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3 Ways to Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead

3 Ways to Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead

Spring Cleaning & New Growth for Epicor ERP

While individuals differ in their opinion of daylight savings time, the metaphor of “springing ahead” feels perfect for the enterprise resource planning (ERP) season. Spring is, after all, the time of growth and expansion. So how do companies make the most of this season? Successful Epicor customers often find ways to move their implementation forward, following through on the ERP resolutions made in winter. 

Whether you’re heading toward a great spring-loaded leap forward or merely some spring cleaning, there are many things that you can do to help your Epicor application spring ahead in terms of functionality, capability and overall return on investment (ROI).

Epicor Installation Manufacturing Tool Sparks

Spring your Epicor Installation Ahead with a Master File Cleanup

Daily problems in business operations often have their source in the master file records. Master file records are the kind of data that gradually deteriorates over time, if not cared for with vigor. Cleaning up the customer, supplier, and part master tables allows companies to quickly resolve multiple ongoing issues. I’ve seen many companies perform annual intensive data cleanup efforts to rectify such ongoing issues, and this often results in a system that is more predictable and more scalable over time. With each master file, countless questions can be asked to verify the accuracy of this foundational data.

These might include some of the following:

  • Customer Master: Are customer contacts up to date? How about the terms? Are credit limits in need of a review?
  • Supplier Master: Is banking information correct? Are purchase points defined correctly? Are terms up to date?
  • Part Master: Is supply-side information correctly configured to handle demand? Are part costs in line? What about customer and supplier-based part pricing?

Spring your ERP Ahead with a User Security Review

Cleaning up security within the ERP application is a simple step that can improve the maintenance and maintainability of the application. One significant question would be to ask whether your company utilizes individual user security or group security. The use of group-based security tends to keep the management of security much cleaner than the individual method, as users inherit permissions from the security groups, which ensures consistent and predicable access, without the scramble of managing individual permissions on every user account. Has your individual user security gotten out of hand? It’s never too late to rationalize security groups and roll back some of the disarray. This is one simple way of keeping your Epicor installation from becoming risky business.

Within this general structure, attention should be take to a few key functions, as to ensure that they are adequately managed:

  • Part Maintenance: Who has the ability to create and maintain parts? In many organizations, too many individuals have this ability, and it can create a significant amount of disruption if they are not doing so in a consistent manner.
  • Quantity Adjustments: The ability to adjust inventory quantities on the fly is a powerful but dangerous capability. Often, quantity adjustments are made to cover other issues, such as incorrect quality practices or inaccurate material issuing tendencies. Limiting quantity adjustments to a few reliable individuals is key to preventing inventory problems from spinning out of control.
  • Job Entry: Who should be able to modify a job? There are several settings (backflush, make direct, purchase direct, etc.) that can radically affect the application. Tightening the screws on job entry is often a means of ensuring successful supply for the jobs in question.

Spring Ahead with Focused Education

In an ERP context, education should be distinguished from training. Training generally refers to basic instruction geared for general end users, to allow them to perform processes accurately and consistently. Education differs from simple training in that it focuses much more on the underlying mechanics of the ERP system than on performing specific pre-defined tasks. When a larger critical mass of super users understands the underlying mechanisms of the system, you are better able to make decisions and further refine your system, improving efficiency and handling new challenges as they arise. Also, as new employees enter the organization, providing them with a solid understanding of the system can prevent needless backtracking. This is especially true for an Epicor installation.

So, what areas of the application could use some additional deep dives? Here are a few:

  • Transaction types: What’s the different between MFG-STK and MFG-WIP? It’s an important distinction.
  • Non-Stock: Understanding the effects of the non-stock flag on Sales Order Entry, the Engineering Workbench, and Job Entry is fundamental to successfully managing parts through the system.
  • Phantom BOMs — phantoms may help simplify your job BOMs, consolidate engineering levels, and simplify transactions.
  • Labor Entry Method: How does backflushing differ from Quantity Only? These are subtle but important differences, and the ramifications are widespread.
  • Backflushing Materials: Backflushing is another opportunity to make the system more efficient, but it relies on a solid understanding of the related hierarchy.

A Clean Epicor Installation Enables Growth

Spring, after all, is the season of growth, so push to move your Epicor ERP application forward this season, and sew the seeds for a bountiful harvest in 2021. Ready for optimal growth? Get the Epicor consulting services or Prophet 21 services you need to get ahead of the season. Take a tour of Epicor in a future-proof environment with a free ECHO cloud hosting demo. ECHO supports all ERP systems, including cloud-ready P21cloud-ready SYSPRO.

 

Epicor Part & MOM Settings: Learning By Example

Epicor Part & MOM Settings: Learning By Example

Epicor Cover: Lessons From the Trenches

Sometimes the best way to understand the inner workings of an ERP system is to review examples of its activities and to trace them back to the underlying setup that generated the activities themselves. In the Epicor ERP context, I’ve encountered challenges in helping users understand the impact of some core part settings. Like many ERP systems, Epicor’s part master file is fundamental in governing how these parts flow through the ERP application. There are a handful of “big little checkboxes” that radically change the system’s behavior, and understanding these system settings is a core building block to successfully configuring your Epicor ERP system.

To that end, I’ve put together a few examples that help demonstrate Epicor part and Epicor MOM setup, and their ramifications on Epicor job structure. In fact, Epicor job MOMs are highly dependent on the upstream settings, and without this understanding, the structure of an Epicor job MOM can be confusing. Such principles as Epicor job materials, make-direct materials, and job subassemblies are all traced back to a few small settings. Let’s look at some examples and see how they play out.

The Difference is in the Settings

  • Fundamental decisions create a stable core
  • Successful configurations come from experience
  • Subtle variations significantly alter outcomes
Enterprise Resource Planning Project Team Meeting

In my examples, I utilize Epicor’s training database.

I begin with a few existing parts, and make small modifications to demonstrate the different scenarios.

Let’s begin with part DSS-1000.

This part came directly from the Epicor training database. The key material, part DSS-1010, was also pre-defined. Part DSS-1000 occupied material sequence 10 of parent part DSS-1000. This serves as the baseline for subsequent scenarios.

From here, I copied parts DSS-1000 and DSS-1010 multiple times and made subtle variations.

The following component materials are used in the subsequent scenarios:

  • DSS-1010: Directly from the training database. Stocked MFG Part (i.e: not Non-Stock).
  • DSS-1010NS: MFG, Non-Stock: Used for Make-Direct and Subassembly examples.
  • DSS-1010NSPB: MFG, Non-Stock Phantom BOM Part. 

The following higher-level assemblies are used in the subsequent scenarios:

  • DSS-1000: Mtl Seq 10 (DSS-1010) is a stocked material.
  • DSS-1000MDM: Mtl Seq 10 (DSS-1010NS) is a Make-Direct material.
  • DSS-1000SUB: Mtl Seq 10 (DSS-1010NS) is a Job Subassembly.
  • DSS-1000PBOM: Mtl Seq 10 (DSS-1010NSPB) is a Phantom Assembly.

Interaction between Part Master, the Engineering Workbench, and the Epicor Job

It is fundamental to understand that the part master settings affect the default settings in the Epicor Engineering Workbench and that both the Engineering Workbench and the part master affect the final job MOM. The default behavior can be described as follows:

  • Non-Stock > Pull as Assembly > Job Subassembly
  • Not Non-Stock > Not Pull as Assembly > Job Material (Issued from Stock)

Default Behavior: Stocked Part from Part Master to Job MOM

Let’s explore Epicor’s default behavior in handling a Stocked Material. In this example, the following parameters exist:

  • Part DSS-1010 is a stocked part.
  • Part DSS-1010 is a not flagged Pull as assembly material on Part DSS-1000, material sequence 10.

The outcome: Material sequence 10, part DSS-1010, shows up on the job as a material that is issued from stock (not Make-Direct).

Epicor Material Sequence

Default Behavior: Non-Stocked Part from Part Master to Job MOM

Let’s explore Epicor’s default behavior in handling a Non-Stocked material. In this example, the following parameters exist:

  • Part DSS-1010NS is a Non-Stocked part.
  • By default, Part DSS-1010NS is flagged Pull as Assembly on Part DSS-1000, material sequence 10.

The outcome: Part DSS-1010NS shows up on the Job as a Subassembly. Material Sequence 10 no longer exists on the Epicor job bill of materials.

Epicor Job Bill of Materials

Override: Processing Non-Stock Part as a Make-Direct Job Material

By default, a Non-Stock Material would be processed as a Subassembly (Pull as Assembly). But this behavior can be overridden, in the Epicor Engineering Workbench, resulting in different downstream behaviors. Unchecking the Pull as Assembly flag for a Non-Stock material will cause the material on the job to be supplied in a Make-Direct manner: Non-Stock > Not Pull as Assembly > Make-Direct Material

Let’s explore Epicor’s behavior in handling a Non-Stocked material. In this example, the following parameters exist:

  • Part DSS-1010NS is a Non-Stocked part.
  • Part DSS-1010NS is not flagged Pull as assembly material on Part DSS-1000MDM, material sequence 10. We have overridden the default and unchecked the flagged Pull as assembly flag.

Outcome: Part DSS-1010NS shows up on the Job as a Make-Direct Material on the Job.

Epicor Parameters

 

As you can see, the decisions you make when handling Epicor’s part settings can significantly impact the Epicor jobs created to manufacture them. Hopefully these examples have assisted in your understanding of the factors that affect Epicor’s job bill of materials.

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SQL Server: Turning Tips and Playing Tricks

SQL Server: Turning Tips and Playing Tricks

SQL Server Configuration, Tuning & Optimization

The perspectivism of an ERP system shifts based on one’s point of reference. To an end user, an ERP system might simply be a series of screens from which one enters and extracts data. But to an ERP administrator, the view from behind the curtain might be quite different.

For an Epicor admin, the Epicor ERP application’s curtain call generally includes a number of actors: the application server, the database server, and the end user client install among them. Each of these layers requires different tricks and techniques to keep them running smoothly.

Learn about SQL Server by watching an Epicor consulting video presentation:

SQL Server Training

Server-side wisdom is not attained simply by paying for the next round. Much of this kind of information is acquired by doing. There are guide books and training materials, of course, but these cover what we tend to call the “happy path” — and anything that veers off that path is uncharted. Also, there is a certain truism about software vendors keeping their cards close. I once had an instructor shut down one of my end-of-class questions simply: “I could tell you, but I’d have to bill you for it.”

Common Epicor Admin Tasks

In that light, we thought that it would be helpful to openly discuss some of the SQL Server tools and tricks of the trade, as to assist Epicor admins and members of the user community in solving common SQL server tasks. In the above video, recorded at a past EstesGroup User Summit, Daryl Sirota, EstesGroup’s Director of Technical Services, goes over some key SQL Server considerations that cover the range of challenges that a system administrator may encounter in managing the Epicor ecosystem, including the following:

Licensing

SQL Server licensing models vary, often by the number of users vs. the number of cores. An important consideration with licensing is scalability. The more you look to scale an environment, the more licenses you may require. Moreover, how you deploy SSRS vis-à-vis also adds potential licensing complications. We would recommend that you explore the options in constructing your SQL server environments to manage these licensing concerns.

Security

Database security begins with understanding who has admin access to a given database (be it a user with physical access, a database owner, or a local SQL admin or Windows administrator). Beyond basic access, a border concern has to do with understanding how data is leaving the database — whether through replication, application access, an external API or a basic user download. Understanding how your data may leave the server is a good starting point to understanding how to safeguard it through cybersecurity or endpoint security.

Backups

Backing up your data for future disaster recovery scenarios introduces a number of challenges. Firstly, it should be clear that backing up your data is not enough. You need to test your backups to make sure they are complete and can be restored properly. Moreover, RTO and RPO considerations extend beyond an individual DB. Backing up an individual database is one thing. Another equally important element is being able to back up and restore your entire SQL server. Disasters can happen to an individual DB or to your entire server, and different strategies will be required, depending on the kind of failure.

Performance

There are a number of simple steps that can be taken to optimize performance. First, confirm that you’ve formatted drives to a 64K cluster size, to optimize efficiencies. Another step might be as simple as separating the database and transactional log volumes, due to their different IO patterns. Additional decisions, such as how you choose to allocate data, or how to separate the SQL engine from SSRS, can also impact performance.

Redundancy & Availability

Redundancy is less about backup and disaster recovery than it is about constructing a server environment that is sufficiently resilient, such that the overall system can operate even when one of its components fails. This might involve virtual machine replication, in order to provide redundant database servers. In our ECHO managed hosting environment, for instance, our SQL servers are replicated such that if SQL server were to go down, a redundant VM steps in and takes its place.

A SQL Server Maintenance Plan

Beyond the above, a number of PowerShell and SQL scripts can be put to use to complete a number of common tasks, such as copying a production environment to a test instance, truncating transaction logs, updating the task agent settings or recreating SQL replication in support of e-commerce solutions.

Epicor Process Set Maintenance: Bundle Up

Epicor Process Set Maintenance: Bundle Up

Scheduling ERP Processes

Batch processes have been with us since the inception of business computing. You can complete a batch of tasks as a single process for sake of efficiency. The benefits of such processes are clearly time-saving for an Epicor administrator. Batch processing allows for the automation of many tasks that would take an actual user an immense amount of time and effort to perform in order to accomplish the required manual tasks and calculations. In ERP software, the Materials Requirements Planning (or MRP) process is probably the most well known of such processes. As ERP systems have become more advanced, the need to group multiple processes to operate in harmony has become increasingly important.

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Epicor Process Bundling

In an Epicor context, there are many processes that you might want to sequentially bundle, such as following up an MRP regeneration by running the production planning and the shop schedule load graph processes, such that you can see the implication of the MRP run on material shortages and shop load respectively.

Sounds simple enough, but the problem with this scenario comes with the fact that such processes often run in the wee hours of the night, and only the most zealous members of the ERP fandom would wish to set their alarms for 3:00 AM so they can manually kick off a few ancillary processes once the MRP regen completes.

Enter Epicor’s Process Set Maintenance. Epicor process sets allow Epicor admins to bundle process runs into a single event. This allows you to sequentially run a suite of Epicor processes automatically, without human intervention. Process sets can include various differences:

  • processes
  • reports
  • executive queries

Once a process set is defined, and then attached to a system agent schedule, the related tasks are automatically processed according to the timing defined by the system agent.

Let’s look at a common issue, one that surfaces frequently for an Epicor admin. At times, you may wish to run processes in a manner that filters the actual processing. For instance, you may wish to run MRP by site, or PO suggestions according to a handful of part classes. Confusion is commonplace in handling process sets when the processes involved possess filtered activities. I’ll give you an example of the problem and an explanation of the actual behavior an Epicor admin can expect to experience when setting up and executing a process set.

Epicor Process Set Maintenance With Process Filters Enabled

Creating a process set occurs through the Process Set Maintenance screen. Once a process set is defined, individual processes can be assigned to a process set. In the example below, I created a process set:

Epicor Process Set Maintenance Screen

Next, I opened the PO Suggestion screen and configured its process parameters. Of those parameters, I set a site-specific filter:

Epicor Generating Purchase Suggestions Screenshot

Then I clicked the icon below to save the PO Suggestion process to the process set I previously created:

Save Epicor Process Set Screen

Returning to my original process set, I now see that the PO Suggestions process has been attached to the process set. Were I to go through the same actions with other processes, I could add multiple processes to this process set, and then use the “Move Up” and “Move Down” buttons to order them appropriately. But one point of confusion exists here. If I were to double-click on the process that I just added, to review its properties, the filter that I previous defined is no longer visible:

Epicor PO Suggestions

As we will see, this cosmetic issue is not detrimental to the actual execution of the processes themselves. To complete the setup of a process set, you need to assign it to a System Agent Schedule. This is accomplished through the Schedule Process Set screen. From this screen, you can select the Process Set:

Schedule ERP Process

Allowing the System Agent schedule to run according to its next run time, I can see in the Epicor System Monitor that the underlying process ran successfully:

Epicor System Monitor

Looking at the Log File related to the PO Suggestions run, I can see that the PO Suggestions process ran according to the filter that I had initially set. As you can see, the log file indicates the Epicor site that I had defined:

Epicor Process Log File

Epicor Admin Automation

In summary, while it may appear that an Epicor process loses its configured filters when added to a process set, in actuality, these parameters are retained, allowing the Epicor Admin great flexibility in automating a variety of ERP system activities.

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Epicor Server File Download: Serving the Process Server

Epicor Server File Download: Serving the Process Server

The Pandora’s Box of ERP

Epicor processes can be a Pandora’s box of complexity. Rumbling under the surface, these processes perform innumerable tasks that allow an ERP system to function effectively. But when these processes fail to deliver the expected functionality, understanding the logic of these subaltern beasts can be problematic.

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  • Was it a problem with network connectivity?
  • With master file setup?
  • With company configuration?
  • Was it a bug?

Accessing Log Files Through Epicor Server File Download

One can spend an immense amount of time trying to troubleshoot these processes, especially given the timing required to perform trial-and-error with back-end processes. Such repetition gives ERP wheel-spinning a new meaning.

Fortunately, Epicor has a means of slowing the wheel, if not breaking it altogether. It is a general best practice when designing and developing complex programs and processes to include some form of logging. This provides the end user, or Epicor admin in this case, an opportunity to divine the logic of the program in question. This can help you troubleshoot process issues quickly.

In the past, gaining access to these logs to anyone but an Epicor administrator has been problematic. But in recent versions, Epicor added functionality to allow an end user to access server-side log files: Server File Download.

Epicor Server File Download provides the ability for a given user to look up various types of log files and save them to a local location. This allows you to retrieve and review log files. It does not require access to the server locations where they are stored.

Let’s assume that I kicked off a PO Suggestions process and enabled logging, specifying both the logging level and the log file name:

Epicor Server Download Generate Purchasing

As the process runs, it writes a log file to the server. The log file can be retrieved using the following method:

  • Open the “Server File Download” screen, which has the following menu location: System Management/Schedule Processes/Server File Download.
  • Choose the Directory Type. User: These logs normally refer to the user-specific logs. Company: Company type files are the most common logging methods and logs for processes such as MRP or PO Suggestions normally land here. Reports: This area holds XML files related to Crystal Reports.
  • Use the “Select File…” button to identify the file you wish to retrieve.
  • Use the “Client Path…” button to define the location to which you want the file saved.
Epicor Server File Download

Clicking the “Select File…” button allows you to search for and select the file in question. In the example below, I located the file that I had named previously, when I kicked off PO Suggestions:

Epicor PO Suggestions

Clicking the “Client Path…” button allows you to specify the location to which you intend to download the file:

Epicor Server File Download Browse For Folder Screen

Once the source file and the destination location have been defined, select the OK button. This will kick off the download activity:

Epicor Source File

Once the download has completed, the system will raise a download status message:

E10 Server Download Complete

Once downloaded, you can navigate to the specified path and access and review the log file to better understand the details of the process itself:

ERP Process Server Log File

ERP system troubles? Check the log…

Navigating the workings of an ERP system’s back-end server processes can feel at first like an exploration into the Eleusinian Mysteries. Fortunately, Epicor’s Server File Download toolset allows you to unearth the hermetic actions of Epicor’s darker processes, hiding in the process server’s chthonic cave, bringing them into the platonic light of your client folder and making them visible for all to see.

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Epicor Data Fix Workbench: Balancing the Balance

Epicor Data Fix Workbench: Balancing the Balance

The Weight of the ERP Data World

My old friend Thanos was a big believer in the principle of balance. In an ERP context, data integrity is the epitome of balance. But sometimes unexpected issues corrupt data and throw this precious balance askew. Read further to understand how to use the Epicor Data Fix Workbench to restore data balance with a snap of your fingers.

Cloud ERP for Manufacturing

Fundamental to the successful management of an ERP system is the management of its data.

An ERP system is only as good as its data. If the data gets dirty, the ERP system will similarly suffer. But the sources of data discrepancies vary. In many cases, they are due to inadequate policies and procedures surrounding the entry and maintenance of ERP information. In other cases, the system itself is responsible for problems with its data. In these cases, Epicor ERP supports its customers through the development and delivery of data fix routines. These routines resolve specific data-related issues with the application’s data, allowing for smoother system operation.

When a customer encounters a data-related issue, Epicor support may provide a “.df” file to resolve the issue. These data fix routines need to be correctly installed and ran. The following document describes some of the steps involved in the installation and processing of data fix routines:

  • Upon receiving a data fix, save the .df data script file to a location accessible from the application server.
  • Log into the application server and open the Epicor Administration Console.
  • In the left tree view, navigate to the “Database Server Management” nod, and locate the database to which you intend to deploy the fix.
  • Select the E10 Database in question, as accessed through the admin console.

Once selected, click the “Import DB Health Scrips(s)” selection in the right “Actions” window:

Epicor Data Fix Screenshot DB Health

This will raise a selection window. Click the ellipsis to search for the data fix script in question:

Epicor Data Fix Screenshot Select Scripts

Locate and open the data fix file in question:

Epicor E10 Pilot

Once selected, click the “OK” button to load the fix into the database:

Epicor Data Fix Workbench

Once loaded, you can now log into the application and run the fix. Navigate to the System Management > Upgrade/Mass Regeneration and open the “Data Fix Workbench”:

Epicor Data Fix Menu

Once the “Data Fix Workbench” loads, click the “Data Fix…” button to search for and select the desired fix:

Epicor Data Fix Button

The fixes available will be limited to the number of fixes you imported using the above procedure. Locate the fix you wish to run. Select the fix and click “OK”:

Epicor Data Fix Workbench Install

The process for running the fix in question may differ according to the specific fix itself. That said, there are a few general principles to running a fix routine that are consistent across fixes:

  • Enter any needed parameters
  • Click the “Report” button to return records in the database needing correction
  • Select the records you wish to correct
  • Run the routine to update/delete the selected records
Epicor Data Fix Workbench Final Step

The ongoing maintenance and management of an ERP ecosystem is a critical responsibility for Epicor administrators.

With challenges to server performance, network connectivity, database optimization, and endpoint security, administrators cannot afford to allow the system’s data to unravel. Every ERP system will encounter data issues at one point or another. Understanding the process to load and run a given fix in Epicor is a key step for ERP administrators, assisting in the important task of ERP data management.

For more Epicor consulting tips, read one of our white papers on best practices in manufacturing environments.

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