Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
Competing online is a new game for many independent retailers. As competition from big-box stores continuously increases, it is essential for owners of independent brick-and-mortar stores to consider growing their businesses with expansion into the world of eCommerce. Many know they need to define a consistent strategy to sell online, but retailers need effective tools for that strategy to be successful. With technology, retailers are able to connect with consumers in powerful new ways.
Whether your business has already established an Internet presence, or you’re preparing to take a business online, eCommerce can mean much more than an additional “purchasing location” for consumers. It’s also about maintaining relevancy in today’s fast-paced market. The new version of Epicor iNet™ eBusiness Suite*, an integrated eCommerce and eBusiness technology solution, offers an additional storefront to consumers and is a valuable tool for everything from product research and purchase, to directions to your store. By providing convenient self-service information, consumers and commercial customers can find that the new Epicor iNet software makes it easier for them to do business with retailers.
New doors for both the retailer and their customers are opened with eCommerce. By selecting the correct solution for a business, retailers can magnify their footprint and capitalize on increasing valuable customer relationships not just locally, but nationally and globally. In addition to better connecting to your consumers, eCommerce is another way to grow a revenue stream outside the traditional retail space, as well as help keep costs down by letting customers serve themselves.
Kinnucan’s Specialty Outfitter, founded in 1987, operates the company’s online store with Epicor iNet software. “If you're in the retail business you will eventually have to be an eCommerce business if you want to compete effectively and have any future,” said Bobby Lake, president of Kinnucan’s Specialty Outfitter. “We spent a lot of time and energy making sure that our brick-and-mortar business was successfully and efficiently operated. Since we had all those pieces in place, it was our time to move into eCommerce to expand our business further. Epicor iNet is the technology behind our eCommerce strategy. The benefit for us is that we’re now able to take out business across county, city, and state lines – geography is no longer an issue.”
The newest version of Epicor iNet software is packed with powerful and timesaving new features, including:
- Emailed reminders to shoppers who abandoned online carts – notifications for them to return and complete their purchase with ease
- Comprehensive support for multiple payment processors on a single eCommerce site – you can now accept more forms of payment
- Allow ACH “eChecks” from Authorized .Net – reduce transaction fees when paying on an account
- Support for Promotion Codes – attract new customers and run free shipping or free gift promotions online
- Item-level Shipping Rules – assign the right rates for bulky and overweight items
- More shopping convenience for your customers – enhanced search capabilities, multiple shipping addresses and more.
How do you get started with eCommerce? Every good strategy begins with an evaluation period. Take a complete look at your organization before you even consider the technology. Are you ready to run eCommerce as an incorporated division? Evaluate you're people and understand whether or not you have the right operational model and framework to support online selling, and if you can meet and support the needs of your customers.
As an independent retailer you're competing with a sea of options. When a consumer wants something, regardless of locality, retailers must respond with an easy and seamless purchase process. What’s great about modern retail technology is that it provides that process and more. The tactics and tools are available for retailers to succeed, so long as retailers are motivated to educate themselves and embrace the technology.
To learn more about Epicor Eagle and the Epicor iNet eBusiness Suite, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Mike Duncan, Senior Product Manager, Epicor Retail Distribution
*Epicor iNet eBusiness Suite is an available purchase option for users of the Epicor® Eagle® business management system.
There are a number of ways to help ensure a timely, on-budget enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementation. One key area revolves around properly planning and documenting business processes that will be used with the new solution.
Graphical modeling is often perceived as a narrowly focused tool for documenting the flow of isolated processes. However, by using a more flexible tool to expand that view to create a hierarchical, top-down map of the entire system, organizations get the full picture of how the processes can be made most effective.
Starting from the high-level perspective, it is necessary to drill down further to get to heart of detailing what really should occur for each business process. This “stage” level consists of the major steps taken to complete the process. This is also where responsibility should be assigned to particular roles within the organization that are affected by each particular stage.
The goal is to utilize these models throughout the implementation and beyond. The ERP implementation team can use the completed models to assist during the implementation with role-based activities and training, and to serve as a repository for important implementation documentation. After go-live, the models should be updated as the business grows and changes to help ensure the organization is getting the best return on its ERP investment.
To learn more about the benefits of conducting a process review, and the use of a graphical model as the repository of project documentation and “guiding light” of project continuity, download the white paper Effectively Documenting Business Processes for a Successful ERP Implementation here
Posted by Beth Karlin and John Steele, Senior/Principal Consultants, Epicor Professional Services
There was no shortage of networking opportunities during the 2014 LBM and Wood Products User Conference
, held November 4-5, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Attendees were able to connect with Epicor staff, as well as new and seasoned users across Epicor lumber and building materials (LBM) and wood product solutions.
“There are many reasons we come to the Epicor LBM and Wood Products User Conference, but one of the primary reasons is for the one-on-one time with a large group of Epicor representatives,” said Jon Le Roi, director of IT at Mendocino Forest Products
. “I get the opportunity to talk with the head of the Epicor LumberTrack development team -- that’s not something I get to do every day. We have a great relationship with Epicor and this is another way to foster that relationship. It’s putting faces to the names of those we work closely with via email and phone conversations. The conference also offers a great combination of where Epicor is as a company, where it’s going with products, as well as new tools and trends in the industry that we can take back to our business.”
Another key driver for user attendance is the unique ability to network with similar businesses operating on the same solutions. “This is our second year attending the Epicor LBM and Wood Products User Conference,” said Chris Routhe, business process manager at Millard Lumber Inc
. “We’ve been very happy with Epicor and really feel as if we are a part of the Epicor team. For us, the conference is all about talking to likeminded people from our industry and sharing stories of best practices for better business operation. We run ideas by everyone from other users, to the Epicor representatives present. We’re able to provide our insights to what tools and software enhancements will continue to help our business grow. And Epicor listens and acts on our ideas. We will definitely attend the conference again.”
The Responsibility of Leadership with Rick Davis
The closing keynote by industry expert Rick Davis, president of Building Leaders Inc., encompassed how LBM dealers can take advantage of IT techniques and sales tools that lead to success. Davis provided attendees with three ‘power ideas’ to produce an efficient and beneficial business model:
- Annual goals create excuses – while an annual goal is a great starting point, it’s not a complete strategy. A great alternative is to create monthly performance objectives that lead to predictable future results.
- It’s about who knows you – in business, consumers buy from those they know. Establish a plan that markets your reputation and strengthens relationships.
- Create perceptions of abundance – an enlightened leader creates optimism by factually demonstrating that abundance exists. Developing sales and marketing strategies with abundance in mind will lead to success and competitive advantage.
See You in the “Alamo City!”
Mark your calendar for the 2015 Epicor LBM and Wood Products User Conference—November 10-11, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.
Users will be able to attend dedicated education tracks focused on specific products and solutions, and opportunities to network with other users and Epicor representatives. Gain valuable insight on how to utilize your Epicor solution to inspire your business, your employees, and your bottom line. We hope you’ll join us—and your peers—in San Antonio!
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
In this final post on the metrics report issued by the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA International) and LNS Research, we look at the fourth and final question the report answers: “How can technology help support and impact metrics programs and performance?”
Some of the key relationships uncovered in the survey were correlations between average annual metric improvements and the use of software technologies to support them. Some interesting trends were revealed with respect to adoption rates when compared to the previous survey. Overall, the most deployed applications by all respondents were enterprise resource planning (ERP); Planning, Scheduling & Dispatching; Quality Management; Data Historians; Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES); and Asset Management. Specifically, there was marked adoption growth from the last survey in three areas:
- ERP: from 67 percent previously to 74 percent
- Data Historians: from 39 percent to 42 percent
- MES: from 35 percent to 40 percent
The study’s authors note that software, in and of itself, is not a panacea for achieving operational and financial improvements. Some 85 percent of survey respondents also had process improvement programs in place such as ISO 9000/9001, Lean, Six Sigma, etc.; however, manufacturers are supporting, accelerating, and sustaining process and metrics improvements through leveraging select software applications.
Consider the following improvements in total cost per unit:
- Overall average: 13.1 percent
- For those using Operations Intelligence/Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence software: 24.1 percent
- For those using MES: 22.5 percent
And the following improvements in on-time completed shipments:
- Overall average: 12.5 percent
- For those using MES: 22 percent
- For those using quality management software: 20.4 percent
- For those using product lifecycle management software: 19.1 percent
Similar positive correlations were found between operational metrics and software relationships.
For more information, check out http://info.epicor.com/Manufacturing-Metrics/ and the infographic here.
Posted By Stewart Baillie, Vice President, Products, Manufacturing
Last week, Epicor retail distribution solutions Executive Vice President and General Manager Craig McCollum welcomed over 450 Epicor users to the 2014 Epicor LBM and Wood Products User Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference brought together users of Epicor lumber, building materials, and wood products solutions -- Epicor BisTrack, Epicor LumberTrack, Epicor Catalyst, Epicor Falcon, and Epicor ECS Pro. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about new Epicor technologies, network with other users and meet the Epicor team.
The Generational Transformation in Your Business
The opening keynote by Craig McCollum focused on how to embrace the generational shift currently occurring as Traditionalist and Baby Boomers transfer leadership to Generation X and the Millennials. “The Technology Revolution has shaped the work ethic and leadership styles of Generation X and the Millennials,” said McCollum. “I want to encourage businesses to embrace this change and create a work environment where the different generations can communicate freely and learn from each other.”
Additionally, McCollum provided a few words of advice for businesses in the midst of generational shifts:
- Embrace change. It’s inevitable and you can’t fight it. The market is changing quickly and you need to be able to change along with it. Are your business intelligence and analytics tools conducive to providing you with the accurate and real-time information you need to respond to market changes?
- Break down the walls between the different generational groups in your company. Cross-train every employee and try to have a good mix of younger and older employees working together and learning from one another. This will keep your older employees young at heart, and provide reassuring experience to the younger staff.
- Challenge employees. Use technology to automate as many processes and transactions as possible. This will free up employees from menial tasks and allow them to focus on more challenging and rewarding responsibilities.
- Values-based buying is going to become more prevalent as younger employees take over the purchasing process. Have a plan in place to obtain and market your green products and practices.
- Increase communication. Leverage today’s mobile technologies and products to improve communications across your organization and with your customers.
Built on over 30 years of lumber industry expertise, Epicor provides software solutions to more than 2,000 lumber and building material businesses throughout North America. Learn more about these solutions at www.epicor.com/lbm.
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
In our initial post
on the metrics report issued by the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA International
) and LNS Research
, we provided the study’s list of 28 metrics identified as most used by manufacturers to best understand manufacturing performance and opportunity areas for improvement. Today we look at the second and third questions the report answers: “How does my company’s performance improvement compare to industry?” “How do we connect operational metrics to financial metrics?”
All those surveyed were asked about specific levels of three critical metrics: on time completed shipments (OTCS), overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and successful new product introductions (NPI). The other 25 metrics were surveyed to uncover average annual performance improvement percentages, which were combined into eight categories:
- Financial: 8.6 percent
- Inventory: 15.0 percent
- Innovation: 7.8 percent
- Responsiveness: 10.0 percent
- Efficiency: 17.0 percent
- Quality: 13.7 percent
- Maintenance: 14.9 percent
- Compliance: 18.5 percent
The consistent double-digit improvement indicates the strides the manufacturing sector is making.
Respondents were also asked about changes that occurred in their businesses since over the last year:
- Increased the number of products, SKUs or variants: 71 percent.
- Increased volatility of customer demands: 66 percent.
- Introduced more complex products: 64 percent.
- Customers demanded increased traceability documentation: 54 percent.
- Shortened the time of new product introduction: 45 percent.
In light of these challenges, the improvements listed above are even more impressive.
Relationships Between Financials and Operationals
Many positive correlations were found between average annual metric improvements and average annual financial metrics. (This has been true for every MESA Metrics Survey since 2006.)
- The average percent of successful NPIs was 72 percent, with the top 7 percent of performers achieving 90 percent or better.
- The average OEE was 71, with the top 11 percent of performers achieving 80 or better.
- The top performers in NPI had average annual financial improvements of 16 percent versus 8.6 percent for all others.
- Those with OEE of 80 or better had average annual financial improvements of 14 percent versus 8.6 percent for all others.
Respondents with NPIs of 90 percent or better reported average annual financial improvements of 16 percent. These respondents also had 32 percent annual improvements in customer fill-rate/on-time delivery/perfect order versus an average of 12.5 percent overall.
Those with OEE of 80 or better had average financial improvements of 14 percent. Specifically, 11 percent of respondents had 20 percent annual improvements in Revenue per Employee/Productivity versus an average of 8 percent overall.
Posted by Stewart Baillie, Vice President, Products, Manufacturing
Epicor Prophet 21 and Eclipse customers can take advantage of post-implementation Optimization Services to improve the return on their ERP investment. By leveraging optimization around key business areas such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, production orders and secondary processing, distributors will typically enjoy more efficient processes and better system utilization.
Common challenges in these areas that can be addressed through optimization include:
- Profit margins are decreasing and cash flow is becoming an issue
- Having more customers on credit hold than on approval
- Managing multiple dates and check payments to vendors
- Having inconsistent vendor terms
- Using manual processes for allocating materials
- Using too many steps to create a production order
- Having difficulty tracking an order in the system
- Set-ups are taking a long time
- Having to do multiple set-ups for the same process
Epicor Optimization Services help distributors capitalize on Prophet 21 or Eclipse system efficiencies to benefit both employees and customers beyond the ERP go-live date. Sometimes these efficiencies may be achieved by leveraging new or updated system features that have not been used up to this point. A typical engagement involves working remotely with an Epicor Application Consultant for about 2-4 hours to review and refine processes.
For more information about Epicor Optimization Services, contact your Epicor Customer Account Manager or email email@example.com for more information.
Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
National trade publication Home Channel News has named 50 independent retail businesses from the United States in the fourth annual Hardware Store ALL-STARS list. Strong-performing and innovative retailers are recognized in this awards program for excellence in their industries. Of those listed, 33 of the 50 operate their businesses on Epicor solutions. The retailers are known for their great leaders, exciting innovations, and an unconventional approach to retailing.
Collecting nominees from a combination of store visits, news searches, and entries from trusted industry sources, the publication’s editorial selection committee assembled an ALL-STAR lineup of elite retailers. According Home Channel News, the retailers have demonstrated “service, service and more service. They also show growth, innovation and values of the hardware industry.”
We are excited to congratulate the retailers named that operate their businesses with Epicor solutions. Here is a sampling of the Epicor users in the Hardware Store ALL-STARS list:
Bay Hardware, California
Shell Lumber & Hardware, Florida
HPM Building Supply, Hawaii
Steve’s Ace Home & Garden, Iowa
Strasser Hardware, Kansas
Vidrine’s Ace Hardware, Louisiana
Courtland Hardware, Maryland
Rylee’s Ace Hardware, Michigan
Colmar Home Center, New Jersey
H.G. Page and Sons Home and Hardware, New York
Nutter Hardware, Ohio
Gordon White Lumber, Oklahoma
Madrona Hills Ace Hardware, Oregon
Paradise Home Center, South Carolina
Anderson Lumber Company, Tennessee
Cox Hardware & Lumber, Texas
Scholze Ace Home Center, Wisconsin
True Value of Rawlins, Wyoming
See retailer photos here.
To view the full list of 2014 HCN Hardware Store ALL-STARS winners, click here.
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
When I was asked to write this blog post, I was a little nervous. I have never written a blog post before, much less one that can be read by the entire world. I felt ill at ease and unsure at doing something different. As I was calming my nerves in preparation for this new challenge, I started thinking about comfort zones and why it’s important to stick a toe outside them.
Sometimes in work, as in life, it can be difficult to break out of our patterns, the things we do on a regular basis with comfort and expertise. It can be frightening to try something new, to take a risk, especially in the workplace. What if we fail? That fear of failure can lead to unwillingness to expand past our comfort zone to being stuck in a rut where we don’t grow or develop to our full potential.
As daunting as it can sometimes feel to try to perform an unfamiliar task, there are advantages to moving past our discomfort and staying open towards new opportunities. Here are some benefits to stretching out of our comfort zone.
Challenging ourselves – When we only do what we already know how to do, our work can become stale and repetitive and this can lead to feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction. We end up doing just enough when we are capable of doing more. When we challenge ourselves to achieve new goals and those goals are achieved, it communicates that we are the type of employees who want interesting, challenging work to perform. We open ourselves up to opportunities for further achievement and satisfaction in our careers.
Growing and Learning – In life, we should always be growing and learning new things. Stretching to learn unfamiliar skills keeps our mind sharp and allows us to develop as people. Even when we don’t immediately achieve our goals, we can learn something important in the effort itself. We learn how to cope with and learn from our mistakes. Innovation comes from not only knowing what does work but from learning what doesn’t. A skilled and knowledgeable employee who is able to innovate is a valuable asset to our company. The more we adapt, learn and develop our skills, the more valuable we can become.
Gaining Confidence – We all experience insecurities and self-doubts when trying something new. That first tiny step outside of our comfort zone can feel as if we are climbing a mountain. When we do take that first step and the world doesn’t crash down all around us, it makes that second step a little less frightening. A few more steps and we find ourselves walking easily along the path to new challenges and rewarding experiences. The more we face our fears, the less power we give them. The more we prove to ourselves that we can overcome obstacles, the more we start to feel confidence in what we are capable of achieving, both in and out of the workplace.
Remaining nimble – The ERP environment is one marked by high demand and rapid change. We must be able to be nimble in that environment, to adapt and respond successfully to the needs of our business and our customers. Change is coming whether we like it or not. Instead of resisting or dreading it, we can choose to embrace those changes and make them work for us. Epicor University has taken advantage of changes in education technology to develop an extensive portfolio of different learning options that encourages lifelong learning for both our employees and our customers.
Expanding our comfort zones – A surprising thing happens when we stretch outside our comfort zone; our comfort zone stretches too. The challenges that once seemed impossible for us to achieve now become part of our skill set. As we continue our growth and development, we become more comfortable in trying new things until the act of challenging ourselves becomes part of our comfort zone. By going out of my comfort zone and writing this blog post, I’ve learned that I can write a blog post. As a result, I’ve become more comfortable with stretching my writing skills into other new directions.
To conclude, when we work through our anxiety and challenge ourselves in the workplace, we have a greater opportunity to grow personally and professionally. This can result in a more positive attitude towards change and a confidence that we can stretch beyond our comfort zone to take advantages of the wealth of opportunities just beyond it.
Posted by Tricia Symes, Sr University Specialist, Epicor University
The Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA International
) and LNS Research
released the annual “Manufacturing Metrics that Really Matter” report. The report merits reviewing, which we will do in a series of posts. This post recaps the first question the study answers: “Which metrics are being used to best understand manufacturing performance and opportunity areas for improvement?”
Twenty-eight manufacturing metrics were identified as being the most utilized by discrete, process, and hybrid/batch manufacturers. The study grouped each of these metrics with the associated top-level area of improvement/goal for each:
Improving Customer Experience and Responsiveness
- On-Time Delivery to Commit: The percentage of time that manufacturing delivers a completed product on the schedule that was committed to customers.
- Manufacturing Cycle Time: The speed or time it takes for manufacturing to produce a given product from the time the order is released to production, to finished goods.
- Time to Make Changeovers: The speed or time it takes to switch a manufacturing line or plant from making one product over to making a different product.
- Yield: A percentage of products that are manufactured correctly and to specifications the first time through the manufacturing process without scrap or rework.
- Customer Rejects/Return Material Authorizations/Returns: How many times customers reject products or request returns of products based on receipt of a bad or out of specification product.
- Supplier’s Quality Incoming: The percentage of good quality materials coming into the manufacturing process from a given supplier.
- Throughput: How much product is being produced on a machine, line, unit, or plant over a specified period of time.
- Capacity Utilization: How much of the total manufacturing output capacity is being utilized at a given point in time.
- Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): A multiplier of Availability x Performance x Quality that can be used to indicate the overall effectiveness of a piece of production equipment, or an entire production line.
- Schedule or Production Attainment: What percentage of time a target level of production is attained within a specified schedule of time.
- WIP Inventory/Turns: A commonly used ratio calculation to measure the efficient use of inventory materials. It is calculated by dividing the cost of goods sold by the average inventory used to produce those goods.
- Reportable Health and Safety Incidents: The number of health and safety incidents that were either actual incidents or near misses that were recorded as occurring over a period of time.
- Reportable Environmental Incidents: The number of health and safety incidents that were recorded as occurring over a period of time.
- Number of Non-Compliance Events/Year: The number of times a plant or facility operated outside the guidelines of normal regulatory compliance rules during a one-year period. These non-compliances need to be fully documented as to the specific non-compliance time, reasons, and resolutions.
- Percentage Planned vs. Emergency Maintenance Work Orders: An indicator of how often scheduled maintenance takes place, versus more disruptive/unplanned maintenance.
- Downtime in Proportion to Operating Time: This ratio of downtime to operating time is a direct indicator of asset availability for production.
Increasing Flexibility and Innovation
- Rate of New Product Introduction: How rapidly new products can be introduced to the marketplace and typically includes a combination of design, development, and manufacturing ramp up times.
- Engineering Change Order Cycle Time: How rapidly design changes or modifications to existing products can be implemented all the way through documentation processes and volume production.
Reducing Costs and Increasing Profitability
- Total Manufacturing Cost per Unit Excluding Materials: All potentially controllable manufacturing costs that go into the production of a given manufactured unit, item, or volume.
- Manufacturing Cost as a Percentage of Revenue: A ratio of total manufacturing costs to the overall revenues produced by a manufacturing plant or business unit.
- Net Operating Profit: The financial profitability for all investors/shareholders/debt holders, either before or after taxes, for a manufacturing plant or business unit.
- Productivity in Revenue per Employee: How much revenue is generated by a plant, business unit, or company, divided by the number of employees.
- Average Unit Contribution Margin: A ratio of the profit margin that is generated by a manufacturing plant or business unit, divided into a given unit or volume of production.
- Return on Assets/Return on Net Assets: A measure of financial performance calculated by dividing the net income from a manufacturing plant or business unit by the value of fixed assets and working capital deployed.
- Energy Cost per Unit: The cost of energy (electricity, steam, oil, gas, etc.) required to produce a specific unit or volume of production.
- Cash-to-Cash Cycle Time: The duration between the purchase of a manufacturing plant or business unit’s inventory, and the collection of payments/accounts receivable for the sale of products that utilize that inventory—typically measured in days.
- EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization is a calculation of a business unit or company's earnings, prior to having any interest payments, tax, depreciation, and amortization subtracted for any final accounting of income and expenses. EBITDA is typically used as top-level indicator of the current operational profitability of a business.
- Customer Fill Rate/On-Time delivery/Perfect Order Percentage: The percentage of times that customers receive the entirety of their ordered manufactured goods, to the correct specifications, and delivered at the expected time.
How does list compare with the metrics you’re using? Are there any metrics you would add?
Posted by Stewart Baillie, Vice President, Products, Manufacturing