Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
Earlier this month, hundreds of independent retailers and users of the Epicor Eagle and Epicor Eagle for the Automotive Aftermarket solutions flocked to New Orleans for the Epicor Insights Eagle Customer Conference 2015. During the two-day event, attendees had the opportunity to participate in educational sessions, learn about new Epicor technologies, network with other users and meet members of the Epicor team.
The opening keynote by Craig McCollum, executive vice president and general manager, retail distribution solutions for Epicor, emphasized how generational shifts in North America, and specifically within independent retail businesses, are changing the dynamics of business. “Think of all of the jobs and industries either transformed or completely eliminated by technology,” said McCollum. “As the next generation of tech-savvy leaders come into fold, businesses need to build upon the existing strengths by including powerful components that have quite often not been leveraged by small, independently owned businesses -- implementation of technology to help make operations more efficient and to lead with decisions that are data driven. As the retail world continues to shift towards new technologies, I want to encourage businesses to embrace change, try to understand generational differences, and remain technologically relevant -- each of these objectives will improve communication across your businesses.”
With more than 60 interactive sessions, participants had excellent educational opportunities to learn how to improve their businesses operations. “I’ve been able to take away great ideas for improvement from every Insights Eagle session to bring back and implement in my business,” said Jay Saxton, sales and operations director at Construction Building Materials, Inc. “The conference is very valuable for any retailer looking to improve their business.”
The final day of Insights Eagle commenced with a keynote by Chris Swecker, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division and the former global security director of Bank of America. As a former head of the FBI’s Criminal Division, he led all FBI criminal investigations including public corruption, money laundering, organized crime and financial crime matters—spending more than 30 years fighting and protecting businesses against financial crimes. His keynote illuminated recent business security breaches and offered insights into protecting and safeguarding business data.
Highlights from Swecker’s keynote include:
- Fraud Risk Environment is Growing. The number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2014 hit a record high of 783 in 2014, according to a recent report released by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and sponsored by IDT911™
- Best Practices for Business Data: mitigate the risk of a business data breach with tools like tokenization, egress filtering and limit exfiltration of data, P2P, EMV, Crown Jewel Identification
- Improve Personal Security by implementing the following tactics: patch updates, extra authentication, monitor credit and banking activity, shred unnecessary documents, and educate yourself about phishing
We hope to see you at the next Epicor Insights Eagle Customer Conference, where you can gain valuable insights to drive your business forward. Learn more at www.epicor.com.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
In our previous blogs, we started discussing the need to focus on upgrading employees through skills enhancements, and shared some cool tips and tricks that can be applied in Microsoft Outlook to provide added efficiency and organization. Now let’s expand upon that and discuss another application from Microsoft Office, Word.
Quite often, I see front line employees using the mouse and keyboard to accomplish tasks within Word, which is sometimes a necessity. However, many individuals heavily rely on using the mouse when the keyboard is faster (and thus more efficient). Here are the basic keyboard shortcuts that individuals can use to save time and eliminate the need to drag a mouse all over the screen:
Ctrl + N: This creates a new Word document
Ctrl + O: Open an existing Word document
Ctrl + C: Copies highlighted text or objects in the document
Ctrl + X: Cuts text or objects from the document
Ctrl + V: Pastes text or objects from the document
Ctrl + Z: Undo the last action performed
Ctrl + Y: Redo the last action performed
Ctrl + P: Print the current document
Ctrl + A: Select all text and objects in a document
All of the above keyboard shortcut keys have contextual drop-down menu equivalents, which is where the inefficiency lies. It requires the physical movement of a mouse to drop down menus, oftentimes in multiple, in order to find the command the user wants. If you were to conduct a time study, you’ll likely find it takes 10-25 percent longer to use the mouse with contextual menus than to use the keyboard keystrokes.
Here are some other quick keystrokes and mouse combos your users may have never heard of, but could provide significant value:
The Triple Click: By triple clicking anywhere in a paragraph, a user can highlight the entire paragraph. No more clicking and dragging down, hoping to not race past the paragraph; only having to start the process all over again.
Alt & Drag: This allows the user to create rectangular boxes across text, and then apply the formatting window to change only the area they’ve selected.
Hide the Ribbon: Users can hide the ribbon at the top of the screen by double clicking the Ribbon Name. This creates more visual real estate, and therefore less movement to read a document.
Ctrl + Click: Allows users to select an entire sentence.
Format Painter: Use the paint brush icon to apply a particular format to another area of the document.
Ctrl + Shift + <&>: Users can increase or decrease their text font size by selecting the text to change; to increase, use “Ctrl + Shift + >” and to decrease, use “Ctrl + Shift + <”.
Create an Excel Table: Users can quickly create an Excel table within a Word document by typing a plus sign (+), then pressing the Tab key. Repeat this for however many cells you want in the table and then press “Enter.” The table will magically appear.
Ctrl + H: This opens the traditional Find and Replace window.
Ctrl + Tab: Allows users to jump between the document and the Find menu.
F7: Initiates a Spell Check.
Shift + Arrow Keys: Allows the user to quickly select entire rows of text. This works very well with the Copy, Cut and Paste keys.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of shortcuts, but you should find a majority of them will provide lots of value and efficiency to you and your fellow users. Stay tuned for the next blog, where we’ll be covering great tips and tricks using Microsoft Excel.
Posted by Brad Vance, Epicor Senior Business Process Consultant
Knowing when to replace one’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can be a tricky proposition. For many organizations, growth, revisions to the business model, or physical changes may be the drivers of “monitoring the clock” on a current system. On the other hand, symptoms may have emerged that indicate the system’s useful life is running down. These could range from people working outside of ERP to do things that should be part of ERP processes, reliance on a diminishing number of key staff to keep the system operating properly, or finding that the system is struggling to keep abreast of technological developments.
Ultimately, if ERP no longer supports the organization’s strategic objectives efficiently and cost-effectively, chances are the clock is winding rapidly towards its end. Not anticipating this event can threaten an organization’s competitive status.
In a timely article on Information Week, Anish Kanaran, channel director for Epicor in the Middle East, Africa, and India, addresses the issue of ERP change:
An ERP replacement project can be a huge undertaking financially and operationally; so make sure that when your current ERP clock runs out; your next system has a longer lifespan. The ability of a system to be scalable and flexible enough to grow and map itself against the long-term objectives of the business is important, but so too is partnering with the right vendor. Choose a provider who makes the right investment in technology. ERP systems that are designed to embrace new technologies as they emerge provide the right foundation on which to build your ERP strategy. Modern ERP providers do the thinking for you. They anticipate change and offer innovative solutions to not just meet functionality requirements but [also] the changing ways that users will need to work to continually improve productivity and ultimately the speed at which you can do business.
Kanaran provides a useful checklist of best practices for resetting the ERP and making sure one’s ERP system stands up to future organizational needs:
- Keep an eye on the technology evolution. Anticipating the rapid evolution of technology and user expectations, and incorporating it into business software solutions, are important differentiators. A good example of this practice is being able to facilitate the sharing of information within your business to improve productivity. Promoting collaboration beyond the four walls of your business opens up conversations with customers and suppliers, making information readily available to facilitate speed and agility.
- Usability means productivity. The easier a system is to use, the quicker your business will start to see value. Unprecedented ease-of-adoption, from management of implementation and upgrades to the ease with which casual users can access information, means unsurpassed usability and productivity.
- Technology on your terms. The system should provide choice and flexibility when it comes to access and deployment, whether you choose to deploy on premise, hosted, or cloud, with access from PCs, tablets, or mobiles.
- Choose the right technology partner. A proven ERP provider will have a long history of successful implementations across a variety of sectors. They will start the process by gaining a deep understanding of your business and objectives and then tailor the system accordingly. They should be experts in your industry and help you to delve into the nuts and bolts of your business. As an objective third party, they can shed new light on business challenges that you may not have realized even exist.
- Make sure scalability and performance are high on your list. Enhanced performance, scalability, and ease of deployment will boost business agility and growth. Being able to grow with your business and adapt to change is essential.
Time, as the old rock song says, keeps on slippin’ into the future. For businesses that want to keep soaring higher, keeping close track of the ERP clock will help them avoid being grounded by obsolescent software.
Posted by ERP Insights Team
Recently the Epicor Users Group (EUG) reached a new milestone by having our 4000th member contact sign-up for the group.
The EUG is a completely independent group of users helping users of Epicor software products. It’s a non-profit organization comprised of a volunteer board, product liaisons that act as a bridge between Epicor and Epicor users, and more than 30 regional groups worldwide. The group formed in February 1995 as the Data Works Users Alliance, then changed the name to Epicor Users Group in March 2000.
As Epicor expanded worldwide, so did the user base. We merged EUG with groups from the UK and EMEA, and since have gone further to add groups from Australia and Sweden. Along with our continued partnership with Epicor, we are hoping to reach even more users through our forums, regional user group meetings, special interest groups, discount training and other offerings.
- Membership has grown by over 50% in the last three years and increasing fast.
• 1,095 new users added in 2014
• Over 9,000 forum posts
- 3,200 EUG members in the US.
- 1400+ EUG members in over 40 countries from afar as Fiji to Tanzania.
- EUG represents 21 different Epicor products from Avante to ERP.
- Introduced the new Premier Partner membership to help Epicor partners engage with members.
- EUG holds many events each year including regional meetings, webcasts to the major Insights events around the world and looking to coordinate product specific conferences.
Throughout our nearly two decades in existence, we have worked to accomplish our core mission of “users helping users”. The main focus is education as we are a multi-product user group and support the whole range of products offered from Epicor. However, we also provide the opportunity for help and insight from other users, which is just as important, and the fact that it’s wholly independent is critical.
In a time where global collaboration is increasingly a part of doing business, it’s exciting to see this among users in a group like ours. Our goal is to sign-up our 5000th users before we close out our 20th year.
To learn more about the Epicor Users Group, view video below from the Insights conference and visit www.epicorusers.org.
Posted by Bill Wolfe, Vice President, Epicor Users Group (EUG)
According to the Manufacturer’s Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, manufacturing will continue to grow faster than the economy as whole in the coming year. Manufacturing production is expected to grow 4.0 percent in 2015 and 3.6 percent in 2016, with growth drivers being energy infrastructure, the housing supply chain, transportation infrastructure, medical care expansion, widespread growth abroad, and less domestic policy uncertainty.
An Industry Week article addresses five manufacturing trends likely to shape the market in the coming year:
- “SMAC Stack” adoption [will] gain speed. A manufacturing comeback is being driven by SMAC: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. The SMAC Stack is becoming an essential technology tool kit for enterprises and represents the next wave for driving higher customer engagement and growth opportunities. The need to innovate is forcing cultural change within a historically conservative "if it's not broke don't fix it" industry, and SMAC is helping early adopters in the manufacturing market increase efficiencies and change.
- Social media [will] further impact business model innovation. Social media is forcing manufacturers to become more customer-centric. The traditional business-to-business model is becoming outdated because today's connected consumers are better informed and expect products on-demand. This consumer purchasing style is not only having an impact on brand-oriented value chains, but is transforming traditional B2B to B2B2C models.
- Internet of Things (IoT) will increase automation and job opportunities. A renewed focus on science and engineering education is cultivating a manufacturing workforce that can manage highly technical systems and allow for greater automation. This frees up employees to put their talents to work on R&D, which is helping to redefine what it means to have a career in manufacturing. Further, IoT allows for condition-based maintenance, which is driving efficiencies as businesses save on labor and service costs.
- Greater capital investment. Recent government and industry reports show an uptick in capital investment funding. As manufacturers become focused on capturing value through innovation, original design, and speed to market, they are increasing spend for upgrading plant, equipment, and technologies.
- The emergence of "next-shoring." The rise of a more technical labor force to manage supply chain operations—combined with rising wages in Asia, higher shipping costs, and the need to accelerate time to market to meet retailer and consumer demands—has led to more companies shifting their manufacturing strategies from outsourcing overseas to developing products closer to where they will be sold.
A recent column in Forbes sees the last point as a question, with reshoring (i.e., next-shoring) and offshoring remaining an ongoing debate in the sector. According to the piece, both strategies have their challenges:
- For reshoring: labor (i.e., finding skilled labor), rising electricity costs despite the decline in natural gas and coal prices, a more stringent domestic regulatory environment, and the fact that for many companies overseas markets are growing faster than domestic ones
- For offshoring: rising labor costs (particularly in China), the inherent disadvantages of a longer supply chain, and issues related to quality management
Finally, while manufacturing production is rising, manufacturing employment will not grow remarkably because of it. Manufacturers continue to get greater productivity from their established assets.
Posted by Manufacturing Insights Team
Recently, we posted on the rise of collaboration as a key element in today’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). That topic points to a broader necessity: the need for connected ERP.
For businesses whose operations increasingly span the globe, connectivity is not an option but a strategic imperative. One reason for this is the accelerating pace of change and innovation driving market demand. Markets are inherently dynamic, often volatile, and supply networks that are widely dispersed and highly nuanced need to access information as it emerges, when it emerges, accurately, anywhere. This is necessary for operational efficiency, but also for effective collaboration, meaningful analysis, and informed decision-making. In this fluid environment, companies are also changing more rapidly, growing organically, acquiring new products and services, and taking on new partners (and dispensing others) to increase the power and value of their supply chains.
What Does This Mean for ERP?
First, ERP must be easily integrated with services from any source and data in any format. It must not only support the elimination of siloed information that has been the bane of many an organization, but also go beyond its transactional roots to empower and connect “information workers” wherever they exist in an organization, either formally or informally. For ERP, this means flexible integration: a move beyond permanent, formal EDI connections to seamless connectivity at the business level on an ad hoc basis as well as through standardized methods.
How ERP version 10 Addresses Connectivity
For Epicor ERP version 10, connections to other systems and data take many forms. For example, ERP 10 has nearly 1,400 services that interact with callers through more than 20,000 operations. Operations are the primary way ERP 10 conducts business, usually by conversing with the ERP 10 Client Application, mobile devices, or browser forms. However, there are other ways to engage Epicor ERP 10, including interfaces designed for bulk data import/export through flat structures or EDI formats. ERP 10 also allows users to define ad hoc data views, which are convenient slices of information that can be visualized and updated in dashboards or used as easily invoked APIs.
Many ERP customers have multiple establishments (i.e., offices, plants, warehouses) and sometimes multiple ERP instances (Peer ERP). Epicor ERP 10 can federate these instances together to form a single-enterprise ERP system. Federated ERP is loosely coupled, which means resource data such as customer and part records do not require complete synchronization.
All these approaches to reaching out to other systems and data are available through Epicor ERP 10. It has the capability to manage high throughput shipping transactions for distributors, business workflows that automate complex interactions with partners, or even a simple data entry form from any device.
ERP 10 is designed to provide the right tool for the right task, anywhere in an organization’s value network.
Ready to learn more? Visit here http://info.epicor.com/FY15-Microsite/.
Posted by Epicor ERP Insights Team
Education is a necessary and ongoing process throughout the stages of owning a retail business management solution: implementation, stabilization, optimization, and growth. During Epicor Insights Eagle Customer Conference 2015, attendees will gain valuable experiences on how to better utilize the Epicor Eagle and Epicor Eagle for the Aftermarket retail business management solutions to gain insights into their business, employee development, and ultimately the bottom line.
Why should education matter to retailers? Simple—change is essential to success. Education is one vehicle for change, allowing employees a chance to learn new things, refresh a stale job, implement a new technology, enable teamwork between experienced workers and new hires, and open up a channel for retailers to communicate the company direction and goals to employees. A variety of sessions will be offered during the two-day conference such as: Improving the Customer Experience; Preventing Loss in the Back Office; and, The Connected Consumer – A Guide through Social Media.
Retailers gain the following by participating in educational opportunities:
- Competitive advantage
- Enriched customer service
- Improved employee confidence
- Better morale – clear direction, vibrant learning, strong improvements, rich rewards
- Acceptance of leading edge technology
The conference will connect hundreds of retailers looking for opportunities to learn and network with their peers. “Without Insights, you really don’t have that kind of opportunity to go get that kind of training,” said Frank Shope, owner of Hart Ace Hardware. “It’s invaluable and I’m a huge fan of Insights.”
Watch this video to hear what other retailers had to say about participating in previous Insights conferences.
Investing in training and education is a must. A 2014 Huffington Post article indicates that companies investing $1,500 or more per employee per year on education and training average 24 percent higher profit margins than companies with lower yearly training investments.* Additionally, the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD) states that technology continues to play a significant role in the delivery of training. As the world economy continues to grow, talent development will continue to have an important and valuable role in organizations.**
We hope you’ll join us—and your peers—in New Orleans, February 2-4, 2015, to drive your business forward! For more information about Insights Eagle and to register, visit www.epicor.com/insights-eagle.
Posted by Monica Green, manager, content management, retail distribution solutions for Epicor
*Source: Huffington Post. “Not Investing in Employee Training Is Risky Business” by Emad Rizkalla (June 2014)
**Source: ATD. “2014 State of the Industry Report: Spending on Employee Training Remains a Priority” by Laurie Miller (November 2014)
Perrysburg, Ohio-based IMCO Carbide Tool (IMCO) manufactures carbide cutting tools—specifically carbide end mills—that are used in shops for all kinds of milling operations. The company serves clients worldwide in about 40 countries. Family owned and operated, IMCO was founded in 1977.
“Epicor has been an important part of our growth,” says Perry Osborn, president and CEO of IMCO. “Our prior ERP system was a bit outdated in that it didn’t incorporate a lot of modern technology.”
When IMCO put in Epicor, it gained greater visibility into what was happening on the shop floor. They also incorporated Epicor Mattec MES to leverage real-time data from manufacturing operations for the first time. Mattec MES provides instant monitoring and control for IMCO’s production and manufacturing. The system improves productivity by providing accurate, 24/7 manufacturing information of all plant operations.
“I had seen the Mattec MES product at a trade show, and was drawn to how we could get access to the shop floor data in real time,” says Osborn. ”That had been a missing piece to what we were doing.”
Osborn cites two significant areas where Mattec helps their business:
- Immediate visibility to a problem. If something isn’t going right, they know it quickly and can address it quickly.
- Precise and timely information. The Epicor system has operations where a company can define their method of manufacture and set a cycle time for a particular operation. IMCO learned within six months of implementing Mattec that their cycle time numbers were grossly inflated. They were 20 percent higher than the actual cycle times. They also learned the set up times they had put into the system were grossly inaccurate. The real times were actually longer. So Mattec enables the company to see the real details of operations more clearly.
“Mattec impacts both revenue and growth,” says Osborn. “Revenue usually comes because you’re making customers happy. Mattec allows us to do that more effectively. Now we can provide more accurate feedback to customer inquiries. If we’re more accurate telling customers when they’re going to receive something, it usually translates into revenue.”
Osborn notes that working with Epicor support has been excellent. “After implementation, we had questions,” he says, which is to be expected after installing a new, major system. “Every time I called, I reached a competent, qualified person. We never had to call twice.”
For the complete interview with Perry Osborn on his company’s experience with Epicor ERP and Epicor Mattec MES, you can see the short video here.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
In my first attempt at this, my first blog post, I immediately lost sight of the objective – keeping it simple…
Most of what I have learned about instructional design over the years I can sum in a few words: keep it simple. In concept, this might seem straightforward, but in fact, the road to effective instruction, regardless of the delivery method, can be anything but simple.
I found that in order to make my instruction effective, I have to build it on a solid foundation. This includes determining the end task, or tasks, or knowledge that the job requires of the learner, writing clear and instructionally measurable learning objectives to meet those requirements, limiting instructional content to that which is required to meet the learning objectives, and providing means for the learner to demonstrate their knowledge and/or skill acquisition. It also helps when I can make the training engaging.
When I started developing training, I was doing so for topics in which I had a good deal of expertise and I was easily derailed into writing content that was nice-to-know, but did not really support the learning objectives, which inevitably seemed to be crafted to meet the content. Now, I start with a solid learning objective and I make sure that everything I put into my training content either directly supports the learning objective, or is foundational knowledge or skill that is required to support the content that in turn meets the learning objective.
In short, one of the most important things that I learned about instructional design was to write specific and measurable learning objectives. I avoid vague language in my objectives such as “know” or “understand”, replacing them with direct language such as “state”, “describe” or “demonstrate”. By using direct, measurable language, I know exactly what to include for training content, and the learner knows exactly what to expect in the training.
Keeping it simple, one objective at a time…
Posted by Robert England, Content Specialist, Epicor University
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