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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?”

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.

Can Your Business Survive a Recall? Serial Number & Lot Tracking for Wholesale Distributors & Retailers

Can Your Business Survive a Recall? Serial Number & Lot Tracking for Wholesale Distributors & Retailers

Every month there seems to be some sort of mass serial or lot recall.

Take the recent recall for Ford Fusions’ gear selector, BMW’s i3 circuit board which caused sudden auto shutdowns, or even Britax baby gear Bob stroller lawsuit & recall. All of these have some important ramifications for consumers, manufacturers, and even the distributors and retailers in-between. 

 

To alleviate and address consumer fears, manufacturers need to initiate the recall and fix the issue which means distributors and retailers need to know who purchased the items, what the affected serial numbers, lot numbers, or potential manufacture/purchase/sales dates are for the affected items. Large companyes may have these capabilities, but how do small to mid-sized retailers or distributors track that vital information? Many times, serial number tracking and lot number tracking is done with disconnected spreadsheets, accounting software not designed for serial and lot tracking, which leads to erroneous information and potential for signification financial impacts.

 

It’s times like these which force midsize supply chain companies to answer the following questions:

  1. Do my current business processes support this level of tracking and recall?
  2. Can my business system provide this information correctly in a timely and economical fashion?
  3. What burdens will this place on my business efficiency?
  4. What is the total financial or legal impact on my business?

 

If you can’t answer these questions or the answers you come up with point to problems for your business, then now is the time to seriously think about an ERP system . . . before it’s too late.

 

Epicor Prophet 21 ERP (P21) has Serial and Lot Tracking capabilities throughout the system to make sure that distributors and retailers have proper trace-ability and reporting in the following key modules:

  • Supply Chain Management (Inventory & Warehouse Management)
  • Sales Order Management
  • Product Management
  • Production Management (for the Distributor with some Manufacturing requirements)
  • Service and Maintenance Management (includes warranty claims)

 

The powerful data capture and real-time reporting of Prophet 21 ERP (P21) makes it a great fit solution for many small to midsized distributors. A few specific features of serial and lot tracking are:

  • Instant Information at a Click of the Mouse
  • Search by Full or Partial Serial Numbers or Lot Numbers
  • See Serial Numbers or Lot Numbers by Vendors
  • Trace Production or Movement of Serial Numbers or Lot Numbers
  • See Serial Numbers or Lot Numbers by Customer
  • Mobile Warehouse & Barcoding

 

Contact the EstesGroup to learn more about how Epicor Prophet 21 ERP (P21) Serial Tracking and Lot Tracking features can protect your Business!

Maximizing Your Sales Team with Epicor ERP Sales Order Automation

Maximizing Your Sales Team with Epicor ERP Sales Order Automation

In a previous blog post, we looked at the overview of Epicor ERP 10.2.400 New Features. But let’s dive into Epicor ERP Automated Sales Order Entry.

 

Currently, sales order entry staff do just what their title implies: they enter orders. Sure, an order might be generated from a quote, but someone must enter that first. Data entry, day after day. What if your customer could send you a purchase order and it just magically appears in Epicor?

 

It’s not quite magic, but pretty close. Here’s the basic operation of Epicor ERP’s Automated Sales Order Entry:

  1. Your customer sends an email with a PO attachment to a designated email address.
  2. Intelligent Data Collector (IDC) identifies the attachment and pulls it into DocStar.
  3. DocStar creates a “pre-order” and automatically filters it to a workflow.
  4. A user steps in at this point and checks for exceptions. If there are exceptions, they are corrected by the user.
  5. The pre-order passes validations.
  6. An order is born, demand is created, et cetera.

 

Oh, I see you’re starting to get the implications, so I’ll give you a moment. Okay, moment’s over.

 

How handy is that? Imagine how much more of your sales order processing staff’s time can be spent on value-added processes, versus mindless data entry, and how errors can be reduced through automation.

 

It’s not a panacea. It won’t handle parts-on-the-fly or configured parts. It will bring in sales kits, but there’s no way to edit the kit within DocStar. Still, exciting news.

 

Epicor has made a commitment to provide us with tools to rationalize our work processes and give us the information we need to make intelligent decisions, and we know more is coming.

 

Interested in reading about the other new features in 10.2.400? Read our first blog in the series “The Good, The New, No Ugly: Epicor ERP 10.2.400”

 

Have we wet your appetite about Epicor ERP Automated Sales Order Entry? Just give us a shout. We can talk about this stuff all day. 

The Good, The New, No Ugly: Epicor ERP 10.2.400

The Good, The New, No Ugly: Epicor ERP 10.2.400

In the beginning there was Epicor Vista. Then Vantage brought a new user interface. Epicor ERP incorporated a version into the name, E9, along with major changes to underlying structure on a Progress database. With E10.0.xxx, the structure was streamlined with a switch to Microsoft SQL Server, bringing huge increases in performance and a new (modern) menu, as well.

 

With the first major upgrade to E10, E10.1.xxx, incremental features were added, increasing ERP’s functionality. It was faster, more polished, did more. But from a user standpoint, most basic operations worked pretty well like they did in previous generations.  Order entry was order entry, was order entry.

 

A couple of years ago we heard rumors: get ready for some new stuff.

10.2.100 gave us new acronyms: EDD, REST. Active Home Page said hello. More ways to access data, and even other types of devices.

10.2.200, 10.2.300 came along, popping new things we could do into the mix.

Now 10.2.400 is on the horizon. And it promises a Kinetic jump in capability.

 

Here’s a quick overview of new features coming in the next release:

  • Automated Sales Order Entry
    • DocStar-enabled application allows automated entry from a scanned image or email attachment of your customer’s purchase order.
  • Connected Factory
    • REST-enabled communication lets EPICOR get information directly from shop floor machines and other devices via the IoT (Internet of Things).
  • Lite MES
    • Kinetic-enabled user interface allows MES (Manufacturing Execution System) operation via touch-screen devices such as smart phones or tablets.
  • Scheduling Boards
    • Kinetic-enabled versions of Job Scheduling Board, Resource Scheduling Board, and Resource Scheduling Board make it easier to drag/drop and drill down, dynamically change timelines, and schedule jobs in “what if” mode.
  • Time and Expense Mobile App
    • Provide the capabilities to access and maintain time and expenses via smart phones and tables, including a “read-only” offline mode.
  • Project WBS Phases Revenue Recognition
    • Allows revenue recognition of WBS phases independently of the entire project.
  • OData 4.x and REST v2
    • Tools allowing communication among many sources, including Excel spreadsheets and the Internet of Things.

 

All right, there’s a ton of information here, but difficult to fit into a single blog post.

In the next blog, let’s look at Sales Order Automation.

 

Questions on the new Epicor ERP 10.2.400 Features? Have questions on ERP, Epicor ERP, or even Prophet 21? Let us know.

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

My boss once said to me that nobody wakes up in the morning and cries “I’m going to implement an ERP system!”  

 

It’s a fair point.  Apart from a few business process masochists that I’ve met over the years, few people out there really go out of their way to implement an enterprise system.  Enterprise systems are costly and they drain a lot of time and energy from key resources within a company.  They can be generally…painful to implement.  And yet I’ve seen so many companies make the move to enterprise systemand benefit greatly from the transition, in spite of the challenges.  This raises a question that I’ve had more than a few prospects ask me: “Why on earth do I need an ERP system?”

 

Pundits have long noted that the “E” in “ERP” is the most important of the three letters.  The value ian ERP system comes iits applicability to the entire enterprise and not just to a few selective functions within the organization.  And while ERP has been around now for many decades, there continues to be ample opportunity for better enterprise-level integration among companies.  Quite often, the “why” of ERP comes in a quick analysis of a Company’s current-state application architecture. 

 

With many of the customers that I’ve helped migrate to Epicor’s ERP platform, I’ve observed a current state application map to include one or more of the following:

  • The utilization of stand-alone financial modules such as QuickBooks for financial management.  Such systems are good for counting waves, but not for making them.
  • The use of manufacturing oriented work order systems for managing the shop floor.  Job Shop-oriented systems can be effective in defining product structures and working them through the shop-floor, but are less effective in managing the selling and shipping of manufactured products anin comparing the resultant revenues to costs.
  • 1980s-era ERP systems, with one or more bolt-ons for managing product configuration and/or the shop floor.  First-generation ERP systems are generally solid when it comes to inventory management, and basic order-to-cash cycles, but are limited in many areas, and are a burden to maintain.
  • Paper-based systems for inventory management & time card entry—some customers are still pounding the paper when it comes to basic warehouse and shop floor transactions.
  • Varieties of macro-enhanced spreadsheets for doing one of many things.  Spreadsheets are a great gap-filling tool, but their limitations quickly become apparent as multi-user capabilities and large data requirements become a necessity.

 

Based on the above, iis no surprise that companies come to us looking to implement Epicor because their current state is a drafty quilt of poorly-stitched and poorly-patched legacy applications, homegrown boondoggles, and siloed modules.  Customers come to us believing that there must be a better answer, anin most cases there is.  The problem is, most companies took a lifetime to grow into their patchy ponchos.  At certain early stages in their relative existence, most companies can get away with the above scattershot array of systemand pseudo-systems.  But these same systems become hindrances as the company looks to scale up, expand its offerings, ramp up its output, or better integrate with customers, suppliers or best-of-breed applications.  As these challenges become clear, the “why” of ERP begins to take shape.

 

Our work as Epicor partners quite often has to do with explaining the “why” of ERP.  My own “why” came to me many years ago.  At the time, I was still a customer and still quite naive regarding the ERP space.  Working on a process-improvement project with my company’s Vice President of IT, I asked him point blank whether our recent ERP implementation had been a success.  “Yes!” he replied, emphatically.  “Why?” I responded.  I was a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at the time and was practicing my “5-Whys” methodology.  I only needed one of them, for his answer changed the way I’ve seen enterprise systems ever since.  By implementing an ERP system, we were laying the foundation for everything that was to come.  In our case it was configurability—we were an engineer-to-order company, living ian increasingly configure-to-order market, anneeded to make moves toward configurability before our old methodologies priced us out of that market.  By implementing an ERP system, we set in place the building blocks for product configurabilityand our subsequent initiatives took these building blocks and reshaped the way the company did business.  Fifteen years anan ERP system later, my old company is still successfully competing iits target markets, proffering configured products, andoing so profitably.

 

Now every company owns its own specific point in time, and faces its own set of unique challenges, as it tries to grow and thrive in changing markets.  I’ve seen a lot of good reasons for moving away from a patchwork of solutions to a more integrated and comprehensive system.  My own story may resonate with some, or there may be other stories that better answer the question as to why a company might make the move to an enterprise system.  This is all to say that there are a lot of reasons for implementing an ERP system.  And everyone here at the EstesGroup would love to hear your story.  Anif you don’t think you have a reason for implementing ERP, we’d love to talk to you about that as well.

 

Have a question for our consultants? Trying to determine if your company needs an ERP system?