It was announced on stage at Epicor Insights 2019 that Epicor 10.2.400 will be released on May 16 2019. In this latest release Epicor is promising an ERP solution with embedded artificial intelligence. It will also take advantage of cloud technologies and further its vision to enable the connected enterprise.
Epicor has leveraged its strategic alliance with Microsoft by utilizing the Microsoft Azure IoT Hub. This is the first version of the Epicor ERP software where the strategic partnership announced last year by Himanshu Palsule, CTO Epicor at Insights 18, is delivering substantial benefits to clients.
Manufacturers uncertain over replacing ERP
Manufacturers are increasingly considering whether they should replace ERP systems. However, it is not always as simple as buying a cloud-based ERP solution and implementing it. Epicor is sensibly taking the approach of giving its customers a choice.
Steve Murphy, CEO Epicor cited a 2016 survey of CIO’s by JP Morgan. 100% of CIOs expected their IT to move to the public cloud. Roll forward to the latest survey and only 50% believe that to be the case. Murphy believes that the number will remain around 50%. It may change, but in conversations with partners and customers at this event their responses were broadly in line.
Delivering the connected enterprise
What Epicor is doing is giving customers the ability to have a connected enterprise in the future. The connected enterprise is made up of connections between people, processes, sensors, products, data and manufacturing plants. It can extend through distribution to retail shop fronts. Perhaps surprisingly Epicor used Industry 4.0 to describe it, though their vision may be actually be closer to the definition of Industry 5.0 rather than the M2M connectivity that Industry 4.0 brings.
The growth of connected devices and the increase in volumes of data has also meant that on-premises solutions can no longer contain the IT systems needed at a price point that vendors can afford. However, customers still want to connect devices and systems within their manufacturing plants. This is why Epicor is talking about the connected enterprise. In this latest iteration it draws in more components to deliver a more complete solution for manufacturers.
Epicor 10 draws together several components, some of which Epicor have had for some time. It also introduces new AI driven functionality, the highlight of which is EVA a new digital agent that will advise users throughout the application. Epicor believes that it is in a good position to capture a greater share of the market.
Terri Hiskey, vice president, product marketing, manufacturing, at Epicor said, “With the increasing availability and affordability of IoT connected solutions, and technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, companies now have the opportunity to enable dynamic coordination and automation between systems. We believe that manufacturers are on the brink of creating intelligent production environments within connected digital ecosystems, where systems like ERP act as a digital core around which the entire factory functions as a computer.”
Epicor 10.2.400 improvements
Epicor has announced several improvements to the software, these include:
Updated UI: Epicor introduced its Kinetic Design system last year. It has now rolled out the new UI across much more of the application. New features based on the Kinetic design include a new mobile and time application. Epicor has updated the screens that are most by their customers. This includes Sales Order Entry and the MES screens. The Kinetic framework uses a responsive design which will enable workers to use mobiles and tablets with the application.
Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA): The new enterprise-wide digital agent uses artificial intelligence to help users work smarter and make better, faster decisions. This is not going to deliver AI to every corner of Epicor, but it will be capable of doing to in time as it adds further “skills”
Epicor IoT: Epicor is using the Microsoft IoT hub to collect data from sensors for reporting and analytics. Aggregated data is displayed on the MES shop floor home page. This allows users to identify whether their equipment is performing. They are able to build rules that will not only visually change the display if it exceeds tolerance but can also contact users so they can react quickly to changing circumstances.
Other Functionality. Epicor has also introduced a new supplier portal which uses Epicor Commerce connect. This will enable manufactured to better manage their supplier relationships. Purchase Orders and RFQ can be processed through the platform simplifying the engagement. It has also introduced the mobile warehouse. It enables users to use a mobile device to perform tasks in the warehouse, rather than having to return to a desk to do so.
RPA get a major boost
One of the most impressive new features is based on an integration between Epicor ERP and Epicor DocStar which automated the sales order entry process. This is a pain point for many customers who have to manually enter sales orders into Epicor.
DocStar uses OCR to convert a wide range of file formats including PDF, Excel, XML and JPG, to populate a Sales Order in Epicor with data. Using a built-in simple work flow, the solution checks product prices against a standard price list and validates the supplier name. Users can manually check and amend the data if an order is not created. This includes being able to refer back to the original document if required.
There are still possible enhancements to this solution. Where the customer is not found, the current system holds the process for checking rather than initiate a new customer creation process if required. If changed, this would significantly reduce time for customers. It will also make the whole process more accurate.
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
This release of Epicor has several features that will make a difference for users. There is also the promise of much more to come. If anything, the message around IoT seemed incomplete and would have been strengthened with a user case study. According to Epicor, these are likely to be available shortly but were just not available in time. EVA, Kinetic and the integration with DocStar also promises much more in the future.
Hiskey commented: “Connected solutions make it possible for companies to enable smarter decision-making and improve productivity at a faster pace than ever before. At Epicor, we believe in designing solutions for the connected enterprise that support the way people work today, and how they will work in the future.
“Thanks to decades of industry expertise, we understand that manufacturers need a solid foundation that helps them take advantage of technology innovations such as IoT, big data, and advanced analytics, as and when they need to gain a competitive advantage. The latest version of Epicor ERP provides that critical foundation.”
There is still much work to be done but Epicor is heading in a positive direction. It has a loyal customer base that is choosing the latest Epicor solutions when they are ready. Importantly it is also winning new business with its cloud ERP solutions. Murphy believes that it is now being taken seriously by the two market leaders, especially as it has started to win deals when up against them.