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P21 Integrations: Best Practices & Lessons Learned

P21 Integrations: Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Epicor Prophet 21 System Software Integrations

The most challenging part of a Prophet 21 migration are the P21 integrations. For many companies, third-party integrations are a necessary component of their P21 ecosystem. Compared to many ERP applications, Prophet 21 has been highly reliant on third-party software to round out the functionality necessary to support the needs of many Epicor customers. 

With this necessity comes the challenge of integration. Third-party solutions differ in their integration strategies, and depending on the P21 version and the architecture of the bolt-on, one of many integration strategies may be employed.

P21 Software Integrations Futuristic Technology Retail Warehouse: Worker Doing Inventory Walks when Digitalization Process Analyzes Goods, Cardboard Boxes, Products with Delivery Infographics in Logistics, Distribution Center

Seamless Integrations 

Speaking of architecture, historically speaking, the P21 application traditionally possessed a two-tier architecture, with the P21 desktop application acting as a fat client, talking directly to the P21 database layer. In the absence of a Prophet 21 middleware or application server layer, third-party applications, out of necessity, interacted with the P21 application at the database level. 

Logical Business Logic

Only over the past several years has the Prophet 21 ERP expanded to include an application server layer, known as the P21 middleware server. This allows for a new layer of P21 integrations. These integrations can speak to the P21 application at the application server level, or even at the API level over the web. But for customers yet to migrate to P21’s three-tier architecture, or customers with legacy integrations that are not yet API-compliant, these new opportunities are still a work in progress.

The combination of a two-tier architecture and a “best-of-breed” approach to functionality resulted in a significant number of integrations speaking to the database directly. This was the case whether the applications in question were external applications conversing over a given communication protocol, installed applications functioning through Windows scheduled tasks or ongoing services, or installed directly into the Prophet 21 database, through a combination of SQL Server stored procedures and scheduled jobs. Add the middleware server, the web-based and hybrid clients, and the expiring legacy desktop application to this already-complicated situation, and the plot thickens.

Custom Development, Access, Control

Not surprisingly, access and control are critical to a Prophet 21 installation, if you intend to integrate your P21 ERP with a family of third-party applications. That is why our private cloud hosted architecture has been such a great fit for P21 customers, removing the challenges of on-premise installations while retaining the full functionality of the P21 application, and a hybrid cloud integration platform that can support third-party integrations at any level. 

P21 Software Integration Worries, Care

All said, customers come to us with many questions regarding their Prophet 21 software and its integration environment:

  • What is the best way to integrate an application with the P21 environment? 
  • How much programming is required? 
  • If my third-party vendor only integrates over the REST API layer, what do I need to do to make this work? 
  • If I’m implementing a solution that has multiple integration layer options, which layer should I choose? 
  • What about home-grown apps? 
  • Are there security concerns? 
  • How many holes do I need to punch in my firewall? 
  • With all these options, what are my best options for Prophet 21 server care? 
  • How bolted-on should a bolt-on be?

How EstesGroup Can Help

As a company whose specialty is the migration of the P21 customers into private cloud environments, and integrating their entire P21 ecosystems, we’ve learned many lessons in the trenches. On May 11th, at the P21 Midwest User Group meeting, EstesGroup’s Daryl Sirota and Chris Koplar will be discussing Prophet 21 integrations, and some of the best practices and lessons learned, as they relate to Prophet 21 integrations. Bring your integration questions and we’ll tell you everything we know when it comes to creating a seamless hybrid cloud environment.

Prophet 21 Midwest User Group Meeting – May 11th

The P21 Midwest User Group meeting starts on May 11th, at 9:00. The event will be held at the following location:

Lee Mathews, a Cogent company

4525 NW 41st St, Suite 400

Riverside, MO 64150

 Are you a member of the P21 Midwest User Group and interested in attending? If so, contact Joseph Babbit ([email protected]) and spread the word!

Need help with Epicor Prophet 21 or general ERP system management, business processes, supply chain management, customer relationship management, or other key P21 challenges? Chat with us now to get real-time help with your P21 system, or fill out the form below, and our ERP experts will be in touch with you soon.

 

Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

As trucking companies move closer to the goal of driverless vehicles, the technology that will enable this mission continues to improve. With this improvement comes a vast amount of information regarding the status of a given load. Enter the fleet of trailer telematics fueled by cloud technology.

Trailer Telematics Cloud Technology

What is trailer telematics?

Trailer telematics refers to a suite of technologies that provides the visibility needed to allow fleet managers to better control the key elements that impact the effectiveness of their fleet out in the field:

  • Finding viable trailers to use out in the field
  • Optimizing the rate that trailers get loaded, to ensure that as many tractors as possible have a viable load
  • Providing alerts when pickups and deliveries are made
  • Tracking the location and status of trailers between the point of load and the point of delivery
  • Tracking the status of various elements of a trailer (wheels, lights, etc.) to ensure that they are in working order

How does trailer telematics work?

Essentially, a suite of devices are installed on a given trailer, and these devices monitor various aspects of the trailer in question, and relay them back to a cloud server, where the data is delivered back to the trailer owner, normally via a web interface.  

The presence of cloud technology here is key.

Telematics companies are really SaaS solution providers masquerading as hardware dealers, and this allows for surprising extensions in functionality. While many of these capabilities are reactive in nature, an additional and still-evolving benefit to these technologies is the ability to provide predictive analytics to proactively react to potential problems.

With all of this data in the cloud, the application of AI analytics allows providers to mine this raw data for useful information, which can allow companies to proactively manage everything from security to regulations:

What does this mean for distributors?

For distributors leveraging their own fleet, the benefits should be self-evident — better opportunities to keep trucks on the road. But even for distributors working through third-party logistics providers, there are several potential benefits that might be available.    

Location Control

One immediate opportunity relates to visibility of delivery. The location control aspects of telematics allow for a real-time understanding of where your delivery currently resides, whether incoming or outgoing. This should allow distributors to plan for the realities of delivery timing, while also providing opportunities for expediting, negotiation, and accountability management in real time, allowing proactive companies to be the “squeakiest wheel” on the trailer.

Time and Tracking

As customers demand tighter delivery schedules, the ability to track your product to the day and to hour becomes critical, and your 3PL (third-party logistics) should, at some point, be able to provide this level of information. Moreover, as trailer location control becomes a reality, the ability to locate and schedule backhauls, based on the specific location of a given rig at any moment, becomes a reality.

Cloud technology helps distributors get the information they need to stay competitive.

The lesson to be learned here is that the information is out there, and it’s only getting better. Ask your freight provider whether they have that information, and how they can make it available to you.

Wondering how cloud technology will fit into your distribution technology plan for 2022 and beyond? Contact our cloud specialists today. Our IT industry experts would love to begin a conversation about trailer telematics solutions, supply chain management, data analytics, or other trends affecting distributors of the future. Reduce costs today by moving your trailer data to the EstesCloud platform, a private cloud hosting solution with hybrid cloud options. Support your telematics technology with help from our cloud consultants.

EstesCloud is the ultimate cybersecurity and backup and disaster recovery solution for manufacturers and distributors. Keep web-enabled and web-driven data safe. Secure your telematics devices through the preventative maintenance strategy of cutting-edge cloud technology. Private cloud technology helps you reduce maintenance costs while also protecting you against the risks of highly connected solutions like trailer telematics systems. Got trailer tracking on your company roadmap? The weather’s never been better to drive your commercial vehicles into a custom cloud built to fit the needs of your business. Smart cloud, smart trailer.

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Best Practices for Paying Supplier Invoices in Epicor ERP

There are many challenges when it comes to paying supplier invoices in Epicor E10, Epicor Kinetic (E11), or in Epicor Prophet 21. In simple terms, a company purchases goods from a supplier according to pre-established and carefully-specified terms. In most cases, a company needs to pay them within the specified terms, waiting as long as possible, as to keep the cash flow within the confines of the company’s banking system for as long as possible. 

But the payment must not be so late as to incur the wrath of the supplier and avoid the inconveniences that credit hold will place on subsequent purchases. And the company may elect to take advantage of an early payment discount, if one exists.

Sounds simple enough. But a company also must ensure that invoices are accurate. The amount invoiced must correspond to the quantities that were actually delivered. Some many-to-one complexities muddle the water a bit, given that a supplier invoice may cover several purchase orders and that each PO could be dozens or even hundreds of lines in length.

Supplier Invoices Epicor Kinetic ERP Cloud

Automating the Three-Way Matching Process

At this point, we haven’t even begun to validate the amount that was on the original purchase order. Such is the magic of the three-way match: cross-referencing the information that was on the PO with the information on the receipt and matching both of these with the invoice from the supplier.

The matching process differs by company, as many companies have different rules and tolerances that govern the matching process. This can make the process laborious and time consuming for accounts payable staff, and it’s not uncommon for many accounting departments to spend inordinate amounts of time matching invoices and cutting checks for routine purchases. 

Given that the three-way matching process is largely mechanical in nature, one would think that it could be automated. But what would it look like for a system to perform some of the heavy lifting, allowing your AP staff to focus on the critical few problems, without having to grind thought the invoices that went through without a hitch?

  • Firstly, the system would need to read the invoice. It would need to read and digitize supplier invoices, whether they’re sent as PDFs Word documents, or in some other format.
  • Secondly, it would need to validate the invoice. It would need to review the past POs and match the invoice lines with the corresponding PO lines, whether they come from multiple Purchase Orders or a single PO.
  • Thirdly, they’d need to perform the three-way match. Using the rules that your company has configured, the system would need to compare line items from the purchase order, the invoice, and the actual receipt of goods.
  • Finally, the system would need to generate payment vouchers with the click of a button.

The benefits of such a system should be self-evident. Automation works to secure your supplier relationship, while minimizing invested time and effort. Moreover, such a system would be the kind of repetitive and rigorous data-driven analytical work that computers are made to do:

  • Processing matched invoices
  • Kicking out exceptions

Automation allows skilled staff to focus on the real work, not the grunt work. 

Are you in search of such a solution? Our supply chain automation partner SourceDay will be presenting a webinar entitled “3-Way Matching Success Through AP Automation” with Epicor ERP software solutions expert Jim Frye.  

SourceDay Logo

The webinar will focus on the final stage of the purchase order process: paying supplier invoices. Anyone who’s navigated the perils of accounts payables in Epicor knows the burden of matching purchase orders and invoices. There has to be a better way!

Join Epicor ERP expert Jim Frye to learn how SourceDay helps Epicor customers reduce the time and effort it takes to pay supplier invoices, resulting in early payment discounts, efficiency gains, and hard cost savings. The webinar will cover the following:

The challenges of paying supplier invoices in Epicor
The measurable benefits of faster invoice payment
How to increase operational efficiency and automation

Learn more about Epicor software by attending an EstesGroup Summit! Whether you’re a small business or a global manufacturer or distributor, our world-class enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants can help you with everything from raw materials management to ERP cloud migration. Our Epicor consulting team can help you move from the paper based systems of the past to the cloud based applications of the future.

Brad Feakes SVP of Professional Services

BRAD FEAKES

SVP or Professional Services

EstesGroup

Jim Frye SourceDay Epicor Expert

JIM FRYE

Enterprise Sales Director & In-House Epicor ERP Expert

SourceDay

Phillip Pavelka SourceDay Supply Chain Expert

PHILLIP PAVELKA

Solutions Engineer

SourceDay

Employee Retention: The Attrition Mission

Employee Retention: The Attrition Mission

There’s a significant shift occurring in the job market. And our manufacturing and distribution industries will not escape the impact.

For the past few years, it has been an employer’s market and many workers were unable to find jobs. But that has changed in the last 18 months and there are growing concerns about employee retention.

In the past 5 months, over 15 million US workers have quit their jobs.

Plus, in recent surveys, 40% of employees are considering leaving their jobs in the next 3-6 months. Rather than cooling down, there are projections that more attrition is coming.

There are many reasons this could be occurring. And many strategies to consider. What’s clear is that if your organization is not understanding the root issues, it will increase your employee attrition rate rather than reduce it.

Before we can answer what it takes to retain your best employees, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the situation.

Employee Attrition vs Attraction Recruit and Retain Gears

Differing Perspectives

A recent article, by McKinsey and Company, explored this topic. It noted several disconnects between organizations and employees. These disconnects are likely contributing to employee dissatisfaction.

The article highlights that organizations often focus on increasing compensation and financial perks as a first step to stop employee attrition.

But is that scratching the itch that employees are feeling? What if there is “more at work” (pun intended) than making more money? And if compensation is not the driving issue, how should your organization respond?

Let’s start with the emotional toll of the last 18 months during the pandemic. Behind it we can learn more.

Most employees have experienced rapid change. Illness, online meetings, hospitalizations, new work procedures, vaccines, deaths, politics, changing recommendations, school closings, and daily unknowns have been their daily diet. At work their relationships were frayed by new routines and rules. Constant fear contributed to few social interactions, no get-togethers and limited travel. And with it the use of masks limited our ability to communicate visually.

Employee Expectations

The result has been a change in employee’s work needs. Studies are showing that employees are looking for these benefits in their work:

  1. A sense of value from being in the organization
  2. The potential for advancement
  3. Having caring and trusting teammates
  4. Options for a more flexible work schedule
  5. Feeling more valued by their managers
  6. A sense of belonging

Shared Expectations

Both employers and employees do agree on some things. They both believe that these issues need to be addressed:

  1. Work-life balance
  2. Unmanageable workloads
  3. Feeling disengaged at work
  4. Help with caring for families

Organizational Focus

This leaves us to consider whether employers are right in focusing primarily on these issues which may not be valued by employees:

  1. Creating more opportunities
  2. Accommodating more remote work
  3. Improving the health of employees
  4. Discouraging employees from looking for new jobs
  5. Taking steps to limiting poaching by competitors

Suggested Focus

The McKinsey and Company article recommends that organizations start by listening to employees and including them in discussions. This signals that employees are valued.

That doesn’t happen when management decisions are handed down without employee input. Such decisions are often seen as indicators that management is uncaring and disconnected from employees. And who wants to work in a place like this?

There are positive things that can change the tone in organizations. And they involve asking hard questions about your organization and then moving to address any problems.

  1. Is our organization sheltering toxic leaders who do not value, inspire or motivate their employees?
  2. Are the right people in the right roles in both our management and non-management ranks?
  3. How can we make our culture more collaborative and open to conversations?
  4. How do we replace transactional approaches with relational approaches that stress collaboration and value?
  5. Are our company benefits aligned with employee priorities that are top-of-mind?
  6. What career paths and development opportunities do our employees really have?
  7. How can we build community at work by encouraging better relationships?

From Ideas to Action

Each of these questions focuses on increasing the collaborated relationship across the organization. They send the message that the organization is empowered by trusted relationships and a shared future.

So, what can we say at this point?

First, it is clear is that the employee/employer relationship has changed over the past 18 months. Employees are wanting a more relational approach to their work, more connectivity and more value from their workplace.

Secondly, there are real opportunities for your organization. Those manufacturing and distribution organizations which lead with dialogue and listening will find ways to benefit from the changes.

They will retain top performers because they communicate value, a shared future and positive opportunities.

Now, what can you do to get this moving with your team?

Ask the Author

Rob Mcmillen ERP Consultant

Rob McMillen is a Senior Project Manager with EstesGroup. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years supporting multiple implementations of new ERP systems and leading projects. Because his mom was an English teacher, he grew up with a love of writing. Combined with his working experience, he has written articles for LinkedIn and User Groups, and has published numerous blog posts. He is also a co-author of a book on technology and working collaboratively. He currently lives in the DFW area.

Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket

Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket

How to Secure the Automotive Aftermarket

To help develop awareness of cybersecurity needs in the manufacturing and distribution industries, EstesGroup conducted a joint education session with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). SEMA is a trade association composed of manufacturers, distributors, retailers and specialists focused on automotive specialty parts and accessories.

Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket

The educational session,“Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket,” focused on the steps that SEMA members can do to mitigate cyber threats. These steps can help any business improve digital security, so I’d like to review some of the material covered concerning the landscape of cyber threats.

What is the Threat?

Threats to organizations are widespread and increasingly prolific. According to the 2021 Malware Report from Cybersecurity Insiders, 88% of a survey of 500,000 IT professionals and 76% of 30,000 small and medium-sized business owners say that cyberthreats are a significant and growing risk. The attack vectors are multifaceted, including spear phishing emails, domain spoofing, and man-in-the-middle attacks.  

Cyberthreats are impacting organizations at all levels. On the business side, malware attacks caused both an increase in IT security-related spending and a decrease in productivity. At the IT operations level, ransomware is forcing cybersecurity professionals to update IT security strategies to focus on mitigation, as they struggle with data loss, downtime, and business continuity.

Watch the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) of “Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket”

Ransomware Questions, Security Answers

One might beg the question: Why is this happening? The reasons are surprisingly straightforward—the business of cyber warfare is a low-barrier, high-reward enterprise. The “startup costs” for a hacker who already has the necessary technical acumen are comparatively low, when compared to a traditional business environment.

The Reward is a Handsome Ransom

Cybersecurity is not merely an IT problem. It’s an enterprise-wide issue. As business owners, we do things to make our enterprises more integrated and efficient, and share information across the organization. But this creates new potential opportunities for exploitation. Moreover, since March of 2020, we and our fellow employees have been accessing our work environment from an increasingly remote context, further complicating company networks and creating new vulnerabilities.

Where are the Attacks Coming From?

The threats that proliferate our contemporary cyber landscape can be described as “hidden in plain sight” — the threat is as broad as the number of connected users, connected devices, and connected programs. It is not an exaggeration to say that every touchpoint is a potential threat. Some of the most common infiltration paths include the following:

  • Email: Email is a constant target of schemes and scams, and the attacks are getting more nuanced and personalized.
  • The Internet: Online infiltration dressed as information continues to be a source of attacks, with increasing attempts from hackers to disguise malicious domains to appear like the familiar sites that you know and love.
  • Programs & Applications: Within daily business operations, a company uses a surprising number of discrete applications. Whether online or installed on your devices, every program that we use for business purposes is a potential threat.
  • Integrations: The integrating of core systems with third-party applications increases the threat risk. We want the benefits of interconnectivity—for instance, we want our e-commerce system to speak to our inventory system so we know what is available to sell and ship. But in the hands of a hacker, that is a dangerous amount of information to possess.
  • Authentication: The credentials that users apply when accessing company resources can be a significant source of risk. Weak user credentials, simple passwords, and basic authentication policies can allow for significant system breeches.
  • The IOT Movement: The “internet of things” or “IOT” movement increased points of connectivity, and the number of viable targets. Who would have ever thought that you could get hacked by your refrigerator!
  • The BYOD Movement:  The “bring your own device” or “BYOD” movement lowered the bar for device management. Increasingly, smartphones and other devices are accessing social media social media to access system resources.  The risk here should be self-evident.
  • Remote Access: VPNs (or virtual private networks) provide extensive access to company networks. VPNs often provide more access than a user actually needs—it’s like providing access to the entire gymnasium just so you can reach the janitor’s closet.
  • COVID: The pandemic expanded the threat landscape, by increasing the number of remote users connected from a broader array of devices, many of them being inadequately-connected. On a broad scale, shared family devices were suddenly connecting to company headquarters.

The Future of Preventing Ransomware in the Automotive Aftermarket

As you can see, the threats are abundant, and the targets are many. The future of security in the automotive aftermarket depends on you and on your cybersecurity strategy. There are some simple steps that companies can take to mitigate the challenges of our current cyber landscape. To see what companies are doing to secure their organizations from threats, and what you can do to secure your future, please watch the recording of the SEMA educational session and come to our managed IT experts with any questions you have about current best practices for threat mitigation for businesses.

Let’s Talk About Cybersecurity & Your Business Now

EstesGroup Partners with RIPEN for Digital Commerce

EstesGroup Partners with RIPEN for Digital Commerce

ESTESGROUP & RIPEN ANNOUNCE DIGITAL COMMERCE PARTNERSHIP

EstesGroup has announced a partnership with RIPEN, a leading digital commerce experience agency. The strategic alliance allows the two tech leaders to join forces and offer best-in-class Prophet 21 and e-commerce consulting, solutions, and managed services.

The EstesGroup and RIPEN partnership aims to serve Prophet 21 users by offering a comprehensive set of digital capabilities to help distributors grow revenue and reduce operational costs.

Digital Commerce

We are excited to partner with RIPEN. RIPEN’s robust and flexible P21 Commerce platform, extensive B2B experience, and superior customer service make the agency a leader in the industry, and a great partner for EstesGroup.

Brandon Haave

SVP, Partner, EstesGroup

EstesGroup RIPEN Digital Commerce

For 18 years, RIPEN has consistently delivered digital commerce transformations. Our experience enables us to distill technical requirements and strategic goals to recommend creative solutions for digital growth and success. This partnership is a step towards our vision of providing unified support for ERP and ecommerce platforms.

Michael Tudor

CEO, RIPEN

About RIPEN

RIPEN develops creative and technical strategies to build highly persuasive digital commerce experiences that convert, scale, and thrive. RIPEN P21 Commerce integrates Epicor Prophet 21 with Magento 2 to offer an optimized B2B experience and robust set of features.

Build and launch 2-3x faster on RIPEN P21 Commerce, the only natively integrated Prophet 21 e-commerce accelerator platform.

Are you looking for a better Prophet 21 e-commerce experience?

Schedule a consultation to discuss your requirements and digital goals today.

Prophet 21 hosting creates the perfect private cloud for your distribution business. As the premiere ERP hosting company for Epicor Kinetic and Epicor Prophet 21, EstesGroup creates the infrastructure you need, saving you from the headaches caused by a poor deployment strategy.

Please chat with us now or complete the form below to schedule a free Prophet 21 deployment consultation today.