Select Page
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!

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?

The Material Handling Industry Continues to Trend Upward, Outward, Inward

The Material Handling Industry Continues to Trend Upward, Outward, Inward

Emerging Trends Impacting the Material Handling Industry

Pundits, progenitors, and prognosticators are apt to riff on the emerging trends of a given industry.  Not surprisingly, a longitudinal view of such trends leads us to infer that the emergence of such patterns is less an instance of Aphrodite’s divinity spontaneously rising from the primordial sea foam than it is one of the all-too-human Agamemnon and his men, rowing their long boat across to Aegean from his citadel at Mycenae to the broad plains of Hector’s Ilium. 

That is to say, a trend is a flower that opens not over the course days but of years, and while the attached article was penned in 2014, a quick look at its list trends tells us that these items are still unfolding into bloom: Ten Mega-Trends of The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics and Why 2025 Matters Today

A look over the many industry tendencies that have faced and continue to face the material handling industry tells us that these trends affect all aspects of the companies involved–from the HR and finance departments through to product design and delivery.  For companies producing the equipment that services the needs of the material handling industry, a few of these trends are especially noteworthy, and a number of these are important for their ramifications on business systems.  Companies can no longer rely on spreadsheets and CAD drawings to compete, as industry shifts apply greater pressure on companies to rapidly supply equipment that meets these changing needs. 

Below are a few items, culled from the above article, that will affect the business systems of the future, in support of the companies working within this changing industry. 

  • The prevalence of Robotics and Automation: With the increased desire to automate as much of the supply chain as possible, the ability to move product with a minimum of human intervention becomes increasingly important.  Companies need to be able to tailor their offerings to provide integrated solutions that address these requirements, and to be able to integrate these different elements into systems, not only physically, but from a sales and delivery point of view. 
  • The increased use of sensor, wireless, and mobile technology: Coupled with automation are the needs for greater integration, between material handling subsystems, and between the overall material handling system and the facility in which it resides.  From an enterprise application standpoint, the importance in being able to quickly and consistently translate new features and options into their component materials and related operations becomes of great importance. 
  • The continued emphasis on “mass personalization”: As mass personalization continues to figure prominently in the arenas of product delivery and distribution, companies producing equipment to serve these industries similarly encounter the desire for increased personalization and configurability in the equipment used as part of the delivery cycle.  No two warehouse facilities are the same, and material handling equipment frequently needs to be easily tailored to support the discrepancies between buildings. 

 

For producers of equipment serving these industries, the challenges not only manifest themselves in the material handling products delivered but also in the processes and systems used to orchestrate the creation and delivery of these products.  Making the best equipment isn’t enough if it cannot be designed, produced, and delivered at the right time, and for the right price points.  In support of this, configurability continues to be of great importance, as are the abilities to quickly generate requests for proposals and rapidly engineer custom orders.  With its extensive product configuration capabilities, which are tightly bound to its Bill-of-Material structures, Epicor ERP is an excellent enterprise software option  for companies looking to scale up their organization to meet the challenges of this evolving industry.  

 

Are you looking for a strong material handling industry-based solution? Do you want to talk with Brad Feakes, Director of Professional Services? Contact us, and together we can make your company run better.

Is your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System Dying on the Vine?

Is your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System Dying on the Vine?

 

Hi, I’m Brad Feakes with the Estes Group. Now, with summer a distant memory and autumn full upon us, the winter still ahead, it’s a fitting time if you’re the leader of a manufacturing company to ask yourself whether your legacy ERP system is dying on the vine.

Doesn’t it seem like yesterday when your company first turned on its new ERP system and went live? Everything was blooming with possibilities, and your company was in its earlier season with its ERP system.

And then the years slipped away, and now your organization finds itself struggling with its legacy system’s withering limitations. And these limitations become an inhibitor to future growth. The truth is, winter is coming for manufacturing companies living on legacy ERP systems.

But you don’t have to hang your head over it, the ERP market is blossoming with different options, such as Epicor’s Version 10, with it’s Microsoft centered stack, and rest service compatibility, it offers the perfect platform for scalable growth.

As you assess your organization and its IT infrastructure, you need to ask yourself the question, have you harvested all the benefits of your legacy ERP system? Are you tired of endless patches? Are you frustrated with the narrow field of vision that your current system affords you? Is your legacy ERP system a husk of its former self? And are you ready to put it to pasture? Are you ready to leave your legacy ERP system behind.

I’m Brad Feakes with the Estes Group, and I’d love to talk to you, see if could help put some spring back in your business systems. 

Have a question for Brad or another one of our experts? Let us know.