Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
These two Business Intelligence tools were highlighted at day two of the 2013 Epicor Insights Global Customer Conference.
The Customer Buying Trend Analysis module for Epicor Prophet 21, available for v. 12.9 and higher, looks at sales history (as far back as two years), identifies normalized buying patterns (i.e., what customers should have bought), and calculates the standard deviation (using a series of Six Sigma statistical models). Any statistical anomaly beyond this deviation (excluding seasonal/erratic customer/item combinations that don’t fit any pattern) indicates that you missed a sales opportunity. The system tells you this in real time, so that you can take action with customers who have stopped buying, and shows you exactly how much each miss cost your business.
There are many ways to filter the data that is produced; for example, by sales rep, so you can send them a real-time notification. (The sales rep can then enter an annotation of a follow-up call made to the customer, and 30 days later, they’ll receive another alert if the opportunity remains open.) Other filters include by minimum sales amount, by minimum invoice lines, by supplier, etc. By selecting a number of filters, you can reduce the data down to a workable list.
Customer Buying Trend Analysis can also help a distributor’s internal buyers, finding underlying issues even before your purchasing algorithms would. It is simple to set up, and creates a powerful basis for strategy. Epicor distributors are using this functionality to anticipate customer issues and recover tens of thousands of dollars every year that would otherwise have been lost.
The Sales Master Inquiry window is a tool for distributors to analyze their customers’ revenues and bookings. Using Sales Master Inquiry, the distributor can help discern problems in the sales cycle, identify opportunities, and then take action.
Part of the CRM functionality of Epicor Prophet 21 v. 12.11 and higher, Sales Master Inquiry shows executives, Sales and Marketing which customers are trending up or down, and allows them to review customer and prospect data that suggest the creation of tasks (e.g., assignment of Customer Care calls, or targeting of prospects for a campaign). This data can help you determine where and how your Sales and Marketing teams should spend their time; e.g., which customer deserves discounts or free freight; or who didn’t buy add-ons or peripherals and might be receptive to a follow-up offer.
This tool can distinguish between sales “leaders” and “bleeders” among your customers year over year, as well as return-to-sales ratios and cost to serve. As with Customer Buying Trend Analysis, the data can be boiled down to the fields that are most relevant to you.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Epicor experts at the 2013 Insights Global Customer Conference shared tips for managing the fundamentals in this critical area. As a distributor, your goals should be to:
· Fulfill orders accurately and on time
· Minimize cycle time (from receiving at the warehouse to shipping)
· Minimize expense.
Factors that can influence demand for your inventory include new product releases, offering proprietary vs. commodity products, minimizing inbound or outbound freight, setting minimum order quantities, providing vendor managed inventory, etc.
Many tools are available to predict demand. Forecasting involves using historical data to predict future requirements; it’s your best estimate based on what you know, excluding one-time events (statistical outliers) such as seasonal/cyclical demand, special promotions, etc.
For example, one well-known formula for setting a minimum stock level is:
Minimum stock level = re-order point – average or normal usage X normal re-order period (i.e., lead time)
Safety stock is used to make up for issues with lead time, suppliers, transportation, inconsistent demand, spoilage, promotional or discount programs, etc. You never want your safety stock to get down to zero.
Suggested ways to reduce inventory include:
· Maintain accurate minimum stock and safety stock levels
· Make more frequent purchase orders (spreading them out) – of course, always weighing this against the tradeoff of any additional cost
· Eliminate the root cause that’s requiring you to “cover yourself” with safety stock.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Expanded Market Opportunities, Strategic Partnerships and New Mobile Offerings to Inspire Customers to Realize the Full Potential of Technology Investments
EPICOR INSIGHTS 2013 (NASHVILLE, Tenn.,) --
Epicor Software kicked-off its annual user conference Insights 2013
on a high note from Music City, USA, with nearly 4,000 in attendance spanning the manufacturing, distribution, retail and services industries. Epicor CEO and President Pervez Qureshi delivered the opening keynote as Epicor customers and partners came together to get inspired by innovation, new technology and dynamic user experiences that will take their businesses to the next level.
Epicor software solutions drive the companies that are innovating business today, with a modern approach to architecture, mobility, embedded analytics and built-in business process management. Epicor solutions are designed to help customers derive the most value from their technology investments. “We want our products and new technologies to inspire customers to think about their business from a fresh perspective, and enable them to deliver more value to their customers,” said Qureshi. “Our solutions help customers automate and streamline core business functions, at the same time providing a flexible and agile platform to leverage social, mobile and cloud innovations—designed for the way people work today, anywhere, anytime and from any device."
“Insights 2013 brings together customers representing the industries we serve and the Epicor product offerings tailored to their business,” Qureshi continued. “During the conference they gain knowledge to help them realize the full potential of the Epicor product they are using today, and learn about what we are doing to expand their opportunities to leverage extended offerings and latest technology innovations.”
Expanded Market Opportunities
Through strategic acquisitions
Epicor has enhanced and strengthened offerings in key vertical industries such as lumber and building materials, automotive, food and beverage, and print and packaging, and added best–in-class manufacturing execution systems (MES) and processing manufacturing offerings to its solution portfolio. These offerings are gaining momentum and creating new opportunities for Epicor customers, like the new version of Epicor CMS (see news release
) which delivers expanded features and functionality for the automotive industry. The Honda Approved Epicor CMS solution is designed for intensive supply chains, and helps eliminate shipping errors, tighten inventory accuracy, and strengthen enterprise-wide control and supplier management.
Strengthening its presence in Asia Pacific, Epicor recently opened a new Technology Center based in Guangzhou, China. The Technology Center was established to strengthen Epicor service and support to clients and partners in China, and throughout the Asia Pacific region, and to support localized technology innovation for Epicor enterprise business software solutions and applications. Recognizing the distinct characteristics and requirements of the Asia Pacific market, the new Technology Center will focus on localization optimization and provide first-hand technical support for clients.
Enterprise Mobility Continues to Evolve
According to a recent report by Gartner, Inc., “The adoption of mobility is driven in part by consumerization and will continue to drive investments in mobile applications by an increased use of smartphones and tablets, and will be an area of growth for SMBs, which are using mobility as a business strategy, realizing that the technology brings with it agility and efficiency.”(1)
Epicor provides mobile offerings that enable manufacturers, distributors, retailers and services organization alike to transform user and customer experiences, improve operational efficiency, increase productivity, and enable real-time well informed business decision making to gain competitive advantage. Among the newest Epicor mobile offerings available to customers today are:
- The newest release of Epicor Eagle business management software for independent retailers, announced during Insights, which previewed Eagle Loyalty and Eagle Tablet POS which are expected to be available later this quarter;
- Announced at Insights 2013, Epicor Payment Exchange Mobile (EPX Mobile) is a free, downloadable app that runs on mobile devices and allows Epicor customers to accept credit card payments wherever their consumer is located;
- Epicor brought mobile to the latest version of its human capital management solution with Epicor HCM Mobile Connect, which provides access to users for daily tasks via Apple® iPad®, iPhone® or Android® devices (see news release);and,
- Epicor Distribution customers now have access to Epicor Mobile Business Analyzer, a new mobile business solution to support executive-level decision making for wholesale distributors (see news release).
Innovation Drives Productivity for Epicor Customers
Extending the value and investment that customers make in the solutions that run their businesses is a key focus for Epicor, by delivering enabling technologies and innovations to help customer drive productivity, efficiency and promote growth.
Epicor announced a partnership with Magento®, owned by eBay Inc. (see news release), which brings an integrated offering to Epicor retail customers that supports rich omni-channel retailing. As well, Epicor introduced its new Epicor Retail Cross-Commerce offering, a flexible, advanced eCommerce platform that enables retailers to personalize the shopping experience across channels, to support increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Epicor continues to deliver unprecedented choice and flexibility with its next-generation Epicor enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite, which customers can deploy on-premise, as a managed service or in the cloud. Built on the Epicor ICE Business Architecture, the innovative ERP offering enhances collaboration, facilitates end-to-end business processes, and improves operational effectiveness.
Epicor ERP deployments have accelerated worldwide as the company announced surpassing the milestone of over 1,000 customers now live on the solution (see news release). The momentum continues as more businesses are choosing put the power of the next-generation Epicor ERP platform to work to support business innovation, process improvements and a truly integrated view of the business and value chain.
Likewise, the Epicor ERP cloud offering is gaining traction -- available today in Australia, Canada, China, Mexico and the United States, the growing list of Epicor ERP cloud customers include companies like Plastiglide Manufacturing, Corp, Samscreen Inc. and Mayekawa Manufacturing Company (see news release).
On the manufacturing execution systems front, customer momentum is growing among manufacturing organizations worldwide for Epicor Mattec. The company’s full-featured, best-in-class MES standalone solution, and is creating new opportunities for Epicor as an integrated solution with its next-generation ERP (see news release).
For a closer look at what’s happening at Insights 2013, visit the EpicorInsights channel on YouTube.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
(1)Source: Gartner, Inc. “Market Insight: Technology Opens Up Opportunities in SMB Vertical Markets,” by Christine Arcaris, Jeffrey Roster (September 6, 2012)
You can't manage inventory properly if the counts are not correct in your system. Good counts bring better inventory management.
What is Cycle Counting?
Cycle counting means taking a manageable section of your warehouse, daily or weekly, and verifying the quantity of the item(s)—instead of doing one total year-end physical count, possibly making 3-4 passes through the warehouse.
When using the cycle count feature in Epicor Prophet 21, you have the option to count by item, bin and even ABC classes. Counting by either purchase or putaway class, the option becomes available to count specific classes such as A more often than, say, class B. One theory is to count by putaway hits, assuming the items touched the most stand a better chance of being less accurate.
Another good gage is monitoring the service level of miss-ships, and how many times during the shipping process the quantity needed to be edited. There is a company lost sales feature to help you monitor this.
When to Do It
It is always best to count in the early morning, before any pick tickets have been printed and pulled. You always need to verify items removed from the bin before the count, as the bin will be less that amount.
Most times, I recommend blind counts, meaning you don’t list the quantity that should be in the bin. This “forces” a count, demonstrating why it is better to perform the count before any activity.
The other option would be to list the quantity as well as any allocations, and then, the counter could locate the missing quantity that has been pulled, to verify the count.
Types of Counts
I always recommend bins for the best success in counting. This way, when using advance bins in Epicor Prophet 21, the counts will walk through the warehouse in a manageable path. If tracking lots, tags or serial numbers, these will be verified, as well. Keep in mind that during an item adjustment, you can check “add to the next count”; this will help verify these items being adjusted.
Another option is physical count; the physical count feature will allow you to select a range of bins, ABC purchase class, and limit by supplier. With either method, the “physical vs. on hand” report can be used to obtain a list of items to be recounted, whether by quantity or value, but the cycle count accuracy report is only a cycle count feature—not a physical count.
Cycle Counting and Wireless
When using Epicor Prophet 21 Wireless Warehouse Management System (WMS), any bin activity is captured in real time, so there is no need to verify allocations. Once the item has been picked or moved, the count sheet is updated, maintaining accurate bin counts. With WMS, there is also no need to count early in the morning, since the counting process can happen any time during the day.
Posted by Neil VanWalbeck, Senior Professional Services Consultant at Epicor Software Corporation
Inbound Logistics selected the Top 100 logistics and supply chain technology vendors – and Epicor made the list! This year’s best in class winners are recognized for breaking new ground and leading the market. Inbound Logistics’ editors placed value on choosing providers whose solutions are central to solving transportation, logistics and supply chain challenges, and whose customer successes are well-proven.
To accompany this list, Inbound Logistics reveals the latest logistics technology trends influencing the supply chain sector based on findings from their Logistics Technology Market Research Report. Among them is Big Data. Other trends include function- and vertical-specific logistics technologies, the collective power of social media and cloud computing, and a continued emphasis on cost reduction.
So how are technology vendors responding to these market trends with respect to the global supply chain? Inbound Logistics’ research and analysis provides perspective on how technology companies are approaching the market, where they’re investing and the challenges they see through their customers.
Here is a glimpse of their findings. Go here to read the full report.
Industries Logistics IT Providers Serve
Solutions Logistics IT Providers Offer
Logistics IT Buyers' Top Challenges
Source: Inbound Logistics Top 100 Logistics IT Providers Survey
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
As the world continues its conversation about big data and its implications, let’s revisit the seminal report that first brought the topic to a high level of visibility. In May 2011, the McKinsey Global Institute published “Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition, and Productivity”; the rest is, as they say, history. McKinsey’s observations have unfolded across the globe, and the report has become one of the world’s most cited sources on the topic.
The report defines big data as follows:
“’Big data’ refers to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage and analyze. This definition is intentionally subjective and incorporates a moving definition of how big a dataset needs to be in order to be considered big data—i.e., we don’t define big data in terms of being larger than a certain number of terabytes (thousands of gigabytes). We assume that, as technology advances over time, the size of datasets that qualify as big data will increase. Also note that the definition can vary by sector, depending on what kinds of software tools are common in a particular industry. With those caveats, big data in many sectors today will range from a few dozen terabytes to multiple petabytes (thousands of terabytes).”
Seven Major Points About Big Data:
- Data has swept into every industry and business function and is now an important part of production.
- Big data creates value in numerous ways:
a. Creates transparency.
b. Enables experimentation to discover needs, expose variability, and improve performance.
c. Segments populations to customize actions.
d. Replaces/supports human decision making with automated algorithms.
e.Innovates new business models, products, and services.
- Use of big data will become a key basis of competition and growth for individual firms.
- The use of big data will underpin new waves of productivity growth and consumer surplus.
- While the use of big data will matter across sectors, some sectors are poised for greater gains.
a. Computer and electronic products and information sectors, traded globally, stand out as sectors that will benefit substantially from the use of big data.
b. Two services sectors—finance and insurance and government—are positioned to benefit very strongly from big data.
- There will be a shortage of talent necessary for organizations to take advantage of big data.
- A number of issues will have to be addressed to capture the full potential of big data:
a. Data policies
b. Technology and techniques
c. Organizational change and talent
d. Access to data
e. Industry structure
Clearly, the economic impact of big data will be profound. In a post on the Harvard Business Review blog network, David Court makes the case for organizations crafting a big data plan. He notes a growing consensus among executives that the returns from big data are real, but notes as well that moving forward is challenging. In terms of costs and commitment, the investment can be large. He posts a basic approach:
“The answer, simply put, is to develop a plan. It may sound obvious, but in our experience, most companies fail to put in the time required to create a simple plan for how data, analytics, front-line tools, and people can come together to create business value. The power of a plan is that it provides a common language that allows senior executives, technology professionals, data scientists, and managers to talk through where the greatest returns will come from, and more importantly, select the two or three places to get started.”
Court draws a parallel between big data planning and strategic planning, noting how the beginnings of the latter by a few companies in the 1970s has now become standard operating procedure for virtually all companies. Sooner rather than later, big data planning is likely to become commonplace as well.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Last week I received a very pleasant phone call from Toni my car mechanic; he is a really good guy who keeps close ties with all his loyal clients. He wanted to remind me that I should bring my car in soon so he could perform its routine, "periodic maintenance.” Toni explained that this ensures that my car is not under-performing or that critical parts are at risk, especially with its relatively high mileage. And because he is someone who has earned my trust, I appreciated that call.
Similar to Toni’s advice, we at Epicor suggest several procedures be done periodically to ensure that the application is always performing at the expected level, particularly as the database gets bigger. Some procedures are done more frequently than others depending on the necessity of the related tasks and time required.
On a weekly basis we highly recommend taking a closer look at the Process Watcher because, as the name suggests, it monitors all the processes that took place or are taking place in the application. Finished but non-permanent processes can be safely deleted from the process watcher, while aborted and suspended processes should be further investigated before attempting to delete them.
Failure to clear or resolve these processes correctly can create performance issues. For example, if you ever notice that your Create List or Database Analysis report is taking forever to initiate or finish, one of the possible reasons might be that a long list of aborted processes is stuck in the process queues. Similarly, finished but undeleted promotions can impair CRM’s ability to post transactions; it can take a long time to check if the transaction matches an active promotion. Terminating a finished promotion does not mean that the promotion is deleted; all lists, statistics, results and reports attached to this promotion are retained in the system.
Less frequently (e.g. quarterly), lists that are no longer needed should also be deleted, as these take up precious space in the database and make fetching data slower. As an added value, you won’t be confronted with an overwhelming number of lists every time you open List Maintenance. It’s just like cleaning your personal email inbox every now and then to make it more visually appealing and easy to use.
Some annual procedures can also be performed to keep your system in top shape. These include purging inactive customer records and transactions older than “x” number of years. In addition to taking up space in the database, these inactive customers count against the license level. Not all clients are comfortable purging data so before permanently deleting them, it might be a good idea to export these data and archive them. Many details and rules go into deleting customers, so a detailed analysis of customer rate of retention and shopping frequencies usually takes place before deciding on the “who, when and how” for handling inactive customers and old transactions.
All the above procedures are examples of simple yet very effective things that can significantly improve processing times and make your system run faster and more efficiently. A final word of caution though: it's very important to be careful during all these cleaning steps to make sure permanent and valuable processes and data is retained.
I trust Toni, he is a good guy who really cares about his clients and their cars. We at Epicor care a lot about our clients and are inspired by your businesses...
Watch for our next blog, “Essential CRM Add-Ons”
In a previous two-part blog we addressed the workforce today and investment in education along with a look at content development and delivery methods. With this blog, we address effective strategy for education. For years my mom said, “do it right the first time so you don’t have to go back and do things all over again” – this applies as well to having the best education programs in place by defining an effective strategy with principles presented here.
It’s important to ask the following questions when thinking about strategy for education in your company:
- What are the education programs in place at your organization – both formal and informal?
- What is the infrastructure to support the programs – is it up to the latest technology standards and practices?
- Is the education developed with solid processes such as single-sourcing, Agile development, and XML-DITA standards?
- Will your organization support the change management needed to implement effective education strategies?
Given the questions above, let’s discuss some of the key principles for your education strategy:
- Education Programs – No Single Solution – even with the hype of technology-based education such as support for learning on tablets, video casts, podcasts, and more, there is still a strong requirement for formal education. It is important to balance the use of new technologies with solid content rather than simply adding technology fluff to the experience. For example, define the learning objectives and integrate formal learning of instructor-led with informal learning such as a podcast and job aid.
- Infrastructure is Key – without a solid infrastructure to support education, there will be limited effectiveness in the development and deployment of the learning. This includes the library/repository of content, development/authoring tools, learning management system (LMS), collaboration and social platforms, and of course, the project management that brings everything together.
- Authoring – Single Sourcing – effective content and learning requires the excellence of achieving single sourcing of content. The vast majority of companies today do not ‘do things right here’. Instead, they jump into content development without developing a single source content development plan. The ability to author in a single tool and store source in a single format (usually xml) pays dividends in translation costs, in flexibility in meeting demands for new output types, in the ability to use a central repository for your global workforce, and in the reuse of content between deliverables. Companies today achieve far greater results with single sourcing – from quality to consistency in deliverables.
- Culture of Change – organizations must embrace collaboration, ensure that people know their roles, and assign people with the right skills for their role across the company. The goal is to embrace the change needed to increase performance results across your organization. The performance results are achieved within companies that implement and support effective education strategies.
Posted by Louise Keppel, Vice President, Epicor University
Companies justify moving to a standard enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution based on a number of compelling reasons. By supporting a single system rather than several smaller and disparate systems, they can enjoy economies of scale and a single application architecture with fewer user interfaces that creates lower integration costs. And through common tasks automation (as well as easier access to more information), best practice systems and procedures allow for efficiencies not available when using multiple systems.
While the case for standardizing on a single ERP system can be relatively straightforward to make, the costs and impacts are sometimes easy to overlook. In this series of blogs, we will review a number of factors to help ensure a successful implementation. These include:
1. Build a cross-functional team
2. Set proper expectations to manage change
3. Create new business processes in sync with the new system
4. Implement in a phased approach
5. Make the necessary time and financial investment
Addressing these areas early on in the process can be the deciding factor whether the ERP implementation is a success in the long run. This blog series will highlight recommendations and the importance of each of these factors, starting with the first-- building a cross-functional team.
Creating new business processes, determining the necessary reporting, and identifying possible software customizations require input from many areas of the organization. By building a cross-functional team, companies not only improve the likelihood that all areas of the business are addressed, but also help create buy-in that can drive the overall project’s success. All cross-functional teams should include certain key organizational functions such as: project management, IT, and executive management.
To successfully take on a new ERP system, an organization also needs to address its corporate culture, which can be best driven by executive management. Corporate culture is a combination of two things: the type of people who are employed by a company, including their personal values, skills, habits etc.; and the way the organization works, including the focus, decision making process, attitude towards its staff, stability, etc. Both feed off one another.
Due to the nature of an ERP system, organizations need to become almost obsessed with detail. They need to have business practices that are adhered to, rather than just being documented once and forgotten. Employees also need to increase focus on profit and how the whole organization is impacted by their work, because ERP makes profit far more measurable, down to the department, customer, and material levels. ERP requires employees to understand the “big picture” and how their individual areas have impact in places they may never have envisioned. Employees can no longer just leave a problem for the next employee in the process because it makes their job easier, as ERP is truly a shared environment.
Look forward to the next blog post on how to set proper expectations and manage change with your team.
Posted by Amy Baker, Manager, Product Marketing Epicor
Everyone knows you’re supposed to read manuals that accompany products and services you buy, but of course, often we just blaze ahead, unpack, and put whatever object we just bought to immediate use based on our intuition of how it should be used. That works sometimes (a new pot or pan), is less successful other times (a new outdoor tent), and outright fails other times (a new BBQ from a kit). But even in that case of a relatively simple object, like a new kitchen pan, you can glean new information from the accompanying documentation. In my case, last week I bought a wok, read through the pamphlet and found out you are actually supposed to preheat the wok to the temperature you want to cook at before ever adding butter or oil. Who knew?
With software, the payoff from reading the documentation can be substantial. While we all appreciate a user interface to be intuitive as possible, even a basically intuitive device like the modern smart phone has “secrets” that are unlocked by using the documentation, both the vendor’s official documentation and the other ancillary unofficial documentation we can find on the Internet in the form of user reviews, tips or demonstration videos. I’m always amazed by and appreciate the number of people willing to post and share solutions on the Internet. Being a technical writer, I have something of a reputation among my colleagues as being a “technical” technical writer. I’m often asked where I learned this or that technology. More often than not, the answer is by reading the official documentation and using an Internet search engine to find the unofficial documentation that fills any gaps.
How can you encourage that official documentation plus additional non-vendor documentation model with your enterprise software? One challenge is that generally you probably don’t want your proprietary use of a product out on the Internet. That means everything I’m suggesting here is for your company intranet.
Key steps to maximizing your enterprise documentation:
- The obvious one – make sure you have the official documentation from your vendor installed and updated at all times. Don’t frustrate your users with an incomplete help install that results in broken links from the application.
- Leverage a mechanism to post your employee-generated tips and how-to articles alongside and/or accessible from the vendor documentation. Within an Epicor help installation, this is simple. Any .html file you add to the help folders (or add to a new folder you create at the same level) will automatically be indexed and appear in search results from the help search. Epicor also has other mechanisms to integrate custom additions to help such as the annotations feature that allows extended comments (which could be links to URLs) to be added to help topics.
- Guide collaboration software like Microsoft SharePoint to create searchable forums, document repositories, and video libraries to host your supplemental material.
If you take these steps, your employees can help each other even when they are not in the office. A set of self-generated documentation that supplements vendor documentation is not immune to the demands of official documentation, such as what version does it apply to, spelling/grammar errors and technical accuracy. Depending on your tolerance for those items you can implement review boards and/or individuals who supervise documentation additions. I’m personally on the side of more documentation with less oversight than making a process in which few are motivated to participate. Taking small steps such as making your own documentation templates (that includes information such as version) goes a long way in making useful supplementary documentation.
If you set up an infrastructure where supplementary documentation additions are simple and accessible from vendor documentation, use common templates and have a searchable interface, the value of your enterprise documentation can really increase overall.
Posted by Charlie Lloyd, Senior Manager, Epicor University