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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.
Insights 2014 Education Preview from Epicor University

Each year Epicor employees look forward to the Insights conference for many reasons – most importantly, the opportunity to educate our customers. For those with Epicor University, we look forward to the preparation of education sessions.  The team dedicates their time to content development in preparation to deliver the best education sessions possible for our customers. And, this year we are proud to share the following key points regarding this Insights conference:

  • Two full days devoted to pre-conference Extended Education Sessions developed by the Epicor worldwide education team, product management, development, support, and services - with over 1,100 enrollees – record attendance.
  • Over 120 unique conference education session labs with experienced presenters and lab assistants.
  • New this year – “Self-Paced Learning Center” providing another education for our customers.  Please stop by and visit the Self-Paced Learning Center in the Solutions Pavilion to review Epicor ERP Embedded Education Courses or the Prophet 21 and Eclipse Learning Management System (LMS) with many online courses. 
  • All lab books printed and again this year eBook format.
  • Customer luncheon education roundtables for each product line – dedicated to listening to customer feedback on education and documentation.
  • Dedicated Epicor University booth and demo area for education deliverables in the Solutions Pavilion.

So, unplug from distractions and engage your mind. See you in Vegas!
 
Posted by Louise Keppel, Vice President Epicor University

Reeves Ace Hardware Shares Best Practices for Training Employees
Last month we held an informative Epicor Eagle Best Practices Webinar focused on how to run an effective training program. The webinar features Katie Hendricks from Reeves Ace Hardware. Hendricks shares what Reeves Ace Hardware is doing to run an effective training program and the impact they are seeing in the business.
 
A common theme that runs through profitable and successful companies is a strong employee training program. Effective employee training can give your business a significant edge on employee retention, customer satisfaction and retention, and bottom line profitability. As an independent retailer, making this happen can be challenging.
 
“Training is everything to a business. Embracing technology was the key for our business and a simplified Epicor Training on Demand program has empowered our employees to be better at their jobs,” said Katie Hendricks, training manager at Reeves Ace Hardware.
 
 
Reeves Ace Hardware operates five locations and has been in business for 85 years with plans to stay in business for another 85 years. Hendricks also talks about how the business is driving an effective training program to ensure employees have the knowledge and skills they need to provide superior customer service and continued business success. She provides great tips to help retailers improve employee skills (ultimately driving morale), which noticeably improves customer service and business performance. The following are a few key points how retailers can achieve success in training:
  • Boost employee confidence and customer satisfaction by giving staff the knowledge they need up-front, followed by on-the-job practice
  • Enjoy real productivity increases in key retail areas like inventory management, POS, etc.
  • Keep the entire team knowledgeable with a central hub for resources, safety, benefits, outside classes, and more
  • Create a culture of ongoing learning with incentives at both individual and management levels
  • Easily assign training courses and manage the training process
Follow this link to view the full webinar: http://ow.ly/vffG8.
 
Help staff wary of technology by letting them learn at their own pace and reward them for completing training. For more information about Epicor Training on Demand, please email knowledgeyourway@epicor.com.
 
Posted by Jenny Kois, Learning Services Manager, Epicor
Data-Driven Decision-Making Is Transforming HR
 
A recent post on the Management Concepts blog addressed the impact of data-driven analytics on the nature of human resources staffing. The focus on analytics and rising expectations about the potential benefits of big data is ratcheting up pressure on chief human capital officers (CHCOs) to expand the ability of HR to apply quantitative analysis to support decision-making. In terms of HR staffing, it’s likely to be transformative:
Introducing analytics to the Human Resources Line of Business (HRLOB) will require HR personnel with a set of skills that has not traditionally been part of the human resources function.
The post cites five key skillsets that increasingly will be sought in HR personnel:
  • Business acumen
  • Research/hypothesis design
  • Statistical analysis
  • Data reduction
  • Evaluating and presenting results of analysis

The ability to tie HR data and study results to core organizational performance metrics will be critical for successful implementation of HR analytics. While it’s one thing to design a research study, gather data, and analyze the results, making those results compelling by linking them to key performance indicators that are of interest to senior executives has not typically been in HR’s area of expertise. This skill requires business acumen.
 
Effectively using analytics to drive decision-making requires carefully formulated questions and a specifically designed data collection and analysis strategy that will yield actionable information. Therefore, HR practitioners need to understand how to design research studies to explain events within their organization. Additionally, the ability to calculate and appropriately interpret key statistical metrics such as measures of central tendency, as well as more advanced analyses such as correlations, t-tests, and analysis of variance, will be essential in correctly interpreting the results of analytic efforts. While there are countless tools available for managing large data sets, some effort and skill are still required to clean and filter noisy data streams so that analysis can focus on the best set of available data. Consequently, data reduction skills will be increasingly valued.
 
Along with performing the studies, HR personnel will need to be able to review the analyses performed by others and translate the results into useful and useable visual displays. This presentation skillset will be especially important for HR leaders who may not actually perform analyses, but will be the first-line consumer of analytic studies.
 
On another front, Human Resources Executive Online notes that one area strongly emerging from use of analytics is talent forecasting. Talent forecasting is a growing field where data-rich software is leveraged to help HR leaders better understand and address the supply-and-demand challenges within their organizations. The article cites five ways that talent forecasting is transforming recruiting:

  • Predictive analytics proactively pinpoint problems.
  • Recruitment must become part of integrated talent management.
  • Faster speed means quicker hires and less wasted time and resources.
  • Increasingly, big data will inform strategic workforce planning.
  • Talent acquisition is the single most important factor for revenue growth and profit. 

The author Lisa Hartley concludes: “These five advantages showcase how talent forecasting can provide human resources with data that will make long-term planning and the allocation of resources easier. Clearly, talent forecasting is much more than counting the number of employees—it's about understanding the business you want to be and using the technology we have today to find and deliver an effective workforce.”
 
This is data-driven food for serious thought.

Posted by Lisa Rickard, Senior Manager, Product Marketing for HCM at Epicor
Epicor Payment Exchange Growth Surges 506 Percent

Two years after its launch, Epicor Payment Exchange (EPX) has been named one of the fastest-growing payment processors in the United States by ¹The Nilson Report. With a surge of 506 percent year-over-year growth from 2012 to 2013, the solution is meeting the needs of retailers. EPX was developed to provide additional value to Epicor retail customers, and indeed it has already demonstrated significant benefits to its users:

"We save more than $1,000 per month with Epicor Payment Exchange and we gained the ability to process debit cards. It's just a better all-around solution," said Gary Meinke, Owner of Bayside Paint Inc.

“Our accountant says we were one of her only clients that saved money on fees last year—our use of Epicor Payment Exchange greatly influenced that savings. Because of the solution I save at least 30 minutes each week on backend reporting and reconciliation. We are very happy with the solution,” said Kelly Price, Office Manager of South Coast Supply Inc.

Here are some interesting facts and figures about EPX since it was launched: View the full-size version here.

Posted by Matt Mullen, General Manager of Epicor Payment Exchange and Head of Product Management & Marketing for Epicor

¹“Top Merchant Acquirers in the United States.” (March 2014). The Nilson Report. Retrieved from http://www.nilsonreport.com/publication_newsletter_archive_issue.php?issue=1036

Chirch Global Leverages Epicor SaaS ERP to Streamline Operations and Deliver Consistent Results

In a recent post, we addressed how manufacturers are seeking greater vertical functionality from their ERP providers. A perfect example of how this is succeeding can be seen at Illinois-based Chirch Global Manufacturing LLC (Chirch Global). Consistent with its mission of creating an optimal customer experience, the leading Chicago-area manufacturer of metal stampings and sheet metal fabrications strategically chose Epicor Software Corporation as its enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider.

“The core reason why we selected Epicor was that its roots were in manufacturing,” says Anthony L. Chirchirillo, CEO of Chirch Global. “With their robust service available in the cloud, we’re able to focus on our end goal: fulfilling customer needs in the best way possible. This adoption comes at a key time for us, and has already helped us further improve our responsiveness to customers.”

Operations manager Michael A. Chirchirillo adds that using the Epicor ERP solution has improved communications across the Chirch Global enterprise, enabling better, faster reactions to market demand changes and customer needs.

The partnership with Epicor reflects Chirch Global’s continual commitment to innovation, to staying abreast of technological advancements, and to serve as an all-encompassing resource for the manufacturing community. With the inception of the Chirch Global Manufacturing Network that currently consists of 15 best-in-class businesses, the company is poised to become the single-source provider for nearly any type of manufacturing need in the year ahead.

For an up-close interview with the Chirchirillo’s regarding their selection and use of Epicor ERP, you can watch here.

   

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

Accessory Items (a.k.a. Go-Together) in Epicor Prophet 21

We touched on this topic in our last blog about software utilization; now let’s drill deeper into how to set up and apply this in order processing.

Accessory items are also commonly known as go-together items. A typical example would be when a customer calls and inquires about a flashlight. The Epicor Prophet 21 ERP system is capable of suggesting batteries that match this flashlight; possibly different kinds of batteries such as rechargeable, or alkaline. Why not list all options and automatically offer the ability to add to the order?

Other common accessory items include earplugs when a customer is buying safety gloves, tool holders when buying inserts, etc….the list is endless. So how do we get started?

The first way is in Item Maintenance. Simply add the battery options to the flashlight. We can also “scale” the batteries, so when the flashlight is ordered and batteries are added, the correct quantity is inserted; in this case, two size D batteries will be added. This can also be a 1:1 pairing.

The other way to pair up accessory items is with a job inside Epicor Prophet 21 to generate accessory items. Now we have plenty of options, starting with minimum percentages of orders to match to. You can determine the minimum percentage of orders for the parent item where the proposed accessory item was also ordered; i.e., if you always sold batteries 100 percent of the time you sold flashlights, the component batteries will be automatically added as accessory items.

You can also set other criteria for the parent, as well as for the accessory items: e.g., limiting to item classes and suppliers, or sales and purchase discount groups and product groups. On the component side of the criteria, we have the same options to filter, as well as service contract items.

Once the list is generated by performing a RMB (right mouse button) and selecting “generate accessory items,” you have the ability to uncheck items not wanted or needed, as well as scale them. Or if you want to auto populate the items in order entry, you can always unselect as needed. You also have the option to set the accessory unit of measure, and the parent unit of measure. Citing the flashlight and batteries example, this would be one EA light to one PK of batteries.

Remember, this is a great way to not only upsell the customer, but also to provide an easy method to add items needed to complete a task.

Posted by Neil VanWalbeck, Senior Professional Services Consultant at Epicor Software

Momentum Continues to Grow for Vertical Functionality in ERP

An article in CIO points to the strategic conundrum that is giving rise to increasing vertical functionality in ERP, for manufacturing as well as other business sectors:

If your enterprise has customized your mission-critical ERP systems over the years, your future upgrades will likely be more troublesome and terrifying because the changes can conflict with the patches. On the other hand, if you are running out-of-the-box ERP with little customization, maybe you're not getting all the important features your business needs. So what's a CIO to do? And how do you figure out what to do next if upgrades or replacement are looming in your future?
       
According to Rebecca Wettemann, VP of Research at Nucleus Research, an increasing number of CIOs are choosing the less customization path. A major driver of this development is that ERP vendors are building applications with greater industry-specific vertical functionality. “Part of the reason for this recent trend is that ERP vendors are now recognizing that if they build applications that include verticalization, they will be easier for more companies to adopt with fewer problems and far less customization,” says Wettemann.
       
CIO defines verticalized applications as those “built with specific industries in mind, so they are essentially designed to fit different kinds of businesses out of the box.” Typically, to help the applications better conform to a specific industry vertical, they include role-based views and components that users can easily configure so they more closely suit business and process needs, without requiring code writing and deep code customization.
       
Wettemann says that this approach—which she describes as install vanilla—is good for many companies using ERP. "I think it depends to a certain extent on the application that is chosen. If the application has vertical functionality with role-based sourcing and other possible configuring, then, yes, you're better off going vanilla," she says. "Clients see this as a less risky move, a more predictable way to deploy ERP and a way that is more likely to minimize disruptions and costs over time, which is even more important."
       
In fact, a survey cited in Industry Week showed that 96 percent of manufacturers “need or want” more specialized ERP. The single greatest need for more industry-specific functionality was cited among manufacturers who say managing return on assets is a core part of their business. The rationale is straightforward:

Manufacturing in North America has become more complex as long-run repetitive manufacturing has become less common. More and more manufacturing in the Western Hemisphere centers around demanding processes like engineer-to-order (ETO), product lifecycles are becoming shorter and manufacturers are focusing more on the specific needs of the vertical industries they serve.
       
As manufacturers themselves have become more sensitive to the vertical segments they serve, manufacturing companies are increasingly valuing ERP solutions that have been developed and maintain vertical functionality with their industry in mind.  This trend gained traction at the outset of the decade, and has been building momentum ever since.

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

The Implementation of Technology and Culture Change

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

RAPID Onboarding of Acquired Companies to your ERP

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: 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

See Epicor Eclipse in Action: New Customer Testimonial Video
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:
 
[[blogvideo:http://www.youtube.com/v/pRMgYqEfs2U]]
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