Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to promote business growth, today announced the 10.2.700 release of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The new release supports global manufacturers to adapt in the ever-changing workplace with reliable cloud enhancements and higher security access to data and order creation remotely. Epicor ERP 10.2.700 empowers remote workers and companies, especially those deemed essential, to thrive in an all-new territory.
Long story short
This release essentially completes the investment that Epicor has made in modernizing and updating the Epicor ERP user experience. There are hundreds of new forms, reports, processes, trackers and flows now available to simplify daily work and enhance productivity. In addition, Epicor Application Studio, a powerful toolset that enables users to create their own experience in an intuitive and streamlined way, is introducing enhancements including a new Application Studio home page, embedded websites, and reusable component design.
Another significant feature is Advanced Unit of Measure (AUOM), which offers new levels of traceability in inventory management to meet requirements of the Metals Services Industry. Users will be able to see and transact inventory in two separate units of measure, including when there is no constant conversion.
“We’re excited about our partnership with Epicor,” said Ian Morris, Head of Business Systems, Barrett Steel Limited, the UK’s largest independent steel stockholder.
“One of the reasons we selected Epicor was for the introduction of AUOM – for us this will be instrumental to the way our teams measure and transact inventory. We have over 43 companies operating from 30 locations across the UK and keeping up with the latest ERP technology will help to ensure we are in a great position to continue growing as we embrace the future.”
In an enhancement that makes it easier for companies to utilize cloud quickly and securely, Epicor ERP’s additional innovations include:
- Epicor Data Analytics Budgeting and Forecasting Modern, cloud–based BI and analytics solution that provides robust financial reports such as financial statements, balance sheets and cash flow reports in a pre-packaged format.
- 1 EDI Source Supplier-Digital Integration Suite (SDIS) – Integrates customer suppliers, regardless of supplier’s technical capabilities, via web portal access or direct ERP integration.
- Epicor QuickShip – New features of Epicor QuickShip in the Azure Cloud include bulk and mass shipping and rate shopping to include accessorials – extra charges for transportation services. This opens new markets for manufacturers as the supply chain digitizes.
- Epicor Identity – Built on native Azure Cloud Services, Epicor Identity offers secure centralized identity management with multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), and new self-service administration that adds an additional layer of security to protect data.
- Epicor ERP Cloud Data Access – Further analyze Epicor ERP data with preferred business intelligence solutions in a write-protected environment.
“Thousands of small to midsize manufacturers rely on Epicor software to run their businesses and serve their customers” said Rich Murr, Chief Information Officer, Epicor. “As businesses adjust to the changes wrought by COVID-19, Epicor continues to ensure its software delivers the features, reliability, scalability and security its customers need to thrive under any circumstances. With the ERP 10.2.700 launch, we’re introducing a number of exciting new capabilities that take our customers into the future of manufacturing.”
Tru-Flex has conducted a complex migration to the new Epicor ERP version and simultaneous integration of independent system installations operating in two factories, significantly reducing risk and costs. The project was carried out from start to finish by an experienced team of Mindbox consultants.
American Tru-Flex is a manufacturer of, among other things, flexible exhaust system compensators, which are used, among others, in commercial vehicles with diesel engines of the largest automotive brands. They are often installed between turbochargers, between the turbocharger and the exhaust after-treatment system, and between the exhaust after-treatment system and the silencer or the exhaust pipe in the exhaust systems. It is worth noting that the demand for them constantly increases with the introduction of more and more restrictive exhaust emission standards.
The company’s products are also used in sectors focused on the storage, control, protection, and transportation of various materials, the production of chimneys, flexible pipes to protect less durable cables or electronics, and many others. The company often carries out customized projects offering customers technical and engineering support throughout the entire product or project life cycle, from initial design, production, or assembly to the support during the product life cycle and quality audits.
The production plant Tru Flex Spółka z o. o. located in the Katowice Special Economic Zone has been operating since 2015 and is currently employing 70 people.
When is it worth to migrate to a newer version of Epicor ERP?
For many years, Tru-Flex used Epicor ERP software to manage its corporate resources and production processes. Over some time, the old proven edition stopped to meet the current requirements of the organization, generating higher and higher maintenance costs – hence the decision was made to migrate to the latest version of the system.
Difficulties in Epicor ERP migration and integration – what may surprise us
The task, although it might seem relatively simple, was not so at all. First of all, due to the vast difference between the architecture of both versions – the old and the new one – a simple transfer of the so-called system customization was merely impossible. Therefore, the project’s biggest challenge was the necessity to prepare from scratch all add-ons introduced to the system over the years. Also, simultaneously to the upgrade, the integration of the Epicor ERP installation operating in the U.S. company acquired by Tru-Flex a little earlier was to be introduced.
Tru-Flex management knew that this challenging project was crucial for the business. The ERP system is an essential tool for monitoring revenues and managing margins, enabling the company to grow and compete in an increasingly challenging global market, so the company for a long time and without any haste searched for a reliable partner for this implementation.
The final choice was Mindbox, whose implementation team was responsible for the slightly earlier express implementation of Epicor ERP at the Tru-Flex manufacturing plant built in Poland. The excellent reputation of the Polish consultants decided to entrust them with this complex project.
“We needed top-class specialists. We cooperated with a team of Polish consultants during the project in our company in the Katowice SEZ. We also knew that Mindbox’s team of consultants had many projects completed abroad for international corporations and that the know-how and experience gathered during those projects will be used in designing our solution. An attractive project valuation was an additional bonus”. – says Joe Willis, IT Director, Truflex.
The Solution: from analysis, through development and testing to implementation
The whole project – from start to finish – was carried out by Mindbox consultants. Only a certain part of the work was done on-site in the USA. Most of the tasks were carried out by the team of consultants remotely.
The project started in a standard way, i.e. with a thorough analysis, which details the available migration and integration options. In particular, it was determined which of the customization of the old version of Epicor ERP must be programmed from scratch and which of the standard system functionality can be replaced after the upgrade.
The technological difference between the two versions was enormous. “The older one was based on the Progress database. The whole application code was written in this environment. Meanwhile, more modern Epicor ERP versions are based on Microsoft SQL Server technology, and the system code was rewritten and worked as a web application on a Microsoft IIS server. Data structures have changed. Therefore, none of the previous customizations could be transferred. They had to be translated from one language to another and thoroughly tested. Only in some cases could the standard features of the new Epicor ERP version be used. – explains Agnieszka Hermaniuk, Project Manager, Mindbox.
The available options for data connection that work, to some extent, independently within the Tru-Flex Group were also analyzed.
“Epicor ERP was to cover all companies, operating as a single organization, but taking into account their location-specificity. The four Tru-Flex factories work together by shipping parts to each other. Also, there is a separate unit responsible for packaging the finished products. All the entities work together logistically, send orders and product information,” says Piotr Krzysztoporski,Vice President Mindbox.
For example, the production of exhaust pipes for large trucks requires engraving and marking individual components, which extends the production process divided between the individual locations.
All proposed solutions were tested, errors were corrected, so the implementation itself went without any surprises.
Benefits: modern technology, full process control, and lower costs
The project of migration and integration of systems has been fully successful. Using a more advanced version of Epicor ERP, which meets modern business requirements and is based on modern technologies, Tru-Flex was able to reduce system maintenance costs.
“Maintaining an older version of the system usually generates higher costs. That’s why implementing the latest edition of Epicor ERP has already brought savings. It has also been beneficial to merge two independent installations operating at different Tru-Flex sites. This integration means lower administration and infrastructure costs,” says Joe Willis, IT Director, Truflex.
“We are particularly proud that during the Polish company Tru-Flex project, we have earned such a good reputation with its owner that he decided to hire us for a difficult project in his own country. And this despite being aware of cultural and legal differences, or even those concerning business and technical terminology in the field of ERP systems”. – says Piotr Krzysztoporski,Vice President Mindbox.
“At the same time, it is worth emphasizing that the price was not the sole criterion for winning. Even though our service was cheaper, savings were not the main reason for choosing Mindbox. The main reason for the decision was the confidence that we could complete this project correctly, on time, and within budget. We did not betray this trust. After completing the project, we continue to operate Epicor ERP installations providing maintenance services,” says Piotr Krzysztoporski,Vice President Mindbox.
Tru-Flex Sp. z o.o. – express implementation
The history of Mindbox’s team of consultants specializing in Epicor ERP implementations goes beyond the system integration and migration project for Tru-Flex in the USA. The cooperation started with Epicor ERP implementations for the Tru-Flex production plant in Zimna Wódka, Katowice SEZ, launched in 2015.
Tru-Flex was planning to launch a factory in Poland. The company had information that our team specializes in Epicor ERP implementations. However, representatives of the company, who met with us at the site selection stage, were unaware that a simple transfer of the U.S. factory system could not be successful. VAT, correcting invoices, taxes, reporting – all these are remarkable differences,” recalls Agnieszka Hermaniuk, Project Manager, Mindbox the first conversation with Tru-Flex representatives
However, the meeting was fruitful. The Americans got to know the specifics of the Polish tax system and realized that they would have to proceed with the implementation from scratches, but also understood that they are dealing with high-class specialists. Therefore, they quickly decided to entrust the team with this project.
The implementation of Epicor ERP was as spectacular as the entire Tru-Flex project. As early as May 2014, the company did not have a selected plot of land to build the factory, and in January 2015, it started production immediately. Within a few months, not only was the production hall built, the machines imported and installed, but the ERP system was also implemented.
“This is all the more impressive result when you consider that in the automotive industry, most orders are sent electronically via EDI. This was one of the basic requirements of Tru-Flex,” explains Agnieszka Hermaniuk, Project Manager, Mindbox.
“The project was completed at such a fast pace, among other things, because we had a great deal of support from the management and key users of the system from the USA, who was very involved in the project,”– says Piotr Krzysztoporski,Vice President Mindbox. .
In October 2020, Mindbox consultants continue to work on the upgrade of the iScala ERP solution to its most recent release 3.4 for the German based leading Science & Technology company Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (Merck). It covers 19 subsidiaries of the group in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East. Mindbox’s offer was selected as the most advantageous in terms of the proposed timing, cost, and mode of performance, as well as the years-long successful business relationship and cooperation between Merck and Mindbox. Another important factor was Mindbox’s extensive experience in complex information technology projects of global reach. Mindbox specializes in supporting businesses using Epicor software, including the iScala system, among other products.
iScala 3.4 at Merck
Merck has used the iScala system for more than a decade. It is a solution for smaller subsidiaries within the organization (Tier II). Business process handling and system usage have been standardized. Support for 450 simultaneous remote users is provided by the Global Scala Team based in Darmstadt, Germany, and Singapore.
Project objectives and characteristics
Given that the implementation was required for pharmaceutical company, some specific industry requirements had to be considered, such as:
- legal restrictions,
- data security,
- and other potential threats.
The migration was from release 3.0 to the most recent release 3.4. The system is customized for Merck’s requirement by 120 modifications, hundreds of reports, OLAP cubes, and documents. Work efficiency is ensured by intensive communication and data exchange between iScala and other systems, both internal and business partners, via more than 100 interfaces. All these elements had to be transferred to the new release and then tested with maximum precision. The project’s primary objective is to change the technology platform with minimum disturbance to the business operations.
Key benefits of the migration to the iScala 3.4
From the business and technological points of view, migration was a significant step. Its benefits included:
- Ensuring the continuity and stability of business operations for the next five years;
- Reducing legal risk and related expenses;
- New supported technology;
- Increased system flexibility through an extended range of functionalities in the new release.
Risks involved in the project
The paramount objective is to complete the project with minimum disturbance to the business operations. Given the complexity and geographical reach of the system, the task requires detailed analysis and precise planning. Areas critical for successful project completion include:
- A high degree of system modification;
- Geographical dispersion and cultural differences, for both users and project team members;
- Procedures specific to the pharmaceutical industry;
- COVID related restrictions
Mindbox is running the migration project with the support of a dedicated team appointed by Merck. As a whole, the project is scheduled for 14 months. At the very outset, the timeframes for all successive stages are specified. One of the project’s greatest challenges is the geographical dispersion of the project team (over 20 people in 10 countries) and end-users (18 countries). Due to the COVID regime, a definite majority of the work is being done on a remote basis. The success of the project, in a great matter, relies on precise planning and rigorous project management.
The implementation process is planned to be completed in four major stages. During the first one, the Mindbox team completes the migration of all the system’s technical components. The phase will be concluded by a test migration and a one-month period of internal tests. The pilot migration will be carried out in Sweden. Then it will be rolled out in groups ranging from four to eight countries in three successive phases. Each includes a test migration, user acceptance tests, the final migration, and post-implementation support.
iScala 3.4 implemenation results
After completing all the scheduled activities, the system is expected to run without any perceptible changes to the user while its operation but should be faster, more effective, and safer, and more importantly, it will offer an array of new possibilities to improve the operating efficiency of the business.
Business as usual, which means that projects stay unchanged
At the beginning of this year, we started preparations for the project of ERP system implementation at a client’s site in one of the Baltic countries. In February, we still had a few preliminary meetings on the spot, but then suddenly, we had to switch to fully remote working. And you know what? The project is implemented according to the assumed schedule. Could we imagine we’ll finalize the plan without another visit to the client? Yes, but when the epidemic is over, we’d probably prefer to go back to the traditional way of conducting projects. In many cases, it’s just easier, faster, and more enjoyable.
When successive European governments, including the Polish one, began to introduce restrictions on movement and closed borders, we were finalizing preparations for the project. It turned out that this is not a sufficient reason to stop us. As planned, at the end of April, we signed a contract, the operations started and are still going on – all remotely. Of course, a direct meeting with the client’s representatives at the beginning of the year was an advantage. We got to know each other a bit, but most of the activities were carried out remotely.
What is the biggest challenge?
We feel that in some situations, there is a lack of face-to-face contact. By being physically in one room, you can better assess the involvement of the participants. It is also much easier to feel if everything has been understood or if something has remained unclear to someone. Sure, you can also ask questions while working remotely. However, practice shows that not everyone is open enough to ask for something on their own initiative or to ask people to repeat themselves. If we are there, we observe someone’s behavior, not only the face but also body language, and make some assumptions then.
Long training sessions are also a challenge. Many people find it much easier to deal with a conference room than sitting in front of a computer screen in their own home or office. This situation is challenging, especially for the trainer, who has to speak almost all the time without seeing the participants. It slightly improves the situation if all the people taking part in the on-line training have the camera on. However, if the trainer does not see the participants and they do not ask any questions, he does not even know if they are on the other side and listen to him.
An additional difficulty with this project was that all communication with the client was in English. It should be added that it was not the mother tongue of any participant in the project. Moreover, some key users of the system did not speak English, and the project manager on the client side acted as an interpreter. This would be a hindrance even under traditional conditions, but remote working was a real challenge.
Someone might say that remote working and teleconferencing is not a novelty, as they were used as a standard in larger projects. That is true. When we were doing projects in Africa or Australia, it was clear that we could not be there all the time. On the other hand, when there was a need, we were there every two weeks. Specific activities in projects are usually carried out at the client’s premises. Processes are discussed on-site, configurations are developed. Due to the epidemic, it had to be remodeled. When there were problems in the project, you couldn’t just go and explain everything on the spot. You had to deal with it remotely.
And we’ve done it. The project is proceeding according to the plan. Difficulties can be solved, and so far, the issue of returning to the traditional way of working does not arise.
But we are still wondering: will it stay that way or will we go back to what was before? In projects that are carried out far from Poland, the business trips of consultants have always been a significant cost. Now that customers find out that remote working can be effective, they will be willing to reduce travel expenses.
However, for local projects, there will still be room for face-to-face meetings.
Analysis, requirements development, solution design, configuration – these activities are the easiest and quickest to perform at the customer’s premises. When we have a question, it’s easiest to go to someone’s desk and ask them. It takes much less time than making an on-line appointment or even making a phone call – if someone doesn’t answer, we don’t even know why, and you have to make more calls to find out; and if you don’t get someone at your desk, you can ask someone sitting next door right away. Everything can be done remotely, but it usually takes longer and is more complicated. You’re wasting a lot of time with this. A few lost minutes every day for such trivial reasons can translate into severe delays.
To sum up: can we imagine that we close the project without visiting the client? Yes, but still, during the final tests, we would prefer to be on the spot so that we can see if everyone is doing the planned tasks, and if a minor mistake occurs, it can be corrected immediately. After all, project management is all about working with people. So, see you at the project.