Given our diverse set of clients here at Ultra, we decided to make each month of the calendar year focus on a certain industry vertical. Under this initiative, February was deemed “Distribution Month.” We led several webinars, wrote multiple blogs, and conducted vendor briefings meant to help the average wholesale distribution business along their ERP journey.
As February, and our focus on distribution companies, is drawn to a close to make way for March, also known as “Process Manufacturing Month,” let’s reflect on one last distribution project spotlight.
A Look Into a Wholesale Distribution Business Client
Ultra has been working with a leading wholesale distribution business that sells HVACR equipment in the Midwest, Plains, and Mountain states on their business transformation. Because the company was facing a number of challenges and inefficiencies with their current legacy business systems, they wanted to explore the opportunities a new integrated ERP system could provide.
They ultimately decided to engage Ultra Consultants to leverage our experience in business process improvement and technology selection to ensure they could maximize business value with this significant investment.
Initiating Your ERP Selection Project: Where to Start?
At Ultra we have a proven ERP implementation methodology designed to make any project operate seamlessly. But before you can even think about implementing a new system, it’s important to start with the project basics: current state & future state mapping.
Current State & Future State Mapping
Current state mapping involves taking an analysis of the company’s current business processes. What is going well? What needs improvement? What exact areas of your wholesale distribution business would you like address in an ERP solution? These are just a few of the questions we ask in this stage of the process.
When mapping your future state, it’s important to think about where you want your company to be. Do you have certain revenue, inventory, or ROI goals? What would you like to be able to achieve with a new ERP system?
Selecting Your ERP System
After documenting this company’s current state processes and then developing a model for their best practice future state processes, Ultra provided this wholesale distribution business with a long list of ERP software vendors we felt could be best positioned to meet their needs. Ultra is completely vendor-independent, but by gathering information on our client’s specific processes, we were able to help them identify key features of a best-fit system.
After going through a rigorous process of demonstrations, reference visits, and negotiations, this wholesale distribution business selected the Prophet 21 solution from Epicor as their new ERP solution. As Prophet 21 is a package designed specifically for distributors, it provides the out-of-the box functionalities a wholesale distribution business needs to support their organization.
Continuing a Partnership: From Selection to Implementation
Ultra serves to be a trusted advisor to all of our clients throughout and beyond the entirety of a project. The natural next step after a business process improvement (BPI) or ERP Selection project is an ERP implementation project.
After completing the business process improvement and technology selection phases of their business transformation, the company continued its partnership with Ultra for the implementation phase. We recently completed the Initiate stage of the ERP implementation and are now working on the Design stage.
Early Implementation Stages: Initiate
During the Initiate stage, we reviewed of all of the company’s business processes (current state and future state) with Epicor’s implementation team to familiarize them with the company and to identify any significant gaps.
As Prophet 21 is designed for distributors, we confirmed the solution will be a good fit for the company, and the few potential gaps that were identified during process review should be able to be resolved without customization to the product.
Early Implementation Stages: Design
As we move into the detailed design stage of the project, there are a number of activities that will be taking place. In addition to the obvious need to configure the software to fit the specific needs of the company, there are separate teams engaged in ERP data conversion and in change management. The data conversion activities include mapping the legacy data to the tables in Prophet 21 and profiling and cleansing the legacy data to ensure the new software will run smoothly during testing and at go-live.
The organizational change management team will be focusing on ongoing internal and external communications, stakeholder and job impact analysis, and development of comprehensive employee training plans. At the same time, the core team will begin to build out their detailed plans for unit testing and integration testing in advance of the scheduled conference room pilots.
Defining Your Main Business Drivers
Throughout the implementation, we will maintain focus on the business drivers for the project. During the business process improvement phase, the team identified over 150 different opportunities for improvement. The most significant of these opportunities were captured as Key Performance Indicators for the project and include:
- Time savings in part searches, by making it easier to find the correct part when servicing walk-in and phone orders at the company’s 50-plus stores
- Higher gross margin by having more visibility and control on how product prices are set
- Reduction in total inventory value by leveraging better inventory management tools available with the new software
- Improved training for employees on the new software compared to the complexity of the various legacy systems, which is especially important for getting seasonal staff up to speed quickly
- Elimination of inefficiencies associated with multiple legacy systems. Manually keying in information provides inconsistencies in data such as inventory levels and purchase order details, etc. that will be eliminated by having a single integrated ERP system
The company has significant plans for growth in the years ahead, and their implementation of the new Prophet 21 ERP system from Epicor will allow them to support that growth with their current staffing levels.
After the software has been successfully implemented, the company will continue on with their business transformation by moving into their continuous improvement phase – leveraging their new system to drive even more business benefits.
To learn more about this software, read our detailed blog on Epicor Prophet 21.