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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.
Using Stories To Teach
Did you stay up later then you intended to last night? If you did, chances are you were sucked into a great movie or a favorite book. That’s what a good story does . . . it grabs our attention and holds it until a creative or surprising resolution gives us satisfaction and contentment. But stories do much more than entertain . . . a good story can help us learn and make it easier for us to remember something long after we see it on screen or read it on a page.
 
A simple example of this is a fourth grade spelling teacher showing the class a trick to spell “rhythm” by remembering the one-line story “Robin Hood Yelled To His Men!” Did you picture Robin Hood in full costume running around Sherwood Forest calling for his band of merry men? I always do. Stories make things easier to recall because they put our whole brains to work, imagining pictures and movement, sounds and smells. Stories power memory.
 
On a completely different level, think about the history student slogging through dates, data, and textbook explanations about the politics of World War II. Introduce that same student to Anne Frank’s diary and watch as the power of the story taps into his heart, transporting him from the school library to a secret annex in war-torn Europe. Stories make people care and arouse interest.
 
As difficult as it can be to apply stories to the world of ERP software documentation, top-notch documentation writers and classroom trainers often use examples and real-life stories to capture attention and engage with their students. The following are some examples of how stories can help people understand a difficult concept or remember something useful.
  1. Several weeks ago I attended a training to learn how to use Epicor software to schedule production jobs on a shop floor. There were many terms in the process that I didn’t comprehend right away and I had trouble discerning between them. The trainer who was leading the class used a story involving a burger joint drive-thru to help me remember how the process worked. For each step in the unfamiliar, she gave me a corresponding step that I understood: waiting in line, ordering, the burger being cooked and put together to my specifications, then lunch bagged and moved to the cashier. Stories reshape information into something meaningful. When embedded in the context of a story, it is transferred to the listener or reader in a unique way.
  2. When correcting a piece of documentation regarding on-time transaction approvals, I read the material and found myself hopelessly lost (noticing a theme here?). I scheduled a demonstration with a subject matter expert, who used various scenarios to help me understand the many ways that time transactions can be tracked and approved. Through the adventures of Peter Project Manager, Sally Supervisor, and Emilio Employee, I learned different ways to configure settings and how to obtain the desired results. Ultimately, I was able to pass the information along to end users by writing examples like his – what worked for me I knew would work for others. People take time for stories. If you want to maintain an audience’s attention through something tedious, you’re more likely to do it through storytelling.
  3. When developing a basic training video to teach users how material flows in an out of a distributor’s warehouse, a coworker created an effective piece using a story about a safety helmet. In the story, a customer came shopping for the helmet, went through the sales process, and an order was placed. The helmet was not on hand and had to be purchased, received, and then shipped to the customer. In following the ordered material through the process, the learner could take in the information the developer wanted to convey – how material moves from start to finish – and also learn terminology through the simple example. Explanations, especially of complex processes, benefit from having a beginning, a middle, and an ending.
In closing – those of us who are tasked with taking the complex (or the tedious, or the completely confusing) and interpreting it for others need to use every weapon in our arsenal to do our jobs. Storytelling is effective. And – even in the context of software documentation – it is, occasionally, rather fun.
 
By Deb Amato, Sr. Content Writer
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

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