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New version of Epicor ERP supports mobility and cloud

The latest release of the Epicor ERP platform includes enhanced features for international business, new mobile access and cloud deployment options.

The new version of Epicor ERP software features new capabilities centered on mobility, collaboration and cloud availability. Epicor ERP 10.1 was released in December 2015, and it is now generally available.

"This is an incremental release, but very important for us to build on, and it provides a solid foundation of our core Epicor ERP platform," said Malcolm Fox, vice president of product marketing at Epicor Software Corp., based in Austin, Texas. Epicor's platform is designed primarily for manufacturing firms.

Epicor ERP 10.1 includes hundreds of new capabilities for international operations, new accessibility for mobile devices, features for collaboration and cloud deployment options, Fox said. The new international features will help customers adhere to local business practices, he explained, while the social collaboration capabilities will help build knowledge networks that can help manufacturers handle transitions when experienced employees move on.

But Epicor ERP 10.1 is primarily designed to meet new customer requirements for mobile access and cloud deployment, Fox said. "I think that we initially thought that things like iPads would never make their way down to the shop floor, because they were too fragile. But they're also inexpensive and readily replaceable, particularly when you compare them to some of the devices that people have bought lately, and it's the experience that people expect these days."

Similarly, manufacturers' attitudes about cloud deployment are changing.

"Epicor ERP 10.1 is the manifestation of us becoming cloud-first in our thinking. We'd reached a tipping point as far as inquiries and where interest was in our prospects coming in to Epicor," Fox said. "Over the past year, it's turned into the majority of inquiries -- it's still not the majority of sales by any means, but it's certainly top of mind. We're positioned nicely, because we have a single source that can be deployed on premises or in the cloud."

Thumbs-up to mobile accessibility

Jos Greeve, ICT manager at Boers & Co. Fine Metal Group, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said the company has been using Epicor 10.1 for a few months and is impressed so far. Epicor's schedule of releasing updates every few months has been effective, and the new emphasis on mobile access designed for manufacturing is a big plus, he said. The ability to use mobile devices on the shop floor to access data from their ERP system has been a big improvement, Greeve explained.

"We bought the mobile access, which has the ability to use the information from your ERP system, with very little manual interaction to create the information already available on a mobile device, without worrying about screen sizes and so on," Greeve said.

"We already had what we called COWs [computers on wheels] on the shop floor, and Epicor was famous for their system on the shop floor, but we were still struggling with the way of using handheld devices," he said. "But the issue of handheld devices is now gone. We can solve it with the use of the Epicor mobile application on the devices that the employees already have. They can use their own smartphones to log in to Epicor and see the information that they need."

The company does not have to equip employees with expensive handheld devices now, and employees can get information they need immediately when they need it on the shop floor, saving time and wasted effort.

Greeve said Boers has been using Epicor's platform since 2011, beginning with Epicor ERP 9. That system solved their ERP needs, but suffered from slow response time -- a problem that was resolved with Epicor ERP 10 and improved more with 10.1. The biggest problem with the new release has been inadequate documentation of all the new features.

"There are a lot of small enhancements within the program, and you should inform people better about the new features," Greeve said. "The main features are documented and are in the release notes, as well."

Cloud options meet customer requirements

Epicor ERP 10.1's cloud-based approach positions it well for both existing and new customers, said William Nickerson, manager of industry relations for Panorama Consulting Solutions, a Denver-based ERP consulting firm.

"They can now add another niche to their sales approach, with regards to all the enhancements and that the full solution is available in the cloud," Nickerson said. "It builds on the path of their core principles and has made improvements in simplicity, collaboration, responsiveness with faster processes, mobility and choice of deployment. Now, the entire Epicor platform is available in cloud, compared with earlier versions, where only portions of Epicor were available."

Epicor's new management team has brought much-needed improvements to the platform, said Nigel Montgomery, Gartner research director in the enterprise applications group.

"This is the first release that they've done that's the result of that new development structure and team, and I'm expecting to see higher-quality output than has previously gone on," Montgomery said. "Epicor had a reputation years ago that you wouldn't want to be the first one to take on their new release until it had a couple of iterations. Now, I think they've overcome that issue, so this is going to be an important release for them."

Montgomery said he also believes Epicor has done well with the new approach to mobile access and the move to the cloud. "It seems that this is the right time when organizations are starting to move their manufacturing and operations to the cloud. Up until now, there's been a resistance, and there were very few that were able to do it," he said. "In some ways, because manufacturing has been left behind in the move to the cloud, companies are starting to say there's no excuse for that and they're starting to look at it. There's a lot of movement toward manufacturing operations in the cloud, so the fact that they've added capability there is a good thing."

Epicor ERP 10.1 should solidify Epicor's presence as a midtier, manufacturing-oriented ERP vendor, Montgomery said.

"I'd like to see them focus on some specific industries, so that they make the most of their value, and they need to build out their [business intelligence] and analytics," he said. "It's a little early to tell, because they've just gone GA with 10.1, but realistically, this should be a good release for them."

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