Epicor ERP Software
Meet Xtrac: Manufacturer of the Year

What makes an Epicor customer? They don’t come much more quality-oriented than motorsport legend, Xtrac. At Epicor Insights 2015, Xtrac Finance Director, Stephen Lane, gave us a tour of the company.

Founded 30 years ago, Xtrac is the leading supplier of transmission systems to the motorsport industry.

The recognised market leader in its field, Xtrac supplies not only Formula One, but over 60% of the Le Mans grid, the whole British Touring Car grid, World Rally Championship cars and MotoGP bikes. Lane said a crucial expansion deal came from the US, where Xtrac has provided transmissions exclusively to the entire Indy car grid for the past 15 years.

That success is not built on ambition alone and success has not always been assured: the shadow of 9/11 and the recession of the past decade both took their toll. But as Lane said, “innovation and ingenuity are at the heart of our business. We continue to push the boundaries of technology and we are now developing products for the hybrid electric market and are at the heart of the crossover with transmissions outside motorsport.”

Epicor is certainly one component that has played its part in Xtrac’s. Said Lane, “From planning through to manufacturing, Epicor have given us the visibility of enterprise-grade ERP without the need for a tier-one solution. As our business matures, we know we have a good partner alongside us allowing us to run our business efficiently.”

The Xtrac mantelpiece is laden with awards because IT maturity is only one part of the smooth running of the business. Lane explained, “Why is Xtrac so special? I think there’s a genuine recognition that the current crisis has its roots in the financial services sector, and banks in particular.  Although Xtrac has always had a good relationship with its bank, I know that there are many businesses to whom banks have not been able to extend credit to support growth.  The government has had to grapple with what was perceived to be the “darling” of the economy going off the rails.  Well here’s an alternative. Xtrac makes things. How powerful is that?! We make things right here, in the UK, at the heart of ‘motorsport valley’. We are linked to a tremendous British supply chain. We export widely across the globe, with exports accounting for 70% of our product throughput.”

“And we are 100% owned by our workforce. Every one of our workforce is a shareholder. They define what we are, and what our processes are. Everyone feels that their efforts contribute to the company’s success and ultimately their own reward.”

“Successful economies are underpinned by successful manufacturers at the top of a value chain,” said Lane. He puts Xtrac’s success down to these key factors:

  • Xtrac delivers real and consistent development in its sector. “We design, engineer and make a quality product.”
  • A superb talent pool making use of some of the many people in the UK with flair and vision to continually push technological boundaries.
  • Apprentice and graduate schemes; “with robust values and integrity.”
  • And a culture of innovation, collaboratively with customers, where “every employee can come up with ideas.”

In the past two years alone, Xtrac has received countless laurels of industry recognition. MD Peter Digby was awarded IoD Director of the Year, 2013 and Entrepreneur of the Year at the CBI Growing Business Awards, 2014. The Manufacturer Magazine gave the business no less than three national awards in 2014 – beating Rolls Royce and BAE Systems. Additionally Xtrac has been visited by HRH the Duke of Kent and the company even featured on the BBC’s Top Gear’s special celebration of Britain’s motorsport industry.

At the heart of Xtrac is a commitment to British manufacturing thoroughly endorsed by Epicor: in Lane’s words, “the opportunity and potential to do something which makes you proud.”

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

Could you do more with less paper? Find out with a free ‘eBusiness Scan’

Emile van de Klok, Managing Director for Amsterdam-based Epicor partner, TIE Kinetix, offers this extraordinary fact: 80% of corporate transactions still involve paper. Cheques may be on the way out, but there are still paper-based elements everywhere: invoices, receipts or any number of other spurious scraps of scribbled information.

The cost of paper is vast – analysts suggest that processing a paper invoice can cost up to £70. And it’s not just transactions; cutting paper also has benefits across other parts of your business process map:

  • Reduce the need for archive storage estate
  • Make documents more accessible, searchable, or even interactive
  • Improve compliance – demonstrably to regulators
  • Reduce document processing time and errors by automation instead of manual retyping
  • Get actionable information back from field operations (testers, couriers, client services) more quickly – and so improve the velocity of the supply chain
  • Lock down security

Historically, a series of paper-free initiatives have arisen to help achieve these benefits. Unfortunately, despite the objectives and technologies being largely the same, different solutions have used to address each area. For example, EDI standards evolved around transactional business to business activities while scanning and optical character recognition (OCR) evolved to turn existing paper into electronic messages.  More legally-minded standards evolved to cover the archiving of electronic documents … and so the story goes on.

The current trend, however, is towards simplicity, ease of deployment and consistency across departments and technologies. Epicor has therefore developed a completely standardised Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) gateway to Epicor Tropos in partnership with TIE Kinetix which supports all of these areas.

This supports companies moving towards EDI wherever it occurs in the process chain; from raw materials through processing to invoicing and payment, on any platform or channel.

It also means that where a company wishes to add new trading partners the support for these is already in place within the solution so Tropos can maintain compatibility whilst continuing to rapidly release new service packs because the burden of interface support is hugely reduced; and that means better compatibility and more new services for customers.

Under the new integration model, TIE Kinetix handles the interfacing of all popular EDI disciplines (eInvoicing, eTablet, eArchival etc.) into Tropos in one go: it’s fast to deploy and scalable. To explore the potential opportunities and value of the Tropos Connected Business Network in your business, Epicor is offering a free ‘eBusiness Scan’. Simply email Dave McGill on Dave.McGill@epicor.com to take the survey!

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

How social makes ERP the heart of the organization

Is your industry immune to disruptive technologies? That was one of the questions Epicor Director of Product Marketing, Robert Sinfield, asked during his Insights ERP keynote presentation in Stockholm, Sweden on the 7th of May. "Technology is changing how we do things and it is having an impact on traditional industries," he said.

The third Insights event in the EMEA series was held at the Elite Marina Hotel located by the inlet from the Baltic Sea in southeastern Stockholm. The regal red brick building was used as a mill in1890s. It has since then gone through many changes and has been used as distribution center, a warehouse, and it is now a hotel. Industries have come and gone in the world just as they have in this building.

"Technology disrupts every industry and changes the way we do things," said Robert to a full room of over 130 attendees. He continued, "The Internet is now fundamental to everything we are doing and it is one of the most disruptive technologies since the invention of the wheel. It has changed the way we do things and the way we do business. It even disrupts established industries."

A digital disruption that has recently appeared in Stockholm is "Uber" – a digital taxi service that enables anyone to become a taxi driver and customers can easily order cabs via an app. Robert commented, "It is changing a very established business and is revolutionizing the taxi industry." He then asked, "Who would have thought that this business could be revolutionized in this way? Is your industry immune? Have you started to look at disruptive technologies and how it can affect your industry going forward?"

Statistics show that we do not Google ERP anymore but rather specific point solutions that will make our lives easier. Research also shows that the traditional way of using ERP doesn't necessarily fit in to the way we want to do business today. Sinfield explained, "Commercial consumerism is changing the way we want to use EPR. We still have top-down pressures from the organization to be able to manage processes and to be able to measure what is happening in the organization. But we also have pressures coming from the users in the organization that need to have access to the information quickly and they need to be able to access it on mobile devices, when and where they want. How can we be more responsive and fill these vacuums?"

Just as the Internet is a part of our everyday lives, it is also in the background. In a similar manner social ERP is bringing ERP to the forefront by keeping it in the background of the organization. Sinfield continued, "Users can get information simply by following something and engaging in a conversation, for example around an order, or what’s happening with a supplier, without having to know how the ERP works. That is how ERP becomes the heart of what we are doing – by making it invisible to the users."

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

Get the Stuff Done – Easy, Fast and Connected

A couple of weeks’ ago we hosted our annual German customer conference in Frankfurt. Customers and partners arrived with high expectations for open discussions, expert insights and an update on the latest Epicor product developments and best practices in ERP.

The event itself consisted of a number of live demos combined with workshops for topics including mobile ERP and social ERP, as well a number of customer presentations. Plus, to add a third party perspective to the event, sponsoring partners DotNet IT, DSPanel, TIE Kinetix and XSOL provided advice and insight on value-added services and solutions for modern ERP environments.

While the event itself was varied, the main message was clear: over the next two years the manufacturing industry will invest heavily in ERP modernization. Therefore, finding a reliable long-term partner with continuous innovation plans is vital.

A well-established system integrator and Epicor ERP partner for small and medium-sized businesses, SMC IT AG understands that German manufacturers rely on local service partners that are able to understand industry-specific needs, support their international expansion plans and drive innovation initiatives. Asked about their decision to include Epicor into their solution portfolio, the outstanding collaboration features, modern user interfaces and open software architecture of Epicor EPR were named as key reasons for the decision.

However, beside technology features, SMC IT AG also raised a very valuable point – that the ERP user experience is now a vital selection criterion for today’s Generation Y, a generation that will be at the forefront of the development of the businesses of the future. This generation will want the tools they use in their business life, to be as intuitive and as user-friendly as the ones they use in their personal lives. Therefore, approvals via smartphones, problem solving using social technologies or Google-like information access will be just a few of the decisive features that they look for when selecting ERP as a business critical software solution.

However, it’s not just customer expectations that will be driving the shift in ERP requirements but the changing technology landscape too. Another hot topic at the event was Industry 4.0 – loosely defined as the next phase of industrial revolution - or in other words, the Internet of Things (IoT), where smart devices are intelligent enough to assume major control over our machines of manufacturing and distribution.

According to Guido Heinz, Channel Manager Europe and Wolfgang Verheyen, Senior Director Consulting Services at Epicor, networked machines and data sources will initially enhance optimization strategies in maintenance and capacity utilization for manufacturing operations. A generation of new revenue sources with Internet of Things solutions will follow. However one thing’s for certain; Epicor ERP is ready to embrace these opportunities head-on.

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

ERP – The Invisible Integrator

Today, ERP is all about inspiring decisions to help drive the business forward and promote growth, but how is this currently working in practice?

This was the main topic of discussion at our recent customer event “Insights” in Frankfurt, Germany. In his keynote to over 80 attendees, Keith Deane, Executive Vice President and General Manager for Epicor International, outlined why providing employees with easy access to the right information at the right time, is the key to making smart decisions. However, while in theory this may sound easy, reality shows a different picture.

According to a Redshift survey, many employees get frustrated as it takes too long to access the necessary information from their existing ERP systems. However, this increasing demand for instant access to data, is putting pressure not only on businesses to modernize ERP systems, but also to leverage cutting-edge technologies such as cloud, social and mobile.

As Robert Sinfield, Product Marketing Director at Epicor discussed at the event, technologies - from social to the Internet of Things (IoT) to cloud and 3D printing – all are game changers, democratizing the manufacturing ecosystem. Disruptive technologies like these enable processes to become extremely flexible, alter the way people interact and drive pressure to keep up-to-date with the fast-changing market trends. Factors such as transparency and traceability become important: leaders need to be able to track and monitor information and know what is happening within their organisation at any given point of time.

In this environment, ERP systems and these new technologies need to be part of the same solution where ERP becomes the central tool for providing contextual information. However, at the same time, the system itself becomes increasingly hidden behind its modern user interfaces for social collaboration, mobile apps and dashboards.

At Epicor, we recognise that needs and technology are changing and are constantly looking for ways to enhance our solutions and ensure a fast and continuous optimization of innovative technologies. Our development team works closely with customers, constantly tracking and measuring against strict targets. One thing that came out of the German Insights event was that to gain a competitive advantage, businesses need seamless processes that work, supported by a comprehensive ERP system. As an ERP provider it’s our job to ensure these systems remain up-to-date with the changing business and external requirements.

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

Epicor Highlighted as Inbound Logistics Top 100 Logistics IT Provider
Inbound Logistics has named Epicor one of the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers of 2015. This year’s featured winners are highlighted for leading the market in a variety of innovative areas, such as supply chain management, predictive analytics, warehousing, inventory management, and more. Epicor was selected for its robust supply chain products and services offerings and broad scope of industries served, including: manufacturing, retail, wholesale, e-business, among others.
 
Every April, Inbound Logistics editors recognize 100 logistics IT companies that support and enable logistics excellence. Drawn from a pool of more than 300 companies, using questionnaires, personal interviews, and other research, Inbound Logistics selects the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers who are leading the way in 2015. Editors seek to match readers' fast-changing needs to the capabilities of those companies selected.  All companies selected reflect leadership by answering Inbound Logistics readers' needs for scalability, simplicity, fast ROI, and ease of implementation.
 
“Today's business leaders are struggling to balance the need for advance planning against the demands for supply chain agility, reducing inventory touches, and wrangling the complexity of omni-channel distribution regimes. Epicor continues to provide solutions to help meet those challenges, and that's why it has been recognized by Inbound Logistics as one of 2015's Top 100 Logistics IT Providers,” says Felecia Stratton, editor of Inbound Logistics.
 
To accompany this list, Inbound Logistics revealed the latest logistics technology trends influencing the supply chain sector based on findings from their Logistics IT Providers and Market Research Survey. Among them is Cloud Computing and how it has and will continue to change the way vendors develop solutions. The report goes into more detail on the subject, as well as other industry trends.
 
To view the full list of 2015 Top 100 Logistics IT Providers and the report on their survey findings, click here.
 
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
What’s around the corner for ERP?

It’s a truism that technology is changing our world faster than most of us can hope to react to it. At Epicor Insights 2015, Malcolm Fox, VP Product Marketing for Epicor, explained not only how changes in technology are influencing the ERP industry, but also how Epicor is monitoring those changes on behalf of its customers, to become a technology partner which can help manufacturing businesses remain ahead of the curve.

Fox said, “Here in the heart of the first industrial revolution, we’re experiencing what major tech companies like Siemens are calling the fourth industrial revolution: the bringing together of a huge variety of data sources and computing power for interacting systems. In the big data world, ‘communities of machines will organise production lines and supply chains themselves’.”

Disruptive technologies are “coming at us from every angle,” says Fox. “Think of the global changes (and challenges) in energy; materials science developments like nanotubes, 3D printing, the mobile internet, the Internet of Things, or the economies of scale technologically afforded by cloud computing…”

All of us are impacted by at least a few of these trends. Most of us are affected by several; and it pays for CEOs to see the future. Fox gives the example of Kodak, which was not only a corporate giant which went into administration; but whose final blow was cruelly dealt by the likes of Instagram, a billion-dollar upstart with only thirteen employees. Says Fox, “Business leaders must embrace the use of data and analytics to anticipate disruption.”

And everyone can use data. Take “the connected cow”, not an urban myth but farming reality. Today’s dairy farmers – who need data-driven efficiencies in their dysfunctional marketplace more than most – are connecting their cows to the Cloud, to monitor the health of the animals, analyse milk yields, forecast livestock requirements, streamline distribution and offer data downstream to the rest of the supply chain. Daisy is the icon of a business being transformed through the judicious application of technology.

What does that mean for ERP? Well, in the words of Ventana Research, “In many respects today’s ERP systems are exactly what people don’t want anymore” Why? The problem is that traditional ERP was all about enforcing a process: driving efficiency through top-down management of concrete process implementation. But life is no longer like that. The smart money is on agility, evolution and responding to external triggers. Companies must evolve in response to competition and customer demand. Institutionalised processes are now a liability: the future is individualised, mobilised and responsive. Smart businesses respond to triggers at the bottom, on the shop floor or in the street. They spot and fill customer vacuums.

To achieve this whilst not sacrificing the underlying resilience and strength of ERP as a proposition, Fox says we can look to the world of apps for an answer. “Apps – whether on mobile or other platforms – give users the data they need without complexity and in interfaces they find engaging, whilst remaining connected to the full depth of underlying information.”

Similarly, widgets for reporting, social collaboration, exception management and remote admin (to take just a few examples) allow everyone to work with ERP data in bite-sized technological chunks and see immediate value. And for developers, this also makes sense: instead of Big-Bang releases, we can deliver a steady stream of incremental improvements. Disruption in the technology business is allowing Epicor to take advantage of tangible changes in the ERP landscape and deliver greater agility to clients.

The Epicor product strategy is therefore focused on helping clients resolve the challenges we all face:

  • Drive innovation (digital-first, use the cloud, remain agile)
  • Operate a fact-based business (data-driven, optimise business intelligence opportunities)
  • Simplify the user experience (mobile support, user-centricity, social activation, apps)

You can expect Epicor to be progressively streamlined both behind the scenes and above the waterline. It has an ‘anywhere/any device’ ethos, consistent both in the cloud, on premise or anywhere in between. And as customers, an agile development cycle means incremental code releases for core Epicor products. It’s all about making more aspects of the product more usable in more situations, for more users, from Day One.

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

Preview: Epicor UK Insights 2015

Telford’s International Conference Centre is the venue for the 2015 Annual Epicor Insights conference. It’s a chance for Epicor users, customers, employees and the ever-growing ecosystem (including a vibrant user group) to get together and find out what’s new.

And there’s plenty to cover. First, the business automation and business intelligence worlds have been electric in the past year, with big data and how to use it never far from the agenda of smart business owners. ERP has spread its influence across the supply chain, with companies finding efficiencies across their processes.

The news agenda has also put traceability and commercial compliance firmly back on the agenda. Everything from the horsemeat scandal to the popularity of Fairtrade and sustainability in the food chain mean that in the foodservice sector, ERP is a powerful driver.

In today’s show, Epicor Tropos, the specialist ERP system for process manufacturing that includes traceability features, will therefore be making a particularly big appearance. The workhorse Epicor ERP 10 will also get a thorough review with case studies and a roadmap for 2015/16. And for fans of getting your hands dirty, a newcomer to Epicor Insights is the LAB, a series of sessions devoted to sleeves-up configuration of your Epicor deployment.

Come back here for more updates throughout the day!

Posted by Epicor Insights Team

Insights UK Executive Keynote: Joe Cowan

During the Insights 2015 keynote presentation, Epicor CEO Joe Cowan discussed his priorities. In his own words, “Last year I said, we’re reworking our processes around you. Here’s how we’re doing it.”

As a customer service obsessive, Joe’s instinct was to identify the top priorities for Epicor, so he regularly gains feedback from customers about our service levels. The feedback has been formulated into a set of three clear priorities:

  • Making it easy to do business – both with Epicor and the end customer
  • The quality of the product and service
  • Demonstrable value

Says Joe, “Ease of business is the whole process, from the first time the customer engages. Through every touch point, you’re thinking: are we easy to do business with? You put yourself in the shoes of the customer, and you ask, is that how I’d want to be treated? We ask that, too.”

Cowan also unveiled a clear strategy for product quality. He says, “Our aim is to drive value for your business”, and quotes analysts Gartner*, who state that growth is the greatest priority for businesses today, particularly in the post-recession world. And Gartner say that growth comes from an alliance of technology, workforce/employees activation and relationships with customers.

Cowan therefore bases the Epicor quality strategy on six key pillars:

  • Simplicity, ease of use – as all technology should be
  • Visionary technology – allowing clients to remain ahead of the curve
  • Globalisation and compliance – meeting customers’ needs as they expand
  • Industry excellence – always aiming high
  • Product enhancements – solving customer problems
  • Expanded product portfolio – by development or acquisition

“Quality is built in at the beginning”, says Joe. “Today, we expect things to plug in and work straight away, and to keep on working. We know our customers demand that of us, because their customers demand that resilience of them.”

 
Posted by Epicor Insights Team
 
Mining and the Internet of Things? You bet.
When you think of industries leveraging digital technology, you usually think of electronics, finance, retail, or telecommunications. I bet you don't think of mining. Well, think again.
 
In a post on techvibes.com, industry analyst Kelley Prowse asserts that big data analytics, the Internet of Things, and automation and control technology are starting to be commercially harnessed by the mining industry in a big way. According to Prowse, while the technologies are developing faster than mines can adopt them, deployments are showing huge potential for miners and the technology industry.
 
According to market projections, total spending on information and communication technologies in the mining sector is forecast to reach $26.1 billion by 2018. What does this investment look like in the mining industry? Prowse paints a picture:
Few do "toys" quite like the mining industry … giant trucks on programmed and responsive routes haul ore autonomously, drones monitor and measure surface operations, and equipment is located, scheduled, and monitored with adaptive feedback loops to maximize production. Autonomous drill rigs and trains are already being trialed.
 
On the miniature end of the scale there are sensors and transmitters for a plethora of variables. Single sensors can measure machinery operating and environmental variables, while integrated networks of sensors can forecast maintenance requirements, prevent accidents, optimize processes, and monitor environmental compliance. Thanks to their Internet connectivity, it is also possible cover vast distances.
Momentum in the industry is building, with hardware moving towards open standards to maximize the flexibility and interoperability of equipment. But service—including systems integration as well as tailoring data analysis and outputs—is likely to join hardware as a significant technology investment in the mining sector.
 
At this point, a small number of very large mining companies have taken the lead in adopting technology to mining operations; the industry as whole will look to these early adopters for best practices as they come on board.
 
Posted by Technology Insights Team
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