Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
One of the by-products of implementing technologies that connect the top and shop floor is the influences on the enterprise culture. In a post on his blog, Irving Wladawsky-Berger discusses the organizational challenges of embracing disruptive technologies. (Wladawsky-Berger, who worked for IBM for 37 years before retiring, is visiting lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division, executive-in-residence at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, senior fellow at the Levin Institute of the State University of New York, and adjunct professor in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the Imperial College Business School.) The key points he makes regarding technology and organizational culture are worth revisiting:
- The need for a clear, compelling strategy that the whole organization can rally around.
- The management of innovation initiatives
- The importance of top-down leadership and support
The first point speaks to the fact that technology not only impacts markets and operations, but also individuals and groups within an organization. In general, change is often painful as well as positive, and this is no different with technological change. It’s important that an organization be given a target to shoot for, “a kind of promised land everyone can aim for instead of wandering in the desert without a clear path forward.”
The next point underscores a subtle conundrum organizations face: the management skills leveraged for sustaining success systematically are often at odds with those that incorporate the growth resulting from the disruptive technologies. “In particular, managers have to make the transition from managing in the present to managing both the present and future—that is, they have to be good at both operations and strategy. Easier said than done.” The delicate balance here: managing for near-term results at the same time one manages for ongoing relevance and competitive standing in the future.
Finally, top-down leadership and support are essential in overcoming the resistance of individuals or groups to new technologies that are changing the way they work and jostling their comfort zones. “Visible top-management support is very helpful in tempering sibling rivalries and getting everyone to work together as part of one company-wide team.”
This discussion calls to mind a comment of another great thinker, Isaac Asimov: “It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” This is true for truly disruptive technologies such as the Internet, as well as the residual technology changes that follow in their wake. Basically, technological change begets cultural change; organizations that understand this are more likely to implement change successfully.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
Many companies do not realize successful economies of scale and resource synergies from a merger or acquisition because they are unable to rapidly consolidate disparate organizations and business systems. Organizations currently on or considering a Merger and Acquisition (M&A) path will be tasked with bringing those companies together. One of the most critical projects in this endeavor will be implementing the selected go-forward ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. A properly executed onboarding strategy will enable you to recognize ROI by leveraging the scale of the new organization, and capitalize on the synergies of the merger or acquisition.
“RAPID” in the title of this article represents an acronym and a framework for executing a fast-tracked ERP implementation. RAPID actually includes an acronym within an acronym.
Reports include any business intelligence output, such as: dashboards, printed reports, transactional information, external data sources, etc.
Interfaces: Interfaces are any systems that may push or pull information from the ERP.
Conversions: All activities related to data conversion or data transfer.
Enhancements: Any functional gaps between your current ERP and the acquired company’s ERP should be fully documented, focusing on the impacts to your value stream.
Actions: The near-term action items resulting from each meeting should be tracked to completion.
Policies: All policies—especially customer-facing ones—of the acquired company should be documented, and policy changes should be communicated to the appropriate stakeholders.
Issues/Decisions: As operational, personnel, or technical issues are uncovered, it is important to track those issues to completion with ownership and due dates. The resolved issues should have the decisions or solutions documented and filtered off your list.
Decreasing the amount of time to assimilate all entities onto one system will improve your timeline to return on investment of the merger or acquisition. Another tactic to rapidly implement acquired companies includes an effective project kickoff session, i.e., a Change Acceleration Process (CAP) workshop, to minimize employee resistance, attrition, and general dissatisfaction.
Communication is a key part of change management, and having an expert onsite that is skilled in this area is helpful. After all, if you fail to clearly describe the reasons for the acquisition and its expected impacts to your customers, your competitors will certainly do it for you.
Along with the technical migration, equally important projects to pursue during the
M&A process should include:
- Human Resources Plans, Systems and Policies, such as: payroll, benefits, etc.
- Marketing: A co-branding program is typical, with the acquired company’s logo being phased out over time
- Sales territory alignment
- E-commerce Web site shopping permissions
Approaching each aspect systematically, via the Actions, Policies, and Issues/Decisions execution steps of the framework above, will allow you to properly scope the project, manage the strategic deliverables, and work towards a RAPID implementation.
Posted by Jon Snow, Director, Business Consulting Services at Epicor
Technology, innovation, and unsurpassed customer service have been the foundation of Guillen Plumbing Supply for over 40 years. Originally founded in 1973 as a leading plumbing warranty repair operation servicing all of Southeast Florida, the company has since evolved into a leading worldwide supplier and distributor of plumbing products, with a 2,500-sq. ft. showroom and warehousing complex based in Miami, Florida.
“Our goal is to be the most respected supplier in our industry,” says Veronica Guillen-Simon, Vice President. The company is committed to meeting client needs with advanced, just-in-time delivery programs, online ordering, e-mail invoicing, and powerful Web commerce tools that allow customers to easily access detailed pricing, availability, and account information.
Since September 2006, these goals have been supported by Guillen’s implementation of the Epicor Eclipse enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solution. Epicor Eclipse is designed to provide plumbing, HVAC, and electrical wholesalers with a powerful, transactional-based system for streamlining and tracking all purchasing, inventory management, and warehousing functions in real time.
See Veronica and other members of the Guillen Plumbing Supply family discuss the impact of the Epicor Eclipse solution on their business in this 4-minute video:
I’m excited to share the news that we recently celebrated the 2nd anniversary of the release of Epicor Training on Demand
, an online training tool designed to offer role-based or job-specific training content to users of the Epicor Eagle business management solution. Thanks to the success of our customers, Training on Demand has made an impact in the businesses of over 800 retailers across the United States that have invested in this innovative training tool.
Williams Lumber and Home Centers
, a 68-year-old hardware, lumber and building materials retailer located in New York State, is using Epicor Training on Demand to enhance customer service and promote employee performance. “The Williams Lumber management team has benefitted from Training on Demand
in learning how the retail side of the business affects the backroom—this tool sharpens our associates’ skills,” said Frank Trippi, IT director for Williams Lumber.
In addition to the success of our customers, 2013 also marked our first recognition by Brandon Hall Group
, a well-established research and advisory services organization in the performance improvement industry. Epicor Training on Demand was named a winner in the 2013 Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Awards
. We were proud to accept the Bronze award in the category of Best Advance in Learning Management Technology for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
. The award entries were evaluated by a panel of independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group senior analysts and executive leadership based upon the criteria of product/program design, functionality, usability, innovation, and overall measurable benefits. A full list of the Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology award winners can be found here
Today, customer service is the foundation of success in the competitive retail market. The key to establishing proficiencies that reduce business mistakes, increase efficiencies, and improve customer service is grounded in an effective training program.
*Companies who train their employees are:
- 58% more likely to be successful at developing the skills needed for meeting future customer demand
- 46% more likely to be strong innovators in their markets
- 33% more likely to report higher customer satisfaction than other organizations
- 39% more likely to report success implementing customer suggestions
- 18% more likely to currently be a market-share leader in one or more of their markets
It’s truly an honor to work with such inspirational retailers that are effectively using Training on Demand to establish and improve these crucial business proficiencies. Here at Epicor we are committed to helping retailers improve customer service and their overall business performance—providing technology and educational programs that help retailers benefit from their investment in technology. I look forward more successful years to come and more innovative ways to improve business performance.
Posted by Jenny Kois, Learning Services Manager, Epicor
*"High-Impact Learning Culture: The 40 Best Practices for Creating an Empowered Enterprise," Bersin & Associates, June 2010.
We’ve all heard the idea that cleanliness is next to godliness; that sentiment dates back to scriptures several thousand years old. Today, cleanliness is big business, generating nearly $200 billion in revenue worldwide at the start of the decade. At that time, the Bureau of Labor
reported that annual spending on cleaning products approached $700 annually for each American household, something you can observe when the post Christmas/New Year’s cleaning frenzy begins. Spring cleaning may be the most entrenched practice we think of when attacking whatever has accumulated in the household over the winter; but, often it’s the end of the holiday season that has one looking around the house and reaching for the bleach.
In Japan, clearing dirt, clutter, and the disorganization from the old year is an integral part of their New Year tradition. Because each year is seen as separate and distinct, the final week of the old year is devoted to cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing. Based on what’s travelling down the local checkout lines, that practice is increasingly observed in the States, if not globally. For manufacturers of cleaning products, this means assuring production goes on without a hitch to meet demand.
An interesting example of this practice can be seen at the Clorox
Chicago bleach products manufacturing site, where a new Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence (EMI
) system has been introduced to keep operations up and running efficiently and effectively.
The challenges this production facility faced:
- Replacing manual processes with automated data capture and accurate, consistent efficiency metrics
- Boosting overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
- Building a culture of understanding and driving out losses on the plant floor
- Accurately benchmarking against other plants across the Clorox cleaning products division
To see how Clorox successfully met these challenges with a new EMI system, you can go here. You’ll have plenty of time to do so after you finish cleaning the house.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
In the initial blog post
on customer loyalty, we looked at the growth of customer loyalty programs, key factors that influence customer loyalty, and what customers are increasingly searching to improve in the programs in which they participate. This post addresses how retailers are giving customers what they want to secure their loyalty.
In the second part of the series on customer loyalty programs, Retail TouchPoints
(RTP) associate editor Alicia Fiorletta addresses how retailers are integrating customer loyalty programs across every communications and commercial touch point. This omnichannel approach is becoming increasingly dominant in the retail sector. Fiorletta notes:
Omnichannel retailing is evolving at a rapid pace. In order to better connect with savvy consumers, best-in-class retailers are revising their loyalty programs and initiatives to create differentiated and customized experiences. Although deals, coupons and incentives continue to drive loyalty initiatives, retailers must be sure to focus strategies on providing great customer experiences across all channels.
As example of how this is working successfully, she cites Stride Rite’s Rewards Program
, whose membership exceeded a million within six months “due to the ability for participants to receive instant access to rewards, account information and products across all channels.”
While technology is essential in executing omnichannel tactics, the role of in-store associates remains a critical factor. A recent post by Tai Aguirre on the Taico Incentive Services blog notes the central role that employees play in achieving customer loyalty, and in influencing the success of omnichannel tactics:
The influence your employees have on how your company delivers a great brand experience cannot be overemphasized. An engaged workforce creates a performance culture that becomes visible to your customers. When problems arise, as they certainly will, your employees will be up to the task of providing a positive customer experience. Engaged employees are deeply involved in figuring out how to meet your organization's objectives for the good of all.
Esprit Smith, Marketing Consultant for the Retail & Consumer Practice at Lenati reiterates this in the RTP piece: “Retailers should train front-line employees to understand the importance of a loyalty program. Since store associates typically are the first point of contact with the customer, they need to thoroughly understand the benefits for the customer as well as for the brand and organization.”
By connecting with consumers at the point of sale and throughout the shopping experience, associates can share more details on loyalty initiatives, as well as the variety of perks consumers can receive once they register in the program.
notes in a recent article, true customer loyalty is the ultimate goal of these efforts, and “true customer loyalty means making the relationship more important than making the sale.”
summarizes that customer loyalty programs are not a panacea, but work with other customer experience factors (e.g., price, convenience, product availability and customer service) delivered through seamless omnichannel techniques.
How are you pursuing customer loyalty in your business? What kind of programs have you implemented? We’d love to know your thoughts on how to get true customer loyalty?
For a full copy of RTP
study Customer Loyalty in 2013 and Beyond, click here
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Epicor
As discussed in the white paper Operational Guide to Implementing Lean in Distribution
, the concept of Lean
involves removing non-value-added wastes and increasing speed and efficiency. Lean is a journey in which an organization ascends to different Lean “maturity levels.” The initial focus should be on identifying waste and value in your business processes, from the time an order is received to the time the final payment is collected (or “from quote to cash”).
As your organization progresses and becomes more sophisticated in the use of Lean tools such as those described below, you can increase your time and efficiency gains. This striving toward perfection is a continuous process, with ongoing goals of delivering exactly what the customer wants, and repurposing your employees to deliver additional value to your customer. To succeed with Lean, you need to make it part of your culture.
A related concept, Six Sigma, refers to improving quality (as measured by customer expectations) to “near perfection” levels—reducing or eliminating variation. (“Sigma” is a statistical term that measures how far a given process deviates from perfection.) A highly disciplined philosophy and methodology, Six Sigma is broken down into the following phases, abbreviated as DMAIC:
- Define (the project charter, paying particular attention to the “Voice of the Customer”)
- Measure (the “as is”/current state of the targeted processes)
- Analyze (what the data is telling you)
- Improve (by piloting the proposed solutions in a small subset of the organization)
- Control (maintain the gains as you roll out the solutions more broadly).
7 Deadly Wastes
Many common tools exist between Six Sigma statistical analysis and Lean methodology; you can combine them to eliminate waste, which is is also called “Muda” in Japanese.
The first step in the lean journey is identifying what waste is, because once you know what waste looks like, you can try to reduce or eliminate it. The “seven deadly wastes” that can be seen in wholesale distribution are: Defects, Inventory, Over Production, Waiting, Motion, Transportation, and Over Processing. (An easy mnemonic for remembering these is: TIMWOOD.)
In distribution, Defects look like:
• Missed deliveries
• Shipping wrong parts
Inventory wastes include:
• Excess inventory
• Dead stock
• Not having the right inventory in stock
Over processing looks like:
• Double entry
• Filling out extra screens
• Double- and triple-checking items in every order
Waiting can look like:
• People waiting for unnecessary approvals
• Late shipments
• Customers waiting at your counter
• Taking more steps than needed in a warehouse or in the office
• Not having efficient truck routing
Overproduction can be thought of as:
• Not buying the right inventory to fulfill customers’ needs
• Putting too many features into a product (e.g., in kitting) that the customer did not want or need.
Some of the tools available to help you identify and eliminate as much waste as possible include:
This refers to creating controls for mistake- or error-proofing, leading to more predictable results and increased capacity. Mistake prevention must be a key business objective, but you can also readily see examples of this in your daily life; e.g.:
- Automated shut-offs on irons
- Ground fault circuit breakers for bathroom or outside electric circuits
- Childproof caps on medications
- ERP data fields that require input in a certain format
- Color-coded files
- Spell check in word processing
- Software questioning “Are you sure you want to delete?” after pressing the “Delete” button on your computer
- Dual Palm Buttons and other guards on machinery
- Bar Coding
- Fixtures, jigs, and templates
- Lock-Out / Tag-Out
“Go to Gemba” and “5 Why’s”
“Gemba” refers to the workplace, and the recommendation is to go where the work is actually happening, to visually identify what’s going on in a process. As part of this reality check, Lean Six Sigma advises using the “5 Why’s”: ask “Why” 3-5 times or more (or ask “What, Where, When, Who, How?” in addition to “Why?”) to drill down to root causes/issues, and get to something that’s actionable. Go after the biggest problems (as identified by employees) or biggest sources of revenue. Document the evidence/facts that led to the answer at each step, and then check the logic in reverse, from problem to cause. This leads to the development of effective and sustainable countermeasures or solutions.
Posted by Brent Gough, Sr. Business Process Consultant, Epicor Business Consulting Services
Getting new employees productive as soon as possible is always the number one goal in any organization. Having a documented training plan for new employees for your ERP system is key to your (and your new employee’s) success. Here are some suggestions to consider:
Leverage Your Vendor's Education Deliverables – Whether it’s embedded education, classroom training, or virtual training, find out what your vendor has to offer and use it! They know the software and the roles you have within your organization. Save time and leverage the resources they can provide to you.
Refresh training annually - People lose knowledge over time, so if you rely on power users to train new employees, make sure they get refresher training at least annually. Again, use the embedded education, virtual and classroom training, as well as the annual Insights User Conference. You should also plan on training people with each upgrade to ensure you receive the benefit of new functionality. The Feature Summary and Delta courses are great tools to use for this.
Don’t neglect the shop floor personnel - Many times people hesitate to train shop floor personnel because the transactions are simple and they don’t want to adversely affect manufacturing efficiency and throughput. This is a huge mistake because errors in shop floor transactions affect inventory accuracy, delivery dates and costs. Time spent training up front will avert much greater time losses in the future while you track down and correct errors.
Train on company time - Some companies try to save money by requiring employees to complete training on their own time either after work or during lunches and breaks. This is a sure fire recipe for disaster because employees will resist training and resent the incursion on personal time.
Use training teams - Always try to train people in small groups or teams made up of people from various areas of the company. Aside from the team building aspect of this tactic, it also helps users understand how their actions affect other parts of the business.
Use these techniques when you plan your ERP training and you will have a faster and smoother implementation and your employees will be grateful you invested time in them and their future with your company.
Many of these ideas were taken from an Exact MAX article. For additional information, visit their website here.
Posted by Staci Cummings, Senior Content Manager, Epicor University
Last week’s National Retail Federation (NRF) — Retail’s BIG Show in New York City saw more than 30,000 attendees walk in and out of the Javits Center’s doors, and I feel like I talked to at least half of them. NRF is that one place you meet lots of new people and can reconnect with “old” colleagues and friends in just two short days. And they all want to talk about the same thing—what’s the newest thing out there that will inspire our customers and fuel business growth.
Epicor drew the most conversations from three new solutions we showcased in our booth—Epicor Retail Cross-Commerce, Epicor Retail CRM 7.0, and Epicor Retail Store Windows 8 Tablets Edition. Epicor Retail Cross-Commerce bridges the gap among online, mobile and brick-and-mortar realms for a more satisfying, consistent consumer experience and streamlined retail management by providing a unified transaction engine. Which is exactly what 63% of retailers want, according to the 11th Annual Store Systems Study.
Epicor Retail CRM 7.0 continues to gain adoption as the foundation for winning customer engagement and loyalty strategies for a growing number of leading retailers. It always amazes me how little retailers know about their customers. We had so many great discussions with retailers during NRF on what they could do if they only captured a little more data or tied transactions to the customer. They’d find out who their best customers are, what offers or communication brought them in, what they buy with what, etc. With this knowledge, the possibilities of targeted marketing are endless.
Supporting the next evolution of mobility in the retail enterprise, attendees saw the Epicor Retail Store Windows 8 Tablet Edition first hand during the Epicor and Microsoft NRF Big !deas Session Windows 8 POS Tablet: Why Less Really is More. Mobile Store is not new to Epicor—we have many retailers who have been very successful users, especially this holiday season. However Windows 8 takes Mobile Store to the next level and provides so much more flexibility with information at the staff’s fingertips. I’m not the only one excited about it—I spoke to one retailer who is looking forward to replacing all their registers with tablets.
I can’t talk about NRF without talking about my build-a-bear smallfrys® friends. Once again Epicor partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop® to obtain new friends which we gave away in exchange for $10 donations to benefit the Retail Orphan Initiative (RetailROI). RetailROI is celebrating its 5th year in helping to raise funds and awareness for at risk and orphaned children worldwide by providing real solutions to help improve their lives. Every dollar raised at the our booth is going directly to computer lab upgrades, educational programs, and roof construction at The Master’s Home of Champions Rehab orphanage and school in Liberia. I will have the honor of visiting them in person this fall, as I plan to attend another RetailROI trip.
When all is said and done, there was an abundance of energy during Retail’s BIG Show. Retailers, especially those who visited our booth, appeared enthusiastic about 2014 and the resurgence of the economy. This year is the year to empower the world’s leading retailers with the world’s most advanced solutions – enhancing customer experiences and inspiring growth.
Growth happens in the space between what your customers want and what your competitors provide. How can you own that space? Let’s Talk!
Posted by Diane Cerulli, Director of Retail Marketing, Epicor
In the technical writing world, before we start to write anything, we are trained to ask ourselves two questions about the expected content: Who is the audience? and What is the purpose? The answers to these questions determine the structure of our sentences, beginning with our first written word and ending with our last.
In an example of writing installation guides, the answers to the questions are often the same: the audience is the customer and the purpose is to provide instructions on how to install the product. Beginning technical writers might take those answers as fact and hustle to start documenting the process beginning with step 1.
However, at Epicor University, we take those stock answers not as the definitive replies but as a good starting point for diving in deeper to get to the real answers. And to do that, we need to ask one more question: What is the audience’s perspective?
It’s true that usually the audience is the customer. But we need to know more than that; we need to understand the customer’s point of view. Each customer reads an installation guide from a specific point of view and certain expectations are attached to each view. In order for a technical writer to meet – and exceed – those expectations, the writer must consider as many perspectives as possible.
For example, is this a new customer installing our product for the first time? If yes, then in addition to precisely written steps, we must also include conceptual information to assist in making pre-installation decisions. Some of these decisions are determined only the first time the product is installed and the answers set the stage for the whole implementation, so it is important that we provide all the information necessary for customers to make the right decisions.
On the other hand, is this an existing customer who has installed our product so many times that he could do it with his eyes closed? If yes, then don’t add any new important, yet subtle, steps in the Getting Started section. Most likely this experienced customer is going to start reading the install guide where it says “Install the Product” even if that section starts on page 33 of an 80 page document. Knowing the perspective helps a technical writer remember that it is not up to the customer to find subtle additions; it is the technical writer’s responsibility to make sure the information goes where the customer will find it.
Sure, in a perfect world, a reader of an installation guide would start at the title page, and then flip to the disclaimer page to review the latest legal statement, and then spend a few minutes perusing the Table of Contents. After becoming acquainted with the structure of the guide, the reader would begin on section 1, step 1, which is usually the Getting Started or Pre-Installation section.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the Epicor documentation with some of our customers; real customers working in the real world. I’ve also been reminded that our customers do not live in the perfect world that is described above. Some of their honest comments made me cringe while others made me blush. With either reaction, I’ve never doubted that Epicor customers are busy, highly intelligent, and professional people. Installing or upgrading their software is just one of many tasks they will undertake in a normal day. Many will tackle the install guide like they do any of their other tasks, which is to get their job done as efficiently and effectively as possible.
In Epicor University, we strive to keep the audience, purpose, and most importantly, the audience’s perspective in our heads with every word we write. It helps us to write the most succinct steps, the type of steps that leave no gray area, include no vague phrases, and leave no questions unanswered.
For me personally, I’m going to remember that the Getting Started section is not a prologue to a great novel; it’s not everyone’s starting point and even in a novel, some people skip over the prologue. So for the next Epicor installation guide that I write, if I need to tell you the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, I’ll make sure to put it in a place where all customers – new, experienced, or any level in between – will find it. Also, don’t panic, I’ll make sure that the extraordinary consequences and how they are inextricably intertwined start on page 42.
Posted by Linda Robinson, Sr. Manager, Release Content, Epicor University