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Eclipse Users Group/UFO NewsletterJune 2011 Vol 311

President's Update

Terry Kin, UFO President

  

It seems to be a common theme to these updates.  The first portion is dedicated to the weather across the country.  Yes, it is warm now but I think we can all agree that the rash of tornados, flooding, and violent storms are worrying to say the least.  I hope that you and your business are safe and continue to be during the storm season.

 As always a lot has been happened since the last newsletter.  I'd like to update you on the top priorities.

The merger between Epicor and Activant creating the new Epicor has been on everyone's minds since it was announced.  While there isn't really anything new to announce regarding this, the UFO board is in close communication with the Epicor management team.  I see the merger as a positive and now just need to keep aware of any possible changes in the works.

Epicor and the UFO board have been working together to develop metrics regarding support that allow us to see in numbers how Activant is doing.  These metrics are almost complete and you should start seeing them soon.  It is always eye opening to see the real measurable data surrounding a process instead of guessing.

The new UFO website is live!!  The site looks fantastic and by moving to a more open architecture allows us the flexibility needed to easily change the site.  Many thanks to the Web Committee and all who contributed to the new site.

In September the UFO executive group will be meeting with the Epicor executive group.  This meeting will continue our agreement for timely face to face communication.  In October the UFO board will have its annual face to face meeting in Hyannis.  Both of these meetings are important to the planning and improvement of the UFO organization.  You will see updates of the meetings after each occurs.

Stay safe and enjoy the summer season.

As always if you have any feedback don't hesitate to contact myself, Mary Barlow, or any other UFO board member.

Terry

IN THIS ISSUE - Click the Title to go to the Article
Kirby Risk Selects epaCUBE's PDM Suite
Website Update
Invoice Connection - Activant's Preferred Invoicing Solution Provider
Eclipse and Thin Clients
MITS Eclipse User Case Study
Free Videos on the Web Page
A Good B2B Should Have 4 Things
QUICK LINKS
New Members
Johnstone Supply Dayton
Dayton, OH
 
Schaefer Plumbing Supply
Buffalo, NY

Sun Valley Electric/ Warner Enterprises
Las Vegas, NV
 

Vendor Partner Presentations -Free

SMP                         Jul    19th
 
Zerion Group              Aug  16th
 
Kilmartin Consulting   Sept   8th
 
Invoice Connection     Sept 20th
 
Schmitt Profitools      Oct   13th
 
Optimum Systems     Oct   18th
 
Nxgen Payment Sys   Nov  15th
 
epaCUBE                  Dec    6th

See Vendor Page on the website for vendor details.

Kirby Risk Electrical Supply Selects epaCUBE's Product Data Management Suite

 

Since 1926 "Kirby Risk: has been a leader in electrical distribution providing quality product, reducing supply chain costs and providing highly responsive service," said George Dunham, CEO of epaCUBE. "Their decision to implement epaCUBE's full suite of product data management tools will allow Kirby Risk to further increase the value it delivers to its customers.  epaCUBE is very please to be working with a market leader like Kirby Risk." 

 

Kirby Risk will leverage epaCUBE's PDM (Product Data Management) Software Suite to cleanse, analyze and synchronize product data as an on-going requirement for collaborating with all points of their supply chain.  The cleansed data from epaCUBE's PDM suite will insure information is accurate and in sync with the company's suppliers, their Eclipse ERP and other operational systems.  Kirby Risk joins the epaCUBE family of customers including North Coast Electric, Van Meter Industrial, Horizon Solutions, McNaughton-McKay, Billows Electric and many others.

 

 

We chose epaCUBE's PDM software suite because of their "complete" approach to the age old problem of analyzing and synchronizing product data, including cost and rebate information, internally across our own systems and externally without trading partners." said Jim Swisher, IT Shared Services Manager.  "With our commitment to industry initiatives and on-going efforts to look for better ways to service and inform our customers about product information , epaCUBE's experience in our industry will better enable us to meet our objectives."

 

epaCUBE was founded on the premise that "real dollars" could be reclaimed in the supply chain by solving the problems and overcoming the challenges associated with accurately optimizing "gross margin" over "continuously" cleansed and up-to-date product data.  The epaCUBE Product Data Management and Gross Profit Optimization Software Suites give companies the powerful ability to manage every aspect of its product mix, specifically and accurately target its customers and their consumers, and negotiate with suppliers from a position of strength based upon complete knowledge or its products.

 

High performance companies thrive with this type of product knowledge and visibility, and epaCUBE is the exclusive provider of this level of product information to the distribution market in a packaged, affordable solution.

  epaCUBElogo

For additional information, visit our website by clicking on our logo,

or contact Randy Hughes, VP of Sales and Marketing,

 Phone (719) 930-4074 - email: rhughes@epaCUBE.com

 

Eclipse Users Group Website Update

By Mike Prepelica, UFO Board Web Committee Chair

 

It has now been several months since we moved to the new format for the user's group web site. We realize quite a bit changed with the new site. We tried very hard to make the site easy to use as well as incorporate modern features that had been requested for some time now. Here are some important reminders for the site.

 

         If you have not been on the site since it has changed please make sure to update your bookmarks/favorites as the old ones will not work properly.

         You must login to the site if you wish to review videos, register for classes and get to the bulletin boards.

         The FAQ's located in the About Eclipse Users Group menu have a lot of information about the site and changes that were made.

         You need to re-subscribe to bulletin boards on the new site. Since this is a new bulletin board site this information was not able to be transferred from the older Eclipse bulletin boards.

We have received a lot of feedback related to the new changes. We are going to review all of the suggested changes and see which ones we can incorporate into future revisions of the web site. Up until recently various issues with functionality concerns have been addressed as they have arisen. Early on there was quite a bit of confusion related to the emailing of bulletin board updates. These were related to the default settings of the board and the fact that we implemented single sign on. While this makes it easier to access the bulletin boards it affected the emails being sent. As this was being corrected many emails were sent too frequently or were duplicated.

As of today the process seems to have settled down. The number of issues has slowed quite a bit recently. We have Google Analytics installed on the site, so we can see that there is quite a bit of traffic going to most of the site's pages which is encouraging to see.

Don't forget to check out the training pages as it is much easier to see what classes are available and how many seats are left or who may be registered from your company.

It's easy to connect to the Eclipse UFO IDEA's web site where we can review, discuss and vote on enhancements to future releases. This is open to all members. We have added single sign on here as well to make it easy to connect. See what your peers are saying and voting for in future releases! If you are asked to login a second time please contact suzanne@eclipseuser.com.

It is our expectation that after a quiet period that we will be reviewing feedback for the site and hopefully adding or modifying areas to add functionality and make it even easier to network with your peers and get the information you have come to expect from the Eclipse User's Group.

 

 

Invoice Connection - Activant's Preferred Invoicing Solution Provider

Sending out invoices the traditional way -- by printing, folding, stuffing them in envelopes and mailing them -- is a costly, time-consuming and error-prone process. If the printer goes down or the billing person is out sick, invoices are delayed -- and so are the payments.

 
Consider that most businesses are paying close to 50 cents per mailed invoice or statement to cover materials, postage, equipment, employee time -- not to mention the cost of waiting to receive payment -- and you may wonder if there is not a better way...

 
Many Eclipse users have discovered that Invoice Connection offers an effective solution and an opportunity to further improve customer service.

 
Invoice Connection automates the entire process while providing your staff the tools to set customer preferences. We print invoices, stuff them into the right size envelope, send them out and provide an integrated solution that includes e-mailing, faxing plus posting them to the web. The "3rd party billing export module" available for Eclipse users makes setup quick and problem-free.

 
As part of our service, we help encourage your customers to make the transition from mailed invoices to the more cost-effective fax or e-mail delivery methods. This electronic delivery conversion program aims to actively reduce your invoice delivery costs.

 
Invoice Connection provides you and your customers a portal to manage invoices and statements on the web - at no additional cost. Your customers will appreciate the self-service portal to reprint, import invoices to Quickbooks 24/7 and even pay online with ACH and, if you wish, credit card. 

 

For over six years we have proven to be a reliable and responsive business partner, helping improve the profitability and efficiency for hundreds of distributors and manufacturers nationwide.

 
Contact us for more information including a custom 1-page ROI analysis for your business, a demo of our services or Eclipse user references.

 

Invoice Connection
 
Activant's Preferred Invoicing Solution ProviderInvoice Connection logo
 
1915 Aston Ave
 
Carlsbad, CA 92008

 
Richard Romero
 
Business Solutions Manager
 
1 (800) 245-0336 x560
 
rromero@invoiceconnection.com

 
 

Eclipse and Thin Clients

 By Chris Thorpe, Director of Business Technologies, Patene Building Supplies, Lt

 

I don't know about you, by my IT staff consists entirely of me. I have 16 branches and approximately 120 users on Eclipse.  I have an additional 75 users that I support but are not on Eclipse. My furthest branch is over 2000km (1200 miles) away and the nearest 10 miles, yet I can manage every user on my network from my desk.  The average age of my desktops is 8 years and I am in no particular need of a refresh.  How, you may ask?  Simple: Thin Clients.

Thin clients are computer terminals that rely on a server to do the computational grunt work that is traditionally associated with an office environment.  Most users in a distribution environment never require the processing power that is available on a modern PC. Eclipse, web browsing, spreadsheets, word processing and email are not generally processor intensive applications. They do not require a PC.  Thin clients allow the server to do the heavy work with just the I/O being handled by the thin client. At the user level, there is no noticeable difference.  The user has their own desktop, applications and folders that they would normally have with a PC, but in reality, it's all on a server.  That server is backed up completely on a nightly basis with snapshots every 10 minutes.  Standardization of the desktop, folders and application accessibility is handled by Group Policy. Virus protection is on the servers. Users cannot download to their terminal. Power requirements are also much lower as the typical thin client uses about half the power used by PC's. They also have no moving parts, no fans and produce less heat than a typical PC. Some are about the same size as a hardcover book. They are getting smaller all the time.

The cost for implementing a thin client system is front loaded. However, going forward I would say the cost is roughly half, but factoring in the costs of the terminal servers it is roughly a 15% savings.  Savings can double or even triple if/when you get 8-9 years from a thin client! Here's a link to an article in IT Business on the cost savings that can be realized.

I use Microsoft Terminal Servers and Wysethin client desktops. Eclipse works seamlessly through it even though it is not "officially" supported by
Epicor. At any time I have about 30 users on Solar with the balance on Eterm.  I have no virus issues, no PC problems, in short my life as the I.T. Manager is pretty sweet.

It hasn't always been beer and skittles though.  Before we upgraded our servers to 64-bit dual processors with 24GB of memory, Solar was slow.  Upgrading form an IBM P5 Series server to the new Linux based server with solid state hard drives also speeded things up.  Now, it's back at a speed where no one complains about screen refresh rates or report speed.                 

Upgrades can also be somewhat problematic with Solar. After being upgraded to 8.7.0.11 we have had users that have had to reinstall Solar on a daily basis.  I have a fix ready to go, but it will take me a weekend to finally get it implemented.  Eterm has pretty much been a rock. No issues at all. Support from Eclipse has never been a problem.  They can access the system the same as they always have.  It's no different than any other environment.

So if you're looking at a refresh for you PC's by all means consider looking at thin clients as an alternative.

Chris Thorpe

MITS - Eclipse User Group Case Study 

Management Information Tools, Inc (MITS), an Activant (Epicor) business partner has been supplying  reporting, analytical and business intelligence software to distributors for nearly 15 years.  Their new offering, MITS Distributor Analytics,TM is being well received by Eclipse customers wanting to improve their business operations by providing meaningful, actionable information to both management and staff.  In the example below, Victoria Munch Strunk, VP at Munch's Supply Co. Inc., describes some of the early results they have achieved with MITS Distributor Analytics.

Busy HVAC Supply Firm Sees Early Sales Gains from new Analytics Solution.

Heating & air conditioning wholesale supplier Munch's Supply is a fourth-generation family business operating six branches in the Chicago and northwest Indiana markets. Over the last two decades of Munch's steady growth and profitability, the company has relied on Eclipse to manage its business. One challenge they faced, however, "was to quickly and efficiently get certain kinds of information out of the Eclipse system," says Victoria Munch Strunk, Vice President.

Then, at a recent Activant Eclipse Summit conference, Vicki learned about a solution aimed squarely at the problem: MITS Distributor Analytics for Eclipse. The solution offers a standardized approach to making some of the most important information inside Eclipse highly accessible to business users-even to the point where it can be viewed on iPad and Android devices.

The company decided to implement the solution, with assistance from both Eclipse and MITS. In a very short time, the Munch's team began using a series of drillable analysis "hypercubes" (views and reports) of key Eclipse data, plus an executive Dashboard for monitoring key business performance metrics.

Early results have been encouraging. The Accounts Receivables cube, for example, has enabled credit managers to quickly focus on accounts needing attention, delivering cash flow improvements. An array of reports from the Sales hypercube is helping managers and salespersons to pinpoint changing buying patterns and customers who may need additional attention. Meanwhile, the Inventory On Hand cube has simplified the addition of a large new line of heating and air conditioning products. "It's much easier now for our managers and buyers to see what's moving and what's not," says Vicki.

The Executive Dashboard, which tracks key metrics across the business, is a favorite of senior executives in the company. "They can see what's going on in just a few seconds, then drill down to track sales rep performance, branch sales and GP,  and other important metrics," says Vicki.

Vicki also sees overall profitability improvements in the offing. "This is going to help us identify lines that are less profitable, and to drill down and create an action plan which can address those issues. This type of information just hasn't been as easy to retrieve directly from the Eclipse system-but now we have access. We're convinced our profits will continue growing as a result."

To learn more about MITS Distributor Analytics, MITS logo

please visit our web site at www.mits.com/distributoranalytics .

 

 

Free Video's on www.eclipseuser.com

 

Have you checked out the free videos on the web page? Remember you must be logged in on the page to see the play arrow or the download button.

You can use the Filter: Category box to select the videos you wish to display. The categories are:

Eterm; Solar; both Eterm and Solar Demonstrated; Ideas; Web Page Training; Eterm only System Process (meaning this system process is done in Eterm and Solarized).

Make your choice and click the Filter button. 

The training committee has approved the posting of previous user presented roundtable videos on the web page free of charge. The topics posted must meet two criteria, 1) not being presented again, 2) not been presented within the past 6 months. These full class videos will be divided into short videos on specific areas within the presentation. The 2010 and 2011 Eclipse Merges and Purges presentations are currently in the works. We have posted the two presentations separately but matched the topic areas. So for example, you will find the video Eclipse Merges & Purges Cycle Count Queue and Capture Login 2011 and Eclipse Merges & Purges Cycle Count Queue and Capture Login 2010. We are posting both session because the attendee interaction and questions are different and we feel you should have the opportunity to hear and see both.

 

 

The one hour free presentation videos are being posted 30 days after the presentation. They are not divided into segments. You can play these videos with all the controls including pause, stop and fast forward.

  

 

The downloadable files are training videos created over the past few years using a program which is not compatible with our new website. When you download them please follow the instructions in the class description on the website.  

 

 

 

A good B2B store should have 4 things -Schmitt ProfiTools Vendor Partner

As some UFO members know, I write a monthly column for THE WHOLESALER, a magazine focused on plumbing, HVAC and PVF wholesalers called: Smart Management.  For the past 3 years, I have been warning wholesalers that the industry has passed the "tipping point" and that a quality B2B presence is now a business requirement.  We have reached the point where wholesalers are losing business or getting disqualified completely because they have no B2B store or because their B2B store just stinks. 

I think a good B2B store should have 4 things:

1.        Good content.  Images, specs and descriptions that were constructed to help customers buy products. 

a.   Customers don't like the ALL UPPRCSE, HVLY ABBRVTD DSCRPTNS that are in most ERP systems. 

b.    They want easy-to-read formatted specifications.  They hate those 5-line, run-on, ALL-UPPRCSE sentences that many old-style B2B sites include.

2.        Good operational flow - The flow of the transaction should be intuitive and easy.  Some customers like to drill into the products, others like to search and others want a handy list of "favorites."  You need them all.

a.     It should reflect the wholesaler's understanding of their customers and how they operate.  And it should be evolving as you learn more about your customers' needs.

b.     The search should allow the customer to find the products they need.  The biggest customer gripes are:

       i.      "How can I buy it from you, if I can't find it?" 

       ii.      "Don't expect me to memorize your 6-digit item numbers or your internal search keys"

3.        Good integration with the wholesaler's ERP system - Pricing, availability, customer account information and order submission should be connected in real time to the ERP.

4.        Analytics - To understand what your customers are doing on your site/store so you can better serve them.

So that's where Schmitt ProfiTools can help: 

1.        We can gather, organize and format specifications, create good selling descriptions and provide some of the highest quality images available.  Few wholesalers are staffed to get this done.

2.        We can provide great webstore software that was designed to operate "Your Way."  "Your Way" in terms of appearance but also "Your Way" in terms of the logic and flow of the transaction.

3.        We connect intimately to Eclipse using Web Integration so the real time connection is there.

4.        Finally, we provide data that allows you to continuously make your site better.

For a reprint of a column I wrote for THE WHOLESALER on this subject or for information about our webstore product, email or call me.

Rich Schmitt rich@go-spi.comSchmitt ProfiTools Logo

Schmitt ProfiTools, Inc. -

Content/software for webstores and catalogs, web site design and price management software.

www.Go-spi.com

314-872-9199

Disclaimer

The information contained in this newsletter is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by UFO and while we endeavor to keep the information up-to-date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to this newsletter or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained in the newsletter for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data arising out of, or in connection with, the use of the information in this newsletter.