I had seen the Mattec MES product at a trade show, and was drawn to how we could get access to the shop floor data in real time,” says Osborn. ”That had been a missing piece to what we were doing.”

Osborn cites two significant areas where Mattec helps their business:

  • Immediate visibility to a problem. If something isn’t going right, they know it quickly and can address it quickly.
  • Precise and timely information. The Epicor system has operations where a company can define their method of manufacture and set a cycle time for a particular operation. IMCO learned within six months of implementing Mattec that their cycle time numbers were grossly inflated. They were 20 percent higher than the actual cycle times. They also learned the set up times they had put into the system were grossly inaccurate. The real times were actually longer. So Mattec enables the company to see the real details of operations more clearly.

“Mattec impacts both revenue and growth,” says Osborn. “Revenue usually comes because you’re making customers happy. Mattec allows us to do that more effectively. Now we can provide more accurate feedback to customer inquiries. If we’re more accurate telling customers when they’re going to receive something, it usually translates into revenue.”

Osborn notes that working with Epicor support has been excellent. “After implementation, we had questions,” he says, which is to be expected after installing a new, major system. “Every time I called, I reached a competent, qualified person. We never had to call twice.”

For the complete interview with Perry Osborn on his company’s experience with Epicor ERP and Epicor Mattec MES, you can see the short video here.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

Manufacturing Operations Management: Weaving a “Digital Thread” for Greater Competitive Advantage

Manufacturers face tremendous pressures to increase agility, improve product quality, and further tighten compliance. Meanwhile they are experiencing a barrage of information about how new disruptive technologies – smart manufacturing, Big Data/analytics, cloud, and the Internet of Things – will change the face of manufacturing.

Today’s technology capabilities are enabling the integration of information across the entire product lifecycle – from design, through engineering, manufacturing, delivery, and service — to a digital model that allows immediate and actionable information to reach the necessary departments and functions with greater speed, accuracy, and efficiency than ever before.

This trend toward complete digitization is helping manufacturers meet the growing demands of time, technology and customer expectations. LNS Research says manufacturers must look to incorporate a “Digital Thread” -- the concept of a single, unbroken thread of required information throughout the value chain that is accessible to all departments across the extended value enterprise and ensures complete traceability from design, through production, and to the customer.

The Digital Thread is a key concept in the development and deployment of next-generation manufacturing operations management (MOM) software platforms and applications, says analyst firm LNS Research in its new report “The Global State of Manufacturing Operations Management Software” which surveyed more than 250 manufacturers worldwide.

Smart Devices and Big Data on the Manufacturing Floor
Driving the move to digitization is today’s Industry 4.0 market, which is the next phase of the industrial revolution marked by smart devices that communicate and transfer data from machines without human-to-human or human-to-machine interaction.

According to the survey, plant supervisors (54%) and plant managers (53%) were the top two job roles to receive real-time data on mobile devices. When understanding the impact of Big Data in manufacturing, 46% said it provides better forecasts while 45% said Big Data allowed then to better understand multiple metrics. The IoT is making machines and devices more intelligent, creating new data and enabling new means of collaboration.

Driving the Need for Enterprise-Wide Next Generation MOM Software
Faster market activity, increased competition and customer demands have made traditional approaches to MOM software obsolete. According to LNS, a next-generation, platform approach to MOM simplifies architecture, eliminates duplication of systems and functionality, and facilitates open integration with both legacy applications and new technologies such as Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, and IoT -- important strands of the Digital Thread.

To fully facilitate Digital Thread strategies, LNS advocates an enterprise-wide approach to MOM. Per LNS, “The holistic performance benefits afforded by taking an enterprise approach to MOM software are a critical step toward the future vision of weaving a consistent Digital Thread throughout the value chain.”

As a sponsor of the research study, Epicor invites you to download a complimentary copy of The Global State of Manufacturing Operations Management Software eBook.

Posted by Tom Muth, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Epicor
Inspiring change for 2015

As we brush off the holiday blues and head into a period of refreshed optimism that a new year inevitably brings, January always provides an opportunity to assess how we improve things in the months ahead. Be it small or large, a realistic resolution can keep us focused and will extend way beyond the winter months and become part of our daily habits.

As I look back to 2014, I’m resolute in taking even more inspiration from those around me including employees, partners, customers and peers in the industry. For it’s those moments when you have time to take stock away from the day-to-day and put your head above the in-tray that can inspire change for the future.

I say this as I had the pleasure of attending The Manufacturer Directors’ Conference in November where Epicor hosted the inaugural Inspiration Club. The meeting was an informal gathering of like-minded individuals from across a variety of industries but with manufacturing and engineering in common. We brought the group together as a means to take that very step back, discuss common challenges and opportunities in the hope of inspiring change for us all. With such a variety of attendees including representatives from the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car (SSC) Project and the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Space Mission, there was much to discuss. Needless to say, shared experiences and a myriad of talking points came to the fore, but the following captures some of the main highlights that have inspired me for the year ahead.

In the face of adversity, great things can be achieved
Manufacturers and engineers are faced with daily challenges but never more so in an environment that is highly pressured, time sensitive and in a time of economic downturn. It was fascinating to hear the intricacies of how the European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet explorer had only a ten-minute window in which to be launched on the Ariane 5 rocket in order to land on the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet.  As a decade long mission to explore the solar system and its early development, what many spectators may not have known is that the planning, preparation and manufacturing expertise that went into that ten-minute window to successfully achieve launch a year later than expected, was tremendous.

In another ground-breaking achievement, the Bloodhound SSC project’s mission to confront the impossible (1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt) and overcome it using Science Engineering Technology and Mathematics (STEM) comes with its own challenges. To push engineering thinking into new territory in a time of economic downturn to survive and thrive is remarkable.

If anything is learnt from these unique projects, it’s that the age-old mantras of time is of the essence and no risk, no reward certainly ring true.

Think short, mid AND long term
Part of the discussion also brought us to debate how UK manufacturing can sometimes be too short-term. As many of us aim to hit the financial numbers for the quarter, this can often cloud the mid to longer-term view which other peers in manufacturing take around the world.  Acknowledging that UK manufacturing focuses on financial KPIs, our working culture can sometimes hinder rather than help us with investment and longevity as metrics beyond financial success.   Keeping an eye on the mid and longer-term goals, whilst balancing the needs of the quarterly focus was deemed important as a measure of any project.

Manufacturing isn’t just for engineers
As an industry, we have a responsibility to attract other disciplines beyond engineering to join us in delivering and innovating in the sector.  It takes all sorts of skills and disciplines to make a successful manufacturing enterprise, including business acumen, HR, marketing, technology skills and much more. Showcasing this to students at a young age does, however, require explanation. Teamwork really can deliver great things and whilst some people will only see an end product, UK manufacturing was seen as offering an enriching environment for all. 

Inspiring a future generation of manufacturers requires commitment from within the industry and from the government
Much was discussed about the need for more routes to industry from all disciplines and backgrounds, but that comes with a strong push of STEM in education whether it be amplified politically, culturally and socially. All agreed that starting this process for boys and girls at primary school age is paramount if we are to collectively succeed in inspiring a future generation that will drive our industry forward.

Most importantly, providing educational choice with both practical and vocational apprenticeships alongside academic qualifications will all have a part to play in providing enriching careers for a future generation. So whether it’s starting the discussion with your own children over the dinner table or exploring partnerships with local schools; the areas of work, industry and education are intrinsically linked. Bridging the gap between real life and education will undoubtedly bear fruit if we make it happen.

So onwards to an inspired year ahead and challenging yourselves to do things differently. If you’d like to learn more about what we at Epicor are doing to inspire change, see here.

By Steve Winder, Regional Vice President, UK and Ireland, Epicor

Upgrading Your Inside Sales & Customer Service Teams – Part 2: MS Outlook Tips

In the previous blog, I stated that business professionals seeking efficiency, additional sales opportunities and better ways to do business, can upgrade not just systems or processes, but also employees, through skills enhancements.

This type of upgrade starts by observing your best employee(s) and writing down the attributes that you believe make them your “A” players.  What is it that they do that you believe gives them a “leg up” over their peer group?

The next step is to then sit down with each employee and ask them what they believe are their greatest skills.  Be sure to ask them what they do to ensure success in their daily workflow.  Is it their attention to detail? Perhaps it’s the way they start off each day, with a few moments spent prioritizing their tasks before getting knee-deep in the day-to-day activities of the business.

Next, consider how these “cream of the crop” employees might improve themselves, as well (because there’s no such thing as an employee who can’t).  How do they interact with the organization’s business system (e.g., ERP system)? How efficiently are they using the other applications on their computer or virtual terminal? 

Because a majority of the front-line employees in almost any distribution or manufacturing organization use Microsoft Outlook, let’s take a look at some best-in-class features in Outlook that can increase an employee’s efficiency exponentially:

Organizing folders
How does the employee manage their e-mail inbox?  If while looking over an employee’s shoulder, you see only the Inbox and the Trash folder, you’ve got A LOT of work ahead of you!  Employees should be using folders broken down into a tree structure that makes sense to not only them, but to others, as well (i.e., if they win the lotto and take off to Tahiti, the company needs to be able to access the e-mails quickly and find what they need).

Quick search tools (e.g., Ctrl + Shift + F)
Ask an employee to find that one e-mail you know they received six months ago or more, and you’re likely to see them spend 30 minutes plus tracking it down by searching frantically in an unorganized fashion. Outlook has a very powerful search tool that you can access by hitting Ctrl + Shift + F. The search query window that pops up lets the employee search by any number of fields, date periods, folders and subfolders, and the results come back very quickly. 

Managing tasks
Did you know you can click and drag an e-mail onto the Task icon in Outlook and it will create a task for you automatically? There’s no need for yellow Post-Its when it can all be kept within the confines of the computer screen.  Outlook tasks allow employees to create deadlines for themselves, set reminders, assign tasks to others, and even track progress of a project to completion.

Creating calendar events
Employees who understand not only how to create a calendar invitation, but also how to confirm availability of other employees they want to invite to an event, will save time avoiding countless back-and-forth e-mails.  There are a number of fields and functionalities available throughout the Outlook application, such as color-coding, which can be used as prioritization tools. It only takes a minute to establish the meaning of each color.

Creating rules
Quite possibly the most controversial functionality in Outlook is the ability to create rules. I’ve witnessed many a horror story on how a critical e-mail was missed because an employee had inadvertently created an e-mail rule to forward any e-mail with “X” in the subject line straight to a special folder for later review.

Creating rules can be of great benefit with the right education on the impact and power of this tool.  I’ve seen individuals create multiple Inbox folders, each with its own purpose.  For example, they’ll have their main Inbox, an “Inbox – CC” for any e-mail where they are in the CC field of the e-mail, “Inbox – Outside” for any e-mail where the sender is from outside the company, and “Inbox – Invites” where any Outlook calendar invitation goes. 

The argument can be made that you are simply increasing the opportunity for errors, but I believe there are ways to leverage this functionality to increase efficiencies.  By setting these various folders as Favorites, and retraining ourselves to manage our e-mails from the Favorites drop-down, you can prioritize and focus on the folders that mean the most to you (which will vary by company, for obvious reasons).

Stay tuned for more posts on skill sets (Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.) to improve your team.

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

Upgrading Your Inside Sales & Customer Service Teams

As business professionals, no matter the industry, when we are looking for efficiency, additional sales opportunities and better ways to do business, we usually look to upgrade our system (e.g., implementation of ERP, CRM, etc.), or our processes (though process improvement), but very rarely do we ever look to upgrade our employees, through skills enhancements.

The process of upgrading our employees requires a two-pronged approach: Upgrading through skill set improvement, and the much less comfortable upgrading through replacement (which will not be covered here). Both upgrade paths can yield significant improvements in our company’s efficiencies, allowing for higher output and having a direct impact on profitability.

Why Upgrade?
In the case of industrial distributors, for decades, they have been family owned and family run.  While many of these companies still exist and are profitable, there are even more distributors that have grown, or have been acquired, and are part of a much larger global organization. But the type of employee and the skill level of these employees have yet to be looked at and improved.  Let’s explore a real-world example of how a simple skill improvement can drastically improve efficiency.

Most distributors have large customers with special annual contract pricing.  Each year, those prices need to be tweaked, usually as a result of the distributor’s suppliers raising their prices.  Inside Sales or Customer Service is quite often tasked with the spreadsheet side of the project.  This involves:

  1. A spreadsheet of the previous year’s sales
  2. A spreadsheet of all the supplier brands the customer buys from the distributor and the expected price increase (expressed as a percentage)
  3. Merging the two spreadsheets and formatting the result before sending it to the individual responsible for setting the new price (oftentimes the outside sales rep)

The average, less skilled employee will take up to two weeks to complete the project in their spare time, in between phone calls, quoting customers, processing orders and working with their backlog.  TWO WEEKS! The process usually goes something like this:

  • CRS goes line by line on the sales history report, sorts by part#, removes duplicates, adds the supplier name if it’s not already on the report.
  • CRS goes back through each line, finds the supplier for each item and compares it to the other spreadsheet.
  • CRS populates the sales history report with the percentage from the price increase spreadsheet.
  • Repeat the process for the two hundred or so lines on the sales history report.

Now let’s take a similarly skilled employee performing the same job functions, but add one skill the other does not have, Microsoft® Excel.  We can take what would otherwise be a two-week project and have it completed in less than two hours (giving us plenty of time to spend on cleaning up the formatting).

By investing in the right training and enhancing our employees’ skill sets, we will save in both man hours and payroll.  Now imagine the savings that can be gained with a workforce that knows two, three, or 10 specialty tools. 

How to Upgrade?
First, we create a profile of our ideal employee. What skills would this employee have? What core competencies would they possess? A good place to start would be to look at our best performers and add to the list from there.

A starter list of skills that will help our employees perform could include Excel, Word, Outlook (e-mail) and Internet Explorer. We’ll be covering these skill sets in more detail in future posts. Stay tuned on the many different ways you can improve your team.

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

1 - 10Next


Manufacturing RSS Feed

Network with Epicor customers, employees, industry experts, and more.
Facebook Facebook
Connect with your peers and discuss best practices.
Twitter Twitter
Tweet, re-tweet, and stay up-to-date on the latest happenings with Epicor.
LinkedIn LinkedIn
Connect with your peers and discuss best practices.

© Epicor Software Corporation Home |  Investors |  Partners |  Privacy
Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy Industries |  Solutions |  Products |  Company |  Customers |  Services |  Careers