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Many ERP systems try to be all things to all use cases, but that often comes at the expense of heavy customizations.
Some companies are discovering that a purpose-built ERP is a better and more cost-effective bet, particularly for small and midsize companies. One such product is the Epicor ERP system Prophet 21, which is primarily aimed at wholesale distributors.
The functionality in the Epicor ERP system is designed to help distributors run processes more efficiently and make better use of data flowing through the system.
In addition to distribution-focused functions, the Prophet 21 Epicor ERP system includes the ability to integrate value-added services, which could be valuable for distributors, said Mark Jensen, Epicor senior director of product management.
"A distributor can do manufacturing processes for their customers, or rentals, or field service and maintenance work. Those are three areas that we focused on with Prophet 21," Jensen said.
Prophet 21's functionality is particularly strong in managing inventory, including picking, packing and shipping goods, as well as receiving and put-away processes.
Specialized functions for distributors
Distribution companies that specialize in certain industries or products have different processes that Prophet 21 includes in its functions, Jensen said. For example, Prophet 21 has functionality designed specifically for tile and slab distributors.
"The ability to be able to work with the slab of granite or a slab of marble -- what size it is, how much is left after it's been cut, transporting that slab of granite or tile -- is a very specific functionality, because you're dealing with various sizes, colors, dimensions," he said. "Being purpose-built gives [the Epicor ERP system] an advantage over competitors like Oracle, SAP, NetSuite, [which] either have to customize or rely on a third-party vendor to attach that kind of functionality."
Jergens Industrial Supply, a wholesale supplies distributor based in Cleveland, has improved efficiency and is more responsive to shifting customer demands using Prophet 21, said Tony Filipovic, Jergens Industrial Supply (JIS) operations manager.
"We like Prophet 21 because it's geared toward distribution and was the leading product for distribution," Filipovic said. "We looked at other systems that say they do manufacturing and distribution, but I just don't feel that that's the case. Prophet 21 is something that's been top of line for years for resources distribution needs."
Tony FilipovicOperations manager, Jergens Industrial Supply
One of the key differentiators for JIS was Prophet 21's inventory management functionality, which was useful because distributors manage inventory differently than manufacturers, Filipovic said.
"All that functionality within that was key, and everything is under one package," he said. "So from the moment you are quoting or entering an order to purchasing the product, receiving it, billing it, shipping it and paying for it was all streamlined under one system."
Another key new feature is an IoT-enabled button similar to Amazon Dash buttons that enables customers to resupply stocks remotely. This allows JIS to "stay ahead of the click" and offer customers lower cost and more efficient delivery, Filipovic said.
"Online platforms are becoming more and more prevalent in our industry," he said. "The Dash button allows customers to find out where we can get into their process and make things easier. We've got the ordering at the point where customers realize that when they need to stock, all they do is press the button and it saves multiple hours and days."
Epicor Prophet 21 a strong contender in purpose-built ERP
Epicor Prophet 21 is on solid ground with its purpose-built ERP focus, but companies have other options they can look at, said Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras, an ERP research and advisory firm in Windham, NH.
"Epicor Prophet 21 is a strong contender from a feature and function standpoint. I'm a fan of solutions that go that last mile for industry-specific functionality, and there aren't all that many for wholesale distribution," Jutras said. "Infor is pretty strong, NetSuite plays here, and then there a ton of little guys that aren't as well-known."
Prophet 21 may take advantage of new cloud capabilities to compete better in some global markets, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, an enterprise computing analysis firm in Montreal.
"Of course a vertically-focused ERP is always advantageous, and Prophet 21 and Infor SX.e go head-to-head all the time in North America," Jakovljevic said. "Prophet 21 is now getting cloud enabled and will be in Australia and the UK, where it might compete with NetSuite or Infor M3, which are global products."