Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

3 Tips for Accounting ERP Training Success

It’s been a couple of months since you first began the search for new accounting ERP software and you’ve finally settled on a solution.  After weeks of in-depth discussions with vendors, internal meetings to review requirements and processes, several live product demos and finally a review of vendor proposals, the hard part is over. But before you decide to take a vacation from software, employees need to be trained on how to use the new system. There is a reason training costs make up a large portion of total implementation costs and the amount and type of training will vary significantly from one vendor and one company to the next. One of the benefits of moving from introductory systems to accounting ERP software is the automation that comes with implementing an all-in-one solution, however, this, in turn, will require employees to change existing processes which adds to training. Other factors which affect training include:

Whether or not employees will interact with more than one part of the system
How familiar are employees with software solutions and technology applications
How sophisticated and outdated are the existing systems in place
Will there be a steep learning curve for employees?

Even with the most user-friendly ERP systems, if employees are not comfortable working with enterprise applications, it will take time to fully train them. All of the above factors will have an impact on training costs and time, and because each factor will vary by company, it is difficult for software vendors to accurately quote training costs from initial conversations. Working with a software vendor that employs consultants and support personnel in-house provides the added benefit that once training is complete, you will be able to work with the same consultant who did the training on any future projects – such as if you decide to implement additional features, if there is a need for custom work and if you hire new employees who need training. Working with the same consultants means they already know your business and don’t need to waste time learning about your specific needs. Adequate training in the beginning will set your business up for success well into the future. Below we’ve compiled some tips to make the most of software training.

Onsite Wins Almost Every Time

Some vendors provide the option of remote or onsite training. When employees all work remotely from different locations and from virtual offices, onsite may not be an option, but wherever possible, onsite is best.  Trying to save money with remote training (where you don’t need to cover travel costs) frequently results in spending money down the road on additional training or support when employees do not fully understand how to use the system. If possible, consider visiting the software vendor at their location for training. Engaging with consultants while they are onsite doing training makes it easier to stay focused and not get distracted by everyday tasks.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true what they say – practice really does make perfect. Instead of trying to learn a new system all within a couple of days, it is better to do a couple hours of training and then practice what was learnt immediately afterward. This gives employees ample time to get familiar with the new system and ensures any issues are addressed as soon as possible – and when the consultant is still onsite to help.

Trust the Experts

Engage your consultant and accounting ERP vendor and be open to their advice. Instead of asking how to do a specific task, explain what you are trying to accomplish and discuss different approaches to achieve it. This is another benefit to working with a software vendor who has experience in your specific industry – they will be able to make recommendations for approaches to managing processes and automating workflows. It can be difficult to take an objective approach to changing processes and just because you have always done something a certain way, does not mean that it is the best way. Be open to suggestions the vendor has and dedicate the time to properly learn and implement their suggestions.

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Top Canadian Sales Tax Tips for U.S. Businesses

In 2016, U.S. exports into Canada totaled a whopping $320.1 billion. It is no question that Canada is a clear opportunity for U.S. based businesses/sellers to expand their market and increase their sales volumes. However, with this opportunity of increased exports comes the question of whether U.S. sellers have a responsibility to register for Canadian Sales Tax (GST/HST). The question of registration becomes very relevant even if not required by legislation.

Canada has a very different sales tax system to the U.S. The Canadian system is a Value Added Tax system, which levies sales taxes on every transaction, as opposed to the Sales and Use system in place in the United States.

Understanding these differences is critical to maintaining cross-border compliance and avoiding some harsh fines and penalties for U.S. businesses/sellers. It is also important to consider and quantify any Canadian sales tax obligations to avoid the risk of draining cashflow and eroding your bottom line.

So, how can your U.S. business keep tax compliant when selling in Canada?  Brian Litvin of Litvin Muir, a leading Canadian Sales Tax Practice, shares his top tips.

1) Understand the different Canadian sales taxes.

There are three distinct Canadian sales taxes/categories of sales tax:

GST – Goods and Services Tax
HST – Harmonized Sales Tax
PST – Provincial Sales Tax

GST (Goods and Services Tax) – GST is a federally levied tax, and is applicable to all provinces and territories across Canada. The current GST rate is 5%. Certain limited products are exempt from GST. GST is charged at 0% (zero-rated) on certain transactions and administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) –  In certain provinces, HST is levied. HST comprises of the federal GST and a provincial tax component. HST is administered by the CRA and, other than for very few specific provisions, it is treated exactly the same as GST. HST rates vary between 13% and 15%.

PST (Provincial Sales Tax). The provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Saskatchewan levy a Provincial Sales Tax over and above the federally levied GST. QST, the Quebec provincial sales tax, is treated as a value-added tax. All other provincial taxes are charged as a consumption tax. The Provincial Sales Tax rates range from 6% to 9.975%.

2) Determine if your business requires registering for GST purposes. 

Per the Canadian Excise Tax Act, every person who carries on business in Canada, whether a resident or not, other than a small supplier, must register for GST purposes.

The two criteria to consider to determine the obligation are:

“Carrying on business” – the definition of “business” for the purposes of the Act is very broad and includes activities that are considered “not for profit”.
“In Canada” – non-residents are often considered to be carrying on business in Canada, even without having a Canadian permanent establishment. There are multiple predetermined factors that the CRA evaluates to determine whether a non-resident is carrying on business in Canada. The nature of the business, the frequency of transactions and all relevant facts are considered when determining if business is being carried on in Canada.

Registrants are obliged to charge GST/HST on sales in Canada. The taxes billed, net of GST/HST paid on costs incurred in Canada must be remitted to the taxing authorities. This is done on a periodic basis, together with required GST returns. The return submission frequency can be monthly, quarterly or annually, depending on sales volume in Canada.

In most cases, a small supplier is not required to register to collect GST/HST. A small supplier is defined as one whose worldwide taxable supplies (including zero-rated supplies) in the previous four quarters does not exceed $30,000 ($50,000 for public service bodies – colleges, non-profit organizations, charities, hospitals).

Circumstances often arise where it is beneficial for non-residents to voluntarily register for GST, even if not obliged to do so, to facilitate the recovery of GST/HST incurred in costs in Canada

3) Consult a knowledgeable professional.

It is highly advisable to consult with a knowledgeable professional that specializes in Canadian Indirect Taxes, to help determine if you need to register for, collect and remit Canadian Sales Tax. This will save you from headaches down the road including unpleasant audits, unnecessary penalties, and interest.

4) Automate tax management.

Once you have consulted a professional and established the necessary information to collect and bill GST/HST for your business, look into software that will automatically calculate taxes for you based on the rules you have entered into the system.  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.

Please note: This blog is for informational purposes only. Be advised that sales tax rules and laws are subject to change at any time. For specific sales tax advice regarding your business, contact a sales tax expert. 

Brian Litvin, CPA CA, of Litvin Muir specializes in Canadian Sales Taxes – (GST/HST/QST/PST), and International VAT. He has consulted with companies on the Forbes 100 list, multinationals and national entities, many of which are household names. His expertise includes minimizing GST/HST/VAT costs and streamlining processes. You can contact Brian directly at brian@litvinmuir.com or send inquiries to gstquestions@litvinmuir.com.

 

 

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Different Picking Methods with Warehouse Inventory Software

Warehouse processes are an integral part of running a successful wholesale and distribution business. This applies to warehouse operations of all sizes, however, depending on the nature of the product and available resources, there are different ways in which a company can set-up its warehouse structure. The first step in warehouse planning and optimization is to determine which type of picking style makes the most sense for your business and which warehouse inventory software will accommodate this style. Once you determine picking style, you will then be able to design a warehouse layout in terms of aisle set-up and bin and shelf locations.  The type of picking style and warehouse layout will be partly influenced by the type of products you sell and therefore what equipment is necessary to manage product. Considerations include; which type of shelving to install and how many levels, how many stations to set-up for receiving, packing and shipping, and what, if any, heavy machinery is required to help with the movement of inventory (such as forklifts). Proper warehouse planning is essential to maximize the picking, packing and shipping process and warehouse layout will have a direct impact on traffic flow and productivity.

Whether you’re looking to open a new warehouse or optimize existing locations, the first consideration to make is the picking process.  Below is a breakdown of the most popular picking styles.

Individual/Discrete Picking

Individual or discrete picking is commonly found in smaller warehouses with low order volumes and a small number of SKUs. In this situation, an individual employee will pick an entire order, one line at a time, before moving on to pick the next order. Although discrete picking is one of the least efficient as it requires significant travel throughout the warehouse, it allows for fast order fulfillment when dealing with a small number of orders, and enables businesses to easily track order picker accuracy.  Most discrete picking processes involve paper-based pick slips and orders are not scheduled, but rather can be picked at any time of the day. Items are usually packed into the appropriate shipping container during the pick process. This type of picking style does not require sophisticated warehouse inventory software.

Batch/Consolidated Picking

Batch picking is sometimes referred to as consolidated picking or multi-order picking and works best for businesses with high sales volumes and a large number of SKUs. Batch picking allows for the order picker to pick the same SKU for multiple orders – reducing the travel time throughout the warehouse. Once an employee picks the same SKU for multiple orders, items are brought back to a packing station where they are sorted by order, packed and shipped. Using barcode scanners for verification scanning while packing each order helps to ensure employees pick the right items during the picking process. Alternatively, sophisticated warehouse inventory software provides businesses the option for mobile picking with barcode scanning – whereby employees scan items as they pick them which helps to identify any picking errors at the source. Batch picking increases the productivity of any given order picker by reducing their travel time in the warehouse and works well when individual orders have a small number of SKUs. Batch picking saves time and increases productivity, but requires two steps – (1) pick and then (2) sort and pack. Under the umbrella of batch picking, there are several other picking methods, including zone picking and wave picking.

Zone Picking

For large wholesale and distribution businesses, it is common to divide up warehouse space into different zones.  Each zone dictates constraints for receipt of inventory and picking, and zones are based on product specifications. For example, a warehouse might have a zone for fast-moving items, a zone for slow-moving items, a zone for refrigerated items, and a zone for high-value items with added security measures in place. Order pickers get assigned to a specific warehouse zone, and are then responsible for picking all the SKUs located in that particular zone for any given order. If an order contains SKUs from multiple zones, the order is filled by different employees as it gets passed through each zone. Zone picking is based on the same concept of consolidated picking, but the warehouse is divided into different zones and individual employees are assigned to a specific zone.  This type of picking is useful in very large warehouses with a high number of SKUs and allows for the picker to become very familiar with the product in their zone, further reducing pick time. Because of this, picker accuracy can still be easily traced.  Due to the fact that order fulfillment may require the order to move through different warehouse zones, a business will usually set-up a cut-off point for orders entering the queue each day, which may delay the order to shipment process.

Wave Picking

With wave picking, the warehouse is also divided into different zones and the concept of consolidated picking still applies, but wave picking is more flexible in that it does not restrict employees to pick from a specific zone.  Instead, each employee can pick from every zone. With wave picking, a company may schedule orders to be picked at a specific time of the day in order to coordinate and maximize the picking and shipping process.

With any picking method, the ability to successfully pick orders will depend on the warehouse inventory system in place. In order to implement consolidated picking, the system needs to be sophisticated enough to consolidate single-line orders by zone based on specific quantity levels.

Benefits

A well thought out warehouse operation provides a variety of benefits to a wholesale distribution company such as:

An increase in order fulfillment time, as employees are able to pick, pack and ship more orders in a day, which increases customer satisfaction
Proper allocation of resources such as labor, to reduce costs and improve employee productivity
More accurate picking which reduces the number of product returns
Better demand planning/inventory management – when a warehouse is organized appropriately and all inventory is accounted for, it allows businesses to get an accurate view of inventory movement to make better purchasing decisions
Reduces the instance of obsolete inventory when all items are easily found in the warehouse and processes are in place to pick accordingly
With an optimized warehouse layout and pick path, employees do not waste time and energy wandering the warehouse floor, which improves morale and makes new employee onboarding easier
The efficient use of physical space reduces overhead costs (such as the need to rent additional space)
Tools such as barcode scanning help to automate workflows and eliminate pen and paper in the warehouse which reduces human error
Better reporting

Blue Link Food Inventory Software Makes Top Software and Technology Providers List

Blue Link’s Food Inventory Software Named to Food Logistics’ 2017 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers List for the fifth time!

The annual FL100+ list (which is in its 14th year) recognizes the top software and technology providers in the food and beverage industry that play a critical role in food and beverage manufacturers, food service distributors, and grocery retailers’ supply chain processes such as distribution, inventory tracking and meeting industry compliance.

It goes without saying that the need for robust software that allows for end-to-end visibility and traceability is especially important to the food and beverage industry since these companies frequently need to manage product recalls. The ability to quickly trace the impacted product(s) using a software solution in the event of a recall minimizes any associated damage to the business.

The benefit of having a system like Blue Link’s Food Inventory Software is that it is an all-in-one solution – this means that on top of functionality to deal with product recalls, it also offers a variety of flexible tools that can manage and automate business processes across the entire company and also help to achieve and sustain FDA/ISO/CFIA compliance. Blue Link features include:

Fully integrated inventory, accounting, contact management, order entry, warehouse management and more
Traceability – lot tracking
Price matrices with automatic markup, volume discounts and contract pricing (individual or group)
Landed cost tracking – duty, brokerage, freight etc.
Multiple units of measure: unit conversions – buy and sell the same products by weight, multiple containers, volume etc.

eCommerce Integration

Another benefit of Blue Link’s Food Inventory Software is its ability to integrate with eCommerce platforms or a secure B2B order portal.  Food and beverage distributors and wholesalers know that to have a competitive edge in today’s B2B market and to increase their profitability and be flexible enough to meet their customer’s changing needs,  they must embrace eCommerce technology. However, an eCommerce platform should not create an overwhelming amount of extra work and effort. The idea behind eCommerce or having a B2B portal is to make the order and fulfillment process easier for your business to generate and complete more sales. Back-end food inventory software such as Blue Link integrated into your eCommerce/order portal platform allows businesses to automate order fulfillment processes from receiving to picking, packing and shipping.

Inventory Management – Once an order is placed online, Blue Link automatically allocates product/inventory for order fulfillment in real-time. The updated inventory quantities are then published to the online store. Businesses can also set up criteria for evaluating orders placed online 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 to an order, employees in the warehouse have access to accurate inventory and shipping information, all-in-one system. Orders are processed correctly and in a timely fashion with features such as:

Managing multiple warehouse locations
Creating consolidated pick slips for more efficient 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 is associated with products to track the history of the product

Full Press Release 

VAUGHAN, Ontario—December-15, 2017 — Food Logistics, the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain, has named Blue Link to its 2017 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list serves as a resource guide for software and technology providers whose products and services are critical for companies in the global food and beverage supply chain.

“New developments and innovations in the software and technology sector are making sizeable impacts on the global food supply chain,” notes Lara L. Sowinski, editorial director for Food Logistics and its sister publication, Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “The result is a greater visibility, improved regulatory compliance, enhanced shelf life for perishables, and the emergence of a more proactive and nimble food supply chain that benefits both the food industry and its logistics partners, as well as the end consumer.”

Companies on this year’s 2017 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list will be profiled in the November/December 2017 issue of Food Logistics, as well as online at www.foodlogistics.com.

About Blue Link ERP Software

Blue Link ERP software is designed for small to medium size distribution, wholesale and retail businesses looking to grow their company. Business management processes are improved with Blue Link’s flexible and user-friendly ERP functionality such as inventory management, accounting, warehouse management, barcode scanning, eCommerce integration, lot tracking, customer relationship management (CRM), and more. Blue Link functionality can be readily customized to match customer specific business processes. The result is higher productivity, more meaningful reports and better business decisions to drive growth.

About Food Logistics

Food Logistics is published by AC Business Media, a business-to-business media company that provides targeted content and comprehensive, integrated advertising and promotion opportunities for some of the world’s most recognized B2B brands. Its diverse portfolio serves the construction, logistics, supply chain and other industries with print, digital and custom products, events and social media.

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Blue Link ERP Wins Bronze for ERP Writers’ Awards 2017

For Immediate Release

VAUGHAN, Ont – December 13, 2017. – SAMANTHA HORNBY & BLUE LINK ERP WINNERS AT THE ERP WRITERS’ AWARDS 2017

Samantha Hornby has been awarded the Silver Award in the Best Writer category at the ERP Writers’ Awards 2017.  Blue Link ERP has also been awarded the Bronze Award in the Best Vendor blog category.

The awards recognize top writing talent across the ERP industry from all types of publication, with categories for both vendor and independent blogs, and for individual writers. The final results were decided by a combination of recommendations from the judges and a public vote.

Awards judge and ERP Focus Editor Kathryn Beeson said:

“Samantha Hornby scored well in both the public vote and amongst the judges. Samantha’s work is concise and showcases a good depth of knowledge about ERP and related processes. I’d like to congratulate her for her well-deserved Silver Award in the hotly contested Best Writer category!

I’d also like to say well done to Blue Link ERP for their Bronze Award in the Best Vendor Blog category. The Blue Link ERP blog has some excellent industry-focused content and their popularity is demonstrated by their success in the public vote. Well done!”

ABOUT THE AWARDS

The ERP Writers’ Awards were launched in 2013 by ERP Focus to recognize top writing talent across the industry. We’re excited – as ever – to recognize the brightest and best of this year’s ERP writing talent.

“As the co-founder of diginomica, I’m also a full-time blogger” explains judge Jon Reed. “Part of that role involves my five-year tradition of curating the best enterprise blogs and analysis for my weekly Enterprise Hits and Misses column. I’m always looking for work that cuts through the enterprise noise and provides context and critique in the midst of tech hype.”

Run every year, the ERP Writers’ Awards recognize the most switched on bloggers, writers, and journalists working in the ERP industry, with prizes available in Best Vendor Blog, Best Independent Blog, Best Writer and Best Article categories.

ABOUT ERP FOCUS

ERP Focus is an online publication which caters to professionals across the ERP industry. It provides product and industry news, whitepapers, comparison tools and how-to guides for professionals looking for advice on selecting, implementing and running ERP.

 

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Wholesale Distribution B2B Product Catalogs – Are They Right For Your Business?

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is flipping through the glossy pages of the now iconic Sears holiday catalog, The Wishbook (which has made a comeback this year!). Armed with highlighters in hand, I remember circling just about every toy in the magazine…there was nothing it didn’t have (and nothing I didn’t want). While the brand has seen better days in Canada, the continued consumer demand behind the catalog itself makes me think, what impact do catalogs have on businesses today? And, what role do they play in the B2B wholesale distribution sphere?

The Sears catalog which was once printed and distributed to customers, now has a digital version that is available on their site and mobile app and many wholesale distributors are also going this digital route which is no surprise given the rapid growth of eCommerce sites and customers shopping online.  This trend is undoubtedly going to continue and smart B2B wholesale distribution companies know they need to have an online catalog that contains up-to-date inventory and pricing information to easily share with customers, for more efficient sales.

Key Differences between B2C and B2B Catalogs

B2B product catalogs are not the same as B2C magazine catalogs – well, at least not like catalogs you’re used to seeing. They are assembled more like price lists and this is mainly because B2B buyers are not looking through every ad and item in your store, instead, they are searching for very specific products and thorough information on those particular products. B2B product catalogs contain important purchasing information such as product codes, names, descriptions, images, unique customer pricing, available quantities, minimum order quantities etc. and offer detailed views for customers to make quick and precise decisions.

There are a couple options to generate and distribute product catalogs to your B2B customers –  PDFs (which can be printed/mailed or emailed) and digital “e-catalogs” displayed on your eCommerce website or secure B2B online order portal.  However, when it comes to selling in the B2B world, having real-time information on products in catalogs is key to its effectiveness and better inventory management. The simplest way to manage this information and automate the process of catalog creation, whether it’s print, PDF or digital,  is to have the right back-end distribution ERP software that can generate catalogs using real-time inventory data stored within the system.

The method you choose to distribute your catalogs depends on your unique business needs. For example, if you’re looking to use catalogs as a marketing/promotional tactic to a targeted area, it might be sufficient to print and distribute to potential leads. If you’re looking to offer quick quotes or send product information to existing customers, a PDF version can prove efficient, whereas if you’re looking to attract more customers and want to automate the ordering process and improve your inventory management- a digital version is likely to work better.

PDF Catalogs

PDF product catalogs fulfill the basic role of a catalog, showcasing products/promotional prices to existing and browsing customers. A true back-end distribution ERP software will allow you to select products to include in the catalog along with customer pricing based on real-time inventory information i.e., how much of product is in stock. Once the catalog is created, the PDF is automatically sent to a list of customer emails or you have the ability to add email addresses one at a time. The customer then has the option to send back the PDF with their order much like an order form, or contact you directly. Keep in mind that the same functionality can be used to create quotes which include specific customer pricing and promotions for specific products.

Electronic Catalogs (eCommerce)

While PDF catalogs are useful, they don’t have the same range of interactive features that online product catalogs offer. If you determine that your customers and leads are mostly purchasing online, or would prefer the flexibility to do so, it will prove worthwhile to have an eCommerce site or a secure B2B online order portal integrated with back-end distribution ERP software that has the functionality to create digital catalogs. Benefits of this method include:

Products are displayed and arranged on your eCommerce or B2B order portal in multiple categories which increase the chances of a customer clicking on and purchasing that item

Products in the e-catalog are sorted by price, inventory level, type, etc. for quick lookups.

Ability to order products directly from the catalog without having to call or email to place orders.
Automated order fulfillment through proper back-end distribution ERP software

Automation of back-end processes including picking, packing, and shipping from your warehouse or 3PL.

Customers can access historical order information to see their previous orders for fast reordering.
E-catalogs can be leveraged for search engine optimization to expand your reach across target markets.

Improved Order Accuracy

Growing wholesale distribution companies can have a high volume of SKU’s which requires balancing the fulfillment of thousands of unique SKU’s efficiently and accurately while maintaining the highest level of customer service. Having catalogs that you can quickly share with your customers improves order accuracy since customers are provided extensive information/images of product in order to make the right purchasing decisions. Electronic catalogs also reduce the labor costs involved in keying in/confirming order information as the order process is automated with an integrated back-end distribution inventory management software.

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Proper Reporting with Accounting ERP Software

When speaking with businesses looking to move away from introductory inventory and accounting software to more sophisticated accounting ERP software, one of the most requested features is better reporting. Many systems offer generic, canned-type of reports, which while useful, are based on assumptions that may or may not be relevant to your company. These types of reports are not designed for detailed analysis and do not take into consideration a company’s unique competitive advantage. The ability to quickly create and modify custom reports that speak directly to the business problems you are trying to solve on a daily basis is a much more meaningful piece of functionality. A software vendor that provides multiple tools for reporting gives businesses the flexibility to collect, edit, share and analyze data in the best format possible. Working with the vendor to design a report (often on pen and paper first) will allow you to properly define the criteria and parameters for the report, to easily make sense of the data collected. Even better is finding a software vendor that will train your team on how to create your own reports using the tools provided. This will allow your team to quickly and easily get relevant information in a meaningful format, without having to pay the vendor or wait for them to complete the report.

When creating reports, it is important to consider how you want to analyze the information in addition to what information you want to collect.

Do you need to easily share the data with other members of your team? Do you want to schedule reports to get sent to the appropriate people via email?
Are there variables in the report you want to manipulate? For example, do you want the ability to easily change timeframes, customer information or product information?
Do you want to see the information in conjunction with other datasets? Do you need to report on data from different departments?
Do you need to be able to automatically print reports to different areas of the business such as pick tickets and packing slips?

All of these factors will have an impact on which reporting tool is best for the specific report in question.

Data Integrity

Reports of any kind are only as good as the data within them. Poor data input is a common issue, especially in smaller organizations with less formal procedures and systems in place. Working with multiple, disparate systems lends way to duplicate data, re-keying errors and outdated data. For growing businesses who deal with constant changes to customer, supplier and product information, the systems in place for managing inventory and accounting can have an impact on the accuracy of data and reporting. To ensure the integrity of your data, it is important to implement more formal procedures for data collection and storage and implement the right systems to aid in proper data management. With accounting ERP software, all data is stored in a central database which means information only needs to be updated once, further reducing the room for error. ERP software includes controls for eliminating the entry of bad data, for example, by not allowing the same product code or contact code to be created. Before you start to generate reports across all company departments, it is a good idea to create reports that verify the data within the system. For example, creating reports that automatically get sent to the appropriate people when critical field data is missing and the ability to schedule reports based on a periodic search for duplicate and incomplete records.

Consider Dashboard Views

Instead of running two or three different sales or operations reports, it may make sense to discuss the business decisions you are trying to support with a consultant from your software vendor and then work together to craft a single new report or dashboard that pulls together the information that you need into a single view. Doing this can avoid users from manually re-keying data from one report into a summary spreadsheet – or trying to collect data from multiple sources and consolidate into a presentation.  Manually re-keying data from a financial system or ERP into spreadsheets means you’re opening yourself up to keying errors which could result in decisions being made based on bad data.

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HDA’s Traceability Seminar Key Takeaways —What Pharmaceutical Distributors Need to Know

Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed in this blog are based on the authors best understanding of the updates from HDA’s 2017 Traceability Seminar and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of the industry in whole. 

Blue Link was honored to sponsor and attend The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2017 Traceability Seminar  November 8-10 in Washington, D.C. This year’s event was a significant one for the Pharmaceutical industry as it was designed to bring together supply chain leaders, wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers to discuss regulations, innovations and progress around the upcoming DSCSA implementation and milestone as the industry works toward the law’s 2023 finish line.

This seminar was a great opportunity for Blue Link to ensure that the functionality in our pharmaceutical ERP software, as well as functionality being developed, are in-line with current DSCSA requirements and the timelines set out. Blue Link was among key DSCSA solution providers for compliance and traceability in the industry and I am happy to say, that there were “no big surprises” coming from the conference that would require any deviation from our current development strategy. Specifically, Blue Link’s timeline for implementation of the upcoming pharmaceutical wholesale distributor serialization requirement by November 2019 is in line with industry timeframes.

Key Takeaways

In General:

Discussions were had on innovative approaches and lessons learned as distributors, manufacturers, and dispensers on how to implement serialization and traceability technologies, however many questions around specific requirements still linger.
Guidance from the FDA is being provided but at a slower pace than hoped.
The industry is moving forward but slower than expected as a result of the time that it is taking to procure, and install the hardware and software required to manage the functionality needed.
Big players in the industry are involved but information is not being passed to downstream to their smaller supply chain partners as efficiently as it could be.

Deadlines:

The requirement for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and CMO’s to apply serial numbers on each item has not changed, however, due to delays in obtaining equipment and software to make this a reality the FDA has delayed enforcement of the law until Nov 2018 (previously November 2017).
Re-Packagers are still required by law to serialize all products by Nov. 2018.
Distributors are still required to ensure that all products they receive are serialized by Nov 2019.

This means that anyone in the supply chain is expected to refuse shipments from manufacturers for products that are missing serialized information.
If you accept returns from your customers after Nov 2019, you will be required to verify that the serial numbers returned are in fact valid.

Format of Data:

During trials, the trend has been to use EPCIS GS1 standard for encoding of data.
It is expected that when data is transmitted (via EDI, File Shares, File Downloads, E-Mails), the actual format of the data should be as stated in the EPCIS R1.2 Implementation Guideline. 

 Aggregations:

Discussions were held around aggregation (case, tote, pallet) labeling and inference of the product information packaged.
While aggregation is not a part of the law it is something that manufacturers and distributors realize will be vital to operational efficiency.
Manufacturers who have been working to put together aggregation data warned that this data may not be 100% accurate due to human activities that occur after packaging such as sampling/testing from open cases. The verification of aggregation data is to 3 sigmas of accuracy (or 66,800 errors per million items packaged) – the industry realizes this error is too high and needs to be reduced.

Blue Link On-going Development

To help Pharmaceutical distributors manage their processes more efficiently, the 2018 release of Blue Link’s Pharmaceutical ERP software will include the ability to receive purchase orders with serial numbers as well as lot information. With a link between the lot and serial data, this will make it easier to verify that products received are legitimate. Other functionality expected in the 2018 release include:

Support for “aggregation data” to allow for faster PO receipt.

For example, if you receive aggregation data from a supplier prior to receiving the PO in Blue Link, you will be able to scan a unique barcode on the case package that will look up the associated serial numbers from the aggregation data.
A single scan of a case of 100 individual bottles, for example, would receive all 100 serial numbers with a single scan instead of having to open the case and scan 100 individual bottles.

Verification will able to be performed against your own local database.

For example, if you received the serial numbers into Blue Link and previously sold those serial numbers to the customer, on return you may verify against your local Blue Link database.
If the serial number is not in your local database, then in order to accept the return you must verify the serial number against the manufacturer’s serial number database.

Development for future releases:

Router service – If the serial number is not in your local database, then in order to accept the reuturn you will need to verify the serial number against the manufacturer’s serial number database. The mechanism to perform this task will be performed through a router service.
The router service is just a concept that has been piloted by some of the largest manufacturers and distributors.
Blue Link intends to add support to our application for whatever the final router service happens to be, however, as of the conference there is no actual router service available.

Blue Link will continue to monitor what is happening in the Pharma Industry and attend conferences as applicable to better understand the needs of our pharma customers and to ensure our software is in line with requirements set out by the FDA/DSCSA/DEA. Blue Link’s current Pharmaceutical functionality includes:

Lot Tracking (Traceability)
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Landed Cost Tracking
Secure B2B Online Ordering Portal for convenient online ordering (including Schedule II)
Serialization (expected summer 2018)
Order Entry and Invoicing
Revision Control
Inventory Control
AR/AP, GL, Bank Management etc.
Track National Drug Codes (NDC#)
Contact Management / CRM
Suspicious Order Monitoring (SOM)
Transaction History Management
Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS)

 

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How to Prepare Your Wholesale Business for the 2017 Holiday Season

Only 41 days until Christmas 2017 and retailers are already weeks into promoting holiday deals. It seems like every year stores start to promote holiday shopping earlier and earlier, and according to the National Retail Federation, 2017 holiday retail sales are expected to be up 3.6-4% over last year. This means competition will be fierce between traditional retail brick and mortar stores, online retailers and eCommerce marketplaces such as Amazon. With shoppers purchasing products in-store and online from desktop and mobile devices, the efficient flow of inventory between sales channels, along the supply chain and across borders, is imperative to win consumer confidence and take advantage of the expected increase in sales. For wholesale distribution businesses, this requires the order fulfillment process to be optimized and efficient. Proper back-end inventory and accounting wholesale ERP software is one way in which businesses can ensure the right product gets to the right customer in a timely manner. But there are several other considerations to keep in mind.

Communication with Suppliers

Communication with suppliers is imperative when it comes to purchasing requirements around the holiday season and other busy times of the year. If you communicate through EDI or other electronic channels for submitting and receiving purchase orders, ensure that all systems are fully integrated to avoid duplication of work and manual processes during peak times. With EDI, working with a trusted integration partner will ensure information easily flows between your back-end inventory and accounting ERP solution and that of your suppliers. This means order details and shipment information gets automatically populated between systems. When working with suppliers overseas, make sure you have a system in place that accounts for expected lead times based on supplier location, and then incorporates this information when setting up inventory min, max and reorder levels.

Communication with Customers

Whether you sell direct to consumers or to other businesses, proper communication with your customers is imperative to winning sales this holiday season. Behind the scenes, proper integration with all sales channels (including the phone, email, eCommerce, EDI, in-person, mobile etc.) is important so that inventory information, orders, pricing details and payment information flows between front-facing eCommerce sites and your back-end wholesale ERP system. A sophisticated ERP solution will consolidate all orders into an easy-to-use sales review screen with data maintained in a single database so information is accurate across all sales channels.  On the front-end, real-time integration between your wholesale ERP solution and eCommerce sites ensures customers have access to accurate pricing and inventory quantity information. Proper integration also means systems automatically share information with customers such as order confirmations, shipping details, and tracking information.

Warehouse Management

To properly prepare your warehouse staff for an increase in order volume, the first step is to optimize warehouse processes.  Setting up specific inventory locations and bin and shelf numbers will make it easy for employees to walk the warehouse floor picking orders. Consolidated pick slips based on bin and shelf location allow employees to pick product for multiple orders at the same time. Consider setting up your warehouse by zone so that inventory items are easy to find and access. Zones may include locations for fast-moving items, slow-moving items, heavy items requiring machinery to access and pick/put-away, high-security items, and refrigerated items. Barcode scanning is another tool to optimize warehouse processes. Simple verification scanning allows employees to scan items at dedicated packing stations before items are shipped to customers. Mobile picking further automates the picking, packing and shipping process by enabling employees to scan items during the picking process to identify errors and verify items at the source.

Shipping

Whether your business delivers product to your customers or sends items via common carrier, automated shipping processes help reduce errors and speed up the order fulfillment process.  When working with common carriers, find a wholesale ERP solution that will integrate with shipping companies so that order, address, shipping and tracking details automatically populate between systems. Furthermore, efficient workflows set up within your ERP system take into account other shipping processes by allowing employees to automatically print or email invoices, and even post the invoice, after an order has been marked as “shipped”.

Internal Processes

Depending on where you live, the holidays are also known to bring cold weather and flu season. Even if your geographic location does not result in an uptake in sick days, many employees take extended vacation time over the holidays – a consideration that is important when trying to maintain staff levels to keep up with demand. Because of this, a lot of businesses hire temporary staff to work in the warehouse and help with the picking, packing, and shipping of orders. The better trained existing employees are, and the more efficient your warehouse processes, the easier it will be to train temporary workers and the quicker they will be productive. Implementation of tools such as mobile barcode scanning – where the use of paper and manual processes is essentially eliminated – is an easy way to eliminate the issues associated with human errors and onboarding new staff.

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Get Inventory Reordering ‘Just Right’ with Wholesale Inventory Software

Ever heard of the Goldilocks factor? Yes, as in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It may be a children’s fairytale, however, the principle of getting things ‘just right’ can be applied to many factors of a wholesale distribution business, especially when it comes to the endless balancing act of inventory management. Order too much product and you’re left with dead stock and markdowns, order too little stock and you miss out on potential sales and hinder customer loyalty– so how do you get inventory reordering just right? Well, it can be far from a fairytale without the right wholesale inventory software in place to track and update the movement of inventory. Here’s why.

Tracking the movement of inventory (product in, product out) and being able to access historical sales information on specific products within a given timeframe is crucial to make data-driven decisions on how much of a specific product to reorder. For wholesale distribution businesses that track inventory manually using pen and paper, there are numerous updates that must occur on a daily basis. They must record the movement of inventory in log books and update the book whenever product is bought.  Now, for businesses that are just getting started and don’t have a lot of inventory or sales, this may be a quite simple process, however, as the business grows and sales volumes increase, these manual processes can become increasingly time-consuming and prone to human error.

This was the case for one of Blue Link’s customers, Predator Group. Their previous system lacked the automation capabilities needed to execute inventory management processes efficiently. Instead, staff had to track all inventory manually, via spreadsheet. Since nothing was updated automatically, staff had to spend hours each week painstakingly entering new information into these spreadsheets in order to stay on top of everything. This made reordering their cue components particularly challenging. “We found that we were always running out of components for our products,” says David Morrison, an accounting assistant at Predator Group.

With the help of Blue Link’s Wholesale Inventory Software, they were able to automatically assess which components need to be ordered and automatically generate purchase orders for these items. “It takes all the guesswork out of everything,” Morrison says. “It does what our staff used to spend hours and hours doing, and does it with the click of a button.”

Extensive Reporting Capabilities

Blue Link’s Wholesale Inventory Software utilizes robust reporting capabilities to pull historical sales data based on product within a given timeframe. You can easily pull sales information from within Blue Link to view data for the number of units presently on hand for individual or multiple items, units on backorder, units on purchase order and average monthly units sold.

So, let’s say you have 672 pink toothbrushes on hand and none are on backorder or currently associated with a PO. The average monthly units sold for this item is 1,976 and you want to know the amount to order for the next two months. One way automate this process is to live link the inventory data into an Excel template for tracking inventory reorder levels. The spreadsheet will automatically calculate the quantity you need for 2 months (as a recommended reorder level) at 3,952 based on the monthly average. The spreadsheet will also flag the item as LOW inventory since the amount on hand is not sufficient enough to fill future orders. You then have the option to push this reorder data back into Blue Link to ‘update reorder levels’ and automatically create the necessary POs.

Abnormal Sales

You can also flag abnormal sales so it doesn’t impact the monthly average projection. Let’s say a repeat customer decides to order 15,000 pink toothbrushes for the next two months (which is a one time order and will likely not happen again). You can flag this sale as abnormal so the system won’t take it into account when calculating average monthly units sold when you go to reorder the product.

Assessing the average number of a particular item sold within a given timeframe also allows you to identify products that are trending upwards beyond normal sales growth parameters and which products are slow moving. You can also determine and adjust reorder levels taking into consideration other factors such as seasonality, if applicable, and adjust/set replenishment rules like min/max levels for specific products.

 

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APIs, Webhooks and eCommerce Integration Explained

One of the main reasons for moving to a sophisticated inventory and accounting ERP solution is that it allows for real-time integration with other software applications and websites. For eCommerce businesses, this integration is a key component to running a successful online store. Think back to the last time you ordered something online.  How was the experience? Did you have any issues entering payment information? Did you receive a confirmation email with shipping and tracking information? Although the front-end eCommerce experience is important, back-end processes to actually pick, pack and ship orders is just as important. Therefore, integration between back-end inventory and accounting ERP software and your eCommerce site can dictate how quickly orders get to customers and as a result will have a large impact on your bottom line and customer satisfaction. Even though integration allows multiple applications and websites to communicate with one another, it does not mean that your company’s processes are automated. For there to be automation where multiple systems are involved, it will require some form of integration, but automation goes one step further and eliminates the need for human interaction.

ERP software is designed to be an all-in-one solution to manage back-end processes – from purchasing to receiving, to shipping and invoicing.  All-in-one does not mean that there won’t be any integration, and it is important to divide back-end processes from front-end so that adequate resources are assigned to each. Therefore, the right system will provide tools for real-time integration between ERP and webstores, as well as marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay and other software applications such as EDI. To better understand how integration and automation work with eCommerce sites and ERP, we first must explain some common terminology, namely the term API and Webhook. Understanding APIs and Webhooks – even at a high level – is important in order to make the right business and software decisions.

API

An API or “Application Program Interface” is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact and allows multiple, separate systems to communicate and share information with one another. Essentially when a software application has an API, it means that it has the ability to share data with any other application that also has an API. Theoretically, the possibilities are endless – APIs provide the ability to request and deliver information to other software applications, and therefore, any system with an API can communicate and share information with other solutions that also have an available and complete API. In practice, however, APIs are a bit more complicated.

Typically, APIs are made up of a number of subcomponents – communications, security and payload (payload being the actual data made available for export from the application in question). Therefore, the data you’re looking to automatically share between applications needs to be a part of the API payload for it to work. Breaking APIs down further, there are two commonly used API communication approaches: SOAP and REST.

SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol and has been around the longest. SOAP APIs are usually paired with application layer protocols such as HTTP and SMTP, and the payload is XML. SOAP APIs are more complex with stricter standards when it comes to security and how messages get sent.
REST stands for Representational State Transfer and is a newer API structure. REST APIs use simpler tools to communicate such as HTTP, and there are four HTTP methods with REST: GET, POST, PUT and DELETE. Unlike SOAP APIs where the payload is XML, the REST payload is XML, JSON or both.

When discussing APIs, it is important to note that not all APIs are created equal, and some are better than others.  The quality of an API will impact the level of integration and automation possible – a bad API can be the difference between complete automation and using workarounds and manual processes.  It is also important to note that a complete API means integration is absolute – you’re either fully integrated or you’re not at all.  Therefore, if integration via an API still requires manual intervention, the API in question is missing certain key features and it might be time to consider a more robust solution with a complete API and 100% integration capabilities.

There are 2 main types of APIs, public and private.

Public APIs make data available to the outside world and general public. A great example is Facebook’s open API which allows users to create an account on other external sites or applications using their Facebook login credentials.
Private APIs make data available between internal parties and are not available to the general public. This would include the example of an eCommerce site sharing information with an ERP solution.

APIs provide the technology to be able to automate and communicate data between applications.  Webhooks, on the other hand, dictate the configuration of how data moves between applications.

Webhook

A webhook is a developer term for describing a way of modifying the behavior of a web page or application through custom callbacks. Defined an as HTTP callback, webhooks are usually triggered by some sort of event, such as when an online visitor posts a comment to a blog.  The idea is that webhooks cause events on one site to invoke behavior on another. When the event occurs, the source site makes an HTTP request to the URL configured for the webhook. Webhooks will either push or pull data between applications.  Essentially APIs allow for the movement of data between applications, and webhooks control how much data and how often data moves in and out of an application. Webhooks are either defined as push or pull.

Push webhooks are triggered by a specific event and are then instantly received by the calling application
Pull webhooks are triggered at a scheduled time and are often set-up to send data between applications in batches at regular intervals

For eCommerce businesses who have an online webstore integrated with their back-end inventory and accounting ERP software, the ERP’s API and the webstore’s API allow information to move between both applications. The associated webhooks then dictate how much and how often data flows.  Order volume and frequency are two factors that help dictate webhook configuration between an ERP system and eCommerce site.  An eCommerce site that only generates a few orders in a day, will not necessarily need information to flow in real-time and may be able to get away with information being pulled in batches at regular intervals throughout the day.  A large, multi-national eCommerce site on the other hand, with high order volume and frequency, will need to make sure that order information is flowing directly into its ERP system in real-time in order to get the orders picked, packed and shipped in a timely manner.

With proper integration and complete APIs and webhooks, information automatically flows between business applications – which increases efficiencies and reduces the errors associated with manual intervention. When working to integrate your eCommerce store and ERP system it is important to define your integration goals and find a reputable integration partner.

With push webhooks, consider what information you want to be pushed in real-time and whether or not your order volume dictates real-time data flow. Important information to share between applications includes inventory quantities, pricing, and descriptions, order information, address and contact information, billing and credit card information etc.
With pull webhooks, consider how often you require information to be pulled between applications. Take into account average number of orders a day, peak shopping times, product seasonality and available resources.

Although access to API information is provided by the ERP vendor and eCommerce platform, making use of the API and setting up webhooks becomes the responsibility of an integration partner. Some integration companies charge a set cost for integration whereas others charge per transaction – or a combination of both. A good understanding of APIs and webhooks will help you find the right integration partner, one who has expertise in data movement and automation and a library of already set-up connectors to work with.

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Point of Sale Software vs. ERP Software

Point of sale (POS) refers to the physical location at which goods or services are purchased and transaction data is captured through electronic cash registers or other electronic devices such as magnetic card readers, optical and barcode scanners or some combination of these.
– Techopedia
As the definition implies, POS does not refer to the order entry process, but rather it refers to a physical location where customers can purchase goods and services. Traditionally POS transactions occur in retail brick and mortar stores, as well as service businesses such as restaurants, movie theatres, hair salons, mechanic shops etc.

A POS terminal is a physical electronic device used to capture payment cardholder data at the source of the transaction. A POS terminal will generally be able to read the information off of a customer’s credit or debit card and then process the payment, printing a receipt.

The distinction between POS software and other business management systems such as ERP is important, as although both may offer similar features, they are geared towards different markets. POS software is best suited for Business-To-Consumer (B2C) companies that manage walk-in traffic from customers who visit their location.  This can also apply to Business-To-Business (B2B) companies (such as wholesale distribution companies) if they operate as a cash and carry, have a showroom for walk-in customers or operate retail brick and mortar locations. However, when your primary business does not include walk-in customers, there are better software solutions available other than POS.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software refers to an all-in-one business management solution complete with features for inventory management, order entry and processing, accounting, warehouse management, contact management, purchasing, sales and financials, and more.  Many ERP systems will also provide optional components that are industry specific – for example, point of sale functionality and eCommerce tools.  The idea with ERP software is that its purpose is to replace all existing software packages and manage company data from a single database – including sales from multiple channels such as retail, eCommerce, tradeshows, wholesale and more. ERP with built-in POS functionality allows users to create orders and accept payment on the front end when dealing face-to-face with customers through POS terminals, as well as create orders and process payments on the back-end without the need for traditional POS equipment such as cash drawers, receipt printers, display poles and POS terminals. Even if as a wholesale business, you serve the occasional walk-in customer, it may not warrant full POS functionality.  Instead, employees can enter an order directly into the ERP system and then process payment in the form of a check, on account, through an invoice or via credit card.

eCommerce solutions provide customers the option to place orders and submit payment online and through mobile devices but are distinctly different from POS software. With eCommerce solutions, the customer is not face-to-face with the company and information is passed electronically.  When speaking with potential software vendors it is important to understand the different terminology to ensure you’re referring to the same functionality and system requirements.

Frequently, businesses looking for software to manage orders, decide to look at POS software, but as we discussed above this is not always the best decision. If you’re managing inventory in a warehouse, it is important to find a solution that has inventory capabilities, in addition to sales orders and other financial tools.  Focus on finding a software vendor that caters to your specific industry – such as wholesale and distribution – as opposed to starting the search based on functionality requirements.  A knowledgeable vendor will be able to provide insight into what specific features are required, and will get you thinking about how to manage all aspects of your business.

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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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