The beauty of being in the manufacturing and distribution space is that there are many options to choose from when it comes to ERP technologies. First, there are tier one possibilities, like SAP and Oracle. However, there is also a lot of tier two options focusing on manufacturing and distribution. Epicor Kinetic is one of those systems that fits that latter category of focusing on manufacturing and distribution.
Epicor Kinetic is the new name for the Epicor ERP product suite. This may sound familiar as it connects with many of the Epicor products in the past. Over time, the development, and the company itself went through many evolutions, just like many ERP vendors out there. Before beginning the implementation process, it is important to see how Kinetic fits into a potential ERP roadmap.
The first thing to recognize about Epicor Kinetic is that it is a product that focuses heavily on manufacturing and distribution. When thinking about the needs of a manufacturing distribution company, things like MRP (material resource planning) comes into focus. It is important to know that the ERP system that is being deployed can handle MRP well. The demand planning is within those bills, materials, routing, and everything else that ties together the manufacturing and distribution operations.
Epicor Kinetics biggest strength is that it handles manufacturing exceptionally well. As a complex made-to-order manufacturer, this tends to be where Epicor shines. The reason is because it is a strong product configurator. A lot of manufacturing ERP systems out there, don’t have those product configuration capabilities, which makes Epicor Kinetic a unique yet powerful option for any organization.
One of the big dilemmas with ERP systems is the fact that there's a tradeoff between extensive rigid ERP systems out there and those smaller systems that are more flexible almost to a fault. It becomes harder to drive any standardization because the systems are practically too flexible. One of the emerging trends in the ERP space is this whole concept of low-code configuration.
The great thing about low-code solutions is that the source code does not get changed which avoids the risk of potentially breaking the technology and the way it is meant to be built. Epicor is becoming somewhat of a pioneer in the no-code concept and mindset, which provides a way to get the best of both worlds.
In addition to the product itself, one of the considerations for an ERP evaluation is what kind of implementation partner options are in the marketplace? When evaluating Epicor or any other ERP system, there needs to be an understanding of who are the value-added resellers and system integrators that can support the product and help with the technical implementation of the system.
Epicor, I feel is a mixed bag. Historically, if I go back 10 to 15 years, they had a reasonably robust ecosystem, many different implementation partners, and VARs out there helping resell and implement the software. But somewhere along the way, they went through several changes as an organization through private equity ownership and changing leadership over time. As a result, they became almost exclusively focused on the product itself at the expense of building out the implementation partnership's ecosystem.
There was a rocky road for a while where the ecosystem was not well supported, and Epicor, themselves, were not focusing much on the services or implementation side as they had in the past. That has changed in recent years. In general, that's something to be aware of when evaluating, not just the technology itself and understanding if that's the right fit, but also making sure that there is that comfortable factor in finding a good limitation partner or a technical partner in the end.
Epicor is focused so exclusively on manufacturing and distribution, Kinetic can provide a certain amount of cost and value that is not going to be found with other systems. For example, when purchasing SAP S/4HANA, Oracle ERP Cloud, or Microsoft Dynamics 365, the cost of buying too much of these systems can affect the capabilities outside of manufacturing distributions.
In terms of ROI and the high-value areas of manufacturing operations, we find that Epicor customers tend to realize a high amount of value relative to other systems in the marketplace. It is also found that the implementation costs can be a bit lower because of the complexities of all these modules that don't apply to the organization. When it comes to cost and value, Epicor rates are ranked highly, and that is a positive strength of the product and the company itself.
When evaluating a big established ERP vendor, like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, one of the big names in the industry, there is no need to worry about vendor viability. However, when dealing with a smaller or a second-tier ERP vendor, like Epicor, it is important to think about how viable this company is and how viable the product itself is.
This is an essential consideration for Epicor because five or seven years ago, I would've rated the vendor viability of the company reasonably low. That was something that we had seen declining in the years. Now, there are a few layers of vendor viability to be aware of. The implementation partners and the ecosystem built to support the product are something that cannot be overlooked.
That was healthy 15 years ago, but five or eight years ago, not so much. That's something that's starting to really turn the corner. Epicor, with new leadership, is beginning to focus more on building out that ecosystem and building more robust options within the marketplace. There's also the financial viability to think on.
Many years ago, Epicor had a considerable amount of debt and many financial concerns on their balance sheet. The question now becomes, is this company going to be around for a while? Are they going to be an acquisition target for a big ERP vendor to come in, take over, and cut all their customers off the legacy product to switch them over to the new parent companies’ product?
There is no concern anymore because fresh leadership has been implemented in the last couple of years seems to be setting them in the right direction financially to where those concerns are no longer an issue.
The final layer that's worth thinking about is the leadership team. There are certain points that need to be understood when it comes to the strength of the team.
I feel comfortable having gotten to know some new leadership within the Epicor organization. In many cases, I've learned many people through other organizations, other ERP vendors, and more significant ERP vendors that they've acquired or brought onto the leadership team at Epicor. They have a robust leadership team, and I could not have said that five or eight years ago and that does seem to be another consideration with vendor viability.
Overall, vendor viability is on the up and coming. It's an improving area, but it's still something that companies are making up lost time for.
With the product itself, the focus is on the functional strengths and some of the things to consider that are strong within the capabilities of the technology. Just like any ERP system out there, Epicor Kinetic has its weaknesses. The biggest one to think about is the manufacturing distribution organization. There is a high value in other parts of the operations like CRM, human capital management, or human resources but not so much in manufacturing.
If the sole focus is manufacturing operations, then Epicor Kinetic is absolutely a reasonable consideration for you. If there is a high emphasis on human capital management or CRM, it may be in the best interest to want to look at other systems out there that do those things better than Epicor Kinetic.
Epicor Kinetic has some great strengths and weaknesses to consider. I encourage you to check out some resources including our 2021 Digital Transformation Report. This report talks about independent technology, agnostic, best practices related to digital transformation, including manufacturing and distribution within Epicor, among other methods.
If you have questions regarding more on Epicor Kinetic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. I am happy to be an informal sounding board as you move through your digital transformation journey.