Select Page
Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

Trailer Telematics: How Cloud Technology is Driving Success

As trucking companies move closer to the goal of driverless vehicles, the technology that will enable this mission continues to improve. With this improvement comes a vast amount of information regarding the status of a given load. Enter the fleet of trailer telematics fueled by cloud technology.

Trailer Telematics Cloud Technology

What is trailer telematics?

Trailer telematics refers to a suite of technologies that provides the visibility needed to allow fleet managers to better control the key elements that impact the effectiveness of their fleet out in the field:

  • Finding viable trailers to use out in the field
  • Optimizing the rate that trailers get loaded, to ensure that as many tractors as possible have a viable load
  • Providing alerts when pickups and deliveries are made
  • Tracking the location and status of trailers between the point of load and the point of delivery
  • Tracking the status of various elements of a trailer (wheels, lights, etc.) to ensure that they are in working order

How does trailer telematics work?

Essentially, a suite of devices are installed on a given trailer, and these devices monitor various aspects of the trailer in question, and relay them back to a cloud server, where the data is delivered back to the trailer owner, normally via a web interface.  

The presence of cloud technology here is key.

Telematics companies are really SaaS solution providers masquerading as hardware dealers, and this allows for surprising extensions in functionality. While many of these capabilities are reactive in nature, an additional and still-evolving benefit to these technologies is the ability to provide predictive analytics to proactively react to potential problems.

With all of this data in the cloud, the application of AI analytics allows providers to mine this raw data for useful information, which can allow companies to proactively manage everything from security to regulations:

What does this mean for distributors?

For distributors leveraging their own fleet, the benefits should be self-evident — better opportunities to keep trucks on the road. But even for distributors working through third-party logistics providers, there are several potential benefits that might be available.    

Location Control

One immediate opportunity relates to visibility of delivery. The location control aspects of telematics allow for a real-time understanding of where your delivery currently resides, whether incoming or outgoing. This should allow distributors to plan for the realities of delivery timing, while also providing opportunities for expediting, negotiation, and accountability management in real time, allowing proactive companies to be the “squeakiest wheel” on the trailer.

Time and Tracking

As customers demand tighter delivery schedules, the ability to track your product to the day and to hour becomes critical, and your 3PL (third-party logistics) should, at some point, be able to provide this level of information. Moreover, as trailer location control becomes a reality, the ability to locate and schedule backhauls, based on the specific location of a given rig at any moment, becomes a reality.

Cloud technology helps distributors get the information they need to stay competitive.

The lesson to be learned here is that the information is out there, and it’s only getting better. Ask your freight provider whether they have that information, and how they can make it available to you.

Wondering how cloud technology will fit into your distribution technology plan for 2022 and beyond? Contact our cloud specialists today. Our IT industry experts would love to begin a conversation about trailer telematics solutions, supply chain management, data analytics, or other trends affecting distributors of the future. Reduce costs today by moving your trailer data to the EstesCloud platform, a private cloud hosting solution with hybrid cloud options. Support your telematics technology with help from our cloud consultants.

EstesCloud is the ultimate cybersecurity and backup and disaster recovery solution for manufacturers and distributors. Keep web-enabled and web-driven data safe. Secure your telematics devices through the preventative maintenance strategy of cutting-edge cloud technology. Private cloud technology helps you reduce maintenance costs while also protecting you against the risks of highly connected solutions like trailer telematics systems. Got trailer tracking on your company roadmap? The weather’s never been better to drive your commercial vehicles into a custom cloud built to fit the needs of your business. Smart cloud, smart trailer.

6 Tips to Save Time & Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application

6 Tips to Save Time & Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application

Here at EstesGroup, we do a lot of customizations for Epicor ERP and P21 systems. These include adding new logic to processing, adding / changing reports, updating screens to add custom information and creating new dashboards to simplify business understanding. We love customizing both P21 and Epicor Kinetic / E10 because it drives customer efficiency and productivity. But the process of getting things done can be frustrating when delays set in. With that in mind, I want to give you six tips to streamline the customization process and save you time and money!  

Epicor Application Time & Money

Does your Epicor application have you caught in a cycle of subtraction?

#1 – You should consider having an ad-hoc Statement of Work (SOW) setup with EstesGroup.

Doesn’t it always seem that the more urgent the request, the more roadblocks you encounter?

Often you want something quick, but you find that your current SOW has expired. Or maybe is doesn’t have enough hours for the customization. This delays your request and adds more work for you. That’s why we offer our “ad-hoc SOW” as an option.

If you have an ad-hoc SOW established with us, we can skip the step of creating a new SOW (sending emails, getting signatures, entering all of that into systems, etc.) and focus on getting the work done.

Action Step: Contact us and setup an ad-hoc SOW now. Then keep it active so that there is no delay if you have an urgent issue. We usually set them up for 12 months long and we will contact you for approval to renew. And we always get your email approval before starting any work so there are no surprises.

#2 – Have the actual user write up what is needed so that you get the most accurate version of the request.

Remember the telephone game? You whisper in another person’s ear, and they then do the same? What you find is that a request that goes through multiple people can gradually change. Then when the estimate comes back, it doesn’t match the real user’s needs and we’ve introduced more delay in the process.

Action Step: If you are the intermediary at your organization and are gathering the information, have the actual user describe what they want in their own words. Don’t try to interpret it for them or make assumptions you haven’t checked out.

#3 – Focus on describing what you want and how you would like it to work not the details of how the developer should make the code changes.

Often, we get customization requests where the customer focuses on describing the details of how the customization should technically be done rather than what the customization should accomplish.

That’s helpful but overlooks the fact that a developer may know a better way to accomplish the same thing. Plus, realize that developers are naturally prone to find solutions that will not require more work in the future. And there is also a good chance they may have done this same change for another customer.  

Letting them figure out the best way ensures they will offer a solution that doesn’t affect your next upgrade and is also simpler to do.

Action Step: Focus on what you want and how you would like it to work. Describe what the screens must do, or how the report should look. Trust the developer to use their expertise to find the best way to do it.

#4 – Use a standard set of questions for each customization request. Don’t settle for a brief email that can be interpreted several different ways.

We often let requests come in with partial information and the result is a lot of unnecessary back and forth conversations to get the information needed. Your time is valuable, so use a template.

We know that when the user answers the right questions, they offer the best information. And a template is a great way to simplify the process. Of course, we know that in some cases an internal discussion is best to gather the answers. But you can still use the template, right?

Action Step: Use this downloadable form to capture the request information up-front.

#5 – Be clear about what you want and don’t rely on assumptions!

Developers will make assumptions. It’s human nature and that will affect how they estimate the time to make, test and deliver the customization. If you can define those assumptions beforehand, it will reduce delays and improve the quality of the estimate. Here’s a list of common assumptions made by the developer:

  1. The customer doesn’t need to license any new modules to complete the solution.
  2. This area of the application hasn’t been significantly modified before.
  3. The customer has a good testing environment they can use.
  4. The customer has good data to test with.
  5. The end user will review and help test the solution.
  6. I’m the only person currently customizing the environment.

Action Step: If these assumptions are incorrect, include the information in your request so they include them in their thinking. Don’t make them guess!

#6 – Don’t wait to verify the developer has good access to your test environment.  

One of the biggest delays in delivering customizations is when the developer cannot get working access to your test environment. We’ve seen delays of several weeks around this problem and we know that is frustrating for you.

Plus, we are prone to assume that because access worked once before, that it still works. New versions of VPN software and minor configuration changes in your network will easily break the process used only several weeks ago.

Action Step: Provide connection information to the developer early in the process and have them test their access as they develop solutions. If you can validate their access yourself by emulating the developer, we highly recommend doing that so that you know your connection information works.

SUMMARY

Customizations are great but the process can be challenging.  As you use these Six Tips to Save Time and Money When Customizing Your Epicor Application, you will simplify the process for your organization and save time in getting the solutions you need. Plus, you will feel less aggravation in the process

Please feel free to share this information in your organization and let us know if you have any other suggestions as well!

Are you ready to begin a conversation about your Epicor application? Please fill out the form below, or chat with us now!

We have Epicor Kinetic / E11 / E10 & Epicor Prophet 21 experts on standby to answer your questions about every aspect of the application – from the software vendor through to the server!

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Paying the Piper in Epicor E10, Kinetic & Prophet 21

Best Practices for Paying Supplier Invoices in Epicor ERP

There are many challenges when it comes to paying supplier invoices in Epicor E10, Epicor Kinetic (E11), or in Epicor Prophet 21. In simple terms, a company purchases goods from a supplier according to pre-established and carefully-specified terms. In most cases, a company needs to pay them within the specified terms, waiting as long as possible, as to keep the cash flow within the confines of the company’s banking system for as long as possible. 

But the payment must not be so late as to incur the wrath of the supplier and avoid the inconveniences that credit hold will place on subsequent purchases. And the company may elect to take advantage of an early payment discount, if one exists.

Sounds simple enough. But a company also must ensure that invoices are accurate. The amount invoiced must correspond to the quantities that were actually delivered. Some many-to-one complexities muddle the water a bit, given that a supplier invoice may cover several purchase orders and that each PO could be dozens or even hundreds of lines in length.

Supplier Invoices Epicor Kinetic ERP Cloud

Automating the Three-Way Matching Process

At this point, we haven’t even begun to validate the amount that was on the original purchase order. Such is the magic of the three-way match: cross-referencing the information that was on the PO with the information on the receipt and matching both of these with the invoice from the supplier.

The matching process differs by company, as many companies have different rules and tolerances that govern the matching process. This can make the process laborious and time consuming for accounts payable staff, and it’s not uncommon for many accounting departments to spend inordinate amounts of time matching invoices and cutting checks for routine purchases. 

Given that the three-way matching process is largely mechanical in nature, one would think that it could be automated. But what would it look like for a system to perform some of the heavy lifting, allowing your AP staff to focus on the critical few problems, without having to grind thought the invoices that went through without a hitch?

  • Firstly, the system would need to read the invoice. It would need to read and digitize supplier invoices, whether they’re sent as PDFs Word documents, or in some other format.
  • Secondly, it would need to validate the invoice. It would need to review the past POs and match the invoice lines with the corresponding PO lines, whether they come from multiple Purchase Orders or a single PO.
  • Thirdly, they’d need to perform the three-way match. Using the rules that your company has configured, the system would need to compare line items from the purchase order, the invoice, and the actual receipt of goods.
  • Finally, the system would need to generate payment vouchers with the click of a button.

The benefits of such a system should be self-evident. Automation works to secure your supplier relationship, while minimizing invested time and effort. Moreover, such a system would be the kind of repetitive and rigorous data-driven analytical work that computers are made to do:

  • Processing matched invoices
  • Kicking out exceptions

Automation allows skilled staff to focus on the real work, not the grunt work. 

Are you in search of such a solution? Our supply chain automation partner SourceDay will be presenting a webinar entitled “3-Way Matching Success Through AP Automation” with Epicor ERP software solutions expert Jim Frye.  

SourceDay Logo

The webinar will focus on the final stage of the purchase order process: paying supplier invoices. Anyone who’s navigated the perils of accounts payables in Epicor knows the burden of matching purchase orders and invoices. There has to be a better way!

Join Epicor ERP expert Jim Frye to learn how SourceDay helps Epicor customers reduce the time and effort it takes to pay supplier invoices, resulting in early payment discounts, efficiency gains, and hard cost savings. The webinar will cover the following:

The challenges of paying supplier invoices in Epicor
The measurable benefits of faster invoice payment
How to increase operational efficiency and automation

Learn more about Epicor software by attending an EstesGroup Summit! Whether you’re a small business or a global manufacturer or distributor, our world-class enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants can help you with everything from raw materials management to ERP cloud migration. Our Epicor consulting team can help you move from the paper based systems of the past to the cloud based applications of the future.

Brad Feakes SVP of Professional Services

BRAD FEAKES

SVP or Professional Services

EstesGroup

Jim Frye SourceDay Epicor Expert

JIM FRYE

Enterprise Sales Director & In-House Epicor ERP Expert

SourceDay

Phillip Pavelka SourceDay Supply Chain Expert

PHILLIP PAVELKA

Solutions Engineer

SourceDay

Scaling Up & Scaling Out in a P21 Ecosystem

Scaling Up & Scaling Out in a P21 Ecosystem

P21 System Performance in Accordance

When deploying any enterprise-level application such as Epicor’s Prophet 21 ERP, system performance is an extremely important consideration, one that can have significant impact on the successful use of the application. Memory allocation, transaction logging, network connections and a litany of other factors can affect the user community’s experience of the application. Failures in any one of these areas can bring an application to a grinding halt. This is certainly the case in a P21 environment.

As such, the work of a P21 administrator is critical in the successful deployment and maintenance of the Prophet 21 ecosystem.

While the successful administration of a P21 environment will differ on several factors, such as the version installed, the presence of a middleware server, the use of terminal services, and the use of the legacy desktop application, the actions taken to attain, maintain, and sustain a P21 ecosystem can be summarized by the two following principles:

  • Scaling Up: Stacking up resources onto a single existing server, user terminal, network, or device to allow it to perform better and bear additional load.
  • Scaling Out: Branching out by breaking out additional servers, terminals, network connections or devices to improve the capacity and capability of the overall P21 infrastructure.

Scaling up in a Prophet 21 Ecosystem

Scaling up involves the addition of resources, most often to a server, to address issues with usage and performance. In many cases, the performance of a single server, whether it is an application server, a database server or a user terminal, can be improved by identifying the problem in question and judiciously allocating some additional resources, such as RAM, CPU, or storage.

Let’s use the Prophet 21 desktop application as an example. The architecture of the legacy desktop application was such that a single desktop client generally consumed one entire CPU when in use. This creates a challenge for terminal services, given that two users logged into the same terminal server cannot share the same CPU, as is the case with other applications.

To address this, system administrators need to “scale up” and add CPUs to the terminal server, to allow multiple users to work from it in parallel. This is of course easier to do when the computer is virtualized, so admins will want to consider this should they have the need to build out a remote desktop for their user community. Depending on the number of users in your company, such an approach to your P21 environment may be satisfactory. 

With the shift from the legacy P21 desktop application to the P21 middleware server, the concern with scale similarly shifts. Scaling up under the modern architecture now involves the resources allocated to a given middleware server to allow it to handle heavier loads. Even here, it is not uncommon that companies encounter scaling issues with the P21 middleware server, as the company grows. In many cases, the answer is not to scale up, but to scale out.

Scaling out in a Prophet 21 Ecosystem

Using the example of the Prophet 21 desktop application, a company can scale up a single remote desktop so high before the additional building blocks no longer elevate its cause. In the case of a remote desktop, a single terminal server can support approximately 12 CPUs to support roughly 15 users working in parallel—any further and the platform begins to bend under the weight of its own design.

In this case, it is preferable to spin up a separate P21 terminal server to support additional user requirements, and to integrate the multiple servers with a broker to create a server farm.

A similar but updated concern relates to Epicor’s middleware application server layer, and the number of users it can support. As with the development of a Prophet 21 server farm for remote desktops, the need might arise to create a load-balanced farm of Prophet 21 middleware servers, in order to meet user needs.

The shift from a 2-tiered architecture, in which the fat client speaks directly to the database to a 3-tiered architecture, where the thin client speaks to the middleware server naturally shifts much of the heavy lifting from the traditional desktop client to the P21 middleware server itself. 

Again, the specifications are ambiguous, but we’ve found that often a single Prophet 21 middleware server can be scaled up such that it will support roughly 50 concurrent users before the server can no longer perform any additional heavy lifting. In these cases, it is preferable to build out a new Prophet 21 middleware server in a load-balanced environment.

P21 Economies of Scale

In practice, helping users often involves some combination of scaling up and scaling out. It begins with an understanding of the scope and limitations of the Prophet 21 architecture and an understanding of the size of the user community and their needs. From there, the combinations and permutations become an intriguing and multifaceted challenge for the P21 administrator to circumnavigate.

P21 Ecosystem Server Upgrade Cartoon
EstesGroup Partners with RIPEN for Digital Commerce

EstesGroup Partners with RIPEN for Digital Commerce

ESTESGROUP & RIPEN ANNOUNCE DIGITAL COMMERCE PARTNERSHIP

EstesGroup has announced a partnership with RIPEN, a leading digital commerce experience agency. The strategic alliance allows the two tech leaders to join forces and offer best-in-class Prophet 21 and e-commerce consulting, solutions, and managed services.

The EstesGroup and RIPEN partnership aims to serve Prophet 21 users by offering a comprehensive set of digital capabilities to help distributors grow revenue and reduce operational costs.

Digital Commerce

We are excited to partner with RIPEN. RIPEN’s robust and flexible P21 Commerce platform, extensive B2B experience, and superior customer service make the agency a leader in the industry, and a great partner for EstesGroup.

Brandon Haave

SVP, Partner, EstesGroup

EstesGroup RIPEN Digital Commerce

For 18 years, RIPEN has consistently delivered digital commerce transformations. Our experience enables us to distill technical requirements and strategic goals to recommend creative solutions for digital growth and success. This partnership is a step towards our vision of providing unified support for ERP and ecommerce platforms.

Michael Tudor

CEO, RIPEN

About RIPEN

RIPEN develops creative and technical strategies to build highly persuasive digital commerce experiences that convert, scale, and thrive. RIPEN P21 Commerce integrates Epicor Prophet 21 with Magento 2 to offer an optimized B2B experience and robust set of features.

Build and launch 2-3x faster on RIPEN P21 Commerce, the only natively integrated Prophet 21 e-commerce accelerator platform.

Are you looking for a better Prophet 21 e-commerce experience?

Schedule a consultation to discuss your requirements and digital goals today.

Prophet 21 hosting creates the perfect private cloud for your distribution business. As the premiere ERP hosting company for Epicor Kinetic and Epicor Prophet 21, EstesGroup creates the infrastructure you need, saving you from the headaches caused by a poor deployment strategy.

Please chat with us now or complete the form below to schedule a free Prophet 21 deployment consultation today.

Prophet 21 E-Commerce Integration Tips

Prophet 21 E-Commerce Integration Tips

E-Commerce is Drawing Interest from Epicor Prophet 21 Users

Trend lines are never a function of simple math. As much as I’d like my world around me to conform to the simple y=mx+b along a clean Cartesian plane, the world around me thinks otherwise. Life, they say, is non-Euclidean. I would surmise it is also non-Cartesian. So, what does this have to do with Prophet 21 e-commerce integrations?

E-Commerce Distribution Industry Prophet 21 ERP Software

Prophet 21 Trends

A trend of the distribution industry that hit me especially hard at the recent P21WWUG CONNECT 2021 event was the proliferation of e-commerce as a subject of interest, as a pressing concern for members of the distribution ERP community and for solution providers working to narrow the gap between the capabilities of the industry and the changing needs of the market.

E-Commerce Solutions Flow From Online Trends

This should really be no surprise—as soon as the World Wide Web became commonplace in offices and households, the possibilities of virtual commerce enamored businesses and consumers. As such, e-commerce has been a pervading topic for companies, as they try to take advantage of these possibilities. 

 

If a trend-line is a topography, then the recent changes to the landscape have been a shift from a steady incline to a fever pitch.

Distribution Industry, P21 & E-Commerce Challenges

The obstacles to traditional procurement such as labor shortages, delivery schedule changes, shipping land congestion, and limits to brick-and-mortar acquisition that have been prevalent over 2020 and 2021 necessitated an increasing emphasis in e-commerce strategies. These strategies needed to support a type of acquisition and delivery that was quicker, more granular, more flexible, and more reactive to the world around us.

This new emphasis has certainly affected the Prophet 21 distribution community. Distributors are diverging in multiple directions, with working both to satisfy the needs of B2B customers, while also opening up their product directly to consumers through B2C opportunities. On this note, Ryan Horvath of Ripen recently offered some helpful points to consider when approaching a P21 e-commerce integration.

Processes: A successful e-commerce platform must support solid business processes. Before you build out your e-commerce solution, make sure to understand the business processes that they enable.

Platform: There are many idiosyncrasies to a given e-commerce platform, which differentiate one platform from another. Understand these differences before you pick one.

Resources: E-commerce solutions require resources to build, configure, deploy, and maintain.  These resources can be internal or external. Before you begin, build a resource plan to support the creation and support of the e-commerce platform.

Scalability: As I noted above, we are in a period of rapid and radical upheaval. As such, the solution with which you go live may need to shift, scale, or otherwise morph as the needs of the market change. Make sure you’re building a solution that can handle such needs.

Ownership: The ownership of data, solutions, intellectual content, and transaction history may shift, depending on how the solution is licensed and deployed. Consider what you own and what you are giving up, prior to selecting a solution.

Long-Term Cost: Cost is an important consideration, as the cost to maintain the solution can erode into the profitability of the transactions it handles. Consider the long-term costs of your solution before you pick one.

Do you need help with your Prophet 21 E-Commerce Integration?

Ripen is an EstesGroup e-commerce partner, offering digital transformations that drive growth and strengthen brand loyalty. Ask us your e-commerce questions by filling out the form below or chatting with us now. EstesGroup offers enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions and technology services to manufacturing and distribution companies. Prophet 21 hosting solutions and services bring P21 users into the secure and affordable infrastructure of a private cloud.

 

 

Begin an e-commerce P21 conversation today!

Sometimes privacy settings prevent you from seeing our “Ask Us” form. If you don’t see a form, please chat with us now. (Even if you see the form, chat with us! We love to talk Prophet 21 with everyone!)