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Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
How to Solve Three Key Challenges in the Distribution Industry with Epicor Distribution Software

As a wholesale distributor, your business is subject to constant change.  Therefore, the technology that helps your business run―and hopefully thrive―must be adaptable to keep you ahead of your competition, help achieve revenue growth, and drive customer retention. If you are a company in the distribution industry, this blog and our upcoming webinar will help you meet these challenges head-on with Epicor distribution software.

The Beginning Steps of ERP Evaluation

Core elements in Ultra’s process of helping its customers with ERP evaluation and selection include providing education on vendors, demonstrating their respective system functionality, and looking at the leadership they have provided in developing their ERP system as a solution for a particular industry. Before starting its ERP journey, a distribution business needs to know the vendors who are most capable of delivering a system that provides strong and intelligent integration, flexibility, and readily available information.  For distributors with outdated ERP systems and/or disparate systems, there is a way to get a head start on an ERP project.

Three Common Challenges

On Monday, May 5, at 1PM CDT, Ultra Consultants and Epicor will conduct a one-hour webinar to present three common challenges wholesale distributors face in their day-to-day world, and demonstrate how Epicor distribution software can help solve these three challenges:

  1. How does a distributor know which items are trending down or up for each of their customers?  Even more, which items are regular customers missing compared to their normal purchasing of these items? 
  2. How does a distributor gain gross margin improvements on sales without risking the loss of key customers?
  3. How does a distributor ensure they have enough of the right items (and not too many of the wrong items) when determining an optimum level of stock inventory?

This event is the latest in Ultra’s Vendor Webinar offerings, where an ERP vendor demonstrates their knowledge of and solutions for specific issues facing today’s manufacturing and distribution organizations, from small businesses to global enterprises. The May 5 webinar will combine Ultra’s technical knowledge and distribution industry expertise with details and insight on how Epicor distribution software provides a foundation for success.

How to Attend the Webinar

If you are interested in attending this webinar, “Solving Three Key Challenges in the Distribution Industry,” visit Ultra’s registration page.

Justify Your ERP Investment

An excellent complement to this upcoming webinar is one of Ultra’s recent white papers, “Five Considerations When Justifying an Investment in ERP.”  The paper demonstrates how critical it is to document the business reasons for an investment in ERP. You will also see the reasons for calculating the expected value to offset cost, and how identifying risk is part of the process, along with putting in plans to mitigate that risk.  Download the paper to get the details on how midmarket distributors and manufacturers can drive an effective ERP justification process.

Posted by Robert Henry, Director of Marketing, Ultra Consultants
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!

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

Epicor Eagle N Series Helps Small Businesses Outgrow Their Competition
Old Ben Franklin, perhaps the quintessential American businessman, put it in his usual simple terms that, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”* These are essential aspects small business owners are aware of deep in their bones. By providing a comprehensive and affordable retail business management system for small to medium-sized businesses across a wide range of industries, Epicor® Eagle N Series™ helps those retailers cope with the paramount issue of growth.
 
This next-generation software has been designed to give independent retailers the power to operate more efficiently, make more appropriate business decisions to serve their customers better, and grow revenues and profits. Unlike “cash register only” point of sale (POS) systems, Eagle N Series provides the comprehensive functionality and advanced business intelligence to grow, add new partnerships, fully engage in co-op relationships, improve eCommerce capabilities, and accurately manage inventory. The key: the six facets of unprecedented retail power:
  • Outservice. By facilitating exceptional customer service, Eagle N Series helps brings customers back time and time again.
  • Analysis. Eagle N Series furnishes the insight needed to make better decisions by providing a clear understanding of how a business is doing, and how to enhance customer service and operations.
  • Optimization. By enabling unprecedented visibility and cost control from the back office to point of sale, Eagle N Series helps drive effective optimization of business processes.
  • Growth. Eagle N Series’ broad capabilities support growth throughout the organization, making these goals more easily attainable.
  • Simplicity. By simplifying user experience, Eagle N Series helps make complex processes easier to execute.
  • Mobility. In today’s increasingly mobile environment, Eagle N Series enables businesses to service their customers, stay informed, and make decisions from anywhere, anytime.
 
Designed to help businesses take advantage of proven retail processes and practices, Eagle N Series goes beyond helping businesses simply get the job done; instead, it helps them improve business results and outservice their competition by doing things the right way.
 
“As a business that just recently launched the new [Eagle N Series] solution, we can already see it improving the way we do business -- especially in our back office operations with access to real-time data and enhanced reporting features,” said Brad Hazelett, co-owner of Driftwood Garden Center.
 
To see how Eagle N Series facilitates retail business growth, you can access a series of short videos detailing the solution here.
 
Posted by Carl Hildebrandt, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
 
*Mary Bellis. Benjamin Franklin Quotes. About Money. Retrieved from http://inventors.about.com/od/fstartinventors/a/Benjamin-Franklin-Quotes.htm
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
Why I love being a Technical Writer and Working in the Software Industry

When I was a little girl I loved ballet, and I enjoyed every second of those 14 years. As I grew up I started to love writing. My favorite class was Creative Writing, and I’ll never forget how Miss Robin encouraged us to embrace our ideas and thoughts, always starting with a brainstorm.

I remember loving writing essays in high school. I helped everyone and because I loved writing them so much, I was good at it. My passion towards writing was reflected in every paper I delivered.

My passion for words and content drove me through my University years and it’s no wonder that I am proud to be part of the Epicor University department for a few years now. I love my job and I enjoy every part of it.

As technical writers, we have the opportunity to reach thousands of eyes, and during the journey, we learn priceless things, we meet new people, we work in teams, we discover new things, we find a thousand ways to explain one idea, and we have the chance to understand our customer’s needs, and do everything to deliver high quality work.

Every project is different, every application has specific needs, and every team performs different tasks. All the pieces come together in the end and the passion that each participant puts in their work makes a difference in the final outcome.

The way we work as a team is crucial. We work as a team among the writers, and we also work with different departments: Development, Support, Quality Assurance, Engineering, Sales, and Training. We are all pieces of the big puzzle.

I’ve been asked a few times if what we do isn’t “too boring” or “too monotonous“ and my immediate answer is always the same: “Absolutely not, I love it”. We are part of a huge company with big projects and the best applications. As a technical writer I always have new projects, different tasks, numerous teams I work with, and many people that help me along the way. Our job is far from being seated and writing non-stop. We create content, we learn, understand, and explain. We help people to easily understand and use a product, our words and work reach eyes that we will never imagine, and there is no greater feeling!

Posted by Victoria Garza, University Content Specialist

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
Leveling the Playing Field for Independent Retailers with the Cloud

According a U.S. Senator, “Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations.” In the retail sector, we’re seeing this sentiment taking flight with independent retailers leveraging cloud-based solutions to realize “big retailer” capabilities without the financial or staffing wherewithal of their larger competitors.*

Case in point: Truckee, California-based The Rock Garden, a single-store, multi-brand retailer. According to Chuck Avery, controller at The Rock Garden, the company believes strongly that rather than having servers onsite, with a cloud-based or hosted solution retailers “will have more time and energy to focus on their own businesses.”

The Rock Garden moved their Epicor Eagle solution to Epicor Eagle Hosting, a Web-based retail business management solution that provides independent retailers with the same advanced functionality as systems used by the world’s leading retailers -- in a model that significantly reduces capital investment, implementation challenges, and the ongoing requirements of managing IT assets.

[[blogvideo:http://www.youtube.com/v/4TtMzuBCXwQ]]

Additionally, Epicor Eagle Hosting includes substantial power redundancy, HVAC, network and server hardware, Internet feeds, firewalls and data resides in a PCI compliant datacenter that is designed and operated to maintain high levels of security to provide small and independent retailers an affordable and effective end-to-end solution. Among the features that make this offering so compelling:

  • Comprehensive services and infrastructure, from implementation and training to maintenance, data security, hardware, and support
  • Fast implementation: up and running quickly
  • Automatic, no-cost updates keep a retail business current with the latest technology and eliminate the need for future system migration

As the retail industry continues its fundamental shift into the digital world, hosted and cloud-based IT solutions, such as those provided by Epicor, are leveling the playing field for independent competitors. Ultimately that benefits retailers of all stripes, but also the consumers they serve.

Posted by Keith Lam, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution, Epicor

*“The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time.” Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-franken/the-most-important-free-s_b_798984.html

Upgrading Your Inside Sales & Customer Service Teams Part 4: MS Excel Tips

Continuing our discussion on how to improve upon our employee skillset, let’s review Microsoft Excel.  This is quite possibly the most important tool in the Microsoft line of products, because it allows anyone with a basic understanding of some Excel tools to analyze, manipulate and comprehend data. Because knowledge is power, Excel can empower your workforce to be more analytical, and thus more capable of making decisions on actionable data.

The following example data will be used throughout this blog.


 

PROPER
You’ll notice that all the names are in lower case. To change this without hand keying everything over again is simple―by using the Excel function called PROPER.

Step 1: Add a new column called, ‘First Name Proper’ or anything that makes sense to you
 
Step 2: Place your cursor in the cell where you want your corrected name to go; in this case, C2. Then, using the function field in Excel, enter the function as follows: =PROPER(A2) 

This tells Excel to look at cell A2 and to capitalize the first letter of each word and use lower case for the rest of each word.  Had the cell contained multiple words, each word would have the first letter capitalized.
 
Repeat the steps above to add a column for the Last Name Field.

Crosshairs
Now that you’ve created the formula for one cell, you can apply the same formula to other cells using the crosshairs feature in Excel.  To do this, hover your cursor in the lower left corner of the cell that contains the formula you want to extend to other cells.  You will note that the white cross becomes a black crosshairs. When you see the crosshairs, double click and the formula will be applied to every cell below it until it comes to a blank field in the column on the left of it.
 
Pasting Values
Now that you’ve made the data look better, you may be bothered by the fact that you have two columns of first names and two columns of last names. This too can be easily fixed, though not as simply as an inexperienced Excel user may think.

Because the fields you’ve used the PROPER function on are tied directly to the cells they’re referenced to (i.e., Column C cells are referencing data in Column A cells), any change you make to column A will immediately affect the data in column C.  So if you delete the column in lower case, your PROPER column will “error out,” because it will no longer have anything to reference.

You can fix this by pasting values.  By highlighting Column C and copying (using Ctrl + C or using the contextual right click menu), you can then highlight Column A and right click.  From there, you’ll click on the clipboard with the numbers on it.  This is the PASTE VALUES function in Excel.  This literally instructs Excel, regardless of the formula of the copied cell, to paste the value itself and not the formula that created it. 
 
You can repeat this for the Last Name column, leaving you with duplicate First Name and Last Name columns.
 
From there, you can now delete Columns C & D, leaving only two columns.
 
In our next blog, we’ll show how to easily turn these two columns into one, and how to use the VLOOKUP function to drill into data.

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

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:

http://www.epicor.com/Services/Pages/Consulting.aspx.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

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