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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.
Why You Need an Agile ERP System: Part Two

In part one of this post, we discussed the technologies driving development in today’s digital business landscape, the major forces driving dramatic change, and the challenges businesses face in a time of transformational innovation. To adapt to transformational change, enterprise resource planning (ERP) needs to be agile; otherwise, companies will look up from their systems and wonder what happened.  

Many people think of ERP systems as dinosaur relics of the information age. They deserve a little of that reputation—they are large and complex applications that are often tied to business practices of the past. But the fact is that ERP becomes more important than ever in the digital age.

In the beginning, ERP was about cost controls and efficiency. But today’s leading companies use ERP for revenue expansion. Growth in today’s marketplace requires adopting the new business practices emerging as result of technical progress. The velocity and complexity of these developments mean people need ERP more than ever, although ERP itself needs to evolve to avoid becoming an impediment to progress.

Here is the challenge in a nutshell:

  • The pace of change is fast and accelerating.
  • Digital disruption is well underway.
  • To succeed, companies must respond to new business models.

All this requires a shift in ERP. Here is what today’s users need from their ERP systems:

  • Deployment choice
  • Easy analytics and reporting
  • Channel integration
  • Low cost of ownership
  • Easy configuration
  • Rich user experiences
  • Ability to scale

ERP systems historically revolved around institutional thinking. ERP codifies business processes that are defined and measured based on top-down objectives and governance. Business process automation is tricky because something that was perfectly automated a year ago can quickly turn into an obstacle when needs change; so executives’ attitudes towards ERP can change overnight when the business is changing faster than ERP can be updated to optimize processes.

On the other hand, agile ERP shifts its focus toward individual contributions and a system that helps people react and resolve on-the-ground situations never foreseen by their management or software vendors. With agile ERP, people create their own ERP experiences, then share insight with other employees or other companies. Agile ERP frees individual users from the preconceptions long held by their IT departments.

This kind of ERP is all about outcomes, and at its heart, upholds five key principles:

  • Collaboration. In today’s extended value chains, collaboration is essential to drive innovation, uncover opportunity, and respond to change in often-volatile markets. To do this successfully, ERP must be accessible to everyone involved in a company’s value chain, and business processes must be linked directly to that chain. Knowledge retention, traceability, deep domain expertise—these objectives must be supported by enabling communication without latency, and providing easy access and leverage via means that users want to use.
  • Choice. Agile ERP gives organizations the ability to adapt to their unique circumstances, easily configure, stay current with technological advances, and scale up or out as demands dictate. All without taxing IT demands or frustrating delays.
  • Responsiveness. In a world where events on one side of the world can immediately impact business on the other, the ability to respond is paramount. Business analysis must be in context and business response must be agile; customer expectations allow for nothing less. Agile ERP is designed to deliver in this taxing milieu, providing rich global functionality that organizations can use, in an instant, for strategic response and competitive advantage.
  • Simplicity. As value chains become increasingly extended, nuanced, and complex, you can’t have your core systems adding to the complexity. By simplifying deployment, management, and usage—and by providing accurate, up-to-date information that enables a single version of the truth across multi-faceted supply and demand networks—agile ERP reduces complexity and makes it simpler to make the decisions for sustained success.
  • Mobility. Today’s workers aren’t chained to their desks or their computers; they want 24/7 access to the information they need, wherever they are, on whatever device they use. Agile ERP is designed to deliver this flexibility.

By adhering to these principles, ERP can provide the agility companies need to cope with transformational change. In doing so, it will support their growth and success in an increasingly competitive business landscape.

Posted by Epicor ERP Insights Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

Epicor® Eagle N Series™ Named Winner in 2014 Best in Biz Awards Program

The fourth annual Best in Biz Awards program, the only independent business awards program judged by members of the press and industry analysts, named Epicor Eagle N Series retail business management solution a Silver award winner in the Small or Medium Business Product of the Year category.

The comprehensive Epicor Eagle N Series solution is designed to give independent retailers the information required to improve results, outservice the competition, and ultimately run their businesses efficiently. The new solution, launched in August 2014, extends the Epicor Eagle business management software by marrying the platform’s rich feature set and advanced business intelligence tools with a completely redesigned and simplified user interface.

Best in Biz Awards’ fourth annual North American program was the most competitive yet. As in previous years, the awards program in North America featured a large and distinguished judging panel comprised of members of the media who reviewed and scored the hundreds of award nominations. More than 550 award nominations were received this year in a variety of company, executive, team, and product focused categories. Nominations were fielded from public and private companies of all sizes, from virtually every major industry and region in the U.S. and Canada.

Best in Biz Awards 2014 honors were presented in 60 categories, including Company of the Year, Fastest-Growing Company of the Year, Most Innovative Company of the Year, Best Place to Work, Technology Department of the Year, Executive of the Year, Most Innovative Product of the Year, Best New Product of the Year, PR Campaign of the Year and Website of the Year.

Winners of Best in Biz Awards 2014 were determined based on scoring from an independent panel of 53 judges from highly recognized newspapers, business, consumer and technology publications, radio outlets, and analyst firms. In addition to the numerous judges returning from previous panels, this year’s 53-person judging panel included several worthy additions to this high-profile group.


For a full list of gold, silver and bronze winners in Best in Biz Awards 2014, visit: http://www.bestinbizawards.com/2014-winners.

To learn more about Epicor Eagle N Series, please email eagle@epicor.com.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

Writing for Software

Earlier this year, I began transitioning from writing content for Epicor HCM to Prophet 21 application. The more I read up on Prophet 21, the more I realized it was a very different application than what I was used to.  So, I treated it like I would any other writing project—I asked questions, built on my existing knowledge, clarified expectations, began my first project, asked more questions, and so on.

Anytime I start a new writing project, I’m reminded of the writing process taught in school: planning/pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. While we often think of this as a method of teaching students to write, the truth of the matter is, whether starting a new project or being brought into an existing project, writing for software isn’t much different.

Planning – When starting any new project the first step is building a strong foundation.  Develop relationships with the people already involved with the product, establish lines of communication, and use the existing resources, including the training courses, documentation, and people, to learn all that you can about the project and subject matter.

Once you have that foundation, identify any standards and styles already in place before building the content. This may require additional research – review style guides and ask questions of the subject matter experts. 

With software, planning also includes going through the steps and processes within the system, determining how they all work together, and then deciding which type of document best meets the needs of the audience. Consider creating an outline to ensure that all bases are covered.

Drafting – Drafting begins when you take all of your preparation and planning and begin writing the content. As you write, there is a good chance that you’ll need to go back and do additional research – ask more questions of the subject matter experts, and write as you rework your way through the steps and software processes.

Revising – Review your content, pay close attention to the style and structure. Test any instructional steps in the document. Then make any changes as needed, such as adding additional information, rearranging steps and information, and removing or replacing any content that doesn’t work.

Editing – Proofread your documentation for grammar, then ask subject matter experts to complete a review of both the content and the overall cohesiveness of your document. Once everything is said and done, you likely need to make a few changes, apply a handful of final quick edits, and do a bit of cleanup.

Publish – The final step for writing for software is getting you documentation into the hands of your end users. Depending on the document type, this might be publishing online help to the software system or uploading supporting documents to your company or product website.

Starting a new writing project can sometimes be intimidating. But by breaking your project out into the five basic steps of the writing process, it doesn’t have to be.

Posted By Christine Stretton, Content Specialist, Epicor University

Advancing Efficiencies for Farm, Ag, and Ranch Retailers

2014 has been a strong growth year for farm, agriculture (ag), and ranch retailers. A recent article from Home Channel News noted, “Farm-and-ranch stores are getting larger. They’re adjusting to their customers’ needs. Technology is advancing efficiencies in the back room. And farm-and-ranch stores are going to places where they simply haven’t been before."

Considering all aspects of a farm, ag, and ranch retail operation—customer loyalty, inventory management, accounting, eCommerce—there are many fine details that must be groomed in order to run a successful independent retail business.

The key to effectively managing all of these programs is finding the right technology partner. A technology partner will play a crucial role in the development and expansion of any retail business. Big R Holdings and The General Store are just a few examples of retailers that have discovered how a business partnership and innovative technology complement business growth.

Epicor solutions have proven effective for the Big R Holdings expanding business. “Epicor has grown with our business. Epicor solutions have helped us better manage our business from inventory and order points, to receiving and promotions. Epicor solutions are phenomenal. They assist us with our business improvement and growth goals,” said Adam Carroll, vice president of Big R Holdings.

Read the full Big R Holdings story here.

The General Store improved customer service and saves time with smartphone solution. “With Epicor Eagle Mobile Manager, we make better buying decisions and are able to determine whether show specials or discounts are right for our business… Mobile Manager has made my life easier. It is so convenient and has already saved me a lot of time. I recommend it for retail operations similar to ours,” said David Jones, owner of The General Store.

Read The General Store’s full story here.

Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Epicor Retail Distribution Solutions

Upgrading Your Inside Sales & Customer Service Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant

Why You Need an Agile ERP System: Part One
Five pillars of change are dominating discussions about today’s technology:
  • Mobile
  • Social
  • Cloud
  • Big data
  • Video/unified communications

“Mobile” is about the interface—how quickly we can access computing power. Today we have more computing power in our smartphones that what was used to send the first man to the moon. “Social” is the network and who is engaged. Social transcends personal and work, and today genuine value resides in this network. The “cloud” is the information store and innovation platform. “Big data” is the brains and intelligence resident in the information, be it structured or unstructured. Finally, “video and unified communications” are how we share, interact, and collaborate with each other across all senses.

While these five forces are interesting on their own, digital business disruption is happening at their convergence: social and big data, mobile and cloud, video and mobile. It’s this convergence that is creating tremendous market disruption.
In the midst of this technological advance, market change is accelerating.

In light of these forces, where is your company today? Where will it be in five years? Consider this: in 2010, Blackberry had a 45 percent market share, Apple 25 percent, Microsoft 15 percent, Android 7 percent, and Palm 5.7 percent. Today, Blackberry has a 1.5 percent share. The pace of change has never been so intense. Since 2000, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 has been merged, acquired, or gone bankrupt.

Four massive trends are driving this change:
  • Macro trends
  • An increasingly dynamic work force
  • Disruptive technology adoption
  • New digital business models
The first of these trends cannot be controlled by organizations: natural disasters, political unrest, and economic recessions are effectively beyond their scope of influence. But the other three can be planned for, and need to be accommodated by today’s agile enterprise resource planning (ERP).
 
Dynamic Work Force
In addition to where we work, when we work, what we work on, and how we work, even the notion of why we work has changed. All this is impacting ERP development. While most analysts discuss the changing work force in generational terms (e.g., millennials, generation X, generation Y, baby boomers, post war), Constellation Research segmented the workforce in terms of digital proficiency, a more useful structure in light of the fact that the environment everyone is competing in is digitally driven:
  • Digital natives: those who grew up with the Internet and are comfortable in engaging in all digital channels.
  • Digital immigrants: those who have crossed over into the digital world, forced into engagement in digital channels.
  • Digital voyeurs: those who recognize the shift to digital, but observe it from a distance.
  • Digital holdouts: those who resist the shift to digital, and ignore or deny its impact.
  • Digital disengaged: those who give up on digital participation.
Disruptive Technologies
The disruptive technologies that impact the enterprise have come from the consumerization of IT, and ERP must be agile enough to accommodate—and take advantage of—their impact in the workplace. The cloud is the innovation platform for these technologies, and ERP must leverage it to user benefit. Social and mobile technologies are driving huge amounts of data to mine for context, something that must be leveraged to discover opportunities, minimize risk, and provide more precise information in real time. What is needed is information that can be used to empower better decision-making at all levels of the enterprise. Information has moved beyond the stuff of records to a vital force that senses, responds to, and communicates with people and machines.
 
Digital Business Models
Consider how business models have evolved in the digital age:
  • Product companies give away product for service revenues.
  • Service-based businesses sell experiences at varying price points and service levels.
  • Experience-based businesses sell business models.
  • Business model companies sell peace of mind.
With the emergence of digital business models, the pace of innovation has accelerated dramatically. Take Sony, for example. In 1983, they introduced the Walkman—a transformational product. It changed the game in music, and Sony hasn’t had a transformational product since. In 2001, Apple introduced the iPod. It wasn’t the best music player, but it was transformational because it changed the music industry at the height of piracy. They convinced people to spend 99¢ on a song instead of pirating it. It saved the music industry in the age of Napster.
 
The iPhone is also innovative, but not because it’s a smartphone. This one device has destroyed 27 business models. These are jobs, companies, and capital never to be replaced. Do you need a flashlight? Do you need a digital camera? Do you develop your pictures at a one-hour photo store? Do you need a GPS device? Do you carry a portable video unit? Do you buy music? Where do you buy books? This is transformational innovation.
Sony wanted to be Apple. Apple became Sony. Now Samsung wants to be Apple. Apple puts out one new phone a year. Samsung puts out a new phone every 40 days. The pace of change is accelerating and transformational.
Can your ERP adapt to this type of transformational change? It will have to be agile to do so.
Part Two of this post will detail what users want, and what agile ERP needs to be. Stay tuned.
 
Posted by the Epicor ERP Insights Team
Next-Generation Manufacturing Operations Management Addresses Key Industry Challenges

While Mom and apple pie is a sure-fire cure for homesickness, leveraging the power of MOM – that’s Manufacturing Operations Management – and next-generation technology capabilities can assist manufacturers in overcoming some of the greatest challenges they face today.

That’s the key take-away from industry analyst firm LNS Research, in its research on The Global State of Manufacturing Operations Management Software, which surveyed more than 250 manufacturers worldwide.

In the October 28 webcast, according to LNS Research, MOM can play an essential role in helping manufacturers keep pace with an explosion of data. Legacy and point solutions are becoming increasingly ineffective as manufacturers face increased global competition and market pressures. And as manufacturers embrace Big Data, Mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, new data and process integration capabilities must be added to organizations’ operations. Next-generation MOM software platforms and applications are key to rationalize multiple legacy applications as well as integrate new data sources debuting on the plant floor.

LNS says next-generation MOM features: configurable processes, a common manufacturing data model, built-in analytics, along with the ability to deploy in new hybrid cloud models that are capable of delivering universal information access and flexible options for deployment and pricing.

Addressing the Customer Experience Imperative
In addition to keeping on top of manufacturing data, MOM is being used by savvy manufacturers to address the growing customer experience imperative. LNS Research survey showed top strategic objectives for manufacturing industries all were focused on serving customers. First and foremost is ensuring consistency of quality for products produced at 61%, followed by timely order fulfillment at 55%, and then 52% focused on increasing production capacity and capabilities.

Breaking Down Barriers
Forty-eight percent of respondents said their top operational challenge is breaking down silos of organizations and departments and fostering greater collaboration. This includes more social collaboration with customers to understand their “likes” and “dislikes,” along with getting faster feedback from groups of customers on their requirements and reactions to new products and services. This also includes faster digital collaboration with suppliers to ensure rapid responses to materials, while ensuring quality and traceability requirements are being met. Communicating product and service information digitally across value chains, while openly sharing goals, objectives, and KPIs is a best practice LNS Research has identified to address these challenges.

New Emerging Opportunities for MOM
When looking at the application of MOM software today, researchers noted an “immaturity” of analytics, visibility, and collaboration – often a result of legacy systems which lack these more modern capabilities. Areas that hold great potential for the application of MOM include areas in the integration of design, optimization, data analytics, and collaboration across all roles and users of applications, says LNS.

In Search of ROI
ROI justification was cited as one of the top challenges for MOM implementations. Researchers say there are a number of reasons companies struggle with ROI, including a lack of metric visibility and a lack of understanding of how MOM software can drive value. The good news, says LNS, is that new ease and deployment options promise to help drive the time to value proposition and overall ROI of MOM investments.

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

Posted by Tom Muth, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Epicor

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