The need for more personalized services continues to impact many industries at numerous levels. From the consumer sitting at home ordering housewares online to a high-level decision-maker in a manufacturing company making purchasing decisions – the days of being treated like just a number are over. And while personalization has always been important, a huge shift in consumer behavior began around the beginning of the pandemic. Yet long before the dreaded Covid-19 took hold and helped sway consumer behaviors, Epicor was reaching out to customers for their opinions.
This 50-year-old tech company has focused on creating industry-specific software solutions and has always worked hand-in-hand with customers to create solutions that meet their needs, including manufacturers.
According to Kerrie Jordon, vice president of product management at Epicor, the company established customer and product advisory boards decades ago as a means to stay connected to its customer base.
It’s also informed the way in which we’ve helped our customers personalize their products for their customers.”
As an example of how these advisory boards influence decisions, Jordon says they “transformed part of our cloud journey” a few years ago, taking a legacy on-premises social collaboration tool and transitioning it to a cloud-based collaboration tool. The result is a product called Epicor Collaborate.
One of the more recent customer boards, Cloud Council, was formed due to the “dramatic growth in our cloud business,” Jordon says, adding that the cloud offerings have been growing 80 percent year over year.
Epicor creates solutions for a variety of customer needs, including those in retail, automotive, building supply and manufacturing. Across all the advisory boards, the big takeaway in all the engagement with customers or potential customers is that it’s not just informing Epicor’s technology and product roadmap; it’s about how Epicor can be a better partner, Jordan notes.
“The engagement really informs our overall business and each functional area from an organizational standpoint and how we impact the customer experience,” she says. “When we
ask customers about their feedback regarding Epicor, it’s not just about the product. It might be that something is missing, things need to be made simpler or there needs to be a different way to access training material.”
Epicor invited business leaders from a group of the company’s largest cloud customers to join an advisory board and asked them why they are moving forward with cloud technologies and what challenges need to be solved. Their insights are revealing, because, as Jordan says, these are companies that are “pioneering the solutions in supply chain disruptions, talent shortages, and sustainability in manufacturing and distribution worldwide.”
For example, one of Epicor’s customers is developing the cold packaging for the Moderna vaccine, and Jordan notes that it’s interesting to see how the company has transformed through utilizing Epicor’s cloud offerings.
“What they created exploded,” she says, “but not only did they have to manufacture the cold packages, they also needed to create a warehouse for distribution. Now we’re seeing these customers running on cloud technologies, blurring the lines and intersecting what it means to be a manufacturer or a distributor.”
Among the top demands in manufacturing today is what Jordan refers to as low-code to no-code technologies. Rather than requiring years and years of experience coding to customize/personalize a software application, Epicor launched Application Studio, which is an easy-to-use tool for manufacturers that want to customize their screens and see the data that is most important to them.
“We’ve seen such a rise in the low-code, no-code technologies,” Jordan says. “Application Studio is a great tool for our customers to personalize their screens within the application they’re using.”
Another Epicor solution that is intuitive and easy to use is Epicor Kinetic, which is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that is built to help users “maximize momentum and profitability.” It’s used by manufacturers as a configurable, browser-based application and can be used to easily personalize the user experience and allow access-integrated capabilities, such as advanced planning scheduling, customer relationship management and configure/price/quote software. In Epicor style, it’s made by manufacturers for manufacturers. Kinetic offers real-time business intelligence via an intuitive user experience.
Kinetic also helps manufacturing operations take advantage of Industry 4.0 technology, designed with decades of manufacturing expertise to advance project and production management. For example, users can track work in progress in real time, improve technology data processes, and increase automation and insights. When used in product management, Kinetic helps to simplify processes and reduce waste, which is a big money saver. It achieves this through improved communication tools that promote collaborative product lifecycle management. Furthermore, it allows for the creation and sharing of 3-D models, images and drawings.
Kinetic users also have access to a tool called Epicor Ideas where they can submit ideas for improving the software and other customers can vote on them. The ideas that receive the most votes will be incorporated into Epicor’s technology roadmap. One such idea coming from fabricators included changing specific requirements around the unit of measure in the program. Users also requested an amended connection with various materials to the material requirements planning
(MRP) system. Epicor aims for at least 20 to 30 percent of product releases to come from the Ideas portal.
“That’s been a really helpful tool,” Jordan says, “because not only can we get these great ideas for our products, we can also validate that it’s needed by our customer base.”
Epicor recently acquired eFlex Systems, a manufacturing execution system (MES) software provider, in an effort to expand Industry 4.0 capabilities and modernize manufacturing production processes. Epicor CEO, Steve Murphy, said in a news release that “shop floors are a complex intersection of people, machines, robots and materials, and it’s critical they work seamlessly together.”
With eFlex Systems now on board, Epicor customers will get the information they need to improve the user experience and unlock new levels of productivity, according to Murphy.