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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.

Can I Run Quickbooks and Compete in Smart Manufacturing?

Can I Run Quickbooks and Compete in Smart Manufacturing?

You’ve heard the term Smart Manufacturing or Industry 4.0; but what does that really mean for your manufacturing company? Can a company be “Smart” and use basic software like Quickbooks or do you need to have a real Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system?  The short answer is: yes, your company needs an ERP system to truly adopt Smart manufacturing and be ahead (or even keep pace) with the competition.

For those still wondering what Smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0 are, don’t worry, the terms are newer and only recently been used in a fairly regular manner. Smart Manufacturing is, simply put, the melding of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT). Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing are really the newest phase or a new Industrial Revolution if you will hitting manufacturing on a worldwide scale.

In order to remain competitive, manufacturers must invest in inter-connectivity, automation, machine learning, and real-time data analytics.

Holding together various systems needed to properly track and analyze the smart manufacturing data captured, is a strong ERP system, which can marry the shop-floor data with cost breakdowns, operational information, job details, and customer information, etc. I find it interesting how many manufacturers still run homegrown systems or rely on access database, excel, etc to track production, which is clunky, prone to data corruption, and does not collect all relevant data to provide a company with true business analytics.

One of our clients used a homegrown system before deploying Epicor ERP a few years ago. They noticed immediate improvements in inventory control, accurate cost measurements for their products, and better shop floor scheduling. Now, image if the same company deployed machine learning and automation married with real-time data analytic software? The potential to outpace the competition is dramatically increased.

So to get back to the second question, no, Quickbooks or other smaller software systems will not support manufacturers focused on growth since they lack the basic shop floor data collection and analytics needed to streamline your business. Manufacturers that wish to remain competitive, and have an optimized business require an ERP system.

 

Is your company looking to move away from small accounting systems and move to a manufacturing ERP system? Or do you have an ERP system and need to work on optimizing it? We would love to talk with you about how we can work together to make your business run better.

How To Manage Inventory Using Epicor’s Fulfillment Workbench

How To Manage Inventory Using Epicor’s Fulfillment Workbench

Have you ever told a customer that you had product in stock – only to find that you couldn’t fulfill the order because the inventory was sold or used in production before you got to it? Or have you ever expedited-in material for an important customer or job only to have that material used to fulfill a different order or produce a different job? Or maybe you resorted to hiding parts in your desk so that it doesn’t get used to “Rob Peter to Pay Paul”. Frustrating, isn’t it? That’s why Epicor ERP’s Fulfillment Workbench is a critical application for many of my clients.

It’s a common occurrence, in both the retail and manufacturing world: having too much demand for a limited supply and seemingly no way to manage the available inventory. Wouldn’t it be nice to “set-aside” material so that it’s available when it comes time to ship or produce the product?

 

Fortunately, Epicor’s Fulfillment Workbench has a great way to manage those times when demand exceeds supply. Using the concept of Reserve, Allocation, and Cross-Docking, the Fulfillment Workbench allows management to decide how to best utilize limited supplies in the face of current and future demand. The Fulfillment Workbench has the option to do “soft” and “hard” allocation. In Epicor Parlance, Reserve equates to “Soft Reserve”, and Allocate is equivalent to “Hard Reserve”. Cross-Docking is, in essence, “Hard Reserves” material that is not yet received into inventory and keeps it from being used to satisfy demand other than what it is specifically allocated to.

 

Epicor Fulfillment Workbench Material Basics by EstesGroup

 

The “Reserve” function places a “soft-hold” on available material and keeps it from being used to satisfy other demand. However, this “reserve” status is easily removed if that material is needed to satisfy other demand. Whereas material that is “Hard Allocated” needs management permission to be remove that status so it can satisfy a different demand.

 

Using the Fulfillment Workbench, you can manage inventory for all three sources of demand: Sales Orders, Jobs, and Transfer Orders (inventory coming from another inter-company location). The Fulfillment Workbench provides additional functionality, like Cross-Docking, sorting by priorities, allocation templates, and many more. By utilizing this incredibly useful tool, managing your inventory supply becomes a much less complicated task, and helps make for satisfied customers and efficient manufacturing personnel.

 

Do you have more questions on Epicor’s Fulfillment Workbench or want to learn more about the product? Contact us. For more tips from our Epicor consulting team, download one of our white papers on Part Setup:

 

10 Internal Questions You Absolutely Need To Ask For A Successful ERP Search

10 Internal Questions You Absolutely Need To Ask For A Successful ERP Search

Internal Planning is Key to Forming ERP Search Questions 

Let’s face it, many articles have been written about companies “Outgrowing QuickBooks” or “Signs you need an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system”. But what those articles don’t usually talk about is what you can do to prep your team internally for an ERP software system. This is a comprehensive sales, finance, and operations system. As such, planning comes into play. Unfortunately, “planning” is one of those words that tends to make people groan. They know it means more work, lots of discussions, and loss of time. However, asking detailed internal ERP search questions is paramount to a successful ERP evaluation and implementation.

 

Would a military general or combat veteran go into battle without a plan? There is a reason that ERP implementation rooms are nicknamed “War Rooms.” First, leaders storm through strategy. Then, heavy system testing is done and current company practices come into question.

 

What are some of the right internal ERP search questions to ask for planning purposes? Questions like system design, usability, industry specific functionality, cost, and implementation assistance are just some aspects to consider when looking for an ERP system. I look around on the web, and I find a lot of system questions written by software vendors, but not a lot of internal company questions to ask or considerations that need to be discussed. Having talked and worked with many, many companies over the years during their ERP searches, I wanted to give some examples of planning areas and questions for companies to prep internally.

 

10 Internal ERP Search Questions to Get the Project Planning Started

  1. What does my company need and want to accomplish with an ERP System?
    1. Accessibility throughout departments
    2. Financial reporting
    3. Time frame for evaluation purchase, deployment phases/locations, and full usability
  2. What are the challenges of my company’s current business software? Why is it no longer meeting the needs of my company? Look at this from a department level:
    1. Production challenges
    2. Services challenges
    3. Finance challenges
    4. Executive/Owner(s) challenges
    5. Sales & Marketing challenges
    6. Purchasing challenges
    7. the Warehouse(s) challenges
    8. Research & Development challenges (if applicable)
    9. Human Resources challenges (if required as part of an ERP search)
  3. Is my company fully utilizing current systems in place. Is the current software potentially sufficient with added training? (I suggest talking with an expert consultant of that software if it’s an ERP system. Through this view, you can see if the current software works for your needs. Then, you can focus on ERP user training.)
  4. Does my company have specific compliance or auditing conditions? Examples: Medical CFR, Aerospace & DoD DCAA, Medical Records HIPAA, Internal export FCPA, Electronic Underwriters UL, Federal Airlines FAA, Finance SOX etc.
    1. What are the key aspects of the compliance in relation to software? What data needs to be captured?
    2. Why do I need an ERP to do in order for my company to meet the compliance? Reporting?
  5. Do we need a SaaS (cloud-based) solution, on-premise (due to data security concerns), or a hybrid cloud (hosted) system? Hybrid cloud platforms combine the best of on-premise with the best of pure cloud.
  6. How do you plan to care for your ERP system? Do we have IT staff in-house to support an on-premise solution, or is there an outsourced IT firm we can work with to help?
  7. Do we need a system that will work for 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years?
    1. How important is scalability?
    2. What modules would you like to add to your core functions as your company grows?
    3. Do you have multi-company or multi-site requirements?
  8. What are the key functions we need the ERP system to do? Look at this on a department level:
    1. What does production need?
    2. What does services need?
    3. What does finance need?
    4. What do the executives and owners need?
    5. What does sales & marketing need?
    6. What does purchasing need?
    7. What does the warehouse need?
    8. What does research and development need?
    9. What does human resources need, especially for the ERP search?
  9. What are the “nice to have” or “wanted” functions beyond the base needed requirements?
  10. What is a realistic budget and ROI for a new ERP system?
    1. Licensing budget (per month spending for cloud or for fully purchased or financed system)
    2. Implementation budget (research firms say to estimate 1 to 2 times the licensing budget for implementation costs)
    3. Software maintenance, etc. should also be factored into a budget
    4. Hardware system requirement budget (especially important for on-premise software which basically requires a data center in-house)
    5. Additional personnel / staffing requirements to support a new system
    6. Expected ROI?

 

Is your company looking for an ERP system?

EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

EDI Not Working? Try Picking Up the Phone. Communication is Key to Problem Solving.

One of the greatest challenges to having a successful Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) process will be determined by the data being sent to you and what your system will do with that data. In many cases, translation tables can be placed that will autocorrect incorrect data. But what if that data is not just incorrect, but corrupted or just plain invalid? Even though Electronic Data Interchange services are designed to be an automated process, manual intervention is still required to ensure the integrity of the data being received. If this data is not found and managed at the beginning of the EDI process, issues will occur that could derail the EDI process right from the start. To enhance success a proactive approach is required. This is where communication with your partners becomes critical. With constant communication with partners, customers and suppliers, your EDI setup will have fewer issues, and the ones that do occur will be much easier to manage and correct.

 

One instance that comes to mind was with a customer who sent daily and ten-day forecasts every workday. These forecasts contained firm orders that needed to be filled correctly each week. For weeks, an incorrect quantity was being shipped from our business to this customer. After multiple weeks went by, our inside sales rep finally brought the issue to my attention that either the incorrect order quantity was shipped out, or that the inside sales rep had to call the customer for confirmation of the quantity needed before shipment. Until this matter was corrected, our customer was certain that it was an issue on our side and we were to blame for their inability to produce their required products to their customers, causing our customer a great deal of problems.

 

After being able to review the raw EDI files data it was determined that the issue was arising on our customer’s end and not ours. Their ERP Electronic Data Interchange services system’s materials requirements were not set up with the correct required quantities and in turn produced an incorrect sales order on our end. Once the partner was able to get this corrected in their system, we started to see the correct quantities in orders and the partner started to see the correct quantities received.

 

This just shows that even though EDI is an automated process, manual interaction is needed throughout to proactively handle issues and provide effective EDI solutions and management. Without it, an issue like this could have taken even longer to discover and even longer still to get the proper research and solution in place. These sorts of issues erode trust with the EDI process even when the process is working as intended. With incorrect or corrupt system data, the EDI process, no matter how well the EDI mapping setup was done, will falter and fail to give the results needed to run your business the way you need it to. This is not the type of reflection you should want your partners receiving back from your digital mirror.

 

Having issues with your EDI management or interested in getting an EDI solution for your business? Want to chat with the author? Contact us and learn about our Electronic Data Interchange services today.

 

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is EDI? Be Careful, It’s Your Company’s Digital Mirror

What is EDI?

 

What is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)? In a much simpler five words or less definition, it means “data in, data out”. EDI is a toolset that interacts with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business software system that takes data coming into the EDI system, processes that data in the ERP, and sends that data back out to the originator (like a customer). You would think that a process which can be explained in only four words would be pretty simple, right? And it can be, if the proper care and attention is given to the EDI’s initial setup and further EDI strategy.
 
If a customer’s purchase order sent via EDI is being processed and has an incorrect date, or is completely missing a cell’s data, a simple mapping adjustment can be made to correct these sorts of issues. How can you ensure that your customer’s purchase orders are processed into your system correctly, if that attention to detail is not done? How can you be sure the pricing on your sales orders and the invoices that are generated are correct if your price lists are not correctly setup in your ERP system?
 
The EDI strategy and process is a digital mirror of how your system is currently setup and will reflect your strengths and faults back to your customers and suppliers. Think of EDI as a linked chain and your business is a boat being pulled along by a truck, which represents your customers or suppliers.
If all the links are solid, that truck will pull that boat forever always getting to the desired destination, but if there is a broken link, the chain will start to fail and eventually break, allowing that truck to continue driving, but it leaves the boat behind stranded in the middle of nowhere. To avoid being stranded and left behind, make sure that your chain is strong and durable by taking time setting up the ERP data properly, the EDI mapping, and running many tests before going live with customers. With the proper care and attention to your EDI solution, it will not matter how large that boat or truck gets. Your chain will not break; it can handle the pressure. Now ask yourself this, is your chain strong and durable enough? Or could there be some broken links you may or may not even know about?

 

 

Still not clear on the answer to the question “What is electronic data interchange?” Ask us anything, we would love to chat.