Successful manufacturing companies and distributors know the importance of a good ERP system. Without it, shipments suffer and profits fall. Part of keeping the ERP wheels greased, however, is staying current on software technology, as well as networking with industry peers.
This was the intent of Epicor Insights 2018, a users conference held by Epicor Software Corp. at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN, May 21-24. At the conference, the software developer’s management, employees, and partners hosted customers and sales prospects for a four-day, here’s-everything-that’s-cool-about-our-products event.
Insights 2018 covered a wide range of software technology. The Austin, TX-based ERP company held dozens of educational events and hands-on labs covering its entire suite of products. From Epicor ERP and Prophet 21 to DocStar and Eagle, specialists from the aerospace and defense, energy, industrial machinery, and many other industries were on hand to answer questions and provide product demonstrations to more than 3,600 visitors.
As with other Epicor events, the company pulled out all the stops for its guests. Attendees were treated to dinner and a show with comedian Jim Gaffigan. Keynote presenter and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning offered motivational advice on how to keep going after “taking the big hits,” sharing lessons learned from his nearly two decades of professional football. And for the music lovers in the group, Trace Adkins, Darius Rucker, Lee Greenwood and other country music legends honored the men and women of the US Armed Forces at the nearby Grand Ole Opry.
Entering the New Frontier
There was much more to the conference than fun and good food, however. The cloud was a big discussion topic, as was Industry 4.0, digitalization, and mobility. In his opening speech, Epicor Chief Product and Technology Officer Himanshu Palsule noted that businesses are being transformed by technology that is “having a profound impact on the core of your factories, your warehouses, and your employees. Machines are more intelligent, devices are more ubiquitous, businesses are more global, robots more cognitive, and data is the new frontier,” he said.
In this “always online” world, continued Palsule, technology usage patterns vary greatly. It’s a place of multi-generational computing, where Boomers expect one type of experience and Millennials another. Data is pervasive and dynamic, and applications are becoming truly intelligent, able to discern the patterns that drive predictive behavior.
At the same time, fears of data privacy, identity theft, corporate governance, and global compliance cause many a sleepless night for those responsible for such areas. Add to that the spiraling costs of IT, and the need to work with vendors who don’t always understand your industry, and it’s not surprising that many professionals are uncomfortably anxious about the future.
“Welcome to the digital economy,” Palsule said.
Add it all up and the reasons for attending such an event become clear; today’s manufacturers must not only be good at making things but must also have a firm grasp of technology that didn’t exist even a decade ago. What’s more, the rate of change is increasing. It’s only by networking with others and staying current on the latest, greatest, and most relevant software systems that anyone can hope to excel in today’s data-driven world.
The cloud will help to eliminate much of this future struggle, as well as the anxiety that accompanies the adoption of any new technology. As such, Epicor CEO Steve Murphy announced a partnership with Microsoft, one that will leverage the software giant’s Azure cloud platform to support Epicor customers, simplify implementations, and reduce ongoing hardware and software maintenance.
Roughly 10-percent of Epicor’s 20,000 customers are currently “on the cloud,” he estimated, with more jumping onboard daily. He was quick to point out, however, that while Epicor firmly believes in a cloud-based software strategy, it’s not going to shove this or any other technology down any customer’s throat.
“We have to make sure that we create an environment for our partners and customers to succeed,” said Murphy. “Our aspiration is to be the easiest to deploy, easiest to use, easiest to upgrade, easiest to migrate ERP in the market globally. Because the cloud offers greater scalability and lower investment, it gives companies more opportunities for growth, and growth is what we at Epicor are all about.”
One of the ways in which Epicor plans to accomplish this growth is through a rich set of partnerships. Aside from a standardized deployment model of Epicor ERP and Epicor Prophet 21 enterprise resource planning suites that use Microsoft’s Azure “intelligent cloud” services, the company announced that it has joined forces with Jitterbit and its API enterprise integration platform to connect cloud-based and on-premise software systems. Those familiar with Epicor’s robust customization capabilities were excited to learn about Epicor Kinetic Design, a newly released design platform that makes development of customized user interfaces, software applications, and similar value-added solutions easier for partners and customers alike.
The company has also created the Alliance Independent Software (ISV) program, designed to make it simpler for development partners such as BizNet Software and Precise Business Solutions to deploy innovative 3rd party solutions to the Epicor platform.
Joining the Club
Many of the show’s visitors were more interested in the everyday challenges of business operation. Finding and retaining qualified employees was a common thread in several of the roundtable discussions. One Epicor customer suggested that attempting to embrace digitalization while managing a small business is a little like changing the engine on a jet airplane while it’s in the air. Another noted that, while all this new technology is “really cool,” the reality for mid-market manufacturers is that employees are busy just doing their job every day. “No one has time for all this other stuff,” he said.
Yet other Epicor users who’d once felt similar pains were there to offer suggestions:
- An accounting clerk from Virginia said the mountain of open invoices he faced every day had become “easily manageable” since the company implemented Epicor’s DocStar enterprise content management and process automation solution.
- An Ohio company’s IT supervisor admitted that life is much easier since moving from on-premise to cloud-based ERP, even though she was secretly concerned about job security for her and her team at the start of the implementation.
- The operations manager for a global manufacturing company said, “the visibility between facilities has been phenomenal” after rolling out a multi-site customization on its new Epicor system, and that “we’re using it every day to drive profitability.”
- The COO for a Portland sporting goods producer said his team has taken Epicor’s product configurator “to the max,” allowing them to greatly increase revenue, reduce order entry efforts, and improve customer satisfaction.
None of this surprised Terri Hiskey, Epicor’s vice president, Product Marketing, Manufacturing. She noted that companies with modern ERP systems are able to do more with less, increasing efficiency company-wide. They’re also in the best position to attract and retain new talent.