Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Accelerate VAWD Accreditation with Pharmaceutical ERP Software

Most pharmaceutical distribution wholesalers are familiar with the Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributors (VAWD) program and know that attaining the accreditation is no easy feat without the proper software.  It is an extensive and complex process that can take over six months to complete, so why go through the hassle to get the accreditation? VAWD is more than a “nice to have” accreditation – it establishes your business as a trustworthy trading partner in the U.S. pharmaceutical market.  It indicates that your company has met the most rigorous verification and requirements and adheres to the best practices of the industry.  Since pharmaceutical wholesale businesses that are VAWD accredited also have increased visibility and control over their inventory, distribution, operations and procedures, more and more buying partners, insurance organizations, manufacturers etc.  require their wholesale suppliers to have the accreditation to safeguard their relationship, creating a high demand for accreditation.

What exactly is VAWD?

VAWD is an accreditation that is issued by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to pharmaceutical wholesale drug distribution facilities. The accreditation verifies that distributing facilities are in compliance with state and federal laws which ultimately helps to prevent counterfeit drugs from entering the U.S. market. It is currently recognized by 21 states in the U.S., and is a requirement in Indiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Other states require VAWD as a condition of license renewal for disciplinary cases.

The accreditation is certainly not an overnight process. Candidates must meet dozens of criteria in a number of different categories such as Licensure, Facility, Personnel, Policies and Procedures, Record Keeping, Authentication and Verification etc.

As accreditation takes several months to complete, it makes it all the more important for candidates to be fully prepared for the rigorous reviews to avoid having to re-apply. The time it takes to complete the program is greatly impacted by a facility’s readiness.

Where does software come in?

Having the right pharmaceutical ERP software with advanced abilities for “maintaining inventories and records of all transactions regarding the receipt and distribution or other disposition of all drugs and devices”, helps to meet the VAWD criteria faster. The industry specific functionality in pharmaceutical ERP helps businesses to not only comply with DEA, FDA and DSCSA requirements but also can be leveraged to become VAWD accredited.
“Your software makes it where you can do it. You have the track and trace, you have the ability to make all of the specs for VAWD.” –Russell Patterson, IPD
Before we explore specific pharmaceutical ERP software features that come into play, here are some of the VAWD criteria that the right software will help to address:

Record Keeping

Wholesale distributors must:

Establish and maintain inventories and records of all transactions from receipt and distribution to identifying the source of the product (product type, packing slips, shipping records, sales invoices in the distributors name and address).
Keep records for inspection and photocopying by any authorized official of any state, federal or local government agency for a period of 3 years.
Have lot level documentation saved for the past 6 years in the form of transaction information (TI), transaction history (TH), and transaction statement (TS).
Provide records at the inspection site and have them readily available for inspection during the retention period. Records kept at a central location must be available for inspection within two working days of a request and should be securely stored to protect the integrity of data.
Must record full contact list of persons with whom the wholesale distributor conducts business.
Processes in place for monitoring the purchase activity of customers and identifying ordering patterns that identify potential diversion or criminal activity in accordance with state and federal law.

Policies & Procedures

Wholesale distributors must:

Have systems in place for the receipt, security, storage, inventory, transport, shipping, and distribution of drugs, including and procedures for, identifying, recording, and reporting losses or thefts or for correcting all errors and inaccuracies in inventories, and for ensuring the oldest approved stock of a prescription drug product is distributed first.
A procedure to be followed for handling recalls and written withdrawals of drugs and devices.
Be in accordance with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act and have systems in place for product tracing, authorized trading partners, verification, wholesaler and 3PL reporting.
Business must also have a procedure in place for investigating discrepancies involving counterfeit, suspected of being counterfeit, contraband, or suspected of being contraband prescription drugs, and reporting such discrepancies within three (3) business days to the board of pharmacy or appropriate state regulatory agency and appropriate federal agency.

Automating Processes with Pharmaceutical ERP Software

Automation: Manual methods for shipping, receiving, tracking and sharing information are prone to human errors and are time-consuming. Pharmaceutical ERP software with robust inventory and accounting functionality can not only automate these processes but has the ability to store historical data such as who the product was purchased from and who it was shipped to, types of product and related information, expiration dates, creating/printing packing slips, saving shipping records, creating sales invoices containing your businesses’ name and address- all from one system.

You can also save and retrieve past purchase, shipping, and contact information using various tools. Documents can be sent directly from the pharmaceutical ERP software to be shared/copied etc if asked to be inspected. Security features within the system such as login credentials and user specific windows ensures the integrity of the data.

Traceability: Sophisticated traceability and transaction reporting functionality allows users to print lot numbers on documents including invoices and packing slips.  TI, TH, and TS reports that are also part of the DSCSA Transaction Report requirements, can be generated for the purposes of VAWD accreditation by pulling specific existing data directly from the system. Transaction information such as the name of product, strength and dosage, NDC#, lot number etc., can easily be turned into a Transaction Report (T3). Transaction History report (TH), previously known as a Pedigree report, is the recording of the product’s entire transaction history. This allows a business to track the drug’s owners all the way back to the manufacturer using extensive reporting functionality in the system. Transaction Information (TI) records data on trading partners transferring ownership of the specific product and adheres to DSCSA requirements- all data which can be stored and quickly accessed in the system.

Strong traceability features also come into play when there is a need for recall reporting. It enables quick notification to trading partners that sold the recalled products and accounts for all other quantities of the recalled product.

Order Tracking: When it comes to suspect ordering, functionality within pharmaceutical ERP software monitors sales orders for thresholds of ordering patterns and prevents the order from being shipped before further analysis of the anomaly can be performed.

Maintaining your VAWD accreditation

In order for businesses to maintain their VAWD accreditation, specific renewal documentation is required and an on-site examination will happen once every three years. The NABP may also elect to survey the wholesale distributor facility at any time if NABP receives information indicating that the wholesale distributor may be out of compliance with any of the VAWD criteria.

It’s best for VAWD accredited businesses to have the appropriate robust compliance solution in place, and feel confident that in the event of an inspection by any party, they can quickly produce the Transaction History, Information, and Statement documentation associated with any product that has flowed through their possession.

Want to grow your pharmaceutical distribution business? Learn how IPD grew sales by 42.5% in 1 month and achieved their VAWD Acceditation with Blue Link’s pharmaceutical ERP CSOS software.

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Blue Link Associates Celebrates 25 Years of ERP Software Innovation!

Vaughan, ON- June 20, 2017- Blue Link Associates is proud to announce that we have crossed another milestone in the history of our company. This year marks our 25th year in service. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our customers and partners for being a valuable part of our story and contributing to our success. Not only have they made us a part of their lives, but have inspired us to continue to provide  innovative inventory and accounting ERP software functionality that will help them succeed and grow profitably and efficiently. We have numerous exciting projects to come this year including a new user interface, improvements to our reporting services and mobile app and much more!
“We have achieved this milestone through the hard work and dedication of our loyal employees, customers and our culture of service excellence that exists throughout the entire organization.”
  -Mark Canes, Blue Link President 
Fun Facts about Blue Link

The company began operations with just a couple employees in 1992 and has quickly risen to one of the leading ERP software providers for small to medium size businesses in the industry.
Our first client is still with us today – enjoying upgrades!
Blue Link’s head office is located just north of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.  Although we only serve businesses with head offices in North America and the Caribbean, Blue Link has software users in several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan, and Russia.
Our team includes a mix of accountants, qualified consultants and talented software engineers that offer a unique blend of expertise. Our solutions are always designed from an end user’s business and accounting perspective.
We provide a complete accounting software package, encompassing both “back office” functions (like accounting and collections), and logistical / operational functions (like inventory management and billing).
Our software is Windows Based but accessible on both PCs and Macs & our system is easily customizable.
We offer both on-premises and cloud-based deployment.

Also, to celebrate our 25th year in service, here’s a roundup of our 25 top blog posts!

Landed Cost Formula (Calculation) 
Pros and Cons of QuickBooks|QuickBooks’ Limitations
How Much Does Inventory Management Software Cost?
The Importance of Software Maintenance
3 Great Exception Reports for Small Business Owners
3 Trends Driving Growth in the Wholesale/Distribution Industry
ERP or Accounting Software – What’s the Difference?
Custom Software vs. Out-of-the-Box ERP Software
Front-end Appearance and Back-end eCommerce Integration Define the Online Shopping Experience
Lot Tracking Defined: Understanding Common ERP Jargon 
How to Pick the Best Import Export Software for Your Distribution Business
eCommerce Integration Defined: Understanding Common Software Jargon
3 Great Inventory Management Reports for Small Business Owners
ERP Implementation: 5 Data Migration Tips
The Dangers of Developing a Custom ERP System In-House 
ERP Software and QuickBooks Integration? Not so much…
Cost of Inventory Management – Part 2
What is the Difference Between Contact Management and CRM?
Inventory Management Software – Different Barcode Scanning Options
Excel with Pivot Tables
Online Ordering (eCommerce) for Distributors & Wholesalers
Excel for Inventory Management?
How Not to Write an RFP for ERP Software: Death by RFP
Top 5 Reasons to Replace QuickBooks
How to Convince Your Boss You Need New Software (5 Tips)

 

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Do You Need ERP Software? (What vendors are not telling you)

One of the most important decisions that a wholesale and distribution business will make, is what (if any) business management software is necessary. For most small businesses, no matter the industry, the first software purchase is made in order to manage the company’s financials and accounting.  In this situation, one of the most popular introductory systems is QuickBooks. At this point in time, order volume is still low enough that managing inventory and the picking, packing and shipping process can be easily accomplished with the help of pen and paper or simple business tools such as Excel. However, there will likely come a time when the company starts to grow and order volume increases, and you will start to notice that QuickBooks is not working as well anymore.  Frequently, with company growth comes the addition of new sales channels, increased competition and added business complexities such as the need for additional warehouse space. An increase in order volume combined with manual processes results in more room for human errors and more work for employees.  It is at this point in time that it is appropriate to begin looking for alternative software solutions.

Software Options

For wholesale and distribution companies looking for software to manage their inventory, accounting, sales, contacts etc. there are a couple of different options depending on required functionality, the sophistication of processes and budget.

Option (1) Introductory Software – Multiple Systems

Introductory software is marketed towards small companies as the first solution implemented in an organization. These systems typically accommodate one business process (such as accounting or inventory management), but in some cases and on the upper end, may accomplish several. Examples include QuickBooks, Simply Accounting, and Fishbowl.  For the most part, introductory software is typically designed to accommodate only one business process, and so a company may decide to integrate several standalone solutions in order to accommodate business processes across multiple departments. The training and implementation process is minimal and introductory software is best suited for use by employees with limited accounting knowledge and software experience. For small businesses with slow growth, introductory systems are a great and economical tool for managing processes.

Option (2) Midmarket ERP Software

ERP stands for “Enterprise Resource Planning” and describes software that is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations as an all-in-one solution.  Midmarket ERP is marketed towards companies that have outgrown their existing introductory software and in certain instances is suitable for start-up businesses. Examples include Blue Link, certain Microsoft products, and Epicor. ERP software includes functionality for accounting, order entry and processing, inventory, contact management and warehouse management, and replaces all existing systems as a stepping stone for continued growth. Certain features that are unavailable in introductory systems, or provided but with very limited functionality, are inherent in true ERP systems. Examples include robust reporting, multiple units of measure, multi-locations and multi-currency, integration with email and the ability to manage unlimited file size and transaction volume.  Since ERP systems are designed to scale with company growth, many systems also provide advanced functionality that can either be purchased at the get-go or added on down the road, such as full two-way integration with eCommerce sites, barcode scanning and mobile picking, landed cost tracking, lot tracking and CRM.

Option (3) Top Tier – Global ERP Software

Top Tier ERP systems provide the same functionality as midmarket ERP but on a scale necessary for vast organizations with global operations. They are marketed towards companies with a significant number of users and complex global operations. The sophistication of these pieces of software necessitates a significant capital spend and IT resources. Examples include SAP, Oracle and JD Edwards.

Now that you have a better understanding of the options for software, it is time to determine which one is best for your business.  In order to do that, it is important to take a step back to evaluate why you’re looking for new software and the benefits you hope to realize from a new system.

Common Reasons for Shopping

Although there are an infinite number of reasons as to why a company replaces their existing software system, there are a few common ones that we hear most often.

My existing system is antiquated/outdated.

When working with legacy software, there will certainly come a time when you will need to replace the system for a more modern solution, usually as a result of a system crash or lack of support. Because antiquated software has an “expiry” date, it is important to find a new solution before the existing system becomes unusable. It can be enticing to continue to use existing software for as long as possible since it “still works”, but it is very important to dedicate the right amount of time and resources to finding a new solution for when you make the switch. This will allow you to learn a new system, transition from existing software and change processes without needing to rush through each aspect. In this situation even if your existing software was once marketed as midmarket ERP that is not to say that you will have to upgrade to a new midmarket system. Depending on how your business has changed over the years and the amount of growth, it may be appropriate to implement more basic introductory software. Keep in mind that due to changes in technology, many features that are lacking in your existing system will exist in modern ERP software and in some cases, even introductory systems.

In either situation, the biggest hindrance to making the switch when moving from legacy software will be the attitude and commitment from employees and management. Make sure the team is open to change before starting the search.

I do not like certain aspects of my existing system – it won’t integrate with my website, it does not have robust reporting functionality, it lacks inventory management etc. 

Although issues with existing systems can be frustrating, its not necessarily reason enough to make the switch to a different solution. If your existing software is lacking functionality do you currently have workarounds for managing these processes? If so, it is important to quantify how these processes affect the company.  Consider factors such as:

Man-hours required
Number of errors
Lost opportunities
Customer satisfaction

If your system is lacking certain functionality but the workaround you created only adds an extra 2 man-hours a month, it’s probably not worth making the switch. Is functionality more important than cost? Where does service fit in? Understanding how you prioritize each factor will help you decide if new software is right for your business. Shopping strictly on price will likely lead you to introductory software where midmarket ERP is designed with specific advanced functionality in mind.

I’m looking for a system that is easier to use and all-in-one. I want a system that reduces the number of manual processes.

Let’s start with ease of use. I often get asked if our software is user-friendly, but that is such a subjective question.  Yes, Blue Link is a Microsoft-based product and so has familiar commands, but for someone who has zero experience with business management software, there will be significant training required to use the system.  User-friendliness also applies to processes.  Switching systems requires that you also change some of your processes which might be the most difficult aspect of training – learning to operate in a different way than what you’re used to.  As a starting point, most vendors will have pre-recorded demo videos that will allow you to get an idea of the look and feel to then make your own assumptions about user-friendliness.

With an all-in-one, ERP system comes fewer manual processes, but the costs reflect this.  It is important that when you compare the cost of midmarket ERP with introductory systems or manual processes you compare all the costs.  The cost of existing software, hardware, and IT resources, plus non-monetary costs like time spent entering data and correcting mistakes. It is also important to compare future costs – will you need to hire a new employee to enter orders or manage processes without the right software?

Hopefully, by now you have a good understanding of what ERP software is and other types of systems available in the market. Remember, it is still worthwhile to speak with introductory and midmarket ERP software vendors if you’re unsure as to what is right for your business – as long as you approach these conversations with an open mind.

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Your Old Inventory Software Could Be Costing You Money

When it comes to replacing old/legacy inventory software, many businesses abandon the search due to the fear and anxiety associated with making such a big business change and capital investment. While the adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” may seem to apply in this situation, in reality, there are likely hidden costs associated with maintaining an outdated solution that is negatively impacting your business. It’s not only important to evaluate the costs of finding new software, but also the costs of making no decision at all. In both situations, the costs are not necessarily straightforward monetary values. Below we discuss in more detail.

 

The Cost of Old Technology

To benefit the most from business software and given how quickly technology changes today, it is important to ensure your inventory system is always up-to-date on the latest version.  Most vendors cover annual upgrades as part of their maintenance package, but this can vary significantly from one vendor to the next.  With outdated systems, physical equipment and hardware are hard to find that is compatible with old technology which makes it difficult to purchase new computers and find replacement parts. What happens when you hire a new employee but new computers and devices no longer support the technology of your existing system? Aside from not being able to purchase new equipment, supporting old technology is frequently much more expensive for IT companies and software vendors. A simple issue, which would normally be resolved in 5 or 10 minutes on a current version, might end up taking several hours on a really old version, as a support tech tries to:

Get the old version installed on a computer
Load the appropriate old development tools
Free up a technician who still remembers how to work with the old tools, and finally,
Work on the issue in question

The Cost of Lost Opportunities

With modern technology comes changing supply chain operations, customer needs, and new functionality. Sophisticated inventory software includes features such as advanced accounting, landed cost tracking, eCommerce, and barcode scanning to provide businesses with an all-in-one solution. Live data in real-time inventory systems ensure customers and suppliers have access to the information they need when they need it, such as inventory quantities, customer order information and account details. Cloud-based solutions provide new opportunities for sales reps, employees, and management, allowing them to easily work remotely and access the system from anywhere they have an internet connection. This provides new opportunities for sales reps to place orders for customers while on site or at a tradeshow, using live data, which eliminates the need to manually enter orders and make changes back in the office.  Remote access also gives employees and management the opportunity to work from home or on the road when they aren’t able to come into the office (think about the employee whose kid is sick at home, or who themselves is feeling a little under the weather or who would like the perk of being able to work remotely a couple of times a week/month). Lastly, maintaining on-premises systems in-house requires dedicated IT staff and the focus of internal employees – who instead could be directing their efforts on building customer relationships and selling product.

The Cost of Lost Productivity

Every new generation of technology will have its own security issues to worry about and many old systems are not designed to handle the threats of today’s industry. When an issue does arise, this makes it more difficult to find support and implement a fix. Productivity suffers as employees are stuck coming up with workarounds and designing new features to address issues and functionality requirements. Advanced inventory software provides built-in opportunities for automation – such as the ability to automatically change a status, email a report or invoice, pull a list of contacts, create a report based on inventory items etc. and eliminates the need to hire additional staff by automating administrative tasks.

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Hitting Snooze On Your Inventory Accounting Software Search?

As we approach the summer months with good weather, longer days, and many employees taking some much-needed time off, it can be tempting to put your inventory accounting software search on the back burner for the season.  However, as the pace of operations wind down for many businesses, this small window of opportunity can be an advantageous time to buckle down and finally focus on finding the right software solution.  If you need help fighting off the inclination to delay, ask yourself “If I don’t act now, when will I?” Putting in the effort now to implement a new solution can quickly pay off when business is back in full swing. Software implementations do not happen overnight, starting the search and making a decision about inventory and accounting software now, provides you more options for selecting an appropriate implementation timeframe in the future. And, keep in mind that prolonging the search process can come with its own set of problems that you’ll want to avoid.

What’s at stake?

Your Legacy Software is Not Getting Any Younger

It’s no question that technology changes at a rapid pace and it is crucial for businesses to stay up-to-date with software to avoid operational disasters and remain competitive in today’s market. There are many dangers associated with clinging onto outdated software. For instance, what will happen to your business if your legacy inventory accounting software stops working or the vendor stops supporting it?  What if the actual hardware needs to be replaced? Can you find new hardware that will support an old operating system and if so, how much will it cost? Every day that you continue to run your business on outdated software can potentially be putting your business data, operations and revenue at risk.

Now, if you have basic introductory software such as QuickBooks, you’re not that much better off. The list of pitfalls associated with introductory software will only get longer as your company grows, and creating workarounds to make up for these shortcomings will get increasingly challenging and time-consuming. So why wait until something goes horribly awry to make a move to new inventory accounting software?

New Opportunities

To resist the urge to drop your software search lower on the priority list, it’s important to think about how your business will change with new technology. Finding a solution may seem like a steep hurdle now, but once you find the right fit, it won’t be long until you and your employees reap the benefits. With modern inventory accounting software, comes advanced functionality to cater to specific industry needs. It not only streamlines and optimizes your internal processes but can also reshape the way customers interact with your business.

Increase in customer confidence- Customers will have confidence buying from you with up-to-date inventory information. They will be able to get accurate information on items in stock, backorder, how many of each item are available, expected shipment and delivery dates etc.
Selling online- Advanced features such as a B2B portal allows customers to place orders 24/7 at their convenience which means fewer resources needed and more business coming in through eCommerce.
Advanced accounting capabilities- Multi-company, multi-currency, robust reporting, advanced collections management, multiple bank management, flexible sales tax management, ability to create recurring entries and reverse entries and much more.
Improved warehouse performance- Ability to track multiple warehouses, track by bin and shelf locations, barcode verification scanning, handheld scanning capabilities, consolidated pick slips etc.
PCI Compliance – Credit card processing with encrypted credit card storage vault to meet PCI Data Security Standards.
Cloud vs. On-premises- You also have the freedom to select the environment in which the software is hosted. Do you have IT people in-house to manage the hardware and software or do you prefer to have the vendor host and manage the system? While each deployment method has its own pros and cons, consider an inventory accounting software vendor that provides the option of both.

Empowering Employees

When a company has outdated software or technology that lacks sophistication and functionality, it can not only be damaging to the business but it can also handicap the development of employees. It’s important to provide employees with the right tools to accomplish their work in the most efficient manner and to reduce turnover rates. The longer you delay finding new inventory accounting software, the longer your accountant will have to spend hours manually entering data into Excel, the longer your warehouse workers will have to repeat tasks and make inevitable errors, the longer your IT staff will have to endure pesky glitches and errors, and the longer you will have to suffer through poor visibility of your supply chain operations. Think of how much better your team will be able to perform and utilize their skills if given the appropriate means. Tasks that once took hours to accomplish such as manually entering data into Excel or picking a lengthy list to fulfill an order can be done in a fraction of the time if employees are given the right inventory accounting software to work with.

Still want to delay your software search?

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Protecting Cardholder Data to Meet PCI Compliance Standards

More and more small businesses are beginning to accept credit card payments from their customers both online and offline. As with any business that processes, stores, or transmits payment cardholder data, small businesses are responsible for adhering to PCI DSS standards in order to keep their customer’s card information safe. This includes implementing processes and software for properly managing cardholder data, keeping firewall and virus protection programs up-to-date and properly training employees on compliance standards. Compliance is more than just adhering to industry regulations – it also helps you earn the trust of your customers and provide different payment options to remain competitive.

What is PCI?

Payment Card Industry Compliance (or PCI for short), refers to a set of standards designed to protect cardholder information, and the exact requirements will vary depending on the size of your company and number of credit card transactions you process.  A set of 12 PCI Data Security Standards (DSS) outline the specific requirements necessary for meeting compliance and should be reviewed on a regular basis.  These 12 requirements can be summed into 3 separate sections:

Assess: Regularly review your company’s IT assets and processes for managing credit card transactions for any vulnerabilities.
Remediate: Implement policies and systems to address and manage these vulnerabilities.
Report: Submit records and data to appropriate payment brands in order to confirm your company’s remediation.

Data Protection

One of the most critical steps in maintaining compliance is protecting stored cardholder data, and unfortunately, this is one area that does not always get the attention it deserves.  A classic example of this is when employees receive credit card information from a customer by phone and then proceed to record the information in a spreadsheet or other unencrypted database. Even if the plan is to eventually copy this information into an encrypted database, this task often gets ignored, leaving the data vulnerable to security breaches and hackers as employees get busy dealing with other customers and tasks. Managing cardholder information in this manner violates PCI Standards, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in Canada, and very likely also puts you in violation of your merchant agreement. These infractions can result in fines, penalties and even the termination of your right to accept credit cards – in addition to the loss of sales and customer confidence in your company’s ability to protect their data.

The Solution

In order to avoid this type of situation, managers must implement proper processes for accepting credit card information, employees must be trained on meeting PCI Compliance and any accounting software or programs used for storing card data must provide encrypted databases. Some companies may practice compliance by maintaining a secure, paper-based locked file system of account numbers – however, employees often disregard these policies during their daily routine, as it can be a time-consuming process.  A better solution is to implement proper accounting software that includes completely separate, encrypted databases for storing this type of sensitive cardholder information. Implementing a proper system will require the transfer of all credit card information that your company previously stored in unencrypted fields, into a secure database.  Finding a system with consultants who are knowledgeable in this area will help make the set-up and data migration process go smoothly.

Protecting sensitive cardholder data is just one important aspect of achieving full compliance with PCI DSS standards, and should be addressed and reviewed along with all other requirements on a regular basis.

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What Should You Know Before Speaking With Distribution Accounting Software Vendors?

You have been assigned the immense task of finding the right Distribution Accounting Software for your company. You’re working with a tight deadline and need to find the right vendor as fast as possible. But before you pick up the phone to call that first vendor, ask yourself, “Do I know exactly what the business needs in a software solution?” and, “How well do I know the company’s operational processes? Well enough to comfortably speak with vendors about them?”

If the answer is no, make the time to sit down with the key decision maker(s) of the project, before you start your search to go over some of these areas. You may decide to include them early on in the process for initial conversations with vendors if you feel they can provide more insight and better explain company needs.

Now, if you are the business owner or decision maker that’s executing the search, keep in mind that you should consult and involve the appropriate employees that will benefit the most out of the software as well. For example, when seeking Distribution Accounting Software, it’s important to discuss the needs of your accountant such as the type of data they’re looking for, types of reporting capabilities needed, which manual reporting processes should be eliminated with software etc. It will be time-saving to have them sit in on the conversations with vendors so they can raise any red flags or shortcomings in the beginning of the search process.

It is also important to keep in mind that while it is useful to have a key point person “Project Manager” to head the search, other appropriate members of your team should regularly be updated on the status and information regarding the search. The project manager should keep clear documentation and notes on vendors as well as details on the progress of the search in case they are no longer able to continue with the project due to sudden absence/leave, dismissal, illness etc. This way, even if the point person is removed from the search process, another member of the team will be able to jump in and continue the search saving the company time and resources by not having to re-start the process and re-evaluate vendors.

Things to consider:

Wants vs. Needs

Identifying the difference between company needs and wants when it comes to Distribution Accounting Software, will help you understand the type of functionality that will be a priority vs. ‘nice to have’ items. So, how do you go about identifying this difference?

You need to ask the decision maker(s) as well as those involved in the search “Do we NEED the system to act a certain way or do we just WANT it to”. This will help you identify if the business is flexible enough to change its processes to get the most out of specific functionality. Keep an open mind and think outside the box of how processes have always been and how tasks have always been completed. This will also determine if your business will be able to benefit from having just base features, or if you need additional components or if custom work is needed.

Base Features – Most true ERP solutions will provide base functionality for inventory and accounting such as General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Bank Management, Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Reporting, Invoicing and Quoting. Some vendors may also provide Multi-currency capability, Barcode Scanning as part of their base package. For many businesses, these out-of-the-box features are all that is needed to improve operational processes.

Sophisticated Optional Functionality – What differentiates ERP systems from introductory software and even legacy software is sophisticated functionality. Depending on the vendor, you will have a choice of optional components at an additional cost. These advanced features can often be of great use for some companies. Some of them may include CRM, Electronic Document Management, Apps for Sales Reps, B2B Online Customer Ordering Portals, Mobile Picking, Advanced Financial Reporting to name a few.

Customization- Customization entails modifying or adding features to a particular system to adhere to specific tasks. So, if a business decides to add on or modify features, this is where custom work comes into play.

Industry Specific Features

Are there certain processes that are unique to your industry? Some vendors offer industry specific functionality developed to cater to businesses needing special requirements. For example,  functionality developed for the pharmaceutical industry that allows pharmaceutical distributors to meet industry standards/regulations/compliance. Landed Cost functionality for importer/exporters that require tracking of hidden inventory fees such as taxes, duties, freight etc. Another industry specific functionality is Lot Tracking also known as Traceability that many industries rely on for product recalls and product warnings as well as for better inventory management purposes. It is always best to raise these necessities early on in the search process to ensure the vendor is able to meet industry standards.

Timeframe

Collaborating with several team members for the search is especially important when establishing a timeframe. It is important everyone is able to treat the search as a priority before speaking with vendors. Confirm with your decision maker(s) on when the software implementation should take place. There may be plans and releases that you are unaware of which could impact the level of priority for acquiring new software. Keep in mind that implementation is not an overnight process and the time it takes to get set up with the software depends on several factors such as the amount of data to be migrated, software training, and also the vendor’s schedule.

Having a good understanding of your company’s Distribution Accounting Software requirements also helps the vendors you speak with provide you with more accurate pricing based on your unique needs. You will also save time not having to go back and forth with the decision maker(s) on key decisions when specific needs are thoroughly addressed before the search.

 

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5 Ways Mobile Barcode Scanning is Changing Small Business Warehouse Operations

Warehouses have been using barcode scanning systems for years, but it is only because of recent and continuing advances in technology that they are becoming a viable option for small and medium size businesses. Whether for receiving, put-away, picking or packing, barcode scanning improves accuracy and automates the process of managing inventory. For wholesale and distribution businesses, efficient inventory management can be the difference between success and failure and barcode scanning is a popular choice when searching for advanced warehouse management tools. This article looks at five ways the introduction of inexpensive, sophisticated barcode scanners have changed the small business warehouse landscape.

(1) More Affordable Hardware

Traditional scanners are expensive, ruggedized pieces of hardware mostly used by large companies with full Warehouse Management Systems (WMS).  Today, many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have expanded to include some WMS functionality, and businesses can utilize the same sophisticated scanning technology on inexpensive hardware such as iPhones or iPods. This hardware is not only less expensive, but often more user-friendly and dynamic, providing users options for mounting on forklifts, carts and other pieces of equipment used within the warehouse.

(2) Paperless Warehouse

Wireless barcode scanners help small businesses achieve a paperless warehouse. Instead of warehouse staff printing pick tickets, sales orders are opened on mobile scanning devices, allowing pickers to scan and pick items at the same time while walking the warehouse floor. Users can also scan product as it is received into the warehouse in order to update the back-end ERP system in real-time. This eliminates traditional methods of gathering inventory information such as printing lengthy reports, handwriting notes, and then manually recording information back into your system.

(3) More Efficient Picking, Packing, and Receiving

To remain competitive as a small business, fast shipping with zero errors is imperative. Barcode scanners help achieve this and eliminate errors associated with manual processes by:

Itemizing products to be picked based on bin and shelf location to create the most efficient path
Displaying inventory information at the source, such as pricing, descriptions and additional location information for items on backorder, in overstock etc.
Identifying pick errors at the source as opposed to when scanning items at a pack station
Recording received inventory and allocating product to their proper bin and shelf location

Different Barcode Scanning Options
(4) Correctly Associating Lot Numbers with Sales Orders

Small businesses who handle lot tracked products know the importance of accurately matching and recording these numbers when picking product.  Barcode scanning software easily checks lot numbers and ensures that they are correctly associated with sales orders.  This process is much more accurate than manually comparing and tracking lot numbers, and simplifies the process of pulling information in the case of a recall.

(5) Advanced Reporting Capabilities

Barcode scanners enable fast, accurate data capture, and transaction confirmation within seconds of scanning product.  Information transfers into an ERP system in real-time or batch updates, increasing the availability of usable data.  This reduces manual paperwork, errors, and labor costs, and helps standardize the collection of data for reporting purposes.  As a result, more accurate, complete, and timely information transfers between systems and employees.

 

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5 Fears of Replacing Existing Warehouse Inventory Software

We’ve all experienced fear at one point or another. Whether it’s fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of letting go of what’s familiar to us…these emotions can often cloud our judgment and can result in a lot of missed opportunities. It comes as no surprise that businesses often feel these paralyzing emotions when faced with the decision to replace their long-time warehouse inventory software. Many become so overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty and doubt that they end up abandoning their software search altogether, and decide to stick with their existing software rather than exploring the advantages and benefits that come with a more robust system.

So, how do businesses overcome this anxiety and pull the trigger on acquiring new technology that can put their business in the fast lane? First, businesses need to assess their level of commitment to the search and ask themselves “Do I want to actively look for new warehouse inventory software?” Many businesses go on the hunt for a new solution out of sheer frustration over the shortcomings of their existing system, however, when it comes to making an actual decision, they become hesitant and afraid of getting into unfamiliar territory. Acquiring new software needs to have a high place on the priority scale – if not, the search will result in a waste of time and resources.

Once you have made a commitment to actively look for new software, take the time to identify your fears and get down to the root of what’s causing them. Here are a few common ones.

I don’t want to go over budget!

Are you thinking of a dollar amount in your head that you are determined not to surpass? How did you come up with that number? Many businesses base their budget of an arbitrary number without taking into consideration any real-world information. That is why many companies experience sticker shock as soon as the first vendor provides pricing. To avoid a full halt in the search over pricing, businesses need to understand what they’re comparing the costs with. Are you comparing the cost with that of an outdated legacy software or introductory software? These types of systems cost much different than more modern and robust warehouse inventory software due to differences in technology and features.

Another question for businesses to ask is “What is the cost of doing nothing?” Not purchasing software can end up being more of a headache in the long-run, and there are often costs associated with not making a change, such as:

Having to hire new employees to handle tasks not managed with existing systems.
Missing the opportunity to increase automation through additional functionality such as advanced accounting, barcode scanning, and lot tracking features.
Missing the opportunity to grow the business through new sales channels (such as eCommerce).

What if I choose the wrong vendor?

A common mistake that warehouse inventory software seekers frequently make is evaluating too many vendors out of fear of choosing the wrong one. Trying to evaluate too many quickly becomes overwhelming as employees try to absorb a sea of information- having to remember and distinguish between too many conversations and demos often results in making the wrong decision or no decision at all.  The key is to keep in mind that it is very unlikely that a vendor can meet 100% of your needs, so if you find a vendor that can address the majority of your needs (about 80%), stop looking.

The right vendor will not only spend time discussing their product with you but will also dedicate time to get to know your business and current processes to identify potential areas of improvement.  A good vendor will also let you know if there are any areas of the software where it is not a good fit to avoid wasting your time. They are not afraid to say no and have tested methodology behind their sales process to ensure a true fit, which makes it important to cooperate and provide clear answers to their questions throughout the different stages of the sales process.

Will I lose my existing data?!

Does the thought of losing historical and current information send a chill up your spine? You’re not alone. One of the main anxieties businesses face when deciding to transition to new warehouse inventory software is the fear of losing their existing data living in their current system. Many are simply unaware that depending on the vendor, data migration services will be available to ensure that your information is securely transferred to your new database. The right vendor will collaborate with you to understand what data needs to be moved over, when data will be migrated, and advise you if any data needs to be cleaned up during the migration process.
Learn about common misconceptions about Inventory Warehouse Software (sometimes referred to as ERP software), to make an informed decision about what system is right for your business.

Will employees be able to learn a new system?

For those who fear unknown functionality that comes with a new warehouse inventory system, breathe a sigh of relief knowing that many vendors offer training as a part of their service package.  Make sure you select a vendor that has a team of qualified consultants to provide training on applicable functionality and how your team can use new features efficiently in their day-to-day operations. The best way to determine the quality of training offered by each vendor is to speak to their existing customers to gain insight into a collection of first-hand experiences.

And, think of it this way… you don’t need to know 100% of the software features included. Don’t try to wrap your head around every bell and whistle all at once- instead, focus on the core features that will help you achieve the majority of your tasks. Once you get the hang of these features, you can explore more complex features or optional components.

What if the implementation fails?

Chances are, you’ve probably read a few horror stories out there of failed software implementations.  Although there is no guarantee that this won’t be the case during your implementation, speaking with a vendor’s existing custom base will help you get a feel for how often there have been implementation issues.  Inevitably there will be something that goes wrong during the implementation, and so the key is to ask this question of existing customers to better understand how the vendor dealt with any issues. Keep in mind that implementations are a two-way street and require collaboration between both parties. Two things you can do as a customer to assist in the success of the implementation are:

Be transparent about your business processes- if your business is unable or unwilling to educate the vendor on specific business operations and processes, you will most likely get a more generic installation, one that might not improve operating inefficiencies as hoped.
Ensure you allocate the appropriate resources  (including people with the authority to make decisions) to the project, and take direction from the vendor on implementation tasks.

Remember, the intention behind new technology is always to solve problems not create them- the right solution will make your life easier. Don’t put yourself in a position where you will regret or wonder what could have been if you had transitioned to a more robust warehouse inventory system. Be brave, be open to change and move forward in your software search with confidence.

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Why You Can’t Find Accounting ERP Pricing Online

Ever notice how it’s impossible to find pricing for accounting ERP software online? Have you ever filled out a “Request a Quote” form on a website expecting an email response, only to have a sales rep reach out to you by phone?

There is a specific reason why you can’t easily find pricing information online and that’s because the cost of accounting ERP software is complicated. Unlike introductory systems where information about different pricing options is readily available, true ERP systems are not a one-size-fits-all solution.  Therefore, the cost will depend on several factors such as the number of users, business processes, specific requirements and existing systems and infrastructure. For example, a company with multiple locations that sells through online sales channels is going to have different requirements than a company that distributes strictly through sales reps across a handful of states. Even if both companies are wholesale distributors selling consumer packaged goods, their requirements, processes and even the experience and knowledge of their employees will significantly vary, resulting in different software needs and costs.  For the most part, accounting ERP solutions for a specific industry (such as wholesale and distribution) will be able to address 70-80% of a business’ needs out-of-the-box.  However, most vendors competing in the small-medium size business space will also provide optional components that companies can turn on or off depending on its specific needs – at an additional cost.  A great example of this type of functionality is eCommerce. The ability to turn on or off built-in features is different from the ability to integrate with 3rd party applications, however, both typically involve additional costs.

Taking into account the above, it’s reasonable for an accounting ERP software vendor to need to speak with potential customers to gather information before being able to provide them with an idea of pricing. However, companies should never base the search for ERP software on costs alone. A good vendor will also take the time during phone discussions to learn more about a company’s specific requirements to first and foremost determine whether or not it would be a good fit – from a functionality and business culture standpoint. There are several other factors to consider which take priority over cost if you want to find the right solution for your business.

As the first step in searching for a new system, it is important to have a good understanding of your company’s processes and requirements as this will help vendors determine and make recommendations on key functionality. This information will help you and the vendor determine if their solution is the right fit and allow the vendor to provide you with an estimate of costs based on your unique needs.

Before you reach out to vendors to get pricing information, consider the following:

Industry/Functionality Requirements

Most true accounting ERP solutions will provide the same basic features for inventory management, order entry and processing, warehouse management, general ledger, accounts receivable and payable and contact management.  Therefore, it is important to consider other unique or industry specific requirements that will result in the need for certain functionality.  What are some things your business does that gives you a competitive advantage? Do you need specific functionality to address these processes? Are you looking to grow the business and therefore your needs will be changing in the next couple of months? It’s rare that any type of software will able to meet 100% of your unique business needs out-of-the-box, but most will be able to provide optional features or custom work.  As mentioned above, many ERP vendors provide optional components that a company can turn on or off to address specific needs, however, each of these will add to the cost of the system.  Keep in mind that ERP is designed to be scalable as your company grows, allowing you to add additional features down the road.

Number of Users

Many vendors base the cost of their software around the number of users or software licenses. However, there may be different ways of accessing information in an ERP solution and therefore the number of users required may change from what you currently have.  Some vendors also provide different pricing depending on the needs of the user or will have the same pricing with the ability to set different permissions and security settings for individual users or groups of users. The more information you can provide a vendor about who will be accessing the system, and what they will be doing, the more accurate pricing you will get. In general, the more users you have, the higher the costs.

Implementation

Trying to estimate and provide implementation costs is quite difficult for ERP projects, especially early on in discussions. The fact that some vendors provide set costs, while others charge by the hour, makes it even more difficult.  Data migration and training costs tend to impact overall implementation costs the most but will depend on several different factors such as:

Training

Are the same users going to be trained on multiple areas of the software?
Do employees have experience using modern software solutions, or will there be a large learning curve when implementing new technology?
Are employees willing to change and learn a new solution?
How many people need to be trained? Typically, the more people being trained, the more work is involved. It tends to be easier to train a group of 5 employees than a group of 20.

Data Migration

Is the data being moved from multiple systems and will it be in different formats?
Is there a lot of data clean-up required in terms of old or bad data, duplicate records, formatting issues?

On-Premises or Cloud

Another factor which affects costs is whether or not you decide to implement a cloud-based/hosted solution or on-premises. Some vendors will offer both options in which case they will be able to guide you through the process of choosing the right solution for your business.  From a cost standpoint, cloud-based solutions are subscription-based in that the vendor charges monthly license fees, whereas with on-premises all licenses are bought and paid for upfront. In addition, on-premises implementations require an up-to-date server and other hardware which can sometimes be an additional cost (and requires on-going maintenance from IT). With cloud-based solutions, hardware, server, and IT maintenance become the responsibility of the software vendor, with associated costs included in monthly fees.

As with any other large capital investment, implementing new software takes time and money – you wouldn’t purchase a new warehouse without first performing research and speaking with the appropriate people from your team and from the real estate industry.  Before you begin your search for new software, make sure you’re in the right mindset – the right system should be a strategic investment for your company and not just a necessary evil. More advanced accounting ERP software will be able to better handle an increase in order and transaction volume, manage orders from multiple sales channels, increase automation and reduce the amount of time needed to enter data, and allow employees to focus on more meaningful work and less on administrative tasks.  Set aside the time to have productive conversations with software vendors, as this will make the search and selection process easier.

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When to Involve Decision Makers in your Software Search

Searching for new inventory and accounting software to manage your business is a cumbersome task involving a lot of time, money and mental resources.  Between initial discovery calls with potential vendors, to more in-depth discussions, to multiple demonstrations, the search process can quickly become overwhelming for employees. This increases with the number of vendors you evaluate. Evaluating too many vendors can lead to information overload and hinder the search process by making it difficult to distinguish between the functionality, costs, and fit of each. Another factor that can hinder the search process is waiting too long to involve decision makers. Below we discuss why.

Project Manager

First and foremost, when making the decision to replace existing software systems, it is important that you assign a “project manager”. Ideally, this person understands business operations across all departments in order to speak to potential vendors about required functionality and specific processes. This person needs to be engaged in the search with visible support from management and ultimately the final decision maker(s).  Having someone take ownership of the project helps to ensure everyone involved stays on track and that it remains a priority. However, it is important that the search does not take time away from the project manager’s normal responsibilities or cause them additional stress. If the project manager is not dedicated to the search or does not have the bandwidth available to find a new system, it will impede the results.

Who to Involve and When

To find the right solution, it is important to create a list of potential vendors by doing preliminary research and then scheduling initial discussions with those who make the short-list. This initial conversation will act as a starting point for discussing scope, needs, fit, budget etc. at a high level only. It is important to use these initial conversations to narrow down your list of vendors for further discussions and demonstrations. At this stage in the process, it is enough to only involve the project manager, assuming they have all the information they need from management and the rest of the team – in terms of must-have requirements, an understanding of processes and an appropriate budget. After these initial discussions and when the list of vendors has been narrowed down, it is appropriate to begin scheduling more in-depth discussions.

It is during this first set of more in-depth discussions that you will want to involve decision makers and other members of your team, even if they do not participate in the entire conversation. The danger in waiting too long is that it can result in your evaluation criteria changing and the duplication of work.

Evaluation Criteria

Unless your team and the decision makers have had multiple in-depth internal discussions, it is likely that there are certain priorities and concerns around the software search that you will miss. What is important to the controller at a company from a functionality standpoint is not going to be the same as what is important to the warehouse manager, sales manager or owner. Therefore, it is essential to involve people from different departments not only when creating priorities for the software search, but also during discussions with vendors. This reduces the risk of missing certain features and of the evaluation criteria changing. It also makes it easy for each department to ask their own questions around specific requirements.

Duplication of Work

The second risk of waiting too long to involve decision makers and other people from your team is the duplication of work. There is no point in the project manager sitting through detailed discussions or participating in a live demo if the decision makers or other people from the company want to participate as well. What often happens is that the project manager goes through the process, and then as soon as it comes time to sign off on a proposal, decision makers and management worry that aspects of the search have been missed and insist on revisiting conversations and demos with vendors. To avoid this issue and the duplication of work, involve other members of your team as soon as possible.

 

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Blue Link Launches First Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS) Sold as Part of ERP Solution

We’re thrilled to announce that Blue Link now offers a Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS) component as part of our integrated inventory and accounting ERP software! Blue Link ERP CSOS eliminates the need for pharmaceutical distributors to acquire third party CSOS.

VAUGHAN, Ont. – April 6, 2017 – Blue Link Associates offers a CSOS component as part of its Blue Link ERP pharmaceutical software. Certified by Drummond Group, in accordance with the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Code, the Blue Link ERP CSOS component completes the suite of functionality requested by pharmaceutical wholesale distributors selling controlled substances in the pharmaceutical industry.

Industry regulation states that when a customer purchases Schedule II controlled substances, they must complete a DEA 222 Form and mail or courier the signed original to the distributor. According to DEA statistics, the typical turnaround time between trading partners when purchasing Schedule II products without CSOS is 1 to 3 days from the time a customer submits an order until it is either picked up and delivered or couriered. If the customer places the order through regular mail, the turnaround increases to 3-7 days. The cost of couriers, errors on the form etc. all contribute to added costs for pharmaceutical trading partners.

The use of Blue Link ERP CSOS allows users to accelerate this process and minimize time-consuming errors. A customer can log into the secure Blue Link B2B Online Ordering System and create a sales order. If the customer adds a Schedule II item to the order, they then select their digital certificate and “sign” it using their encrypted password. The whole process takes minutes, not days, with no errors, paperwork or costs for couriers. Blue Link ERP software then receives the order directly from the Online Ordering System for further processing and shipping.

“The Blue Link ERP Controlled Substance Ordering System is an exciting innovation for pharmaceutical distributors”, says Darren Myher, Blue Link’s Vice President of Operations and Development. “For the first time, pharmaceutical distributors get DEA certified CSOS functionality as part of an all-in-one ERP solution.  This gives them a competitive edge by allowing them to serve their customers quicker and more efficiently.”

About Blue Link Associates: Blue Link ERP provides small to medium size wholesalers and distributors an integrated accounting and inventory management ERP software. The pharmaceutical functionality Blue Link offers helps pharmaceutical wholesale distributors comply with existing DEA, FDA and DSCSA requirements and aids them in becoming VAWD accredited. With the inception of the Blue Link ERP Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS), pharmaceutical distributors have the means to offer their customers the ability to place a sales order, including for Schedule II controlled substances, on-line, using an integrated, all-in-one DEA certified solution.

 

 

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Distribution ERP Software – When to Customize, When to Configure?

From dress shirts to gifts, and even houses and cars…customized and personalized goods are certainly prevalent with customers who desire to have unique products.  Consumers can choose from a range of variable options- colors, text, sizes, material etc. But in the world of technology, specifically, Distribution ERP Software, is customization worth all the hype?

Before we can explore the value and benefits of customization, it is important to understand the term configuration. You may have heard this term during software discussions with vendors but what exactly does it mean and how does it differ from customization?  Understanding the differences and benefits between the two terms is crucial to determining if customization is necessary and can lead to significant cost and time saving, plus, having the most recent and updated version of the software.

Configuration

With any true distribution ERP software, you have the ability to configure the system to your business. This means that you can set-up the system for a designated task. Frequently, configuration can address 75-80 percent of your process needs without requiring any changes to the source code. Some examples of configuration include: setting up bank accounts and net receivable times, setting UDF values and notifications, creating user permissions, sales reps/commissions etc.

Customization

Customization entails modifying or adding features to a particular system to adhere to specific tasks. So, if a business decides to add on or modify features outside of the 75-80 percent of adaptable features through configuration, this is where custom work comes into play.  Unlike configuration, customization typically involves making development changes to the system’s source code.

Which is the best for your business needs?

All-in-one distribution ERP software has evolved significantly over the years resulting in fewer and fewer organizations having to do custom work or compromise on functionality. However, keep in mind it’s very unlikely that you find a solution that caters to 100 percent of your unique business processes and needs. Therefore, if you come across distribution software that can handle 80 percent or more of your business with configuration, you’re in luck!

Not only is this a cost-conscious solution compared with a full-blown custom job, but it also means easier system maintenance. When a vendor releases an update, the migration process is fairly seamless for software that doesn’t have much or no custom work done. Whereas custom work requires more labor and time to implement an upgrade. Many businesses often opt-out of upgrades altogether due to associated costs and time and end up with outdated systems.  Timeframe also plays a big part when it comes to implementation and upgrades. The more custom work you have done, the longer it takes to make changes.

This is not to say that a company should never customize their software, however, one should ensure that the custom work is able to deliver realistic and tangible value to your business.  You should also make sure that you check with the software vendor to determine how customization affects upgrades. Some vendors automatically include all customization work in each version upgrade at no additional cost, whereas others will charge significant fees for upgrading customizations. With the latter, understand that you are making a very expensive decision when you take into account the amount you will have to pay every time an upgrade is released.

Optional components or modules can be a good solution to additional needs such as advanced inventory tracking and reporting features. Optional features that have been tried and tested and have proven to have brought significant value to businesses may be worth considering. Since it’s just a matter of the vendor turning on or off these optional components, there is minimal risk involved when it comes to upgrades or the features working correctly. Examples of such features include CRM, Point of Sale, Sales/Budget Estimates and Tax integration to name a few.

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From Order to Invoice: Managing Workflows with Wholesale Software

Every wholesale company will have their own process for managing orders, receiving inventory, picking, packing and shipping product and then invoicing customers. How a company manages these workflows will depend on which sales channels they use, how their company infrastructure is set-up and what systems they have in place to automate and manage each process.  This is where back-end inventory and accounting wholesale software comes into play.  Since most wholesale and distribution businesses operate in a similar manner, proper software will have functionality in place to streamline the order entry process, automating as many steps as possible.  If you’re only familiar with introductory software for managing workflows, it’s difficult to visualize how proper wholesale software will increase efficiencies and manage processes.  This functionality is standard in most sophisticated inventory and accounting (ERP solutions), with small differences and available features depending on the vendor.  Below we take a look at a sample workflow:

Sales Orders

A customer places an order for product from your company.  This order can come through a variety of sales channels including electronically through eCommerce and EDI, via a tablet app from sales reps at a trade show, as well as over the phone or in-person. If you process a lot of volume through eCommerce, there are several options for automating the order, inventory and shipping information that flows between your eCommerce site and back-end wholesale system.  Whatever the method, this action triggers the beginning of a more complex workflow. The system accumulates all sales orders in a review screen for further processing and allocates inventory towards each order. Previously defined system parameters allow users to visually see which orders are ready to ship, and which require further review depending on customer account information and available inventory. When placing orders online, customers have access to product information and availability.  This information is also readily available when manually entering a sales order into the system while speaking with a customer over the phone or in-person. If inventory is not available, employees can place items on backorder. If applicable, customers can also submit credit card information online or over the phone and the system will pre-authorize the information before finalizing the order.  The sales order review screen provides a place to review orders before they continue to move through the workflow.

Purchasing

If there is not enough inventory available to fulfill an order, users can create a purchase order directly from within the sales order screen. System parameters allow companies to set up a default or preferred vendor for each inventory item, with the ability to see all available vendors. To avoid creating frequent backorders, re-order levels are set-up within the system to automatically notify the appropriate person when stock levels need replenishing. Submission of a purchase order is purposefully a manual process even if re-order levels are set – this ensures that employees can confirm order information and review purchase orders in case specific pricing discounts are available before sending to the supplier.

Receiving

There are several different options for receiving inventory into your warehouse upon delivery of a product.  The first involves manual methods of counting items and entering them into your system.  The second involves importing information into the system from an Excel spreadsheet and then checking against physical inventory. Lastly, employees can scan inventory items into the system with barcode scanning and product quantities will update automatically. If necessary, users can then manually override this information. When receiving items as part of a backorder, if the corresponding purchase order is associated with a sales order, the system will automatically allocate product to the order for quicker order fulfillment.

Picking, Packing and Shipping

If inventory is available to fill orders, the system generates a pick slip so that warehouse staff can begin picking items.  This can be done manually, following a process in which staff pick items from shelves following a logical pick order according to the bin and shelf location on the pick sheet.  Employees then put items on a cart and bring the cart to a packing station where they check items against the sales order and pack accordingly.  Alternatively, employees can use verification barcode scanning at the packing station or mobile barcode scanning during the pick process as a means to double check against the sales order. Once the employee packs the items, the system will generate and print any required paperwork and share information electronically between shipping carriers in order to generate a tracking number and cost information.

Invoicing

When it comes to invoicing, the level of automation will depend on a business’ specific processes.  Once an employee ships the order and dictates as such in the system, common workflows include:

Automatically posting the invoice, changing the status and emailing the invoice to the customer, or
Automatically changing the status, which then allows employees to manually review all shipped orders and invoice customers

When it comes to managing workflows, most wholesale distribution businesses will require similar functionality.  As such, sophisticated inventory and accounting wholesale software that is designed to replace introductory systems will provide features to help automate processes and streamline the order entry, picking, packing, shipping and invoicing process. When working with potential software vendors, be open to the expert advice they will have to offer when it comes to managing workflows.  With proper back-end software comes an increase in available functionality as well as opportunities to improve existing processes.

 

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Missed Dx3 Canada 2017? Here’s a Recap

2 days, 50 speakers, 5 interactive labs, 100 exhibitors and thousands of attendees-  Dx3 was yet again a mecca for the best and the brightest in the Canadian digital space.  Attendees and exhibitors gathered downtown Toronto to learn from industry experts and interact with the latest technology that’s shaping behaviors across the marketplace.

While we noticed that the show floor held fewer exhibitors than last year, it was still an exciting showroom at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on March 8-9. The venue buzzed with tremendous opportunities for established and upcoming businesses to network and collaborate. PayPal once again hosted The Startup Zone showcasing the innovative startups making waves in Canada. There was also a Canadian Retail Innovation Challenge- a national competition to help discover and promote the best retail and technology entrepreneurs that Canada has to offer. The winner this year? StyleID – the makers of an app that let you purchase items you see on your favorite TV shows. Tech journalist and TV personality, Amber Mac was also on-site, interviewing and live streaming discussions with numerous exhibitors including Blue Link’s own CTO, Darren Myher!

Among the excitement, we noticed a prevalent theme at the show- how technology is changing the consumer experience. All things virtual reality reigned supreme with a focus on how VR devices will reshape retail by creating interactive experiences. There was a big push for the importance of businesses to invest in technology to offer this type of buying. While we can’t argue that VR devices certainly take the consumer experience to a new level, does it actually impact purchasing decisions? Is it worth the hype? And, which industries can benefit the most? One of the greatest things about Dx3 is that it allows attendees to ask these types of tough questions. While it’s hard to say at this point whether or not VR will have the impact on the industry a lot of companies are hoping for, it was certainly interesting to be able to experience the technology first hand.

If you’ve never been to Dx3 before, we highly recommend you attend next year’s show. It really is a one-stop-shop to learn, speak and interact with multiple vendors and technology companies relevant to both B2B facing and B2C organizations, as well as the end-consumer.  Aside from floor exhibitors, Dx3 also provides a plethora of learning opportunities through their speaker sessions (at an additional cost).  This year, almost every session was full and the free open-air theater sessions as part of the show floor were standing room only.  Attendees walked away with some invaluable information and ideas that they can easily implement into their own businesses. Topics included:

Why We Buy: Behaviour is the Science presented by Estee Lauder Companies
How to Build Loyalty: Think Like a ShopKeeper presented by DavidsTea
How to Combine the Online and In-Store Shopping Experience presented by Kit Ace

Oh and did we mention, early bird floor passes are free!? If we still haven’t convinced you about the benefits of attending Dx3, be sure to check out their website to see all the highlights from this years show!

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