Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

What is Trxade and Why Does ERP and Pharma eCommerce Integration Matter?

B2C eCommerce sales are expected to reach $2.4 trillion by the end of 2017 and B2B sales will ring in a whopping $7.7 trillion worldwide.  Yes, these are large numbers but not very surprising considering that the buying habits of consumers have been moving to the online sphere for years. It’s no different when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry as customers, such as independent pharmacies, also have been turning to the web for optimal buying experiences. Inevitably, with this change, we’ve seen new and innovative pharmaceutical eCommerce platforms such as Trxade, sprout up expanding the market by offering faster, more efficient ways for distributors to sell their products.

How does Trxade work? It is a web-based US, supplier-to-pharmacy marketplace created to bring independent pharmacies and qualified/accredited national suppliers/distributors of pharmaceuticals together to provide efficient and transparent buying and selling opportunities. Since the launch of the platform back in 2010, it has opened and expanded the distribution channel to more than 8000 independent pharmacies and features 40+ track and trace and VAWD compliant wholesalers… and these numbers are on the rise. Pharmacy customers are able to compare pricing, product information, and seller’s information all from Trxade.

Benefits of selling on Trxade

1 out of 3 independent pharmacies in the U.S. use Trxade which means greater exposure of distributor product.
Trusted source for customers- only federal and state licensed pharmacies and distributors (track and trace/ DSCSA compliant) can become members of Trxade.
There are no membership or transaction fees for buyers (pharmacies). Instead, Trxade will charge distributors selling their product, a small transaction fee.
Saves distributors and customers time not having to take/place orders through email or telephone and online orders can be placed 24/7.
Can send customers direct transaction pedigree information via web portal, invoice/pedigree request combo at point of sale, or by directly requesting transaction history – up to six years from point of sale from each supplier.
Each product search result enables members to view the supplier’s catalog of inventory uploaded to the site, send a message to the supplier before the purchase, and see additional information on the supplier, such as the supplier’s shipping methods and terms & conditions.
Offers opportunities for distributors to sell products with shorter expiration dates “Short-Dated Items”. Since not all customers require long expiration dates on products, using Trxade provides distributors a way to offer their short-dated inventory to the market, often at a reduced rate, benefiting both the distributor and customer.

Optimizing Trxade with Blue Link ERP and eCommerce integration

While for most distributors,  it’s a no-brainer to have an online presence, it’s important to be prepared for online selling as sales volumes can potentially be a lot higher. One way to manage this type of growth is integrating a pharmaceutical focused ERP system with Trxade or any other secure web portal to manage sales coming in through eCommerce channels and associated back-end processes to offer your online customers a fast and reliable buying experience.  Blue Link ERP integrates with Trxade to allow the flow of information such as sales orders and customer/shipping, payment information directly from Trxade to Blue Link, which means data is only entered into the system once.

Inventory Allocation

The beauty of having an integrated Pharmaceutical ERP system like Blue Link connected to online selling platforms is that once the order is placed online, Blue Link will automatically allocate product/inventory for order fulfillment in real-time. The updated inventory quantities are then published to the online store. Users can also set up criteria for evaluating orders, such as product availability and total order amount, and if all criteria are met the order gets sent through to the warehouse for picking – without a human having to manually perform any tasks.

Picking, Packing, and Shipping

Once inventory gets allocated, the warehouses have access to accurate inventory and shipping information, all-in-one system. Orders are processed correctly and in a timely fashion.  Blue Link ERP allows various warehouse management activities such as:

Managing multiple warehouse locations
Creating consolidated pick slips for convenient picking
Tracking inventory based on bin/shelf plus overflow locations
Allowing users to print shipping labels directly from the system
Ability to integrate mobile handheld picking and barcode verification scanning
Serial number/lot number selection can be associated with products to track the history of the product

Maintaining Accreditation

To remain a Trxade member, facilities must maintain their accreditation. Blue Link ERP allows for product traceability to keep track of which customers received specific shipments (useful for achieving and maintaining FDA/DEA/VAWD compliance). Trxade also allows distributors to quickly pull Transaction History information and compliance documentation associated with any product that has been in their possession to send to customers who request it.

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4 Ways You’re Killing Your Employee’s Productivity

On any given workday, there are multiple factors that can kill the productivity of your employees. These include factors relating to available resources, physical and emotional well-being, external factors such as traffic and weather conditions, and the activities of other employees. Proper on-the-job training and clear processes can help new employees become productive sooner, however, it is impossible to avoid all productivity killers, even as an engaged business owner. Productivity is something that can increase and decrease over a business’s life cycle for both new and existing employees.  For a wholesale distribution business, productivity killers can result in long lead times from order to shipment which hurts customer satisfaction and impacts the success of the business. Therefore, as a wholesale and distribution business owner, it is important to ensure you’re not contributing to a lack of productivity by addressing the following issues.

Unreliable technology.

We’ve all had those moments where we want to throw our computers out the window. But unreliable technology can actually be a huge productivity killer when it takes away from meaningful work.  Issues with technology can stem from outdated software and equipment, slow systems and trying to use the wrong tools to accomplish a task. As a business owner, it is important that you supply your team with the best tools for the job. The wrong systems (or no systems at all) can result in a variety of issues including:

Too many manual processes such as data entry, which are prone to human error and time-consuming
Lack of reliable data when operating multiple standalone solutions – when systems are not integrated it requires constant management and means a lack of synchronicity of business data across the entire company
System crashes due to transaction volume or data volume issues which can leave employees (and sometimes customers) standing around waiting
Duplicate entry such as entering information while onsite with a customer and then again when back in the office, which is time-consuming and delays the order to shipment process

Limited flexibility with work schedules.

Having specific working hours (such as the 9-5 grind) is the norm in most traditional business places, but providing some flexibility can actually increase productivity. This is especially true as younger generations continue to enter the workforce, with one study indicating that 35% of millennials have quit their jobs due to a lack of work flexibility. Allowing employees to work remotely, or at different times, or from different locations not only increases morale, but also productivity. Flexibility means employees can still accomplish their tasks when needing to stay home because of sick family members, injuries, bad weather and traffic issues.

Lack of reporting.

Business software is only as good as the data within it and without proper reporting and analysis tools, it is impossible to monitor business health. Access to real-time data across departments allows management to identify opportunities and threats that can help a business succeed.  Insight into information such as which products sell the best, which customers buy the most and when, how many shipping errors occur in a given time period, how much product gets returned and why, the average time from order to shipment etc. can all help improve processes, increase customer satisfaction and grow your business. Understanding where time is being wasted, and which processes are draining resources can help improve productivity.

Too much multitasking.

Although there is still debate as to whether or not multitasking has productivity benefits, it’s safe to assume that when working on multiple complex tasks at the same time, it can cause employees to lose focus and diminishes work quality. However, when working on more mundane tasks, this becomes a non-issue. Therefore, be aware of what employees spend their time doing, and provide guidance on how to manage multiple tasks within a day.  Burnt out employees are not productive employees and can contribute to higher turnover rates.

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Blue Link’s All-in-One CSOS and Pharmaceutical ERP Software

Most pharmaceutical distribution businesses will agree that selling schedule II drugs is a highly complex, time-consuming and headache-inducing process. Take for example the requirement to submit Form 222s. Without a proper Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS) in place to complete this form electronically, this process alone can take several days to complete via courier. Having CSOS in place certainly helps to speed up this specific process from days to minutes and saves on mailing costs – but what about meeting all the other stringent, ever-growing industry regulations? Compliance requirements/regulations have become sterner, as the responsibility of securing the pharmaceutical marketplace to keep counterfeit drugs off the market falls more and more on the shoulders of these distributors. As a result, many distributors are implementing multiple pieces of software just to keep up with requirements such as the FDA Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), complicated pricing models, extensive reporting (T3), and VAWD compliance to name a few. However, this is where many of these businesses run into problems. Having multiple, disjointed systems that house different business, inventory and customer data is not only time consuming as data entry processes are often repeated, but it makes it difficult to achieve full visibility of inventory which makes meeting compliance and regulation requirements difficult.

Blue Link ERP + CSOS allows pharmaceutical distributors to not only accelerate the CSOS process but also allows them to manage their inventory, accounting, purchasing and warehouse needs while helping to stay FDA/DEA/VAWD compliant – all from one system. Take a look at the below table to see what Blue Link’s all-in-one pharmaceutical ERP system can do for your business.

(Blue Link will have a table at HDA’s annual Traceability Seminar at the Renaissance Washington Center this November 8-10. If you’re planning on attending, stop by and say hello!)

 

 

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The Danger of the DIY Mindset With Inventory Accounting Software

The do-it-yourself (DIY) mindset has been around for a while now and is traditionally associated with home improvement projects and arts and crafts.  However, thanks to the popularity of DIY topics on YouTube, podcasts, TV channels, websites, and in books, more and more industries are marketing to the DIYer and encouraging consumers and businesses to try things themselves first, before hiring professional help and seeking formal training. Although this culture is great for encouraging creativity and fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, in certain situations it can have dangerous consequences. Many prosperous start-up companies began operations as a result of not being able to find something in the marketplace and therefore resorting to creating it themselves.  But there is a reason certain projects should be left to professionals as a way to ensure they are done properly – such as when it comes to re-wiring electrical during a home renovation. The same applies when it comes to inventory accounting software. In order for software to improve business processes and give your company a strategic advantage, it is best to seek professional help during the search and implementation.

DIY Data Migration

One aspect of the software upgrade process where businesses try to do-it-themselves applies to data migration. As a means to save money during the software implementation process, many companies ask about migrating their own data as opposed to receiving help from the vendor.  Although this will theoretically save you costs from the vendor, it will usually end up costing the same in time spent manually moving data and fixing issues and in the form of an employee’s salary. Migrating your own data also presents its own set of issues such as:

How do you update the data already migrated on the day you switch over “live” to the new system? How quickly can you get that done by yourself?
How do you get opening balances, unpaid payables, uncollected receivables etc. across at go-live?
What if you want to change product codes, categories, etc.?
What happens if something goes wrong? Who are you going to be able to call?

In certain cases, such as for start-up businesses where there is virtually no historical data, it makes sense to move information yourself.  But for most businesses, it is important to factor in data migration as a legitimate cost of the implementation, and enlist the help of the vendor.

DIY Training

Training is another part of the implementation that should not be done without the help of the software vendor. Proper training from the get-go, means a better working system and the ability to save costs elsewhere in the future.  Even if you have experience working with inventory accounting software, every system is different and proper training will reduce the frustration of trying to figure things out yourself. At a minimum, it is important to train at least a couple of employees which can be identified as power users to then help train other employees. If you’re tech-savvy and a fast learner, training costs can still be reduced.  Work with a vendor who charges based on the actual training done, as opposed to giving you a set fee and that way if you’re able to learn quickly and easily, the costs will be less. Keep in mind that even with proper training many users end up missing important features or using the system incorrectly due to information overload during the implementation process.  This is why it is also important to consider additional training down the road.

DIY eCommerce

Designing and managing a successful eCommerce site is not an easy feat.  Aside from the technical knowledge required to ensure your website functions properly, you also need to design it in such a way that it is easily found by your target market. What works for people selling product on Etsy is not going to work for a growing retail business like Walmart. When it comes to eCommerce, the less expensive the option, the fewer features and toolsets available – which in today’s competitive marketplace is essentially as good as having no website. This is why it is important to fully understand your options for eCommerce and involve the help of your inventory accounting software vendor to find the right solution. Look for a vendor that can offer support by either integrating with an existing platform or provide you with a proprietary eCommerce solution – both on the B2B and B2C side.  Once you have a working website it is important to then set-up proper integration with your back-end inventory accounting software.  Manually downloading order information, entering it into a standalone accounting solution, updating inventory quantities and then updating the website is fine when dealing with a small number of web orders, but will quickly become overwhelming as your business grows.  Working with a vendor or integration partner to help with eCommerce as opposed to trying to set up the integration yourself (or worse, manually updating data) means you can easily add other channels down the road. For example, if you decide to start selling through Amazon or eBay or working with other retail websites

DIY is great when it comes to painting furniture or fixing your deck. But trying to cut corners and do too much yourself during the implementation of inventory accounting software can have negative impacts on the success of the project. Be sure to listen to the advice offered by software vendors and be open to their input on getting a new system in place. Do your research and learn more about other ways to save time and money when buying software that will not have a negative impact.

 

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Improve Data Security with Blue Link’s Electronic Document Management

With the recent Equifax breach splashed across headlines, many businesses are starting to evaluate the security of their own company information. When we see such news, most usually think that cyber hackers are the cause and frequently they are, however, data exposure and data loss also happens due to poor employee practices or unauthorized access to company data.  Today, the goal of data security is the responsibility of everyone in your organization.  From CFOs to warehouse workers, all employees need to be accountable for the way that information gets stored, shared, managed and destroyed. This, however, requires not only a change in mindset and employee training but also having the right document management systems and processes in place to avoid cyber-attacks, losing valuable information and securing the future of your company. And keep in mind that effective usage, storing and management of data is a great competitive advantage operating in a digital age.

Blue Link’s all-in-one ERP software is designed in a way so that data is securely stored electronically within the system, allowing users to quickly search, retrieve and index documents related to a variety of fields all within the system itself.  These fields can include vendor invoices, lot numbers, serial numbers, customer POs etc. For many busy wholesale distribution businesses, who have copious amounts of paperwork flying around on a daily basis including invoices, inventory information, reports, customer data etc., having a central repository like Blue Link ERP to securely store that information is key to shielding data and saving time.

Security Benefits include:

User Permissions
You can restrict access to selected users for specific screens and data within Blue Link. By creating these internal controls of data, users only see what’s relevant to their individual role, minimizing the risk of data exploitation that could be detrimental to your business. You can also track and monitor user performance in the system such as screens accessed and tasks performed at a user level.

 Credit Card Data Protection
If your wholesale distribution business handles credit card transactions, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) rules. When you store credit card information in Blue Link (using third party credit card merchants), customer card data is stored as tokens which meet these stringent standards and provides top-level security for your most sensitive data. 

Data Back-Up
For hosted (cloud) customers, Blue Link backs up customer data on a regular basis, and has power provisions in place, making the system available even during power outages lasting an extended period of time. No need to worry about ever losing company data.

 Process Benefits include: 

Automate Workflows
Users can easily retrieve documents from Blue Link while speaking with customers and suppliers.  This eliminates the chaos of having to manage paper documents and ensures all inventory information is accurate.  The idea is that users process and store documents through a document management system and then access the information within the ERP.

Storage Space
With documents and information stored in Blue Link, this reduces the need for expensive, often unnecessary physical storage space such as filing cabinets, storage facilities, folders/binders etc. And, with a cloud deployment, none of the servers and hardware are kept in your facility- Blue Link houses them at our dedicated data center.

Paperless Office
Having electronic documents reduces expenses associated with printing and even mailing. The chances of losing or misfiling important documents are also lower when scanned and filed electronically making retrieval of documents easier as well.  One of the most important benefits is that making the switch to go paperless and storing all data in a system like Blue Link, is that it opens up the opportunity for employees to work remotely and provide flexible work schedules.

Blue Link + DocuWare

Blue Link customers have the option to include the electronic data management component, DocuWare as part of their software implementation. DocuWare is completely integrated with Blue Link to provide even more functionality and security of company data.  DocuWare pushes and pulls data from Blue Link and uses it for indexing documents, and all documents are automatically encrypted using the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption process – one of the most secure symmetric encryption processes.

Electronically store, search and retrieve documents from one central repository
Instantly access files from anywhere – on a computer or mobile device
Automatically index critical data and improve search capabilities
Automate business processes with powerful workflows
Achieve the highest levels of security and control for your critical documents

DocuWare can be used on phones and iPads as well, and works especially great when tracking expenses!

 

 

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Distribution Inventory Software for Omni-Channel Sales

Selling product across multiple sales channels is nothing new. As technology continues to advance, the variety of sales channels increases providing new opportunities for businesses and consumers around the world. It is not uncommon for a business to sell product over the phone, through email, online (both B2B and B2C), through sales reps in the field, at tradeshows, through showrooms, via social media, through EDI, on marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay and through traditional retail storefronts. However, successful businesses know that it takes more than just listing product on as many platforms as possible and that what sets growing businesses apart is how product is managed across different sales channels.

Without proper distribution inventory software in place to sync inventory across multiple sales channels, various issues arise including:

Customers see out-of-stock notices online which may or may not be accurate
Sales people try to sell product not available, hindering the shipping process and upsetting customers
Warehouses overstock and understock items, both of which impact costs
Employees are stuck manually entering and updating information across multiple software systems, an approach which is time-consuming and prone to human error
Businesses do not have an accurate picture of business health at any given time

Aside from some of the obvious issues with manually trying to manage multiple sales channels or using introductory software, there are also certain situations that further complicate things.

Let’s say for example an order comes in through your website which you manually enter into your accounting solution. You then manually update a spreadsheet with inventory information while at the same time manually updating the website to reflect the reduction in inventory.  The order is now ready to send to the warehouse for picking, packing, and shipping.  However, a couple of minutes later, you get a call from that same customer as they want to change the order, requiring you to re-update multiple systems. When only dealing with a couple of web orders a day, this may not be an issue, but as order volume increases and if you start to sell across multiple websites, this process becomes very time-consuming and prone to human error.

Let’s look at tradeshows as another example. When exhibiting at tradeshows, it’s great to have product on hand to show potential customers but what about when customers actually want to place an order with you? Manually tracking orders requires that information is re-entered into your accounting system once you’re back in the office and by that point in time, inventory availability might have changed, causing delays in the shipping process.

So how do you properly manage multiple sales channels?

First, you need the right systems in place. The right distribution inventory software enables businesses to manage multiple sales channels, maintaining information in a single database. Look for an all-in-one solution that not only includes functionality for inventory management but also accounting, order entry and processing, contact management and warehouse management. Aside from basic inventory and accounting tools, sophisticated distribution inventory software will provide users the option to turn-on other pieces of functionality as their business grows and as they add new sales channels.

eCommerce Integration

As you start to sell product online through multiple eCommerce sites, you will need to integrate them with your distribution inventory solution.  Look for a software vendor that provides this functionality in the form of an API so that your website and/or other marketplaces (such as Amazon) can easily communicate and share information bi-directionally. It is important to be able to easily share information between both your back-end distribution inventory system and front-end eCommerce sites such as order details, credit card information, ship to and bill to address and contact information and product details (pricing, descriptions, quantities etc.). The ability to automatically push and pull information between systems means inventory information is always up-to-date and it reduces the amount of human intervention required.

Mobile Sales Applications

If your business sells products at tradeshows, while onsite with customers or in a showroom, consider implementing a mobile sales application such as RepZio.  Much like an eCommerce site, through an API, RepZio is able to connect to your distribution inventory software database so that you can show customers available inventory and product information in the field, and then directly place an order while speaking with them. This means inventory and order information is synced between the two solutions in real-time.

EDI

EDI allows companies with different hardware/software systems to exchange business documents and information in a common format.  Proper EDI integration means information flows between your distribution inventory system and that of your vendors or customers, without the need for employees to manual find, enter and update data across multiple platforms. This provides opportunities to work with big-box retailers who require the use of EDI for communication with trading partners.

Warehouse Shipping

Integration with shipping carriers allows address and contact information from your distribution inventory software to automatically populate within the shipping carriers’ systems.  This allows businesses to quickly print shipping labels and documents and send notifications to customers, without having to rekey data.

Selling product across multiple sales channels involves automating the flow of information, managing data from within a single database and properly integrating channels and other applications. The addition of a new sales channel should not involve the addition of software – instead, the right distribution inventory system will allow you to easily integrate and share data across platforms without manual work.

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Blue Link’s Affordable Office 365 Migration Services

Since the highly anticipated launch of Office 365 back in 2011, the platform has become one of the most popular enterprise cloud services and it’s easy to see why.  In short, the application is a subscription service that gives users access to Office tools and other services over the internet.  With its all-encompassing mix of productivity-boosting features, more and more small and medium size businesses are choosing to migrate from older, legacy platforms to Office 365 to address the pitfalls of their existing systems. If you’re contemplating about taking advantage of Office 365, it’s important to find a cost-effective implementation and migration service as not to outweigh the benefits of the software. As a Microsoft Certified Partner, Blue Link ERP customers gain access to Office 365 licenses for a significantly reduced cost as well as affordable migration services with the purchase of Blue Link’s accounting and inventory software. We also understand the Microsoft criteria for using these licenses and can advise our customers accordingly.

First, let’s take a look at all the sweet possibilities of Office 365 (if your employees haven’t hinted at them already):

Increased Productivity

Whether your employees use  PCs, Macs, iOS etc., they can access Office 365 from almost any device such as laptops, tablets, and phones both at and outside of the workplace.
The platform is available 24/7.
Flexible meetings via Skype Business which contain video conferencing and chat functionality.
Opportunity for collaborations and ability to co-author. Multiple users can access and edit documents in applications such as Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote in real-time (for both web or desktop versions).

Data Security

Regardless of how large or small your business is, data security is crucial to the future of your business and if you’re not backing up your data, there is a great chance that you will lose it all! The beauty of Office 365 is that it has built-in data protection and backs up your data so you don’t have to continuously worry about losing crucial information.

Room for Growth

Even if you implement Office 365 as a small business, it has the potential to grow as your business grows. You can decide when it is time to pay for additional services or data storage. OneDrive for Business – the data storage aspect of Office 365  provides enough data space for most small to medium businesses at a low cost. It’s kind of the icing on the cake since you won’t need to buy a new hard drive for the storage space.

Up-to-Date Software

Your employees will always have the latest version of the software. And, with everything being securely backed up to the cloud by default, you don’t have to worry about continuously migrating your data. Taking advantage of a cloud-deployment has many benefits over on-premises applications in terms of the safety of your data and maintenance costs associated with local servers.

Depending on the type of migration service required, it may cost you a pretty penny to make the move to Office 365 from your current platform.  Consider going through a Microsoft Certified vendor that can offer Office 365  licenses and migration services at a lower cost to save money and time.

Blue Link Office 365 Migration Services 

When you purchase Blue Link’s accounting and inventory system, there are a variety of Office 365 implementation and migration methods that are available to you depending on the unique needs of your business. Being a Microsoft certified partner, Blue Link offers Office 365 at a discounted, affordable rate and migration/ set up is used against your consulting package hours.

These methods range from basic to complex, providing a solution for all businesses. Keep in mind, opting for Blue Link migration services reduces costs associated with staffing and support for the integration. We also help with end-user adoption to ensure a successful migration/implementation of Office 365. With the actual work conducted during the weekend, we strive to have as little impact on employees/users’ work schedules as possible.

(1) Basic Integration

The least complicated of the three types of integrations, this service essentially moves mailboxes from existing platforms such as Gmail, Yahoo, Zoho Mail etc., to Office 365 mailboxes.

Recommended for:

Smaller size businesses without a mail server.
Businesses using local computers with no active directory and no Directory Synchronization (DirSync- see definition below).
This typically takes less time (about a day’s worth of work) which means the costs will be much lower than a more complex integration.

(2) Advanced Integration

Recommended for:

Medium size businesses.
Businesses that have existing Active Directory and DirSync.

What is Active Directory/DirSync?

Office 365 uses the cloud-based user authentication service Azure Active Directory to manage users.
Direct Synchronization (DirSync) essentially makes a copy of the local directory and propagates itself to Azure. It takes the users from your local domain and synchronizes them with your hosted email service. It allows for changes from the on-premises directory to be pushed to the cloud (passwords, multiple email addresses etc.).

(3) Complex Integration

This option takes the longest to implement and is the most costly of the three integrations.

Recommended for:

Large size businesses.
Businesses that have an exchange server onsite, with Active Directory and DirSync.

Shared Mailboxes

Shared mailboxes can also be setup at the cost of an additional Office 365 licensing fee. This will provide shared mailbox domains such as Sales@domain.ca or Marketing@domain.ca. Some of the benefits of having shared mailboxes for your team include:

A single point of contact for all your prospects and customers.
Your team can track conversations and replies ensuring all emails have been addressed.
Improved transparency and visibility for your teams- also offers a collective ownership of information and enhanced teamwork.
With multiple members receiving the same communications, the response rate is higher which means your customers/prospects can often get instant replies.

Want to learn more about Blue Link’s accounting and inventory solution, and how you can get access to discounted Microsoft licenses?

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3 Steps to Building a Successful ERP Software Training Plan

Guest Post by Lauren Stafford

Companies often make the mistake of neglecting training to cut costs or to speed up the process of implementing new software. The importance of training shouldn’t be overlooked.  Investing time and resources in training is necessary from the outset to save money in the longer term. You should also include training in your ERP budget to ensure there are no costly surprises later down the line.

(1) Decide on the nature of the training required and tailor it to your staff.

According to a recent study by IBM, 84% of employees in Best Performing Organizations are receiving the training they need. With training such an important factor in terms of your overall success as a company, maximizing human capital by providing the right people with the right skills is essential. You should plan to train across specific job roles according to the abilities of your staff. Don’t take a broad brush approach and assume that everyone will be able to learn in the same way.

First, establish if your vendor offers educational resources. Are they included or an optional extra? Don’t forget to assess their change management protocol. Any significant change in businesses processes should be managed to ensure staff feel supported. Training should provide an overview of how the individual fits in the framework of wider business goals. Users should be aware of how their work affects others, in the wider context of process flow.

(2) Choose the right employees to be involved in your training program.

If current staff are working on an ERP implementation project, it’s likely all employees in the organization will need to help cover job responsibilities while training and implementation are taking place. The cost of employees taking on additional work and modifying their schedules is important to consider.  Not only is it important to ensure employees still have the resources available to complete their daily tasks, but that they also have the support they need from management to take on extra work while dealing with the stress of learning a new system and new processes.

When selecting your project manager, be sure that they have qualities that will help drive the implementation forward. They should be a natural leader with past experience managing large-scale projects. Good communication skills are essential as this role requires transparency and the ability to connect with staff across all levels of the company from executives to end-users.

Superusers with knowledge about processes and functionality can provide feedback on how the system is being used. They can act as a bridge between the business and IT support. In some organizations giving superusers the authority to help new trainees works to the benefit of everyone.

(3) Provide ongoing and flexible training

User-adoption rates can make or break an ERP project. Investment in the ERP system itself is one thing, but investing in your staff is the key to leveraging growth potential.  A disengaged workforce can cost you dearly so it’s within your best interests to be patient and support staff through the implementation process.

29% of participants in one study said they saw the biggest skills gap in training and education on ERP related projects.  Create a community where end users can discuss their experiences which will help you identify areas in which further training is required. By committing to an ongoing training plan, you’re promoting a culture of learning and efficiency, which will benefit your business in the long term. The value of staff that stay motivated and are willing to work with the technology rather than against it should not be underestimated.

About the Author: Lauren Stafford

Lauren works as a Digital Publishing Specialist at ERP Focus, a platform which gathers together the latest thinking, news and research about ERP software. 

 

 

 

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PO Automation with Blue Link Inventory and Accounting Software

What if you could free up an hour or two of your workday? What could you get accomplished within that time? It’s not as impossible as you may think to create free time…if you start eliminating time-consuming manual processes. You may be thinking this is easier said than done but manual, redundant processes are one of the biggest time-consumers of any wholesale and distribution business – not only do they take employees away from doing work that matters, but manual processes are often unreliable and prone to human error. So why not invest the time to improve these processes?

Many of our customers use Blue Link inventory and accounting software to automate tedious, manual tasks. A big time-saver in Blue Link is the ability for businesses to simplify and automate purchase orders from beginning to end. If you only deal with a couple of POs every few weeks, it may not be a big deal to manually manage them, however, think about where your business will be in the next couple years. Are you expecting an increase in sales? You may eventually need to manage multiple purchase orders on a daily basis as sale volume increases. POs can quickly become urgent, complex and manual entry errors can arise…which means additional costs for your business.

As you may know, POs are essentially documents sent from a buyer to a supplier with a request for an order. The type of item, the quantity and agreed upon price are stated in the purchase order – the more specific and detailed it is, the more effective the purchase order will be. Your business as the buyer will issue POs and in return, your suppliers will fulfill the order by shipping the product to you and send you an invoice for the product ordered. However, the process may not be as straightforward for every case. There are many instances where the supplier will change the pricing, quantity, and negotiation of specific items. What happens to the PO then?

Take a look at the following Blue Link inventory and accounting software customer scenario:

Company Profile: A medium-sized wholesale distribution company experiencing fast growth. The company’s POs typically contain hundreds of items and it creates about five POs on a daily basis.

Challenge: The company does not know the exact quantity of items the supplier will ship and the prices are subject to change since the products being ordered are commodities. This means that the POs need to be modified and edited at the last minute and fairly quickly. Currently, the company’s process involves creating the PO, sending it to the supplier and then receiving back a spreadsheet of items and prices that the supplier has on-hand to ship.  The company then uses this spreadsheet to manually check/change items and pricing one by one on the PO in its inventory system to ensure the prices and quantities match. This process costs employees hours of time since there are hundreds of lines to go through and the changes are not always entered correctly as manual processes are prone to human error.

Solution: With Blue Link inventory and accounting software, this process is automated with the use of simple Excel spreadsheets. First, the buyer exports the original PO into an Excel template.  Then, when the supplier sends the updated spreadsheet with new pricing and quantity information, the buyer can quickly modify the PO in Excel and update the information in seconds using Excel functions such as VLOOKUP. The buyer then uploads this new updated Excel PO into Blue Link where it automatically modifies the PO information in the system.

That’s not all – Blue link not only streamlines changes to POs, but it simplifies the PO process from the very beginning.

Purchasing

If there is not enough inventory in stock to fulfill a specific order, Blue Link allows users to quickly create a purchase order right from the sales screen. Users can quickly look up and select inventory information to email POs directly to suppliers. Within the inventory screen, users can view supplier order history to see what was ordered previously and what the agreed upon cost was for items as well as when and where to expect the delivery.  The system’s parameters also enable users to automatically populate default or preferred vendors per item (they can also quickly see all possible vendors available per item).Users can set up re-order levels for stock items in Blue Link. When items reach a certain level, the system will notify the appropriate person to replenish the item by creating a PO. Employees can then review the PO to ensure that the order information and applicable pricing are correct before sending to the supplier.

Purchasing in Multiple Currencies

Setting default currencies for suppliers who operate in a different currency ensures that any PO/transaction which a user performs in the system will be converted to the company’s home currency without any additional manual calculations or entries. Users can create a purchase order in the suppliers’ currency, and once the product is received, the system will record the transaction in the appropriate currencies (i.e. payable in the supplier’s currency with a foreign exchange difference and the inventory or expense in the home currency). This eliminates the manual process of having to remember to convert pricing for inventory or factor in exchange rates when posting the transaction.

Transformational Purchase Orders

Blue Link inventory and accounting software is able to manage more complicated POs such as transformational purchase orders where one or more existing inventory items are transformed, through the use of a third-party supplier/vendor, into one or more different items. For example, an apparel business may issue a PO to a third-party supplier to add logos, graphics, embroidery, or other design elements that change the original piece of inventory. When using transformational purchase orders, the transformed items have the cost of both the original root product(s) as well as the incremental processing costs of the 3rd party supplier which is then accounted for in Blue Link. The same applies in multi-step transformations where multiple 3rd party vendors are involved.

 

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Using Inventory Accounting Data to Improve Your Bottom Line

Your inventory accounting software is only as good as the data within in it. This makes it important to work with a vendor that will migrate existing data when transitioning from an older or introductory system so that your information is accurate and up-to-date.  Once you know that the data within your software is reliable, you can use it to your advantage in order to evaluate company health and make strategic decisions. Sophisticated inventory accounting software aids in maintaining the integrity of your data by preventing users from entering bad data such as duplicate inventory product codes and does not allow anything to post to the general ledger if it will cause an imbalance. Proper reporting and data mining can help manage inventory, improve cash flow, predict trends, alert users to anomalies and improve customer relationships. Below we highlight 3 ways in which data can help improve your bottom line.

(1) Customer Preferences and Order Habits

Using historical order data helps categorize customers based on their buying habits.  This allows sales reps to create custom profiles for their customers to better meet their customer’s needs and upsell and cross-sell items. The ability to accurately forecast customer demand improves purchasing and helps plan marketing campaigns.  Sales and marketing are able to schedule promotions and discounts around information on what product sells best and when.

(2) Sales Channel Behaviour

Do certain products sell better over the phone vs. in-person or online? Understanding how individual sales channels perform will allow you to make informed decisions about how customers interact with your business.  One of the benefits of inventory accounting software is that all information is stored in a single database, meaning inventory information is accurate across all sales channels. This allows users to track information to increase sales volume by channel and enables informed decision making on staffing and technology purchases and dictates where to focus marketing efforts. If customers are frequently emailing your team to place an order, consider implementing an online order portal where they can electronically submit orders and view inventory and account information.

(3) Picking, Packing and Shipping Processes

Reporting on data gathered throughout the order process helps improve the time it takes from order to invoice and reduces the amount of errors. It also helps to allocate resources such as staff and technology and can reveal bottlenecks that might affect profitability and customer satisfaction. Consider mapping data such as time from order to shipment, the percentage of customer returns, manual processing costs (such as warehouse labor) and number of picking errors.  Look for a software vendor that provides tools to address any opportunities or isuees. For example, if you sell similar items and have a lot of picking errors, implementing wireless barcode scanning will allow warehouse employees to identify and correct errors at the source, reducing the amount of time it takes to get product to customers.

With inventory accounting software, the amount of reporting available is limited only by the data stored within the system.  What tools to use to generate reports will depend on the following:

What information do you want to see?
How do you want the information to be shown? In a graph/chart? In a text-based document? As a table?
Where do you want to access the information and how do you want to share the information? Online? Via email?

Your best bet is to work with a vendor that offers a variety of reporting tools in order to get the information the way that makes the most sense for your business.

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The Cost of Poor Inventory Management

As a wholesaler and distributor, the inventory you sell flows through a vast network of businesses before getting to your warehouse.  The movement of inventory is a constant activity that requires input from multiple sources throughout the supply chain.  Once you receive inventory into your warehouse, the movement continues as you store, pick, pack and ship the product as part of your daily operations.  It is during these stages of movement that an error may occur which can delay the process of getting product to your customers.  To address these issues and determine an optimal process for managing inventory, it is important to first understand why errors occur by evaluating some key metrics such as the percentage of product returns.  Understanding the percentage of product that gets returned and then evaluating your processes for shipping product will help identify any internal issues with order management. Let’s explore further.

Returns

If you have a high percentage of customer returns, it is important to identify why product is being returned. Common reasons include:

Defective or damaged product
The customer ordered too many items
The customer ordered the wrong part
The customer ordered the right part, but your company shipped the wrong part

Taking a closer look at each of the above scenarios will help you determine ways to improve processes and decrease the percentage of returns. Automation through the implementation of proper software will also help better manage orders and inventory. ERP software is designed to manage not only inventory and accounting but also order entry and processing, invoicing, contact management, warehouse management and more.  An all-in-one solution ensures you have access to data across all departments from within one database and in real-time.

Defective or Damaged Product: If the product shipped is defective or damaged, is that a result of something happening during the picking and packing process, or in-transit? If it is happening during the pick and pack process, identify whether there are certain products that are fragile and therefore need to be handled with more care.  Implement a process for tracking this information both at the shelf level and in your inventory management system so that notes appear on necessary paperwork and reports, such as pick slips and packing slips.

The Customer Ordered the Wrong Product: The order entry process is among one of the most important aspects of customer service. If the customer ordered the wrong product, is it because your order process is complicated?  It is important to make it as easy as possible for your customers to place orders with you.  If you have a team of employees in-house managing orders, it is important that your order management system is synced with all sales channels so that you know the true count of available inventory. Consider implementing an ERP solution with an online order portal so that your customers can place orders themselves.

Your Company Shipped the Wrong Product: If your company shipped the wrong product, how can you ensure employees pick the right item in the future? Mobile picking applications allow employees to scan items while picking, to ensure that any mistakes are caught and dealt with at the source and as soon as possible.

Costs

Without a proper software system in place and tools to manage order entry and inventory, your business can lose money from poor processes. If a customer is sent the wrong item, there are monetary costs to fix the error in terms of labor costs and shipping costs to receive the item back into your warehouse, find a replacement, and then ship that replacement back to the customer. There are also costs in terms of the time it takes to work with the customer, make an adjustment by issuing a credit, refund, correcting invoice etc., issue a new order and then pick, pack and ship the correct item. In addition, there are costs associated with potential lost sales if customers are not confident in your ability to ship them the right product on time. Measuring order entry and warehouse pick accuracy, as well as items delivered on time, shipped without damage, invoiced correctly etc. will help you identify the most common issues and make decisions to address them.

 

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Blue Link ERP Software Automates Customer Rebates

Many wholesale distribution companies may agree that customer rebates are an “oldie but a goodie” when it comes to increasing sales.  This trusted Sales and Marketing incentive is an effective way to maintain a certain level of product movement and customer retention because let’s face it, everyone loves a deal and customer rebates are irresistible to many consumers. However, if you’re thinking about implementing a rebate program for your customers, it’s important to consider automating some of the manual work involved with a suitable software solution to avoid being stuck in a web of confusion, not to mention it will also help control some of the costs of administering the program. The last thing you want is for the costs of running the rebate program to outweigh the benefits to your business.

Should You Run a Rebate Program?

A rebate is a special agreement granted to the customer on a specific volume of product being purchased over a specific period of time. The special agreement could be for one specific product or a group of many products often determined by vendor or category. The idea is to refund/rebate the customer a certain percentage/amount based on a specific volume purchased over a set period of time normally set and agreed to by the customer and seller.  Unlike a discount which is a deduction made to the price of the product at the time of purchase, a rebate is normally given after the designated period, on invoices that have been paid in full by the customer. It incentivizes and puts the responsibility on the customer to meet specific purchase volumes and pay their outstanding invoices on time in order to take advantage of the refund/rebate.

Manually administering and tracking rebate programs can be simple if the volume of rebates is low. However, as you can imagine, when you have hundreds of rebate programs and need to track the qualification of each customer, it is time-consuming and requires hours of manual labor which is of course, prone to human error and can cost your business money. This is why implementing software that helps manage and automate the complexities of a rebate program is highly recommended in order to successfully increase order volume.

Keep in mind that with growing sales, comes additional complexities of back-end order fulfillment.  Consider implementing an all-in-one ERP software solution that can not only manage rebate programs but also have robust back-end functionality such as inventory management, warehouse management, and advanced accounting capabilities.

Automate with Blue Link ERP

With an integrated ERP software solution, you will be able to generate key data to better manage the rebate process- it’s simply a matter of pulling the right data from within the system, at the right time, for the right customers. Blue Link has the ability to provide specific customer information based on what they’ve purchased during a specific period. With the generation of a simple report, Blue Link can provide the purchase volume of applicable products for a customer or customers that belong to a specific rebate program.

Let’s take a look at the following example:

You are a wine distributor and have decided to offer a rebate to your local customers that buy red wine. If you don’t have many rebates to manage, a simple way to handle this would be to generate a report from within Blue Link that contains all your rebate customers (customer type) filtered by ship to addresses, who have purchased red wine (product type) and will also indicate how much red wine was purchased (sales history) over a specific period of time.

Depending on the rebate amount/percentage and how the rebate will be reconciled, you can then either manually calculate the rebate and create an A/P voucher or generate a credit to each of the qualifying customers one by one (which would take hours of manual work). Or, you can set-up the system to look at the specific amounts purchased and automatically create credit notes or A/P vouchers (whatever settlement method you choose) to those customers who have met the rebate criteria.

The ability to create rules and define rebates for customers based on various factors such as local vs international customer ship to addresses, customer type, product type, categories, and vendors is all available within Blue Link. If additional criteria are required user defined fields can be created to store data and then retrieve when needed. An example of data in a user defined field is the amount or percentage of the rebate. You can also make changes to the rebate program if you decide to change the amounts to be refunded or the promotion period.

Optimize Rebate Marketing 

A sign of a good rebate program is the actual promotion and marketing of it to your customers. It’s important that the rebate program is top of mind for your customers to ensure they don’t miss the promotion period. Blue Link helps you remind your customers when rebate deadlines are nearing by sending out automatic emails to those individuals. This gives your customers incentive to purchase more product if they are short a certain amount to meet the eligible rebate requirements, generating more sales.

Make Order Fulfillment Easy 

With the expected increase in sales that comes with a rebate program,  the need to have better visibility and control of your inventory to avoid costly mistakes such as shipping errors and running out of stock is as important as the rebate program itself. The following Blue Link functionality makes the order fulfillment process smoother.

Landed Cost Tracking

Indicates the true cost of goods (including freight fees, duty, insurance, brokerage, etc.) to help businesses determine the best rebate amount to apply based on the full cost of a product
Ability to specify default landed cost factors by product
Ability to apply each landed cost factor to each line on a purchase order using one of several pro-rated methods – or enter individually
Ability to reassign landed cost components to different vendors after receipt of purchase orders
On-screen lookups and drill down to landed cost details from inventory screen
Drill down to landed cost details from Purchase Order History

Inventory Management

Visibility of inventory in multiple warehouses
Handles serialized inventory
Multiple units of measure
Automated reorder management – multiple methods to determine order levels and quantities with auto creation of purchase orders
‘Available to Promise’ to display future quantity availability based on currently recorded open purchases and sales
Inventory counts – full and cycle counts

Warehouse Management

This component allows a warehouse employee to select an order to ship, enter shipment details, print the documents required to accompany the order, and mark the order as shipped
Based on rules defined in the system, the act of “shipping” the order may also result in an invoice being printed (that could accompany the shipment), and even posted
Use this screen to:

Enter ship quantities
Record serial numbers
Print Picking Slips, Packing Slips, and Invoices (based on security)
Mark the order as “shipped”

 

 

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What is a Server?

“In computing, a server is a computer program or device that provides functionality for other programs or devices, called clients.”
– Wikipedia
In a business setting, servers are often required in order to run specific computer programs or applications. Essentially a server is the base environment, in which other programs and devices can be installed, hosted and run, allowing multiple users to share data or resources.  This allows multiple computers or workstations in a network to share the resources of an individual server. Compared with a computer, servers tend to have greater memory, contain more than one hard-drive and have multiple networks connections and CPUs. The functionalities that make a server a server are embedded in its operating system (OS), and although a computer can be a server and a server can be a computer, servers tend to be much more powerful.

What do businesses use servers for?

Servers are more powerful than desktop computers and can manage multiple tasks at the same time and more quickly.  For this reason, many software applications (such as inventory and accounting ERP software) require installation on a dedicated server.  Servers allow businesses to share information internally without having to worry about breaks in communication.  This means that employees can update information in a database that is managed inside a server and then other employees can view and update that same data.

All computer programs have hardware requirements – examples include type of operating system (Microsoft, Mac, Linux, UNIX etc.), CPU requirements, graphic card requirements etc.  Simple programs like Word and Excel do not require sophisticated hardware and can be run on most desktop computers.  However, most enterprise level software solutions (including Blue Link), require more advanced hardware.  This is why Blue Link customers cannot simply purchase and run the system on a disk or personal computer.  Instead, the software requires installation on a server either at the customer’s location (on-premises) or on a server at the vendor’s location which the customer then accesses via the internet (cloud-based).  In general, ERP systems share a single database meaning all information is maintained in one location (on a dedicated server).  This allows multiple users to access and edit the data.

Different Types of Servers

Although there are several different types of servers, below we have outlined a couple examples.

Database Servers – used to organize collections of data (databases) over a network, typical for inventory and accounting software where the data is not public and can only be accessed through an application.
Application Servers – hosts computer programs that run inside a web browser (web apps) which users can then run and use over a network, as opposed to having to install a copy on their own computer.
File Servers – used for storage of information in files and folders and gives the user the ability to associate permissions to specific documents. File servers are commonly found in schools or offices.

Most software vendors will give you access to resources with information on specific hardware requirements prior to you purchasing their software applications.  For on-premises solutions, this allows you to prepare in advance for implementing new software.  If your existing hardware or servers are outdated and need to be replaced, it is important to consider this cost compared with having the software vendor maintain the hardware and servers (essentially the difference between implementing a cloud-based solution or on-premises solution). To learn more about these options, download our guide:

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5 Time Management Skills to be More Productive

How many times have you, or someone you know said with an exasperated sigh, “There are not enough hours in the day”? Most likely even if you haven’t said it out loud, you’ve thought it on more than one occasion, especially when trying to maintain a good work-life balance. As a manager, not only are you responsible for your own projects and well-being but also that of your entire team.  Burnt out employees are not productive employees and can result in higher turnover rates.  Adding to the normal stress associated with work, according to a recent report by NPR, many Americans don’t take lunch breaks anymore and in the US, millions of vacation days go unused every year. So how come we are still so pressed for time?

As there are only so many hours in a day, the key is to try and be more productive with your time, to accomplish what needs to be done at work to then hopefully get home earlier, spend more time doing what you enjoy outside of work and to get the recommended 7 hours of sleep every night.

Productivity Killers

In any given day, there are a bunch of different factors that can kill your productivity.  These may be related to physical well-being, emotional well-being, available resources etc., however, there are certain common issues that tend to arise more frequently in the workplace.  These include unexpected delays, prioritization issues, and meetings.

Issue: Unexpected Delays

Have you ever had a day go by when nothing new or unexpected arises? Think about receiving an unscheduled phone call, having colleagues visit your office, dealing with a sick child or getting stuck in traffic. It is these types of frequently unexpected delays that can throw your whole day off track and seriously cut into your productivity level.

Issue: Prioritization

It is easy to prioritize tasks when certain projects are obviously more important than others, but what about when every project is equally as important? Trying to use a continuous to-do list or digital equivalent for managing tasks makes it impossible to prioritize at all and so:

You waste time repeatedly looking at the same things
You miss important items
You focus valuable time on less important tasks
Frequently by the time you get to a task it’s no longer relevant

Issue: Meetings

Ahhhhh….the infamous workplace meeting.  What is designed to allow employees to collaborate and complete projects, has turned into a running joke of how to waste time in an office setting.  A well-run meeting can be a very productive activity, but more often than not, people are included in meetings when they shouldn’t be, the meeting takes longer than required, and when there is no set agenda participants end up leaving confused, frustrated and exhausted.

Productivity Boosters

Better time management is imperative for increased productivity.  Being able to do more in the same amount of time (without getting burnt out) is every manager’s dream.  Below we’ve included a list of 5 time management skills to make you more productive.

(1) Ruthlessly evaluate – don’t be afraid to say no and learn to say no more often.

This includes saying no to colleagues asking for input on a project that is not relevant to you.
If there is a task that would be more appropriate for someone else at the company, don’t be afraid to point that out.
Leave meetings when the topic no longer applies to your work. Don’t be afraid to leave a meeting early if the discussion no longer pertains to you and participants start to focus on something else.

(2) Deal with quick items first.

If something comes across your desk or in your inbox, evaluate whether it’s important and will take no more than a couple of minutes. If so, it is more efficient to just do it, rather than plan it out.
BUT – it must legitimately be something you know will only take a couple of minutes. If after you start working through it you realize it will require more of your time and focus, schedule it for another day.
This principle works great for keeping your email organized.

(3) Assign tasks to specific days and times.

If a project comes up that will require more time and effort, plan it out and assign it to a specific day.
In order to avoid being interrupted while then trying to complete this task, close your office door, go into a quiet room or let colleagues know not to disturb you for a specific period of time.

(4) Prioritize tasks every day.

At the end of each day, prioritize and rate tasks for the following day and then follow that order until you get through everything.
Be realistic about how long each task will take so that you’re not getting behind on what needs to be done. Also be realistic when letting colleagues know how long a task will take if they are waiting on you to finish it.
Allocate “open door” time where you’re not working on anything in particular and your team members can interrupt you with any questions or tasks that require your input.

This also encourages employees to solve their own issues if they know they will have to wait in order to discuss it with you.

(5) Plan meetings.

When a project does require a meeting and collaboration between team members, make sure you set an agenda and stick to it.
Have someone assigned as the meeting head to make sure people stay on track with the topic and to keep an eye on the agenda and timeframe.
Consider having a stand-up meeting where employees are on their feet – this often helps to keep things moving and stay on track as employees are more likely to want to finish quickly in order to get back to their desks.

No matter what company you work for, there will likely be times where you will have to chip in to work on other projects that would not typically fall under your responsibility.  This is part of what makes any given team successful, however, it is important to not let these tasks prevent you from being able to perform your regular responsibilities and to not let these tasks cause burn out. As a manager, it is impossible to know everything that your team is working on each day and in general how much is on their plates. Regular communication about work responsibilities and checking in with employees will help to make sure your team does not burn out and has the resources available to complete their tasks on time.

 

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Is Your Small Business Remitting Unnecessary Sales Tax?

Did you know that snow removal is taxable in Ohio but exempt in Illinois? Sliced bagels are taxed in New York whereas whole bagels are exempt.  In Texas, charges to trim a tree is taxable unless the tree is under power lines…sales taxes are confusing.

What will really make your head spin is imagining the complexity involved for businesses (especially small businesses with limited resources) selling nationwide.  45 states collect statewide sales tax and these businesses have to stay on top of constantly changing rules and rates for all states. It’s no surprise that most find bookkeeping and taxes the most unpleasant part of owning a business. However, the reality is that even businesses that have implemented ERP systems to handle their accounting and inventory needs and other back-end operations, frequently lack comprehensive sales tax functionality. Many resort to using antiquated methods of sales tax management such as manually entering and tracking tax codes on spreadsheets, or worse, paper and pencil. These businesses often find themselves in hot water when auditors come around as manual methods are prone to human error and disarray. Others turn to expensive third party bookkeeping services or hire full-time staff to manage sales tax alone. Or,  they end up taxing just about everything to avoid falling short. If you fall into one of these buckets, there is a better way.

How does sales tax impact YOUR business?

Simply put, sales tax is a retail point-of-purchase payment enforced by state and local governments that are often charged by the seller of the goods/services and paid by the buyer of the particular goods/services. As a small business owner in the U.S., it is your responsibility to determine how much sales tax to charge customers, collecting that money and submitting to the appropriate government authorities within a given time frame.

There are several factors to consider when calculating sales taxes for your business. Where your customers are located, where you have a business presence such as storage of inventory,  where your warehouses and shipping facilities are located and where employees are, all determine how many states you need to collect sales tax for. This is also applicable if you have sales people that sell inventory or services outside of the state your business is in. In this situation, the tax that reps would be responsible for is called Use Tax which is the payment made on purchases that are done outside the company’s state of residence.

Most busy businesses who don’t have the time to stay on top of changes and requirements resort to simply looking up tax codes and information using zip codes – this is often inaccurate and extremely risky as you may end up paying more than you need to or worse, not enough.  Failing to pay the proper sales tax can be considered tax evasion and result in a fine and even jail time.

Help is out there!

While many ERP systems offer limited built-in sales tax functionality, it’s best to go with an ERP solution that is able to integrate with robust sales tax software. Fortunately, there’s been a great advancement in sales tax software over the years. Tax software companies such as Avalara, which integrates with Blue Link ERP,  not only automates the process of calculating, reporting, remitting and filing sales and use tax but also minimizes human intervention and helps reduce the risk of over or underpayment. But just how much does this truly impact your business?

Think about the amount of time you spend on sales tax calculations and the stress associated with worrying if you’ve collected enough or over-collected. Automating these processes and having a system to guide you, means not having to manually keep track and memorize tax codes in spreadsheets. Better yet, think about what you could be doing with the time you currently spend on updating sales tax rules and calculations. Some businesses not only have to keep on top of general sales tax rates and rules but also any special tax rules that are relevant to their specific industry. For example, if you’re in the apparel industry, some states do not charge tax for clothing items while in others, you are required to pay. For the pharmaceutical industry, over the counter prescription drugs are taxed in Illinois and Georgia while they are exempt in many other states. Is your business impacted by industry specific sales tax?

Does your business sell online? eCommerce adoption has risen in recent years, and sales tax is like a dark, foggy cloud that hovers over businesses that join the eCommerce movement.  Taxes are currently required by many states on online sales for both B2B and B2C businesses and these rules and regulations are constantly changing. For example, Amazon which previously did not require that sellers and purchasers pay sales tax, now require they do so as of April 1st of 2017. Some states, such as New York, even have a line on their income tax form where individuals are required to list all online purchases on which they did not pay state sales tax at all.

If that isn’t enough, if you have a multi-channel business, you also have to consider and track the differences in paying sales tax for B2B transactions and B2C or D2C (Direct to Consumer) transactions. Many B2B transactions involving goods are tax-exempt, however as we see the climate of wholesale distribution businesses shift to selling D2C, these businesses will have to navigate through the tangled web of charging the correct amount in tax for each transaction it makes.

Let’s take a closer look at how Avalara addresses your sales tax needs.   

(1) Passing Audits- Tax audits are becoming more frequent and stricter. Taxing jurisdictions typically conduct regular audits and require specific documents:

Sales documents (credit card sales, purchase orders, customer correspondence, bills of landing, freight invoices, shipping instructions etc.) This is when integrating Avalara into an all-in-one accounting and inventory ERP system comes into play. Your ERP creates and saves information such as invoices and transaction records, that includes information on how much sales tax was automatically calculated by Avalara.

Purchase documents- includes tax accrual records showing how tax was charged by the business and paid to the seller or by the company. Alongside Avalara’s automated sales tax calculation for each invoice/transaction, a true accounting and inventory ERP stores all purchase orders and sales invoices and includes information on the method of payment for every transaction.

Exemption certificates- Sales tax exemption certificates enable a purchaser to make tax-free purchases that would normally be subject to sales tax. The purchaser must fill out this certificate and submit to seller. How do you currently save these certificates? Can they easily be found in the event that you are audited? The right sales tax software has functionality built-in to store and retrieve all exemption certificates quickly and easily.

(2) Eliminate Overcharges- Most businesses end up charging sales taxes on all transactions because they don’t want to risk not charging or paying enough. The best way to ensure you’re not remitting more sales tax (or not enough) than necessary is to automate calculations. Avalara charges the right amount of tax each time based on location, tax codes and updates calculations when any changes to tax amounts occur. Businesses can also leverage Avalara’s functionality for filings and returns.

(3) Additional Costs- Employees need to spend hours on hours identifying which transactions require sales tax. Many turn to expensive third party bookkeepers or hire full-time staff to manage sales tax. Integrating Avalara to your ERP solution is not only cost effective but more accurate than having someone manually keep track of changing rules.

Businesses also no longer have to bear the full burden of being 100% responsible for remitting sales tax. As an Avalara customer, if suffer a negative audit finding and financial loss related to an inaccurate result returned by the Avalara service, they will pay your uncollected tax, penalty, and interest, or refund your prior 12 months’ service fee, whichever is lower.*

*See full details

 

 

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