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Welcome to the Epicor blog community, covering topics to inspire discussion where Epicor thought leaders, employees and partners alike can share insight across industries.
Getting the Most Out of Your Epicor Prophet 21 ERP Investment

Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is not a “once and done” activity.  It is vitally important to continue proper maintenance, reviews, and education for your company’s system and employees after go-live.

Whether you went live last week, last month, last year, or several years ago, there are a number of things you can do to get the most out of your system. Like many Epicor Prophet 21 users, you have probably spent a lot of time and effort getting ramped up. Now that you are fully up to speed on the system, it is important to keep the momentum going by developing a timeline for leveraging additional features and processes that will have the greatest impact on improving your business.

Immediate action items after go-live can include:

  • Gathering feedback from your management team on current system usage, challenges and desired improvements
  • Determining priorities for the next year
  • Developing a Business Continuity Plan to protect your data and put failover solutions in place
  • Reviewing the Epicor Learning Management System (LMS) for employees with incomplete courses

In the months following, you can:

  • Review Business Alerts to optimize productivity and profitability
  • Assign additional LMS courses that were not a priority during implementation
  • Take advantage of DynaChange to alter the appearance of screens to suit the needsof your employees and business processes, and create your own drilldowns from any field in the Prophet 21 system
  • Opt-in for e-mail alerts from the Epicor Customer Web Site
  • Develop a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy
  • Assign shortcut and efficiency training courses to all end users
  • Conduct a process review to prevent the inadvertentintroduction of bad habits
  • Create a Business Intelligence framework for your organization
  • Review new feature training courses

Epicor Business Consultants can provide you with additional recommendations, roadmaps and checkpoints to advance your business with Prophet 21.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team

ERP Part Numbering Standards for Manufacturing (Part 2)

In the previous blog post, we went over types of part numbering and general recommendations from Epicor. In this post, we will be giving a summary of part numbering options.

Standards for your Customers, Suppliers, and Manufacturers
This section refers to the base part numbering. It may not be within your control to change the part numbering methodologies of your suppliers, manufacturers or customers. It is, however, possible to have your own part numbers for all of the above.

Why Have Your Own Numbering System?
Why not use your supplier or customer part numbers for numbering your own parts?  There are a few reasons:

  1. Consistency: Just as you have multiple customers, your customers will have multiple part numbering standards.
  2. Elimination of Duplicates: What if two of your suppliers, or two of your customers, happen to both use the same part number to call out two different items? Now you have to come up with some method for eliminating these accidental collisions of data.

Summary of Options
There are several numbering options outlined below. Epicor recommends the third, “semi-meaningful” numbering system for most companies.

Meaningful Part Numbering
This is where the digits of the part number each have a specific meaning, resulting in the ability for a knowledgeable user to know what a part number translates into. However, having a completely meaningful system makes for a very complicated structure, and necessitates a strong engineering organization to control the part number assignment. Some companies choose to only use a fully meaningful part numbering system on their finished goods.

Non-Meaningful Part Numbering
In this case, the part number itself does not mean anything significant. This could be a sequentially assigned number, or can appear to be random. Also, sorting by part number is totally meaningless. When searching by part number, you must know what you want.

Semi-Meaningful Part Numbering (Recommended)
This is a system where there is some meaning in the part number—defining the type of part, but not down to every final detail. Not all attributes of the part are defined. At some point, there becomes too many attributes to track in the part, so a sequential number is assigned to differentiate from other similar parts. The actual description and differences are stored in the part description, as well as the part’s drawing.

To learn more about part numbering rules, best practices and recommended formatting, download the white paper ERP Part Numbering Standards for Manufacturing here.

Posted by Tim Shoemaker, Senior Principal Consultant, Epicor Professional Services

Cast Your Vote for MGM Resorts in the 2014 Constellation Research SuperNova Awards
Congratulations to Steve Schnur, director of merchandise planning and analytics at MGM Resorts International, who was recently nominated as a finalist in the 2014 Constellation Research Supernova Awards. The polls are now open, you can vote for MGM here.
 
The fourth annual SuperNova Awards program celebrates and recognizes individuals who have overcome the odds to successfully applying emerging and disruptive technologies within their organizations. 
 
Success of MGM’s Business
MGM has unusual retail challenges that heighten the importance of large quality data sets and analysis tools. For example, normal retail forecasts forward demand with just two components -- trend and seasonality -- while MGM has many other added layers of complexity.
 
MGM wanted to incorporate business intelligence (BI) for decision-support to put the tremendous wealth of its data to optimal use to speed of issue and opportunity identification, for more timely resolution and action, to drive overall improved business performance and responsiveness. MGM had an existing relationship with Epicor Software, and had leveraged Epicor Retail solutions for Store (POS), Merchandising, and Sales Audit successfully in the past. Working with Epicor, MGM incorporated the Epicor Retail Business Intelligence solution into its daily operations for greater control over the volume and velocity of data, and for distillation of valuable insights for improved decision-making.
 
Results:
  • BI is now used routinely by nearly 100% of MGM’s staff, including 150+ personnel at or above the assistant manager level
  • MGM empowers users with self-service access to the reports most relevant to their roles and responsibilities
  • Data made available by BI is used to shape business decisions and improve outcomes
  • MGM now identifies performance issues and opportunities faster and at a more granular level
  • BI solution is configured to automatically generate 350+ reports on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
  • MGM cut its data collection and reporting labor requirements in half -- before 80% of effort was spent collecting/cleaning data, and 20% using it; now this equation has been flipped
  • Now more time can be spent applying the lessons learned from data to run and build the business

Read MGM’s full SuperNova Award profile here.

The voting period is now open and ends Tuesday, September 30, 2014. Cast your vote now by visiting MGM’s project profile here:

 
Winners will be revealed during the SuperNova Award Gala Dinner on October 29, 2014 at Constellation’s Connected Enterprise innovation summit located at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay in Half Moon Bay, California.
 
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Epicor Prophet 21 Helps Medical Distributor Achieve World-Class Results
Since Mercedes Medical of Sarasota, Florida, first started using Epicor’s Prophet 21 software in 2004, their sales have almost doubled. Margins have increased by 15 percent, and A/R days outstanding have decreased by about 20 percent. In addition, sales per employee have increased by almost $100,000.

Every year, the company benchmarks against competitors in the healthcare industry, looking at everything from inventory, to gross profit margin, to financial performance. “We consistently perform at the top of the benchmarks, and I think our Prophet 21 system has a lot do to with it,” says Chief Operating Officer Andrew Wright.

Analyst firm Nucleus Research found that the Epicor Prophet 21 implementation enabled Mercedes Medical to improve visibility and efficiency, accelerate collections, reduce bad debt, and increase profits, for an estimated ROI of 605 percent and an average annual benefit of over $2 million.  To read the full story, including a detailed financial analysis by Nucleus Research, go here.

Posted by Epicor Social Media Team
Epicor Growth and Success Highlighted in Annual Software 500 Ranking
Epicor has been listed as one of the world’s largest software companies in Software Magazine’s Software 500 ranking, now in its 32nd year. The Software 500 is a revenue-based ranking of software and services providers, and suppliers, targeting medium to large enterprises, IT professionals, software developers, and business managers involved in software and services purchasing.
 
The Software 500 ranked Epicor at 103 based on total software and services revenue of $896.1 million and a growth rate of 12.44 percent.
 
“The Software 500 helps CIOs, senior IT managers, and IT staff research and create the short list of business partners,” says John P. Desmond, editor for Software Magazine. “It is a quick reference of vendor viability. And the online version is searchable by category, making it what we call the online catalog to enterprise software.”
 
The Software 500 ranking is based on total worldwide software and services revenue from the 2013 fiscal year. This includes revenue from software licenses, maintenance and support, training, and software-related services, and consulting. Suppliers are not ranked on total corporate revenue, since many have other lines of business, such as hardware. Financial information is gathered by a survey prepared by Rockport Custom Publishing, LLC using public documents and company input. It is published in print as well as posted online at www.softwaremag.com as both a digital edition and searchable database.
 
“We are honored to be recognized in the 2014 Software 500 ranking,” said Kathy Crusco, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Epicor. “Our position in this prestigious list is a testament to our commitment to providing a new approach to enterprise resource planning and business management solutions and services -- empowering Epicor customers to succeed in operational excellence.”
 
The 2014 Software 500 list will be released in the October issue of Software Magazine, as both a print and the digital publication, which is distributed on October 8, 2014. 
 
Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team
Automotive Aftermarket Turning to eCommerce

A recent article on searchautoparts.com details the dramatic increase of eCommerce sites in the automotive aftermarket:

E-commerce growth in the aftermarket is lapping brick-and-mortar growth. According to an April 2014 Hedges & Co. report, online sales of auto parts grew nearly 16 percent between 2012 and 2013, from $3.8 billion to $4.4 billion, and online sales (excluding auctions) are projected to pass the $5 billion mark in 2014. Brick-and-mortar stores actually showed a sales decrease of 1.5 percent in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The move from brick and mortar to online commerce is one of the most important trends in this sector, changing the way that parts are sold across the complex aftermarket supply chain. Manufacturers and distributors no longer sell to a limited number of channel partners, but rather to a broad array of jobbers, distributors, retailers, vehicle owners, and maintenance personnel through proliferating online connections.

To help meet this demand, Epicor established the Epicor Parts Network, a broad portfolio of Web-based, business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce solutions for automotive parts distributors and vehicle service providers. Epicor Parts Network includes the Epicor Parts Network B2B eStore (formerly Internet AutoParts), Epicor Integrated Service Estimator (ISE) parts and labor estimating solution, and cloud-based Epicor Parts Network (formerly AConneX) parts trading solution. Together, these eCommerce tools connect approximately 26,000 auto parts distributor and jobber locations and more than 170,000 registered aftermarket service providers and dealership users.

“Distributors, jobbers, and service dealers continue to set new records each year for B2B eCommerce volume and value,” notes Scott Thompson, vice president, automotive eCommerce for Epicor. “This growth is playing a vital role in keeping the aftermarket’s traditional channel healthy through increased efficiency, bay productivity, and, ultimately, a superior consumer experience at the repair shop.”

To find out more about Epicor solutions for the automotive aftermarket, go to http://www.epicor.com/Industries/Retail/Pages/automotive-aftermarket-software.aspx.

Posted by the Epicor Social Media Team

ERP Part Numbering Standards for Manufacturing (Part 1)
There are many opinions on the subject of “proper” part numbering systems within the manufacturing world. Many companies will fall into what can be called an “accidental” part numbering scheme, and still others end up over-thinking their designs. This blog series will present you with guidelines for developing and using good part numbering techniques within a manufacturing company.
 
The first thing to note is that a part number is generally not a description of the part; there are separate fields for holding the actual description, as well as part class and product group. Having part numbers defined by whether a part is purchased or manufactured is not recommended, as this can change over time. Anything that can change should not be embedded into the part number.
 
Every part has a “Part Number,” which is also the primary index for the part table; this may also be called an “Item Number” or a “Stock Keeping Unit” (SKU). There should be only one part number set up for each item that is kept in stock. We assume that each part number represents a specific item, and there are no duplicate items.
 
Here are 4 different types of part numbers you should be aware of:
  • Manufacturer Part Number: Since you may have multiple manufacturers for any one part number, it is possible to have multiple manufacturers and multiple manufacturer part numbers assigned to any one of your part numbers. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is able to store cross-references to multiple manufacturers’ part numbers.
  • Supplier Part Number: A supplier part number is the number that your supplier/vendor labels your part. Your supplier may be a manufacturer, or they may be a distributor for another manufacturer. Since they may reference their part number differently than the manufacturer, you can create a three-way tie between your part, the manufacturer part, and the supplier part.
  • Customer Part Number: The ERP system can also have a customer part number cross-reference. Since multiple customers can purchase the same part, there can be multiple customer part numbers that reference your part. Customer part numbers also have their own descriptions.
  • Internal Part Cross-reference: This final part number option is to create an internal, secondary method of calling out a part number. The internal number can be used as a shortcut to a longer part number, or it can modify any serial numbering methodologies for the base part. It is also possible to have multiple internal cross-references.
In the next post of the Part Numbering Standards for Manufacturing blog series, we will be giving a summary of part numbering options. For more information on Epicor consulting services on this and other aspects of ERP, visit here.
 
Posted by Tim Shoemaker, Senior Principal Consultant, Epicor Professional Services
Making Customer Experiences Unforgettable
In the world of independent retailers, personalized and superior customer service is a major differentiator, and the key to outservicing the competition. What exactly do I mean by outservicing the competition? By providing customers with the best shopping experience possible. And every retailer knows that in order to get customers coming back they need to have the right prices, products, and experiences available.
 
The article, ‘Competing with Big Box Stores’, notes that “superb customer service is the biggest intangible asset to the independent business. People like to shop where they feel comfortable and where they feel the owner truly cares about their wants and needs.”* Successful retailers tend to downplay what they do best, providing personalized knowledgeable service to customers. Here are a few tips to help inspire outservicing through excellent service:
  • Technology empowers retailers with tools to promote profitability, accurate inventory control and access required to make the right decisions for their business, lending to unrivaled customer service. Mobile technology is a way to entice the self-starting customer and promotes employee assistance right from the store aisles—providing store employees access to extensive product, pricing and inventory information, and better customer service.
  • Customer knowledge enables retailers to serve customer needs before the customer even enters the store. Equipped with better information, employees can approach customers with more understanding of the products they need, available inventory, and the most competitive pricing possible.
  • Rewarding with loyalty is the best way to establish repeat customers. Make your loyalty program better than the competition’s and top it off with excellent customer experience.
  • Speed matters to the majority of consumers. An easy-to-use point of sale (POS) system, and accessible customer and product information will drive your business. These features help save time and hassle for customers, driving you to outperform competitors in the industry.
Developing creative ways to outservice your competition can be a challenge. However with the right resources, business partners, technology tools, and research of your competitors, you can better connect with customers—creating a more memorable experience which keeps them coming back for years to come.
 
Looking for more inspiration to drive exceptional customer experiences? Check out the Epicor white paper, 5 Ways to Outservice Your Competition.
 
*Source: About.com Retailing, “Competing with Big Box Stores: Tips for Retail Competition,” by Shari Waters.
Posted by Doug Smith, Senior Product Manager, Retail Distribution Solutions for Epicor
Implementing Consignment Inventory (Part 3 of 3)

In previous blog posts, we covered the definition, initial setup and advantages of managing consignment inventory using Epicor ERP v9 or v10.

Several other questions remain to be answered, i.e.: “How do we verify the consignment inventory quantities?” and “How do we finish the contract without ending up with extra inventory?”

Cycle Counting/Physical Inventory
Consignment inventory is still an asset of the company that currently owns it. It is therefore the distributor’s fiscal responsibility to periodically count that inventory to make sure it is still in its proper place. If you have used the procedures defined in the previous blog posts, then you can use the standard cycle counting or physical inventory module that is built into Epicor ERP v9 or v10.

Since Epicor supports counting by warehouse ID, you can simply initiate a physical inventory for your consignment warehouse. If you have multiple customers, you would have multiple warehouses, with each warehouse to be counted separately.

Of course, in order to do this inventory check, you still need access to the inventory itself, or you need a trustworthy customer that will return the physical inventory results.  It is up to you to determine what you are going to do with any adjustments that are found.

  • If during the count, you find more parts that were supposed to be there, that may mean:
    • You have overbilled your customer for product they did not actually use, or
    • You shipped more parts than you acknowledged in the electronic transfer order.
  • If during the count, you find fewer parts than you were supposed to:
    • Your customer has used more parts than they have told you about.

In either of the above two cases, you need to confirm that there is a clear declaration of who is responsible for any variances found during the physical inventory. If you followed all of the procedures, there should be no unverified variances in the shipment. This would then leave only one option for the variance: issue a credit or an invoice for the difference in inventory quantity.

Closing the Contract
As the contract is coming to an end, you want to ensure that you do not end up with large quantities of inventory sitting in your customer’s consignment warehouse. At some point, they will not want that inventory anymore, and you will need to take it back (unless you have a clause in your contract to protect you).

Our recommendation is to closely monitor those parts as the contract is winding down, to make sure you have reduced or eliminated the minimum on hand/safety stock levels that you have defined throughout the system. Also, verify that any forecasts that the customer has delivered represent real, sellable product.

Posted by Tim Shoemaker, Senior Principal Consultant, Epicor Professional Services

Serving on Multiple Scrum Teams Simultaneously

A few posts back, Dawn wrote about writing technical documentation in a Scrum environment. She provided an excellent overview of what Scrum is and how to navigate it as a writer, so I won’t retread her ground here. Instead, I would like to address an aspect of Scrum development that seems unique to writers: serving on multiple teams at once.

Ideally, the way Scrum works is that everyone on a team is a 100% dedicated resource. While developers and QA analysts might have some other small tasks to do while working in Scrum, their primary focus is the team. However, a technical writer might be split between two or more teams, sometimes as many as four or five. When that happens, keep the following in mind.

1. Let it be Known
Your Scrum master has an expectation that all the people on his team are there to work on his team 90% or more of the time until the close of the last sprint. If you’re on multiple teams, you can’t do that. Let your Scrum master know this at the team kickoff. It’s important he knows this.

2. Pick Your Meetings
Scrum is a meeting-intensive development method. Scrum prioritizes its backlog into “must haves” and “nice to haves.” In a pinch, you can apply the same to meetings. Every team has the following meetings:

    • Daily Standup – 15 minutes in which everyone says what they did yesterday and what they plan to do today.
    • Story pointing – 2-4 hours in which the product owner explains the stories (features) that the team will be addressing, and after a brief discussion the team assesses its work effort. Occurs at the beginning of the sprint, and pops up again when non-assessed stories are considered later in the process.
    • Sprint Planning – 1-2 hours in which the team determines which stories they will address in the coming sprint. Occurs every two weeks at the beginning of a sprint.
    • Retrospective – 30 -60 minutes in which the team goes over what went right and what went wrong and how processes can be shored up to make the team better. Occurs every two weeks at the end of a sprint.
    • Demo – 30-60 minutes in which the team presents the work it completed in the last sprint to stakeholders. There is often an internal demo first, followed by one for customers.

That’s quite a list, but it’s manageable, and a lot of these only happen bi-weekly, so it’s a little hiccup in the work schedule and then back to it. . .  until you double it, or triple it, or more. At that point you will spend all of your time in meetings and none of your time actually writing anything. If you’re going to have any time to work, you may have to skip some meetings. But which ones?

Story pointing meetings are a must. Of all the meetings, this is close to the top of importance. Remember, Scrum uses no specs. Since everyone (except you) is only working on this team’s work and in constant contact with one another, there is little written material for these features. That’s what you’re there for. So, the best way to get a handle on what the features are and what they do is in the story-pointing meetings.

The other essential component as far as meetings go, is the standup. I’ll admit that I work through most of mine; when developers start talking about the particulars of code they’re not having a discussion I need to be a part of. However, by being present at the standups you establish yourself as a member of the team. This is vital for building your relationship with everyone else and putting the idea in everyone’s mind that yes, there is a writer here, and yes, we need to tell him when we change something. And things will change; that’s why it’s called agile.

As for the rest of the meetings, it’s always better to go if you can, but you’ve got documentation to produce, and that takes time too. You have a responsibility to your teams to complete the doc tasks for each story. Sometimes that means you can’t attend every meeting. This is part of the discussion to have with your Scrum master when you explain you’re not an exclusive asset.

3. Focus and Float
Did you know that every time you receive an email it costs you 3 seconds? That’s assuming you don’t open and read it. From the time you see the notification that you have new mail, it takes 3 seconds to reorient your brain back to the task at hand.

The moral of this story is that to be truly effective, you need to focus and shut other things out. No, I’m not telling you to kill your IM channel and close Outlook. But I am suggesting to you that doing one story for one team and then one story for another is slower than taking a chunk of related stories for one team and working on only them for the day, or even the week, and leaving the other teams’ tasks for another time.

Yes, this means that you’ll be going to most your standups and saying: “I have nothing to report today.” That’s fine. Do that.

Understand this might also mean that a sprint may close without your doc tasks complete. How the team handles this logistically depends on the Scrum master. Most of the ones I’ve worked with will pull those stories into the next sprint with a “doc only” tag on it, meaning everything else is done.

Scrum purists might be gnashing their teeth at this, but if you’re willing to give it this little bit of flexibility and break from the ideal of the process (because really, if this were implemented ideally, you wouldn’t be on more than one team), I can promise you this works. While all of my teams regularly carry doc only stories from sprint to sprint, I also always finish ahead of development before the final sprint.

4. Educate Your Scrum Master
When I first started writing for Scrum teams, the Scrum masters would create the same array for each story: a programming task, a QA task, and a doc task. However, not all stories require a doc task. Speak up in the sprint planning meetings and let everyone know what does and doesn’t have to receive documentation so that your workload is accurately reflected in your team’s tracking tool. If you have to miss a sprint planning meeting and you find a story with a doc task that isn’t needed, bring it up with your Scrum master and explain why. Eventually they’ll learn, or at least default to the behavior of asking you first.

Serving on multiple Scrum teams takes some juggling, but it’s certainly manageable. In fact, I’ve come to prefer serving on two at the same time. However, when doing this it’s important to understand that you’re not in the same position as the rest of your teammates, and so you need a different set of rules to be effective.

Posted by Cliff Horowitz, Prophet 21 Content Team Lead, Epicor University

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