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Epicor ERP and Your Anti-Virus: A Love-Hate Relationship

Epicor ERP and Your Anti-Virus: A Love-Hate Relationship

I’ve seen enough of Epicor ERP installations to know that a finely tuned system needs… fine-tuning. Perhaps that’s obvious, but nonetheless, I’ve seen many deployments where Epicor ERP is installed, but not set up optimally. One area that has my bits all scrunched up is anti-virus, sometime called anti-malware, or malware protection. I’ll just call it anti-virus for purposes of this discussion.

Each vendor does it a little differently, but there are three primary aspects to worry about.

  1. Real-time scanning
  2. Scheduled scans
  3. Injection into an application

 

Depending on the tool and the configuration, you might have one or all three at play, on both your SQL and Epicor ERP servers. Done right, they’ll do their job, keep you protected, and stay out of your way. Done wrong, and your performance, reliability, and up-time will suffer.

Now, in my humble opinion, a dedicated, patched, protected, and behind the firewall SQL server needs no anti-virus – it’s not a file server, nor a SharePoint server, nor do any end-users directly interact with it. Your installation might be different, check your exposure! Anti-Viruson a SQL server, improperly configured, will just slow it down and give you headaches. If you can avoid it, do so. Of course, your company policy might require AV installations on ALL servers. Please follow Microsoft’s guidance for choosing anti-virus software to run on SQL Servers, including their exclusions. Some AV software will recognize SQL and exclude automatically, but don’t assume that to be the case.

Epicor ERP is another animal. By definition, an Epicor ERP application server is also a file server and is often exposed to the internet in some capacity. Therefore, in addition to your firewalling, patching and backups, make sure to protect your Epicor ERP Application servers with anti-virus – with the proper exclusions.

Some anti-virus platforms let you do the exclusions on the end-point, others require a central management console. Many enterprises have a team to handle it. Either way, set up the exclusions and then test them by dropping a copy of the test malware Eicar (from eicar.org) into one of the folders. The file won’t execute (since it’s an OLD win16 file), but if AV is scanning that folder, it’ll pluck it out and you’ll know AV is active in that folder.

Replace the X: with the volumes you’ve deployed Epicor ERP on. Not all installations will have all these folders, depending on the extensions and add-ons deployed.

X:\Epicor* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor Software Corporation* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Epicor* X:\Program Files (x86)\Epicor Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Insite Software* X:\Program Files (x86)\Seagull* X:\ProgramData\Epicor Software Corporation*

X:\ProgramData\Epicor* X:\ProgramData\EpicorSearch* X:\InsiteShip* X:\APM* X:\Applications\EKM* X:\BarTender Formats* X:\BarTenderData* X:\BarTenderTaskList* X:\Program Files (x86)\Insite Software* X:\inetpub\wwwroot\(Servers) – replace with appropriate folders X:\inetpub\wwwroot\(Servers)-(extensions) – replace with appropriate folders

Don’t forget the Epicor clients – whether they be full Windows clients or Terminal Servers:

C:\ProgramData\Epicor* C:\Program Files\Epicor Software* C:\Program Files(x86)\Epicor Software*

 

Looking for assistance with your Servers? Contact Us and don’t worry, we’ve got IT covered.

 

What’s It Good For Anyway? Why You Need to Include Epicor ERP in Your Manufacturing ERP Software Selection

What’s It Good For Anyway? Why You Need to Include Epicor ERP in Your Manufacturing ERP Software Selection

The Epicor ERP consulting life is a tale of many worlds.  There is the world of travel, with its flights and sights, with its energy pulsing through everything, making me feel at times like I’m still the college student backpacking across Canada with a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in one pocket and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey in the other.  And then there is the solitary work of the hotel: the late-night coding, the endless hours studying a new module, feeling as if stranded on a strange and seemingly uninhabited island, like Robinson Crusoe, searching for a fellow IT islander to help me understand my new world.  This country, with its beautiful natural landscapes and stunning human-created terrain, is a vast and amazing place, and the more of it I see, the more it humbles me with its immensity and variety. 

 

An old chum of mine, a WWII vet, and thus a rather well-traveled man in his own right, would often interrogate me over the spaces and places I’ve been with the simple question, “So wha’s it good fer, anyway?”  

 

He was looking for something about my new acquaintances and places that distinguished them from other populations or locations.  To his entreaty, I’d tell him of some local natural wonder, or some landmark, a historical site of interest, or else a local signature building, like Louis Sullivan’s “jewel box” bank in Owatonna, MN, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK.  “I see,” he’d respond once I was done, nodding approvingly at whatever little tidbit I offered.  

Customers in the midst of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software selection cycle have an outlook not unlike that of my old friend.  They are trying to understand how different enterprise platforms compare with one another and whether those differences hold any specific extraordinary meaning.  When customers in search of an ERP system come to me looking for insight into the Epicor ERP application, their question is usually the same one my old friend posed to me so many times: “So, what’s it good for, anyway?”  The answer to such a question should help a customer understand whether or not a given ERP platform is the best fit for them, and is thus an important question to ask and answer thoroughly. 

 

So, what is Epicor ERP good for anyway? 

Epicor’s ERP application is a mature manufacturing platform that provides considerable functionality to assist manufacturing companies in a variety of industry verticals.  Among the many capabilities of the application are the following:

 

Support for Deep Bills of Materials (BOM): 

 

Companies with large, complex product often need ERP systems that can handle deep bills of materials (BOMs).  Epicor ERP’s engineering capacities match these needs, offering the ability to define extensive bills of materials for complex products, for the definition of standard product through the part (item) master module and also at the quote and job (work order) modules, allowing for the definition of product at key points of the sales and fulfillment cycles.

 

Robust Quoting Module:  

 

Speaking of the quote module, Epicor ERP’s estimating capabilities are extensive, and allow companies to handle Requests for Proposal (RFP) with speed and efficiency, while providing the necessary information to ensure accuracy.  The ability to build a cost model from a bill of material, and routing at the quote line, allows the salesperson to understand costs before determining prices, and the quote worksheet capabilities allow for a variety of cost-based markups and discounts.  The module also integrates with Epicor ERP’s product configurator, enabling systematic feature-based quoting.  Moreover, the Epicor ERP platform allows for quotes to be pushed to sales orders, ensuring a seamless transition from pipeline to backlog. 

 

Well-Integrated and Fully Functional Product Configurator Module

 

Many software vendors run away from developing integrated configure-price-quote (CPQ) modules, opting instead to let their partner community fill in this gaping hole.  Epicor ERP took the opposite approach and built a robust product configuration module.  The module integrates with the quote, sales order and job (work order) modules, allowing for reconfiguration at each step, as customer requirements become better-defined.  Epicor ERP’s product configurator allows components to take formerly engineer-to-order products and standardize them, based on the product’s characteristics needed, the time of sale, and a set of rule-based actions to generate the bill of materials at the time of manufacture.  This eliminates the need for companies to define every product from scratch.  It also eliminates the need to build out an extensive array of stock-keeping units to address each permutation and combination of options. 

 

The Ability to Handle True Engineer-to-Order (ETO) and Configure-to-Order (CTO): 

 

For customers who work in a true ETO environment, where every product is so unique that it requires custom engineering, Epicor ERP supports the flow of such products through the application using “parts on the fly”—products that redefined at the quote, order, and/or job levels, but do not exist in the part (item) master.  This allows companies to define and deliver products without having to clutter their part master file with such “one-off” products.  Additionally, Epicor ERP’s partner product CADLink allows for the transfer of bill of material data from CAD systems to the ERP application.  This allows engineers to develop product models in their CAD system and then efficiently transfer the data to Epicor ERP, to support the production and delivery of the custom product in question. 

 

Support of Mixed Mode Manufacturing: 

 

Few companies operate exclusively in a make-to-order or a make-to-stock model.  While companies may produce some products only as needed, it is often financially impossible to do this with all items, especially high-volume products.  Epicor ERP’s ability to mix and match fulfillment methodologies allows customers to aggregate stocked supply for efficiency, while supplying make-to-order products directly, allowing for greater visibility and priority.  Such capabilities allow companies to leverage the benefits of both models. 

 

The ability to combine Discrete and Project-Based Manufacturing: 

 

According to the textbooks, project manufacturing functions at an aggregate or “bucket” level, where labor and materials are rolled up against a single entity, as opposed to discrete manufacturing, where discrete items are built, shipped, and invoiced.  In practice, Project manufacturers frequently operate in hybrid models, where the needs of the market demand more than simple project manufacturing approaches.  Epicor ERP’s project module integrates with its quoting, order management, and job management modules, providing the ability to handle large “buckets” of work while also supporting the delivery of discrete goods, while rolling up costs and revenues for all items sold under the same umbrella.  Further still, Epicor ERP’s project module provides planning tools that allow oversight to the many facets of a project.  This allows companies to execute large projects with the necessary level of detail to match customer expectations, while also supporting internal cost, revenue, and delivery objectives. 

 

Fully-Featured Manufacturing Execution System (MES): 

 

Epicor ERP offers a seamless transition from planning to shop floor control with their Manufacturing Execution System (MES) module.  MES supports all aspects of shop floor management: production control, material issue, material movement, and shipping.  Employee records can be configured to allow access to one or more areas within MES, based on employee roles.  The use of MES within a manufacturing environment allows for the real-time collection of manufacturing information, providing status to the shop floor activities to the whole organization.  Also, by providing the ability to track actual labor in real time, MES supports a customer’s expanding need to understand actual production performance. 

 

A Robust Material Resource Planning (MRP) Engine and the Related Tools to Support the Planning of Manufactured Supply: 

 

The use of Material Resource Planning MRP-based planning methods can be problematic in to-order organizations, but Epicor ERP’s MRP module ties tightly to its job management and inventory modules to provide mixed mode supply in support of various forms of demand.  Users can run MRP based on the facility in question, based on a product family or a commodity class, or even on a specific product itself.  This reduces the time required to generate the needed supply records.  MRP can also be scheduled on a routine basis, and offers the traditional regenerative and net change options.  Multi-level pegging capabilities can also be woven into the fray, in order to give users the ability to trace the supply to each discrete source of demand.  Epicor ERP also provides a number of tools to review the output of MRP, review exceptions, and convert MRPs supply selections into actionable work orders. 

 

Analytics: 

 

Epicor ERP offers a number of different analytics capabilities.  At the simplest levels, Epicor ERP provides the ability to create reusable queries that serve as the foundation for real time reporting tools.  Moreover, Epicor ERP’s Business Activity Queries form the foundation of Epicor ERP’s new Data Discovery (EDD) platform.  Data Discovery allows for the creation of real-time Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which can be deployed to an Epicor ERP user’s homepage, providing metrics to allow managers to gauge their business performance across the workday.  Additionally, Epicor ERP’s Data Analytics platform provides the ability to cube Epicor ERP data and analyze it across multiple dimensions. 

 

Those are just some of what Epicor ERP is good for, so why not give it a look?

 

Having worked with the Epicor ERP application (and prior versions) for two decades, I’ve seen its horizons expand, both from a technology and functionality perspective, and this trend continues.  A few weeks ago, I took the interstate from Syracuse, NY to North Philly, and the drive through Pennsylvania’s breathtaking slice of the Appalachians left my mouth open in amazement as my car seemed to float me in a space above the lines.  And the company I left behind me in Syracuse, after we celebrated the culmination of a two-year project that brought them live with the newest Epicor ERP system, filled me with as great of awe.  I advise manufacturing companies in search of a new ERP to give Epicor ERP a test drive.  It’s a system that inspires human greatness and allows companies to build wondrous IT landscapes for consultants like me to travel in, surrounded by flights and sights of creativity, of new worlds.

 

Questions or desiring additional information about Epicor ERP? Contact Us to Talk with an Expert:

Did you like this blog? Check out “Why On Earth Do I Need an ERP System?”

Ransomware, a Good Way to Stop Your Business. Or Maybe Not?

Ransomware, a Good Way to Stop Your Business. Or Maybe Not?

I just need to get this off my chest – so bear with me. 

First off, I’ve been doing sysadmin work for scores of years now, and the idea of backups, business continuity, and “bad guys” isn’t new.  However, this week it was brought to a new and interesting head for one small business. 

Rewind the clock two years and we were in the conversation with this business about where they host their “golden nuggets” of their business, what servers did what, where were the users, how did the backups fare, state of malware, web filtering protection, etc.  You know, all the “normal” stuff any qualified IT provider would ask a prospective customer. “We’re fine” was the answer – they had an in-house IT guru watching all that stuff.  However, they did make a (wise) decision to host their ERP solution with us.  

Last week, our monitoring went suspiciously quiet, it looked like the company went on vacation, or they had fallen asleep at the keyboard. I reached out to the company, and was informed that they had been the victim of the latest ransomware attack, and all their documents were encrypted and unusable. Thankfully, since they were hosting their ERP system with us, that was safe from the attack. All their ERP data was secure but everything else they controlled was locked. Backups proved unreliable or inaccessible, so the ransom was paid. The company got lucky and the recovery key worked and they got their documents back.  What they didn’t get back was Active Directory.  Ouch!  Nobody could login, even though their documents were back on a server, nobody could access them. 

A week later, a new domain, and new profiles on everyone’s desktop, new shares, new permissions, and they were back up and running. After everything, the company is back to doing business, but it could have been a much worse situation. A critical note: the ERP system was never at risk and no ERP data was lost since that was safely stored elsewhere. 

Moral of the story: 

  • Test your backups. Not just documents, but the whole server.  How long does it take to get it back? It should not be more than a few hours.
  • Just because you can restore files doesn’t mean you can go out, buy a new server and restore your existing workload onto a new server. 
  • If you can’t live without it, and you don’t have the in-house expertise to manage it – outsource it! Let the pros handle the critical IT while you do what you do best: making essential product and making your business grow. 

 

Contact Us to learn whether Hosting is right for your company.  

Learn more about EstesGroup’s EstesCloud Hosted ERP here… 

Is Your Epicor ERP ID Code Schema Costing You Money?

Is Your Epicor ERP ID Code Schema Costing You Money?

ERP Deployment

This Blog is Part 2 of a 2 Part Post.

In our previous blog about ID Codes, we talked about the importance of planning which ID Code schema you might want to use and the pros & cons of non-intelligent ID Codes.  Read Part 1: Defining and Setting Up ID Codes in Epicor ERP

 

So let’s get to the real issue… Is Your ERP ID Code Schema Costing You Money?

By establishing non-intelligent ID Codes, you eliminate the need to rework, or revamp your schema during an implementation.  This saves both time and money.

That’s why choosing the proper ID Code schema to reference your groups is critical to your project, implementation, and your client’s success. Now, let’s look at intelligent ID Codes and what they can offer.

Advantages of intelligent ID Codes:

Significant ID Codes offer time savings downstream, and they can help prevent data entry mistakes and improve manufacturing efficiency.  Here’s how:

  • Search efficiency:  With this type of scheme you can group similar codes in your design documentation and spreadsheets and then more easily sort and search among them.  You can also create queries and reports more efficiently, by just pulling in the code, not the description.
  • Error reduction: This type of ID Code scheme provides a frame of reference for each group by specifying the group to which it belongs.  If an employee needs to quickly verify the validity of a group of data, you can use that group ID code to pull that information, sort, filter, etc, and check to see if there is data in the wrong group.

 

Disadvantages of intelligent ID Codes:

While there are many benefits to using a significant ID Code scheme, this type of schema also has some shortcomings.  For this type of scheme to work well in an organization, employees must be familiar with the former and current code schema structure (if there is one). Such a scheme also demands ongoing attention and can introduce delays in your processes. Here’s why:

  • Training and knowledge required:  Since these ID Codes have some meaning and significance to the group it represents, the stakes are high if the group is not properly defined. The person assigning the ID Code must know how and when to create a new group.  An incorrectly classified Class ID can be misused because of the information implied by the code itself.
  • Ongoing maintenance:  A new Class ID that does not fit the current scheme will require an evaluation of the entire scheme and definition.  The logic of the ID Code system must be understood and carefully maintained, and group sizes planned in advance.  For example, if all the significant digits in a string (o 0-8) have been used before, and there’s a similar group that must be set up, now you have the. potential of two groups with similar ID Codes, and employees possibly not paying attention to the description, leading to errors.  What do you do?  You need to spend time upfront planning for how to avoid this type of conundrum and how to address any challenges when they arise.  When mistakes do occur, how is this handled and what is the best way to fix the error(s)?   You will spend significant time updating the system and training (or re-training) people on the changes.

 

So Which ID Code Schema Should Your Company Use? Intelligent or Non-Intelligent?

Ultimately at the end of the day, the decision is made by the customer, or end user of the product.  As a consultant and trusted adviser, it is our responsibility to offer the pros and cons with each option, and to allow you to make the best decision for your organization.

 

Have questions as to what ID Code Schema is best for your company? Want to talk with the blog author? Contact Us.

Defining and Setting Up ID Codes in Epicor ERP

Defining and Setting Up ID Codes in Epicor ERP

Setup is Critical – Take Time to Plan First

ERP Deployment

Please Note, this is Part 1 or a 2 Part Blog.

Whether you’re a user, a seasoned Consultant, or a new Consultant, you know that setting up ID codes in Epicor ERP is critical to the basic setup and configuration to all applications in the system.  You may also know, that once an ID Code is created, it becomes a Primary Key field in the database, for mapping purposes.  The code is also a way to filter and group large amounts of data, for reporting.  The frustration comes when there is a transaction against this, and you find out very quickly that it cannot be changed.

This is the primary reason why setting up these codes should involve some thought and planning.  In Epicor ERP, you are limited to eight characters. 

Part Numbering Schemes

Consultants and clients alike, typically use one of the following types of ID Code schemes:

  • Non-intelligent – Also referred to as “non-significant.” The ID code is generic and does not provide any information about the group.  Non-significant ID Codes are typically created in a series, (typically in numerical order), regardless of the group or reference. Using this ID Code system, a code could be assigned an ID Code – T100. 
  • Intelligent – Also referred to as “significant.” The ID code contains descriptive and informative details that provide significant information about the group.  With this type of scheme, an ID Code is generated for a Part Class, might be “RES” where “RES” stands for resistors.

 

Which scheme should you use?

In any manufacturing organization, establishing an ID Code should be an efficient and accurate process. Consider your current and future operations when selecting which type to use. Here are some pros and cons of each:

 

Advantages of Non-Intelligent ID Codes:

Using this type of scheme will save your organization time upfront. You can ramp new employees quickly, avoid relying too heavily on any one person and maintain the system without much overhead. Here’s how:

  • Time savings:  It takes little to no time to pull a sequential ID Code for a group.  Moreover, most of the setup is complete before cutover, and any additional setups are added on an as needed basis.  Assigning an ID Code can happen fast.  You do not have to put much thought into what the code should be as it is completely generic.
  • Little training needed:  If the organization hires new employees, they will not need to learn how to define an ID Code and can focus their attention on other tasks.  Assigning a new ID Code can happen with little training.
  • No single point of failure:  To rely on a single person who knows and understands the coding schema, which was established in the past, means you sometimes must wait to assign a new ID Code.  With non-significant ID Codes, you can easily have multiple people create them.  NOTE:  Since this is part of “Setup” in all application of Epicor ERP, Security group settings and rules should apply.
  • No “back-tracking” or having to redo setup and configuration:  Since the ID Code is non-intelligent, and since you cannot change an ID Code once it has been established, you can always reuse the code for a different group by simply changing the description.  This also avoids the dreaded “DO NOT USE” definition description when ID codes are created and cannot be deleted.
  • Simple maintenance:  It is easy to maintain this type of scheme, as it’s essentially a sequential list. You will not have to decide where and how a new ID Code fits into the scheme.

 

Disadvantages of Non-Intelligent ID Codes

Using a non-significant ID Code scheme isn’t completely error-proof; mistakes can happen, especially if data entry is involved, and managing similar parts can be difficult. Here’s why:

  • Potential for errors:  Because it doesn’t have meaning, a non-significant ID Code does not provide any cues to help a user evaluate a group.  If a ID Code is manually created, even an experienced person may fail to spot a data entry error.  ID Code E100 could inadvertently be entered as E001, with no frame of reference for a user to determine if the ID Code makes sense in the context of other data, the error will likely go unnoticed.
  • Difficulty managing ID Codes:  Without common prefixes, this type of ID Code scheme may require more work to maintain.  You’ll need to track additional metadata (descriptions) to define your codes and then use that information for grouping or searching (and for reporting) since the ID Codes do not provide identifying information.

 

So the big question is… Is Your ID Code Schema Costing You Money? 

Continue reading about Intelligent ID Codes’ pros and cons in our next blog: Is Your Epicor ERP ID Code Schema Costing You Money? 

Integrity is Key with Epicor ERP Customizations

Integrity is Key with Epicor ERP Customizations

An ERP system is like a person or a house: without integrity, you can’t put your trust in it.

 

One of the great things about Epicor ERP is its openness to customization. That feature can also be a source of trouble. It’s all in how you use the power.

 

Strictly speaking, you can’t directly modify Epicor’s software without a special Software Development Kit. Changing the base software opens the proverbial can of worms and has lots of ramifications we won’t discuss here, so what we’ll be talking about is the traditional “customization layer” the 99% uses.

 

Terms to Remember:

 

Business Object (BO). Data manipulation is governed by Business Objects. You hand the BO a dataset and let it figure out how to care for the data’s integrity, rather than writing directly to all the tables in the dataset.

 

There is a “Part” business object, for instance, that governs the Part table and its dependent tables. It won’t let you change the base unit of measure for a part if there is any activity like transactions, open orders, or open job materials for a particular part so you don’t, for example, make an material’s on-hand quantity of 10 Each suddenly 10 Gallons, or orphan transaction history by deleting the part.

 

Embedded Customization. Also known as a “screen customization” or just “customization” (client side) that sits on top of a form such as Part Maintenance. You can add a new field on the screen and attach it to a data source or use C# code to add and modify events happening inside the form to suit your business practices.

 

Personalization. Similar to the customization, the personalization is a user-made modification that sits on top of the form/screen customization (that sits on the base software). They’re mostly used to modify field placement, grid layout, etc. to let the user see and arrange things in a way useful to them.

 

BPM. Business Process Management Method and Data Directives (server side) modify data actions triggered by events on the form. They are typically accessed in record updates, new record creation, and so on. The Part BO has many methods like add, update, and delete, so you can say, “when this thing happens to the data also do this other thing,” or “when we create a new record add this thing to it.”

 

In generic terms, a typical Epicor ERP session works something like this:

 

  1. An Epicor form loads with standard (out of the box) data views, operations, etc.
  2. Epicor then looks for a screen customization and applies it on top of the standard form.
  3. Epicor looks for a personalization for the current user to layer over the form and over the customization, if any.
  4. The form displays and allows the user to do things.
  5. BPM – Method and Data Directives (server side) hang around and wait for the appropriate signal to take action, say, when you click the save button.

 

This is what I’m calling the customization layer–the places Epicor gives us to add in/change functionality.

 

So, where’s the danger? Here’s an example.

 

When we store data changes through Epicor’s Business Objects, we trust the BO to keep us out of bad trouble. But the data is stored in a SQL Server database, and it’s possible to go outside of Epicor and write directly to that part table or delete records via SQL commands without checking any dependencies. It can be much faster, in the same way ignoring the speed limit in your car can get you home sooner. Maybe you won’t corrupt your data. Maybe you’ll make that turn on four wheels.

 

There are occasions and circumstances when it’s okay to skirt the rules.

 

Rarely, something gets stuck and the BO won’t let you correct it, so a SQL fix is in order. Since directly using SQL commands on your database can invalidate your Epicor service agreement, I’d recommend doing it with one of Epicor’s folks on the phone.

 

Some simple tables and some fields don’t have dependencies that the BO cares about. It’s possible to take a more direct approach within Epicor—when you know what those are.

 

This topic comes up periodically when we developers talk amongst ourselves. In our company, the standard is to operate from within the Business Object unless there’s a compelling reason for something different.

 

Integrity is worth the extra effort.

 

Questions about Epicor ERP Customizations? Are you planning a customization project and have questions for the author? Let us know.