Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
National trade publication Home Channel News has named 50 independent retail businesses from the United States in the fourth annual Hardware Store ALL-STARS list. Strong-performing and innovative retailers are recognized in this awards program for excellence in their industries. Of those listed, 33 of the 50 operate their businesses on Epicor solutions. The retailers are known for their great leaders, exciting innovations, and an unconventional approach to retailing.
Collecting nominees from a combination of store visits, news searches, and entries from trusted industry sources, the publication’s editorial selection committee assembled an ALL-STAR lineup of elite retailers. According Home Channel News, the retailers have demonstrated “service, service and more service. They also show growth, innovation and values of the hardware industry.”
We are excited to congratulate the retailers named that operate their businesses with Epicor solutions. Here is a sampling of the Epicor users in the Hardware Store ALL-STARS list:
Bay Hardware, California
Shell Lumber & Hardware, Florida
HPM Building Supply, Hawaii
Steve’s Ace Home & Garden, Iowa
Strasser Hardware, Kansas
Vidrine’s Ace Hardware, Louisiana
Courtland Hardware, Maryland
Rylee’s Ace Hardware, Michigan
Colmar Home Center, New Jersey
H.G. Page and Sons Home and Hardware, New York
Nutter Hardware, Ohio
Gordon White Lumber, Oklahoma
Madrona Hills Ace Hardware, Oregon
Paradise Home Center, South Carolina
Anderson Lumber Company, Tennessee
Cox Hardware & Lumber, Texas
Scholze Ace Home Center, Wisconsin
True Value of Rawlins, Wyoming
See retailer photos here.
To view the full list of 2014 HCN Hardware Store ALL-STARS winners, click here.
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
When I was asked to write this blog post, I was a little nervous. I have never written a blog post before, much less one that can be read by the entire world. I felt ill at ease and unsure at doing something different. As I was calming my nerves in preparation for this new challenge, I started thinking about comfort zones and why it’s important to stick a toe outside them.
Sometimes in work, as in life, it can be difficult to break out of our patterns, the things we do on a regular basis with comfort and expertise. It can be frightening to try something new, to take a risk, especially in the workplace. What if we fail? That fear of failure can lead to unwillingness to expand past our comfort zone to being stuck in a rut where we don’t grow or develop to our full potential.
As daunting as it can sometimes feel to try to perform an unfamiliar task, there are advantages to moving past our discomfort and staying open towards new opportunities. Here are some benefits to stretching out of our comfort zone.
Challenging ourselves – When we only do what we already know how to do, our work can become stale and repetitive and this can lead to feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction. We end up doing just enough when we are capable of doing more. When we challenge ourselves to achieve new goals and those goals are achieved, it communicates that we are the type of employees who want interesting, challenging work to perform. We open ourselves up to opportunities for further achievement and satisfaction in our careers.
Growing and Learning – In life, we should always be growing and learning new things. Stretching to learn unfamiliar skills keeps our mind sharp and allows us to develop as people. Even when we don’t immediately achieve our goals, we can learn something important in the effort itself. We learn how to cope with and learn from our mistakes. Innovation comes from not only knowing what does work but from learning what doesn’t. A skilled and knowledgeable employee who is able to innovate is a valuable asset to our company. The more we adapt, learn and develop our skills, the more valuable we can become.
Gaining Confidence – We all experience insecurities and self-doubts when trying something new. That first tiny step outside of our comfort zone can feel as if we are climbing a mountain. When we do take that first step and the world doesn’t crash down all around us, it makes that second step a little less frightening. A few more steps and we find ourselves walking easily along the path to new challenges and rewarding experiences. The more we face our fears, the less power we give them. The more we prove to ourselves that we can overcome obstacles, the more we start to feel confidence in what we are capable of achieving, both in and out of the workplace.
Remaining nimble – The ERP environment is one marked by high demand and rapid change. We must be able to be nimble in that environment, to adapt and respond successfully to the needs of our business and our customers. Change is coming whether we like it or not. Instead of resisting or dreading it, we can choose to embrace those changes and make them work for us. Epicor University has taken advantage of changes in education technology to develop an extensive portfolio of different learning options that encourages lifelong learning for both our employees and our customers.
Expanding our comfort zones – A surprising thing happens when we stretch outside our comfort zone; our comfort zone stretches too. The challenges that once seemed impossible for us to achieve now become part of our skill set. As we continue our growth and development, we become more comfortable in trying new things until the act of challenging ourselves becomes part of our comfort zone. By going out of my comfort zone and writing this blog post, I’ve learned that I can write a blog post. As a result, I’ve become more comfortable with stretching my writing skills into other new directions.
To conclude, when we work through our anxiety and challenge ourselves in the workplace, we have a greater opportunity to grow personally and professionally. This can result in a more positive attitude towards change and a confidence that we can stretch beyond our comfort zone to take advantages of the wealth of opportunities just beyond it.
Posted by Tricia Symes, Sr University Specialist, Epicor University
The Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA International
) and LNS Research
released the annual “Manufacturing Metrics that Really Matter” report. The report merits reviewing, which we will do in a series of posts. This post recaps the first question the study answers: “Which metrics are being used to best understand manufacturing performance and opportunity areas for improvement?”
Twenty-eight manufacturing metrics were identified as being the most utilized by discrete, process, and hybrid/batch manufacturers. The study grouped each of these metrics with the associated top-level area of improvement/goal for each:
Improving Customer Experience and Responsiveness
- On-Time Delivery to Commit: The percentage of time that manufacturing delivers a completed product on the schedule that was committed to customers.
- Manufacturing Cycle Time: The speed or time it takes for manufacturing to produce a given product from the time the order is released to production, to finished goods.
- Time to Make Changeovers: The speed or time it takes to switch a manufacturing line or plant from making one product over to making a different product.
- Yield: A percentage of products that are manufactured correctly and to specifications the first time through the manufacturing process without scrap or rework.
- Customer Rejects/Return Material Authorizations/Returns: How many times customers reject products or request returns of products based on receipt of a bad or out of specification product.
- Supplier’s Quality Incoming: The percentage of good quality materials coming into the manufacturing process from a given supplier.
- Throughput: How much product is being produced on a machine, line, unit, or plant over a specified period of time.
- Capacity Utilization: How much of the total manufacturing output capacity is being utilized at a given point in time.
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): A multiplier of Availability x Performance x Quality that can be used to indicate the overall effectiveness of a piece of production equipment, or an entire production line.
- Schedule or Production Attainment: What percentage of time a target level of production is attained within a specified schedule of time.
- WIP Inventory/Turns: A commonly used ratio calculation to measure the efficient use of inventory materials. It is calculated by dividing the cost of goods sold by the average inventory used to produce those goods.
- Reportable Health and Safety Incidents: The number of health and safety incidents that were either actual incidents or near misses that were recorded as occurring over a period of time.
- Reportable Environmental Incidents: The number of health and safety incidents that were recorded as occurring over a period of time.
- Number of Non-Compliance Events/Year: The number of times a plant or facility operated outside the guidelines of normal regulatory compliance rules during a one-year period. These non-compliances need to be fully documented as to the specific non-compliance time, reasons, and resolutions.
- Percentage Planned vs. Emergency Maintenance Work Orders: An indicator of how often scheduled maintenance takes place, versus more disruptive/unplanned maintenance.
- Downtime in Proportion to Operating Time: This ratio of downtime to operating time is a direct indicator of asset availability for production.
Increasing Flexibility and Innovation
- Rate of New Product Introduction: How rapidly new products can be introduced to the marketplace and typically includes a combination of design, development, and manufacturing ramp up times.
- Engineering Change Order Cycle Time: How rapidly design changes or modifications to existing products can be implemented all the way through documentation processes and volume production.
Reducing Costs and Increasing Profitability
- Total Manufacturing Cost per Unit Excluding Materials: All potentially controllable manufacturing costs that go into the production of a given manufactured unit, item, or volume.
- Manufacturing Cost as a Percentage of Revenue: A ratio of total manufacturing costs to the overall revenues produced by a manufacturing plant or business unit.
- Net Operating Profit: The financial profitability for all investors/shareholders/debt holders, either before or after taxes, for a manufacturing plant or business unit.
- Productivity in Revenue per Employee: How much revenue is generated by a plant, business unit, or company, divided by the number of employees.
- Average Unit Contribution Margin: A ratio of the profit margin that is generated by a manufacturing plant or business unit, divided into a given unit or volume of production.
- Return on Assets/Return on Net Assets: A measure of financial performance calculated by dividing the net income from a manufacturing plant or business unit by the value of fixed assets and working capital deployed.
- Energy Cost per Unit: The cost of energy (electricity, steam, oil, gas, etc.) required to produce a specific unit or volume of production.
- Cash-to-Cash Cycle Time: The duration between the purchase of a manufacturing plant or business unit’s inventory, and the collection of payments/accounts receivable for the sale of products that utilize that inventory—typically measured in days.
- EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization is a calculation of a business unit or company's earnings, prior to having any interest payments, tax, depreciation, and amortization subtracted for any final accounting of income and expenses. EBITDA is typically used as top-level indicator of the current operational profitability of a business.
- Customer Fill Rate/On-Time delivery/Perfect Order Percentage: The percentage of times that customers receive the entirety of their ordered manufactured goods, to the correct specifications, and delivered at the expected time.
How does list compare with the metrics you’re using? Are there any metrics you would add?
Posted by Stewart Baillie, Vice President, Products, Manufacturing
Generally, divisions or subsidiaries of multi-location organizations use Zero Balance Accounts (ZBA) to make the best use of cash and credit lines. ZBAs will automatically clear the balance to zero (or some nominal amount such as $5,000) by doing a daily transfer to/from the Corporate consolidating bank account (or Line of Credit). The following illustrates an effective methodology for recording the ZBA sweep transactions and reconciling the appropriate bank accounts.
- Two ZBAs are setup. One for Disbursements (A/P check clearing) and one for Deposits and other miscellaneous transactions including outbound wires and ACH/EFT. There are many other combinations of accounts, but the following concepts remain the same.
- The Division/Subsidiary utilizes online bank reporting to access daily/weekly/monthly transactions without waiting for bank statements.
- The bank reconciliation process is completed as part of the month end process, preferably on the first day of month end. Alternatively, it can be done weekly or daily.
- AR and AP Transactions:
Sweep clearing and Bank Reconciliation. This must be done every month, but can be done daily or weekly if desired.
- All deposits (not just customer payments) must be entered into Epicor ERP so they can be cleared in Bank Reconciliation. These can be done in AR/Cash Receipts Entry, using “New Misc Payment.”
- All disbursements (not just AP checks) must be entered into Epicor ERP so they can be cleared in Bank Reconciliation. These can be done in AP/Payment Processing.
- Run the report from the bank to determine the total net value of checks that cleared during the month/day/week, and do a Bank Transfer from the appropriate Intercompany Bank Account (or Line of Credit) to the Disbursements account.
- Alternatively, you can do a “Bank Adjustment” if you just want it to go to a GL Account for Intercompany.
- Run the report from the bank for the Deposits Account to determine the total net value of “sweeps” during the month, and do a Bank Transfer from the Deposits account to the appropriate Intercompany Bank Account (or Line of Credit).
- The alternative “Bank Adjustment” option can also apply here.
- Clear these Bank Transfers (or bank fees) and all other transactions that cleared the bank, using Bank Reconciliation.
- Don’t forget to reconcile your bank statement so your GL account balances.
Posted by Paul Jackson, Senior Consultant, Epicor
At the recent Ace Hardware Fall Convention & Exhibits, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel presentation with Wade Doss, owner of Bates Ace Hardware, and Bob Krieger, owner of Katz Ace Hardware. The retail business owners provided insights and firsthand experiences with the new Epicor solution for independent retailers, Epicor Eagle N Series. Here are a few highlights from that presentation.
Q: With a commitment to stay on the cutting edge of technology, what was the process like for your business to implement Epicor Eagle N Series?
Doss: Implementation was pretty pain free. The new modern interface of Eagle N Series has a clean look and feel. The solution streamlines procedures so that the daily tasks in our business are easier and quicker to execute. Eagle N Series eliminates steps and we’ve seen an immediate savings in time and money. The new software makes business processes seamless.
Q: Considering all the tools retailers can use to compete and grow successfully in today’s market, how can retailers position themselves for the future?
Krieger: One thing that cannot be overlooked is every retailer’s mission to outservice big box competition. Customers today have many choices, so how can you give your customers an unforgettable experience? By outservicing your competition those customers will keep choosing you. Eagle N Series helps position our business to respond quickly and cost-effectively as the retail market evolves. The software is intuitive; it’s where I need it, when I need it.
Q: Getting employees up and running on new technology can be a challenge. What has been your experience with introducing the new solution to your staff?
Krieger: You’ll find consistency throughout the entire Eagle N Series solution, which is crucial for learning and training employees. The solution is very user friendly. For example, my 10-year-old son learned how to use Eagle N Series in 45 minutes. This means that I can now train new employees faster, which in return saves time and money for our business.
Q: In the ‘age of the customer,’ customers are demanding immediate answers to questions. What is your business doing to combat this challenge?
Doss: One way to improve operations is to have access to vital information. Business analytics should be readily available at your fingertips. With Eagle N Series we are quickly and efficiently able to access information on customer buying habits, popular products on our shelves, inventory levels, and more. This information especially helps us when management is on the sales floor and needs to make a decision quickly. We now have all the information we need at the touch of a button. Retailers greatly benefit from tools that keep up with customers.
For a detailed look at the Bates Ace Hardware implementation of Epicor Eagle N Series, read their story here.
Posted by Carl Hildebrandt, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
Safety Supply Illinois (SSI) is a distributor of safety products ranging from earplugs to high-end safety equipment, including fall protection and confined space solutions. SSI converted to the Epicor Prophet 21 enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution in 2012.
According to SSI Owner/Chief Operating Officer Mary Porter, “The online learning classes from Epicor University were extremely helpful in introducing the new functional aspects of Prophet 21 to our employees. The online training schedule provided by Epicor’s Learning Management System (LMS) allowed me to create, schedule, and track user-specific training timelines.
“The LMS is wonderful for training new users on Prophet 21, and because it is organized by business function, I encourage our existing employees to listen to other classes and learn about all functional areas,” continues Porter. “We are slowly incorporating many of the Prophet 21 enhancements into our business practices with help from the Epicor Learning Center.”
The results speak for themselves. Porter observes, “In the last three years, we have tripled sales, in part because we converted to Prophet 21. In addition to increasing our overall customer base by about 20 percent, we are also attracting much larger customers such as utility companies. The Epicor technology and tools for learning and growing are all there; you just need to access them.” To read the full story of SSI’s success, go here
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
What are today’s biggest ERP deficiencies? What are the most sought-after next-gen ERP features and functionality? And how are organizations around the globe leveraging cloud, mobile, and social collaboration to enhance business performance and responsiveness? The answers to these questions are revealed in our latest global research, which surveyed more than 1,500 business professionals in 10 countries.
For those of you who like the Readers Digest treatment, allow me to break it down for you as to our key takeaways:
Survey results show a high percentage of ERP adoption but no raving fans. Most characterized the utility of their ERP as merely “adequate” or “basic”. This just shows that ERP is not helping companies drive value and growth, and/or interact with customers and employees in the way they’d like.
It takes too long and it’s too difficult to get info survey respondents need. This is an issue that has plagued the enterprise apps business for a long time, and a fact that reinforces that our recent investments in Epicor ERP 10 around ease of use and customer experience are very much on track with market needs.
The survey data shows cloud is becoming more accepted – not just for point solutions, but that organizations have now comfortable with the speed, benefits, SLAs and security aspects around cloud for running all or part (hybrid model) of their mission critical enterprise applications. We feel that many organizations will find a hybrid model to be the best solution to meet their needs (to meet regulatory requirements, multiplant, etc.) and so the flexibility for both on-premises and cloud deployment options and the ability to seamlessly interact across these environments will be key going forward.
On the whole are bullish on ERP capabilities including mobile, social and cloud, believing they offer new and exciting opportunities for improved organizational responsiveness. Mobile, social and cloud are changing business as we know it, and the gap between leaders and laggards will continue to widen.
Over the past few years, Epicor has re-architected our user interfaces to move away from the traditional data entry model. We believe data entry is a last resort on how information should be put into the system. Today information is being broadcast by machines, devices and people; our approach has been to intercept that information so it can be parsed and disseminated quickly and seamlessly throughout the organization.
Organizations know they need next-gen ERP capabilities, but many are fearful of the time, money and effort to have to replace your ERP system. The good news is much has changed in the past few years to improve ease of deployment and make ERP replatforming less daunting.
Many organizations have ERP systems that are 10 to 20 years old, which to learn and use required a lot of training. This is contrary to the way systems are used today by the current generation of users. The addition of things such as social and search serves to dramatically reduce the learning curve. SaaS has helped a great deal – often hardware investment is seen as a big barrier, as is the resources and skill sets needed to manage the infrastructure. SaaS removes these barriers.
By this time next year I predict that we won’t be talking about mobile, social and cloud as “next-gen” methods to extend the value of ERP. So what will we be talking about – what’s next?
I think we’ll be talking about connectivity and collaboration – specifically regarding social systems and machine-to-machine interfaces. We’ll be talking about using Big Data and analytics to move into more predictive realms. The manufacturing and distribution sectors, in particular, have a huge amount of information to unlock.
Posted by John Hiraoka, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Epicor
Did you stay up later then you intended to last night? If you did, chances are you were sucked into a great movie or a favorite book. That’s what a good story does . . . it grabs our attention and holds it until a creative or surprising resolution gives us satisfaction and contentment. But stories do much more than entertain . . . a good story can help us learn and make it easier for us to remember something long after we see it on screen or read it on a page.
A simple example of this is a fourth grade spelling teacher showing the class a trick to spell “rhythm” by remembering the one-line story “Robin Hood Yelled To His Men!” Did you picture Robin Hood in full costume running around Sherwood Forest calling for his band of merry men? I always do. Stories make things easier to recall because they put our whole brains to work, imagining pictures and movement, sounds and smells. Stories power memory.
On a completely different level, think about the history student slogging through dates, data, and textbook explanations about the politics of World War II. Introduce that same student to Anne Frank’s diary and watch as the power of the story taps into his heart, transporting him from the school library to a secret annex in war-torn Europe. Stories make people care and arouse interest.
As difficult as it can be to apply stories to the world of ERP software documentation, top-notch documentation writers and classroom trainers often use examples and real-life stories to capture attention and engage with their students. The following are some examples of how stories can help people understand a difficult concept or remember something useful.
- Several weeks ago I attended a training to learn how to use Epicor software to schedule production jobs on a shop floor. There were many terms in the process that I didn’t comprehend right away and I had trouble discerning between them. The trainer who was leading the class used a story involving a burger joint drive-thru to help me remember how the process worked. For each step in the unfamiliar, she gave me a corresponding step that I understood: waiting in line, ordering, the burger being cooked and put together to my specifications, then lunch bagged and moved to the cashier. Stories reshape information into something meaningful. When embedded in the context of a story, it is transferred to the listener or reader in a unique way.
- When correcting a piece of documentation regarding on-time transaction approvals, I read the material and found myself hopelessly lost (noticing a theme here?). I scheduled a demonstration with a subject matter expert, who used various scenarios to help me understand the many ways that time transactions can be tracked and approved. Through the adventures of Peter Project Manager, Sally Supervisor, and Emilio Employee, I learned different ways to configure settings and how to obtain the desired results. Ultimately, I was able to pass the information along to end users by writing examples like his – what worked for me I knew would work for others. People take time for stories. If you want to maintain an audience’s attention through something tedious, you’re more likely to do it through storytelling.
- When developing a basic training video to teach users how material flows in an out of a distributor’s warehouse, a coworker created an effective piece using a story about a safety helmet. In the story, a customer came shopping for the helmet, went through the sales process, and an order was placed. The helmet was not on hand and had to be purchased, received, and then shipped to the customer. In following the ordered material through the process, the learner could take in the information the developer wanted to convey – how material moves from start to finish – and also learn terminology through the simple example. Explanations, especially of complex processes, benefit from having a beginning, a middle, and an ending.
In closing – those of us who are tasked with taking the complex (or the tedious, or the completely confusing) and interpreting it for others need to use every weapon in our arsenal to do our jobs. Storytelling is effective. And – even in the context of software documentation – it is, occasionally, rather fun.
By Deb Amato, Sr. Content Writer
Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is not a “once and done” activity. It is vitally important to continue proper maintenance, reviews, and education for your company’s system and employees after go-live.
Whether you went live last week, last month, last year, or several years ago, there are a number of things you can do to get the most out of your system. Like many Epicor Prophet 21 users, you have probably spent a lot of time and effort getting ramped up. Now that you are fully up to speed on the system, it is important to keep the momentum going by developing a timeline for leveraging additional features and processes that will have the greatest impact on improving your business.
Immediate action items after go-live can include:
- Gathering feedback from your management team on current system usage, challenges and desired improvements
- Determining priorities for the next year
- Developing a Business Continuity Plan to protect your data and put failover solutions in place
- Reviewing the Epicor Learning Management System (LMS) for employees with incomplete courses
In the months following, you can:
- Review Business Alerts to optimize productivity and profitability
- Assign additional LMS courses that were not a priority during implementation
- Take advantage of DynaChange to alter the appearance of screens to suit the needsof your employees and business processes, and create your own drilldowns from any field in the Prophet 21 system
- Opt-in for e-mail alerts from the Epicor Customer Web Site
- Develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy
- Assign shortcut and efficiency training courses to all end users
- Conduct a process review to prevent the inadvertentintroduction of bad habits
- Create a Business Intelligence framework for your organization
- Review new feature training courses
Epicor Business Consultants can provide you with additional recommendations, roadmaps and checkpoints to advance your business with Prophet 21.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
In the previous blog post, we went over types of part numbering and general recommendations from Epicor. In this post, we will be giving a summary of part numbering options.
Standards for your Customers, Suppliers, and Manufacturers
This section refers to the base part numbering. It may not be within your control to change the part numbering methodologies of your suppliers, manufacturers or customers. It is, however, possible to have your own part numbers for all of the above.
Why Have Your Own Numbering System?
Why not use your supplier or customer part numbers for numbering your own parts? There are a few reasons:
- Consistency: Just as you have multiple customers, your customers will have multiple part numbering standards.
- Elimination of Duplicates: What if two of your suppliers, or two of your customers, happen to both use the same part number to call out two different items? Now you have to come up with some method for eliminating these accidental collisions of data.
Summary of Options
There are several numbering options outlined below. Epicor recommends the third, “semi-meaningful” numbering system for most companies.
Meaningful Part Numbering
This is where the digits of the part number each have a specific meaning, resulting in the ability for a knowledgeable user to know what a part number translates into. However, having a completely meaningful system makes for a very complicated structure, and necessitates a strong engineering organization to control the part number assignment. Some companies choose to only use a fully meaningful part numbering system on their finished goods.
Non-Meaningful Part Numbering
In this case, the part number itself does not mean anything significant. This could be a sequentially assigned number, or can appear to be random. Also, sorting by part number is totally meaningless. When searching by part number, you must know what you want.
Semi-Meaningful Part Numbering (Recommended)
This is a system where there is some meaning in the part number—defining the type of part, but not down to every final detail. Not all attributes of the part are defined. At some point, there becomes too many attributes to track in the part, so a sequential number is assigned to differentiate from other similar parts. The actual description and differences are stored in the part description, as well as the part’s drawing.
To learn more about part numbering rules, best practices and recommended formatting, download the white paper ERP Part Numbering Standards for Manufacturing here.
Posted by Tim Shoemaker, Senior Principal Consultant, Epicor Professional Services