Everyone is talking about the cloud, especially manufacturers who are evaluating a cloud ERP solution for their business. However, if you don’t quite follow what they’re saying, it comes down to this—using the cloud is using data and systems through the Internet.

How You Already Interact With Cloud Technology

While The Cloud may seem like an abstract idea, you likely already interact with and use cloud technologies every day.

  • Do you update a Facebook profile?
  • Do you check your bank balance from your phone?
  • Do you stream movies or music?
  • What about playing games online?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are using cloud technology.

Cloud technology has truly permeated into our everyday lives. Now ask yourself, is it as simple for businesses to leverage cloud technology? The answer is yes.

Businesses leveraging cloud technology improve operations in a number of ways. Examples include improving your cash flow, increasing business capabilities, and simplifying processes for their workforce. All these benefits are realized through the use of an access-from-anywhere platform that is more reliable than traditional ERP deployments that place hardware on-premises.

How Cloud Makes Innovating Easier

By enabling cloud technology at every level of an organization, businesses remove the anxiety associated with security, backups, and verification of backups. Offsite storage becomes a thing of the past and maintenance of hardware and software can be done away with completely. Troubleshooting and upgrades can all be handled with a fraction of the effort.
Perhaps most importantly, connectivity is more reliable in the cloud. This means teams can remain connected and productive anywhere and anytime they need.

Manufacturers questioning whether now is the time to move to the cloud, the answer is a resounding yes. Cybersecurity, IT projects, maintenance activities and more can be removed from the equation with a cloud ERP solution. This leaves your businesses to take care of the business, make time for customers, employees, and partners.

Simplicity And Dependability of a Cloud ERP Solution

On-premise ERP deployments give businesses a sense of confidence that their data is safely stored just down the hall. While that peace of mind and control is reassuring in theory, in practical terms it can be quite a drain on your IT staff. Maintaining both hardware and software is a headache most IT departments would gladly do without. Cloud enables businesses to shed the tether of physical systems in favor of a more agile and simple solution. With a cloud ERP solution, your teams can focus on running your business more efficiently and taking better care of your customers’ experience.

Cloud ERP solutions operate under the safety of redundancy. Cloud technologies store data securely in multiple data centers locally, regionally, and even globally. This dependability is designed to help businesses maintain system uptime and access no matter what adverse conditions may befall a specific region. These data centers are managed by industry professionals whose sole focus is keeping systems up and running at optimal levels. This frees up resources and capital for your business to focus on growth and improving user experiences across departments. As a result, collaboration among internal teams gets better, the complexity of your information technology resources is reduced, and overall business performance improves.

“The rise of the collaborative workforce and workspace is underway. Increasingly, tech-savvy mobile users are ready for collaborative workspaces with deep integrations to the software they use daily. Collaboration is a key element that helps create the future of work.”

– Worldwide Team Collaborative Applications Forecast, 2019–2023: Collaboration Growth Impacts the Future of Work, IDC, Doc #US44662619, August 2019.

If your business is in t he progress of growing or you want to grow, adopting a cloud ERP solution could be an easy way to increase capacity and output without taking on additional software, hardware, or IT personnel. A cloud ERP solution can be scaled up or down with ease, as well.

Savings found in the Cloud

Cloud ERP Solutions are a cost savings component of business that reduces overhead.

What’s overhead? simply put, overhead is what doesn’t make you money. This includes things like accounting, insurance, and rent.

Antiquated approaches to IT can be a huge source of spending for businesses with maintenance, update tasks, and utility bills, not to mention the extra space servers take up. When working in the cloud, the costs of doing business are driven down. Here’s how.

Reduced Cost of Ownership

Cloud computing removes upfront hardware costs, and the pay-as-you-go subscription model eliminates large initial layouts for software. Easy setup and cashflow-friendly monthly payments make it even easier to see why cloud deployments are so popular—especially when you add the fact that Epicor cloud business software deployments typically cost 25–40% less* than on-premises deployments.

Competitive Advantage

Technology allows your employees to turn on a dime. The cloud provides access to data at a user’s fingertips, ensuring that no matter your company’s size you are able to compete with enterprise-class technology. The time and money cloud computing frees up for your business translates into a lean, nimble, and competitive advantage.

Employee Productivity and Loyalty

With cloud ERP solutions, you can run your business from anywhere there’s an internet connection. Give your employees the ability to produce wherever they happen to be. This enables better work-life balance that translates to greater loyalty and output. With improved employee loyalty and buy-in, talent turns over less often, this further improves your savings in retaining talent versus having to train new employees more often.

Minimize Downtime With a Cloud ERP Solution

Downtime can cost a company dearly. Cloud ERP solutions can ensure your apps are up and running when you need them most. Cloud-based SaaS applications are proven to minimize downtime, reduce the costs that go along with it, and keep your people productive. Epicor ERP has a service level agreement of 99.5% uptime, but performs well beyond that promise with a historical uptime of 99.98%.

Safety, Stability, And Access

Backups are an integral part of any IT department. However, when your backups are stored on-site, you are vulnerable to all manner of internal and external compromise. This can include natural disasters, fire, rogue employees, malicious actors, and the list goes on. any one of these mentioned exposures could cost you irreplaceable data.

The Cloud is the only truly safe place for your backups, because they are house where natural disasters, fires, and all those other potential pitfalls can’t touch them. True backup—the safekeeping of a redundant set of data—is best left to the cloud. It’s the safest, most affordable, and most efficient way to make sure that if you lose everything, all is not lost.

When it comes to stability, cloud systems are simply more stable, better monitored, and more secure than any on-premises system. Unless you have an impenetrable data center protected by intrusion detection, fire suppression, advanced power grids, backup generators, environmental monitoring, and six separate HVAC units inspected every day—all connected by multiple T3 pipelines from multiple vendors and all in a distant geographic location—you’re not as safe as you think.

Accessibility, as in who you want to have access to your systems and who you want to keep out, is a big deal in IT. Add to that lost devices and you’ve compounded the problem. In fact, lost laptops are a billion-dollar business problem. However, the greater problem is the loss and possible theft of the sensitive data stored on those laptops. When your data is stored in the cloud, you can access it no matter what, no matter where. Not only this, but you can lock out anyone when it comes to using that device and you can remotely wipe data from lost laptops at any time.

Now, are you ready to explore the benefits of a Cloud ERP solution for your business?


Manufacturing has had one wild year and, in the wake of COVID-19, many industry experts, boardroom executives, and men and women on the production floor are “shopping” their theories for 2021 manufacturing trends.

Theories for what 2021 will hold run the gamut, but there is plenty of crossover shared among contributing voices. Here are some of the most often mentioned subjects we are sure will emerge as the most impactful 2021 manufacturing trends.

The Reshoring of Manufacturing

When the mechanisms of manufacturing all but ground to a halt in Q1 of 2020, it became vividly apparent just how dependent nations were on the capacity and capabilities of a select few manufacturing powerhouses. A year on and COVID-scarcity has driven the prices of raw materials up 100-200% when compared with the same period last year.

In the wake of this glut, more than one fifth of US manufacturers surveyed by BDO are committed to the reshoring of operations as a top priority in 2021.

While both the current and previous administration are pushing for consumers to “Buy American”, the same sentiment is ringing loud and clear through the EU, Japan, South Korea, and many other leading nations.

The world bought in to cheap and abundant labor out of China for decades, which left supply chains around the world bottlenecked and vulnerable. Today, diversification of the supply chain is widely regarded by manufacturers as a must-have and countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Mexico are raising their hands to offer the capacity and talent to meet the needs of more local-focused supply chains.

Addressing The Education And Skills Gaps In Manufacturing

With decades of reliance on external manufacturing capacity, US-based manufacturers have seen an ever-increasing skills gap needed for their operations at home.

A tremendous contributing factor is the perception of manufacturing as a Triple-D sector. That is, dirty, dangerous, and dull. Whether on the shop floor or at the engineering desk, manufacturers are struggling to fill a gap in skilled jobs that Deloitte expects to reach nearly 2.5 million positions by 2028. Fortunately, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), manufacturers are willing to pay to close that gap.

Chad Moutray, NAM Chief Economist, said “Manufacturers consistently cite the inability to attract and retain talent as their top concern, and as this survey underlines, they are taking strong proactive steps to overcome it.” The Institute surveyed US-manufacturers on their spending in the sector, which totaled more than $26 billion targeting training programs for new and existing employees.

Trade schools, analytics, sensor technology, robotics, AI, VR, etc. are garnering considerable investment to draw in the talent required to fill the deep need these manufacturers are experiencing.

Experts say that simply throwing money at the problem is not enough. Manufacturers and institutions need to share in the investment and collaborate to ensure that what students are learning now is what will be relevant in the manufacturing sphere by the time they graduate.

Talent simply cannot be trained to meet the needs of businesses because tech is changing at such an exponential rate. Agreements between schools and manufacturers will have to provide work experience opportunities while studying to close the gap.

In Encompass’ own backyard, Guilford Technical Community College has received both considerable financial investment and buy-in from regional manufacturers with the institution’s recently opened Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Jamestown, NC. There is just as much investment from other manufacturers around the country who are hungry for an engage and talented workforce produced locally.

Global Shortages Of Computer Chip Manufacturing Hit Home

With climate change a topic of ongoing significance globally, the reliance on regionally produced tech has put the entire world’s supply of computer chips on thin ice.

Regional environmental conditions are now playing a much larger part than before in how we view the risk associated with supply chain. For example, the majority of the world’s motherboards are manufactured in Taipei, Taiwan. This region is categorically prone to massive and disruptive weather events and earthquakes. For decades, this has been a reality the US, and frankly the rest of the world accepted as part of navigating a global supply chain.

Initially, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit, semiconductor factories shut down, causing delays in the supply chain. Because it can take up to several years for these factories to reach their  previous production levels, the shortage will likely persist for some time.

Everything from TV’s to cars are affected by the shortage of chips, which effectively function as the brain of electronics. To put it in perspective, Apple, the phone manufacturers with a $2 trillion value and semiconductor budget of $58 billion annually, could not get enough of these in-demand chips for their iPhone 12 launch last year. The result was a two-month delay and things are only getting worse for manufacturers big and small.

According to Mirabaud tech analyst Neil Campling, “There is no sign of supply catching up, or demand decreasing, while prices are rising across the chain. This will cross over to people in the street. Expect cars to cost more, phones to cost more. This year’s iPhone is not going to be cheaper than last year.”

Med Device And Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Look Pale

Such supply chain bottlenecks as mentioned above exposed overreliance on external manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices over the last year, as well.

Supply chain resiliency, through redundancy and duplication, is a costly and time-consuming effort. However, manufacturers are increasingly adopting a shift in thinking to ensure they can avoid the pitfalls COVID-19 has exposed.

Many medical devices and pharmaceuticals are only sourced through specific geographies. As a result, strategic goods and services will need to be tackled first in a new wave of focus from US manufacturing industries and policy makers. Luxury and consumer-driven products will have to take a backseat until those top-shelf items can be secured at home.

Shifting Trade Policies From Corporate To Congress

US manufacturers are driving the demand for diversity in capacity beyond East Asia. However, many of the west’s manufacturers, big and small, are making moves to end reliance on the East Asian manufacturing hubs. Recent upsets in trade policy, like free trade agreements, Brexit, tariffs, the repositioning of NAFTA, etc. all impact these efforts.

While not directly parallel, policymakers and legislators are approaching the problem from their own perspective. Regulators’ opinions on the evolution of the supply chain are translated through a different lens than manufacturers. Geopolitical relationships and national security may not translate into he most favorable outcomes for business back home. Manufacturers want speed, efficiency, and capacity to deliver products to the hands of consumers. Government will view its priorities through a different lens.

Digital Taxation and Role Reversal

As the border between big tech and manufacturing become more blurred, digital taxation and who does what are the new hot topics. With an increase in digital cross over into the material realm, the mechanisms of how to handle taxation have not quite caught up.

Namely, this involves the lines between tech and tangible and where the border between industries is truly defined. Perhaps the broader question is, can it be defined?  With companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and others, who traditionally created digital products, now constructing marketplaces, and investing in tangible goods, like autonomous vehicles, are they considered the new pioneers in manufacturing?

Where does that leave traditional process and discrete manufacturers? As discrete manufacturers create IoT and IIoT solutions to complement their tangible goods, like sensor and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) software, do they share the profile of Big Tech? The waters grow muddy. One thing is for sure, the landscape of both tech and manufacturing are sharing more overlap than ever before.

Access to Cash and What it Means for SMBs

Borrowing and access to capital is a defining issue for smaller manufacturers. With interest rates low for manufacturers, questions about effective tax rates, trade relationships, and capital expenditure have been conservative. Fortunately, trade talks with the Biden administration and China have started to take shape, vaccinations are rolling out, and outlooks are generally optimistic.

One leading indicator of this upward trend is found in the number of bankruptcies experienced by manufacturers over the last year. Not nearly as many bankruptcies emerged as were predicted by researchers, analysts, and economists. The big change may have been the fact that banks do not want to become owners like after the 2008 housing crisis. There is simply too much to manage in manufacturing and rather than take on the headache of an industry banks may not know enough about to run effectively, they opted to work with businesses in the sector to find solutions that worked for both sides.

Robotics and Automation

Robots and automation have been four letter words for decades, essentially scaring people away from manufacturing. Unfortunately for fear mongers, the need for skilled labor is even more necessary with the inclusion of these advanced technologies. More engineers, more cobot operators, maintenance personnel, and even truck drivers to fuel the internal distribution networks of the United States re in high demand. There will certainly be upset in the world of manufacturing as these technologies proliferate. However, the timeline by which that proliferation overtakes a human workforce grows ever longer as technology proves to be just as reliant on us as we are on it.

The New Contract Manufacturers

New methods of manufacturing, such as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, are upsetting the traditionally held roles in Industry.

Take, for instance, the effect these technologies have bestowed on traditional distributors.

Third-party logistics providers (3PLs) like Fed Ex, UPS, and others are entering the manufacturing arena, cutting out a space for themselves, and cutting off competitors, in some cases manufacturers, by assuming certain aspects of manufacturing. By leveraging additive manufacturing technology, these logistics providers can cut out the middleman to handle production and delivery of simple parts and components on a decent scale. You can send your CAD file direct to the 3PL, who will then print out the part and ship it directly.

For the recipient, potentially a manufacturer themselves in this case, there is a degree of control that is relinquished. Depending on your product, at some point you will need to verify that your vendor (3PL) is meeting your quality requirements. While the approach is in its infancy with a foundation shaky enough to keep some at arm’s length, it could be a trend that picks up steam quickly. If these providers are able to achieve the quick turnaround they promise and meet quality standards that manufacturers and consumers demand, there could be a real shift on the horizon.

Green Materials Propagate in 2021 Manufacturing Trends

Sustainability has never been a topic weighing as heavily on consumers’ hearts and minds as it is today. This puts more weight squarely on the shoulders of manufacturers.

If consumers want more environmentally conscious products and production methods, it’s up to manufacturers to adapt and educate their customers of the changes taking place.

Take for instance the textiles and plastics being replaced by renewable and eco-friendly materials, like mycelium.

Major global brands like Dell Technologies and IKEA have already committed to adopting a Styrofoam packaging replacement made by Ecovative Design.

Indonesian manufacturer MYCL will soon launch a series of sneakers, sandals, wallets, luggage tags and watch straps made of its mycelium-based leather, Mylea.

The trend has even proliferated into the world of high-fashion, with U.S. manufacturers Bolt Threads and MycoWorks aiming to make mycelium-based leather products more widely available this year.

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.


As we continue making progress through the Kinetic journey, more reports and processes are available to our customers to test and provide important feedback that shapes Epicor ERP Kinetic innovations. Providing early access helps us drive user adoption among Epicor ERP Cloud and On-premise customers.

The program has been designed and developed to engage with customers and work through Kinetic based workflows by individual personas.

For Encompass, the goals of the program are to help us become Kinetic champions, drive customer adoption, and provide us with additional opportunities to engage with customers and help them through the Kinetic transformation journey.

For Epicor users, this is their chance to have their opinions heard as subject matter experts to inform the overall design of the tools, their governing processes, and to make sure Kinetic is a product that works for them.

Epicor ERP Kinetic User Experience Program Outline

A brief outline of how the Epicor ERP Kinetic User Experience Program is structured can be viewed below.

Objective

Survey and Record users kinetic experience and report our own observations working within the same framework as a Certified Epicor Partner on the following components:

  • Navigation
  • Content
  • Presentation
  • Performance

Effort is focused around change management and the new Kinetic design framework/user interface that Epicor will be rolling out in future releases.

The data this program seeks to capture and use to inform the evolution of the Kinetic Design Framework:

Comparison to legacy interface

  • Performance
  • Functionality
  • Usability

On user Adoption and buy-in

  • Are users “in” when it comes to the functionality provided by the current system?
  • If not, what needs to change to get buy-in?

Metrics/KPIs from which to draw insight

  • Task completion
  • Time on task
  • Sentiment

Currently Completed Epicor ERP Kinetic Personas

Personas are synonymous with a professional’s role within a company. The following personas are complete or nearly complete in terms of the functionality of Kinetic form and workflow design.

Finance

  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Tax Accountant
  • Treasurer
  • CFO
  • General Accountant/Controller

Inventory

  • Shipping
  • Inventory Manager
  • Warehouse Manager

Manufacturing

  • Planner/Scheduler

Projects

  • Project Manager

There are many dozens more personas remaining that are being developed and will require future testing. They will be added to the program as soon as they are at least 80% complete.

How To Participate In The Epicor ERP Kinetic User Experience Program

Following our invitation, users will need to confirm their interest to participate with their Customer Account Manager (CAM).

Following confirmation, users will then receive instructions from the Encompass Solutions, Inc. (ESI) development team on how to gain access to the development environment and proceed with testing.

This participation requests certain recording activities (webcam and audio sharing) and consent to inform the overall user experience when working with these newly developed tools, but webcam and audio recordings are not required for participation. Screen recording is required as a component of the program to track the user’s progress through the Kinetic workflows and inform further development and improve the overall user experience.

The Process will be split into four sections, they are as follows:

  • Review Prerequisites – For customer to review prior to beginning, screen recording software (required), webcam and audio sharing (optional), program guide and overview documents review, printer access (optional), test environment 10.2.700 or higher (higher versions have more forms available), access to the internet (Chrome browser), 1 hour per persona activity.
  • Demographics – A LinkID will be created to be linked to the persona, testing, and surveys.
  • Persona tests – Testing activities
  • Exit survey – Final thoughts and feedback

About Encompass Solutions

Encompass Solutions is a business and software consulting firm that specializes in ERP systems, EDI, and Managed Services support for Manufacturers. Serving small and medium-sized businesses since 2001, Encompass modernizes operations and automates processes for hundreds of customers across the globe. Whether undertaking full-scale implementation, integration, and renovation of existing systems, Encompass provides a specialized approach to every client’s needs. By identifying customer requirements and addressing them with the right solutions, we ensure our clients are equipped to match the pace of Industry.