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Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Cloud Computing Is Key To Recession Proofing Your Business

Recession-Proof Investments: Cloud Computing and the Refrigerator of the Future

We’ve long been told that necessity is the mother of invention, but when necessity is out of a sense of privation, reactions vary. Born and raised into the world of residential and commercial construction, I’ve felt the motion sickness that results from the ups and downs of the building cycle well into my earliest memories. And I‘ve been in business long enough to have stomached enough down-cycles to observe how different companies react to these changing economic climates.

 

As the current bull market gets slowly walked to the slaughterhouse, managers at all levels begin to wonder what it will mean for their own place within America’s larger business landscape. There is always the search for the investments that could be considered “recession-proof”—investments that will yield value during the current crisis, but would also serve as a foundation for future success. Simple cost-cutting is rarely such an investment—it yields short-term savings, but often at the expense of long-term objectives: I’ve never seen a hiker make it to the top of a peak faster by trimming down the soles of his boots.

 

That is, the most reactionary of companies looks to simple knee-jerk reactions to trim costs in order to get in line with shrinking revenues: eliminating optional programs or reducing essential services to their bare minimum. More innovative companies utilize this newfound necessity as a means of transforming their current state by getting ahead of the competition.

 

At the consumer level, the most well-known example of this phenomenon was the advent of the refrigerator. It was the Great Depression, of all things, that led to the broad use of the refrigerator by America’s large middle class. While it was, at the time, a significant capital expenditure for any given household, the refrigerator allowed families to save time and money: the ability to extend the life of the day’s victuals allows families to reduce waste, and thus cut costs, while also allowing them to expend the physical labor that would have been spent on the next meal on other activities. This rendered the old-fashioned ice box obsolete. In this way, times of downturn often have a way of surfacing new innovations—products that outpace their competitors suddenly emerge because the competitive landscape has reduced the viability of their less-innovative competitors.

 

Similarly, as America hit rock bottom in the late 2000s and early 2010s, cloud computing grew rapidly at the same time, as companies looked for ways to reduce cost and risk, while scaling up for the future. In this way, cloud computing may very well serve to become the coming recession’s refrigerator—the tool that will allow individuals and companies to strategically equip themselves not only for the hard times ahead, but also for the good times thereafter.

 

For Epicor customers, cloud computing surfaces as an opportunity to avoid the costs of replacing outdated hardware. Also, by moving installations into hosted environments, customers are able to eliminate the cooling costs required to keep their stacks on ice. Estes Group’s Epicor Cloud Managed Hosting offering (ECHO) is ready-by-design to protect and carry your company through the down-cycles and get you back into the saddle and riding the next bull market to better times. Looking to recession-proof your business? Please reach out to our team, and we’ll help you innovate a cloud computing strategy that will keep you ahead of the storm.

 

Are you looking for cloud computing options, or have questions on how we can help make your systems more flexible? Contact Us today or let us know below.

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Why Implement an ERP System?

Implementing ERP SystemIf you asked your IT personnel what the advantages of implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, in all likelihood, they’d tell you that it could be revolutionary or absolutely destructive depending on their past experiences. The key to making it revolutionary revolves around partnering with experienced ERP consultants who know how to implement and manage an ERP system on-time, on-budget, within the scope described to you during the initial phases of the implementation.

Below you will find some of the reasons why implementing an ERP system like Epicor ERP, can be revolutionary.

Increased Productivity

Implementing an ERP system streamlines and automates your business processes improving productivity and organization. This dramatically reduces the time spent on business tasks such as manual entry, tracking time sheets, generating reports, and the time spent trying to fix problems related to using multiple platforms across multiple departments. Because an ERP aggregates data into a single database, you are able to tie information across every department to gain meaningful insights in real-time and automate reporting so that your company’s internal resources can be leveraged for analyzing that information rather than collecting it.

Happier Customers

With the advent of online shopping and services, competition has never been stiffer for businesses. If you don’t keep your customers happy, another company will. Customers who are able to get their questions answered quickly and without much effort are happier customers. This is why implementing an ERP system is important. It not only provides you with instant access to a customer’s ordering history and information, but it also allows greater interaction between you and your suppliers as well as you and your customers. By using the Customer Relations Management (CRM) , customer data can be accessed across business operations, so you’re not only able to better handle the needs and concerns of your customers, but also use the information gleaned from customer order history to refine your sales strategy and improve lead generation.

Increased Mobility

Implement ERP SystemWork is no longer just something that takes place in an office. Today, people are working while on vacation. They’re working from home. They’re working anywhere that life takes them. The Epicor ERP system is mobile-friendly, meaning that you and your employees are able to access important information and continue to contribute in even the most remote places in the world (so long as they have an internet connection, that is).

Regulatory Compliance

Still wondering why you should implement an ERP system at your company? An important factor in a powerful ERP solution is that it can track regulations within your industry and alert you when there are regulatory changes, ensuring that you stay in compliance without stress. While this is helpful at the local level, it is particularly important for businesses with a global reach and varying regulations in the countries where they do business. Additionally, the ERP’s auditing tools provide documentation and generate reports so that you can easily show your compliance to any governing authority that asks.

Reduces Disconnect

Multiple platforms can provide conflicting information and often result in single departments working in a bubble, even though they may be largely dependent upon other departments for important information. This not only creates a disconnect between your departments, but can also result in decreased productivity and time-consuming errors. An ERP system places all of your departments in the same room, with the same access to information and a built-in accuracy that cannot be found in traditional business methods.

Scalability

Businesses require customization within their systems. They grow, they shrink, and their needs change. Epicor ERP provides you with that level of flexibility by incorporating lean manufacturing tools that enable operational best practices.

Not to mention, your ERP solution should scale as well. The team of software engineers at Epicor are constantly updating their systems to address new problems that never existed before, so that all of their customers receive exactly what they need.

Customized Reporting

Reports are necessary for a variety of reasons, and your ERP system uses information stored in the centralized database to generate professional reports for any business reason you may have. Your employees can easily access analytics data needed for the report without help from IT.

These are just some of the benefits of an ERP system. For more information about how you can implement an ERP within your company, contact EstesGroup today!

Do you have a specific question or interested in learning more about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems? Let us know.

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

The Top 5 Benefits of an ERP System

As any business knows, the right technology is crucial to success. However, the process of vetting and selecting an ERP software is often a challenging one. Many Small and Medium Business Solutions (SMBS) for instance have yet to adopt a platform as many fear the unknown of what sort of disruption it may cause in their business processes. Yet with an attentive Business Process Review conducted by a seasoned ERP consulting implementation team who know how to fully leverage a platform such as Epicor ERP or Prophet 21, you will be in great hands to advance your business initiatives in a scalable way.

The question we hear most often from businesses is “Why should we migrate to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system?” Typically when we discuss this topic further with our prospective clients, the top concerns inspiring this question center around upfront costs, security, data clarity, and maintenance fees. Below, we discuss why you should consider making the move.

The Primary Benefits of an ERP System

1. Exponential ROI Benefits

According to an Epicor-Forrester collaborative study, organizations that deployed the Epicor ERP system for 3 years recognized a $9.3 million PV (present value) benefit. This number was calculated after subtracting the costs of the Epicor ERP implementation consulting. All in all, the ROI was 264%.

2. End-To-End Visibility Across The Organization

According to the Epicor-Forrester report, the most compelling financial benefit of the ERP deployment was realized through improved inventory and supply chain management. With the Epicor ERP software, you get a bird’s-eye view of inventory levels. Data is consolidated and shared from disparate sources, which facilitates improved employee collaboration and better decision-making, both of which lead to cost-effective product inventory levels. Businesses that leveraged Epicor ERP’s real-time data capabilities realized:

  • $4.4 million PV inventory benefits,
  • More than $65,000 PV supply chain management benefits,
  • 10% increase in inventory ordering accuracy,
  • 67% reduction in inventory counting efforts,
  • 5% improvement in buyer productivity,
  • $250,000 annual savings in rework reductions.

Improved data quality facilitates agility and enables businesses to identify new market opportunities. With real-time visibility, data is no longer held captive in siloed sources. Instead, it can be unleashed to extract insights that facilitate greater growth.

3. Strengthened Network Security

Today, cloud-based ERP solutions are popular because of their lower upfront costs. Unlike on-premise ERP solutions, cloud-based ERPs store data in virtual servers. This negates the need to maintain expensive equipment on-site and retain a dedicated IT staff.

Also, implementing expensive, time-consuming software updates become unnecessary with a cloud-based solution since all updates are done automatically. Such a platform also comes with powerful backup and disaster recovery features. Epicor ERP’s Watchdog ISS ensures the security of your databases and network infrastructure through:

  • Virus and spyware protection,
  • Automation of security updates,
  • Centralized backups of critical data,
  • Hacker detection/prevention,
  • Intrusion protection and deep packet inspection of network traffic,
  • Firewall updates and management.

According to the Epicor-Forrester report, businesses that replaced legacy systems with Epicor saved $800,000 in IT maintenance fees and infrastructure costs.

4. Easy Compliance With Regulatory Requirements

It’s no secret that non-compliance to privacy regulations results in alarmingly high costs. For example, businesses that commit infringements of any GDPR article may expect to pay between €2 to 4 million in fines. Similarly, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) infringements can result in crippling fines from between US $100 to $50,000 per violation. With Epicor ERP, businesses realized a $50,000 Pharmacovigilance (PV) compliance, risk, and governance benefit.

5. Increased Competitive Advantage Across The Global Marketplace

As the global marketplace evolves, businesses must leverage new tools to remain competitive. According to Gartner, augmented analytics represents the next wave of technology most likely to impact modern businesses. To that end, Epicor ERP’s latest global version equips businesses with critical real-time insights to drive powerful operational benefits. For example:

  • The Epicor Virtual Agent can use its AI capabilities to adjust inventory and production levels based on market conditions and historical data,
  • Epicor IoT integration with the Microsoft Azure IoT framework allows businesses to extract data from IoT sensors and gain insights to support more agile business processes,
  • With Epicor DocStar, common fields in forms are automatically filled. The reduced need for manual processing will result in accelerated sales and fulfillment velocity.

As the above reveals, Epicor ERP provides crucial benefits for businesses across the global stage. At its heart, the Epicor ERP platform represents 45 years of continued commitment to business growth and success.

The EstesGroup, a certified Epicor partner, stands ready to help your business realize operational efficiencies and solve existing infrastructure challenges. Contact us today for more information!

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… 

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? 

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!