Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

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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The Importance of Inventory Management and eCommerce in 2017

In the world of eCommerce today, customers expect the process of buying online to be as seamless – if not more – than purchasing the same item in a store. Online sales in 2017 as a percentage of total retail sales continues to increase over last year and the market is not showing any signs of slowing down. Applying both to businesses in the B2B and B2C space, this means companies must be able to efficiently serve customers online, ship product quickly and either provide free shipping or ship at the lowest possible cost, in order to remain competitive. The best way to efficiently manage the processes associated with buying and selling product online is to implement a robust front-end website for order entry and integrate this website with a sophisticated back-end inventory and accounting solution. Integration allows information such as order details, pricing, product descriptions, inventory quantities etc. to flow bi-directionally between systems.  Once a customer places an order online, the key is to quickly and at the lowest cost possible ship the right product to the right customer.  This is where proper inventory management software comes into play.

Before a customer can place an order online or even view a product, inventory information needs to be available.  With eCommerce integration, once you receive inventory into your warehouse and update quantities in your inventory system, this data is pushed online for the customer to see.  As you continue to receive new quantities of product, or inventory is sold via other sales channels (such as phone, email or at a tradeshow), the updated information gets reflected online.  This means that customers always have up-to-date inventory quantity details. Want to change a product’s pricing, description or image? The same applies, where the user updates information in your back-end inventory system and this gets reflected online – eliminating the need to update multiple databases and software applications.

Once customers have access to accurate information, they can place an order for product online.  This order then flows directly into your inventory system where it can be subject to a manual review process or automated workflow depending on how you want it set up.  For example, if the order meets certain criteria already defined in the system, the software marks the order as ready to ship and sends it to the warehouse for picking. This criterion may include the system checking that the order is under a certain dollar amount, checking that the inventory is available in stock, and checking that the customer has submitted valid credit card information online. Alternatively, if you prefer to have a manual check process, the system categorizes all orders coming from the website and then holds them for review before users can send them to the warehouse.

Once employees in the warehouse receive the order for picking, packing and shipping, they can choose to do so manually using pen and paper or with the help of mobile picking devices or verification scanning. Barcode scanning helps to ensure that employees pick the right items and the right quantity to reduce the number of shipping errors.  Employees then pack items for shipping and the system will print the appropriate shipping documents.  Once again, depending on how the system has been configured, it can automatically mark the order as shipped and then send the appropriate information back through the inventory system to appear on the eCommerce site or be emailed to the customer.

Without the right systems in place for managing the entire order process and inventory, sales orders get missed, inventory quantities are wrong, items need to be backordered, the wrong items get shipped and customers become frustrated.  Even with introductory software, managing orders involves multiple steps and checks and is prone to human error. Before you start selling online, consider your options for inventory management.

 

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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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