Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

How to Keep Your Data Safe from a Ransomware Attack

For as long as there has been the internet, there has also been malicious content and cybercriminals trying to steal sensitive information from people and organizations. And although there are measures you can implement to protect yourself against these types of attacks, it does not mean that they will stop, or that cybercriminals won’t continue to develop smarter and more advanced methods of infiltrating your data and networks. One type of attack that has been around for a couple of years now is ransomware. Recently, there has been an increase in ransomware attacks across the internet as hackers realize the potential profits from getting access to sensitive personal data, and company data that is typically vital for business continuity. Contributing to this increase is the fact that in some cases, it is more expensive to restore back-ups than to pay a ransom, which helps fuel the industry. Below we explain more about ransomware and how you can keep your data safe.

What is a ransomware attack?

A ransomware attack is a malicious attack on a person’s computer in order to gain access and exploit sensitive data. Typically, this attack is delivered via an email attachment which could be in the form of an executable file, an archive or an image. Email is one of the easiest ways for a cybercriminal to attempt to gain access to another person’s computer. Once a user opens the infected attachment, the malware is released into the user’s system. Another common method for distributing malware is through a website, where the malware is released into the system once a user visits the site.

One of the most dangerous parts of these types of cyber attacks is that the infection is not immediately apparent to the user. Instead, the malware operates undiscovered in the background until the computer or data-locking mechanism is deployed. Once this happens, a dialogue box appears informing the user that their data has been locked and will only be released if the user pays a ransom for it (hence the name, Ransomware). At this point in time the data has already been compromised and so it is too late to save it through any type of security measures.

If attacked, should you pay the ransom?

Paying the ransom is a dangerous solution and never recommended as it does not guarantee that the cybercriminal will release the data. Upon payment, there are also a number of issues that could go wrong accidentally.  For example, even if the hacker provides a key, there could be bugs in the malware that prevents the encrypted data from being recovered.  The bigger issue with paying a ransom, however, is that it does not address the issue as a whole and instead proves to cybercriminals that ransomware is an effective way to make money, providing them with incentives to continue their activities and find new ways to exploit systems.

Is it possible to decrypt files that were encrypted with ransomware?

Although highly unlikely, there are a couple of scenarios where it may be possible to recover data:

The hackers made a mistake in the implementation of the malware making it possible for other technical experts to break the encryption.
The malware developers feel sorry for their actions and decide to publish the keys or a master key in order to decrypt the data and repent.
Law enforcement agencies are able to seize a server with keys on it to then share with those who have been infected.
In rare cases, paying the ransom also works, but there is never any guarantee. As mentioned above, in this situation you’re also helping to support the growth of ransomware attacks and therefore are partly responsible for other people who get hit.

How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

There are several preventative measures you can take in order to guard against a ransomware attack.

1. First and foremost, trust no one. 

Any account – friend or foe, new business or old, large organizations or small – can be compromised and malicious links and attachments can come from the accounts of friends and family, colleagues, and people in your business network, and through social media and online gaming. As a precautionary measure, never open attachments in emails from someone you don’t know and be wary of suspicious email messages from people you do know.  Cybercriminals have become experts in distributing fake email messages that look very much like email notifications from trusted people, businesses and organizations. These messages lure recipients into a false sense of security, enticing them to click on a malicious link which then releases the malware into their system.

2. Backup! Backup! Backup!

Ensure you have a recovery system in place and always backup sensitive data so a ransomware infection can’t destroy your data forever. As a best practise, create two or more backup copies and distribute them between different storage methods such as (1) a cloud storage provider (using a service that makes an automatic backup of your files) and (2) a physical storage device such as a portable hard drive, thumb drive, extra laptop, etc.. Always disconnect these external storage devices from your computer when you are done. These types of backup files will also become valuable in case you ever accidentally delete a critical file or experience a hard drive crash

3. Use robust antivirus software.

The right antivirus software will help to protect your system from ransomware. When managing antivirus system settings, keep the ‘heuristic functions’ option turned on as this helps the system catch and detect samples of ransomware that have not yet been formally identified.

4. Ensure all the software on your computer is the most up-to-date.

Whenever your computer’s operating system (OS) or other applications release a new version, make sure to install it right away, and consider turning on the option of automatically installing updates.

5. Enable the ‘show file extensions’ option in the Windows settings on your computer.

The ability to quickly see file extensions makes it easier to spot potential malicious files. In general, be wary of file extensions such as ‘.exe’, ‘.vbs’ and ‘.scr’. Many cybercriminals make use of file extensions to disguise a malicious file with something you would recognize – such as a video, photo, or document.

6. In the event of an attack, disconnect from the internet or other network connections immediately.

If you discover a rogue or unknown process on your machine, disconnecting from any internet or other network connection such as your home WiFi will prevent the infection from spreading.

7. For business enterprise software solutions, consider moving to a cloud-based solution if you currently run software on-premises.

Implementing cloud-based enterprise software applications (such as Blue Link’s inventory and accounting ERP system) provides your business access to a team of experts to help keep your data safe. With cloud-based solutions, the software vendor is responsible for maintaining data back-ups, monitoring hardware and servers and dealing with IT maintenance. Services such as daily back-ups, storing data in multiple physical locations, data retention procedures, 24/7 monitoring for performance and security requirements, and implementation of the most advanced malware software ensures your data is safe and you can continue to run your business as usual.

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What to Expect at Dx3 2018! Exclusive eCommerce Opportunities [FREE floor passes]

Canada’s largest digital marketing, retail, and advertising conference, Dx3 is back and promises new session formats, interactive installation and provocative content at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, March 7 & 8. Having exhibited at the show the last couple years and experiencing the contagious energy and intriguing discussions about all things marketing and technology, we’re thrilled to be part of the show again in 2018! Blue Link will not only have a booth (#529), but we will be part of Tech Talk with a session on March 8 at 11:30 am – drop by and learn how to adopt back-end eCommerce software to manage your growing online business!

The show is conveniently located in the heart of the city and is truly a digital hub where businesses can take advantage of everything digital marketing has to offer. With a sea of 3,800 attendees, over 100 exhibitors and 60 plus impressive speakers including Amazon, Twitter, Google, Snapchat, Uber, Element AI and more – attendees get access to a variety of networking and learning opportunities all in one space.
Dx3-Canada’s Leading Technology, Digital, Marketing and Retail Event
Date: March 7-8, 2018, Booth #529
Place: Metro Toronto Convention Center, Toronto
Blue Link’s Tech Talk session will be on March 8 at 11:30 am!
Don’t Miss Out On FREE Floor Passes!
If you are planning on attending the show, make sure to check out the many programs such as Tech Talks, Deep Dives, Workshops and the always engaging, Amber Mac’s Tech Spotlight which we were a part of last year! We’re also looking forward to PayPal’s Startup Alley which is new this year and will showcase a selection of intriguing startups that are making waves in 2018.

There is certainly a lot happening at the show so it’s best to go in with a plan for the type of information you’re looking for and the speakers that you don’t want to miss! For most businesses looking to grow, the show is particularity useful to gain knowledge on how to break into the eCommerce market or optimize their webstore performance. It’s a great way to gain actionable insight into what goes into an eCommerce business beyond just setting up a Shopify or Amazon site.

Blue Link’s Tech Talk will focus on just this – how to take advantage of the latest technology that’s shaping behaviors across the marketplace such as back-end processes to optimize your eCommerce operations. We will be diving deep into the importance of back-end software to ensure orders are recorded and fulfilled in a timely and effective manner to keep up with consumer demand. We will also be discussing how to leverage back-end technology to break down restricting data silos and streamline the flow of information to keep ahead of the eCommerce game.

We will also be having exclusive one-on-one consultations at our booth to help you determine if a  back-end eCommerce solution is the right fit for your business. We’ll be asking questions around business processes like, how do orders get fulfilled? How do you manage your warehouse space and inventory to process orders as quickly and as accurately as possible? What happens to an order right after it is placed online?

For more information on Dx3, visit their website or register today! Floor passes are FREE until February 16th but we encourage you to grab an All-Access Pass for entry to the speaking sessions as well. Use code DX3BLUELINK to receive $100 off!

 

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3 Tips for a Successful Inventory Accounting Software Change in 2018

It’s hard to believe we are already over a month into 2018. For many businesses, January marks not only the beginning of the calendar year but also the beginning of the fiscal year which means new budgets, new projects and a clear plan for what’s ahead in 2018. If replacing introductory or legacy software is a part of your strategic plans for 2018, it is important to approach the project with the right mindset in order to be successful in making a change. One of the biggest mistakes company’s make when looking to upgrade back-end software systems is not dedicating enough time or resources to the project. The right inventory accounting software package will help grow your business and automate processes – and will ideally grow with your company over the next 5-10 years. That being said, it is important to dedicate the time to make the right decision.  Below we have some tips to help your business successfully change its inventory accounting software in 2018.

(1) Educate yourself on what products are available in the market.

Before making a significant investment, it is the best practise to do extensive research on available products and services in the market. This applies to both personal purchases (such as buying a car or a house) as well as business purchases (such as buying a new piece of equipment or software solution). Reading reviews, speaking with existing customers, researching brands, comparing prices and looking up substitute products is now commonplace among consumers and businesses when purchasing product of any dollar value – and according to research by Retail Drive, more and more consumers are searching for this information from mobile devices while in store. For purchases that don’t require you to visit a physical location, it is important to spend the time performing initial research before speaking with sales reps or calling to make inquiries about a product. When it comes to inventory accounting software, initial research ensures you’re not wasting your time evaluating solutions that are not a good fit. As a starting point and before engaging with software vendors, try to find information about the following:

Different Software Tiers

Will your business benefit most from an introductory level solution (such as QuickBooks) or an enterprise level solution (such as Blue Link ERP)? Not only will introductory and enterprise software vary in terms of functionality and cost, but the implementation, timeframe and sales process will also vary. There is no point in trying to compare systems across the different software tiers and therefore it is important to first identify which type of solution is best for your business. This will depend on factors such as functionality requirements, future strategic plans, and budget.

Cloud vs. On-Premises

Although cloud-based solutions are continuing to dominate the market, in certain circumstances it still makes more sense to implement enterprise software on-premises. If you’re unsure of the differences, do your research and make sure you understand all the implications of choosing one method over another – and consider working with a vendor that provides both options in order to be more flexible as your business evolves into the future.

Download our Cloud vs. On-Premises Costs Comparison eBook to Learn More.

Industry Specific Solutions and Functionality

Although for the most part, most wholesale and distribution businesses will operate the same, there are certain industries that require additional functionality. For example, the pharmaceutical distribution industry is heavily regulated by the DEA and FDA requiring specific functionality such as transaction reporting, lot tracking, and serialization. Working with a vendor that provides industry-specific functionality not only helps manage your specific business requirements, it also means that they can provide expert advice on how to succeed in a market where they have a lot of experience.

(2) Be mindful of timeframes.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Although I’m not sure Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was referring to software implementations when he coined this quote, the same applies when working on any project. In order to be successful, it is important to create a plan and stick to it. Implementing new software is not going to happen overnight. Not only because software vendors typically schedule projects anywhere from 3-5 months in advance, but because change management in an organization also takes time. No matter how user-friendly the software is, implementing a new inventory accounting solution requires significant change as employees learn to integrate the new software into their everyday processes and across departments.  Make sure you have a plan in mind, timeframes for accomplishing certain milestones and information on which employees are responsible for which aspects of the project.

(3) Invest in the right people.

Enterprise level inventory accounting software streamlines processes across all departments – from inventory, to accounting, to warehouse functions, to purchasing, to invoicing – and everything in between. In order to properly integrate new technology into everyday tasks, proper change management tactics need to be employed. The first step to ensuring employees are onboard for the change is to assign tasks and leadership roles to the right people.  Assign someone with decision making power as a project lead in order to ensure the project stays on track. This person needs to understand business operations across all departments, be engaged and take ownership of the project and have visible support from management and the final decision makers.

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How To Avoid Business Management Software Project Delays

Project delays of any kind can be frustrating, unproductive and costly, especially in a small business where budget and resources are limited. When it comes to a complex project with numerous moving parts like the acquisition of new business management software, things can quickly get off track and timelines can go awry for many reasons. Misaligned objectives, lack of communication between teams, budget setting are just some of the problems that can put your business management software search on the line.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid unforeseen delays to efficiently handle your business management software search.

Establishing a proper budget 

One of the key aspects many businesses have difficulty with is setting a proper budget for new business management software. Many simply start off with an arbitrary cost estimate based solely on what they feel they should spend, and not based on any real world-frame of reference or, they compare today’s costs to introductory systems such as QuickBooks, that they purchased numerous years ago.

So, how do you set a proper budget? First, you must determine the type of software your business can benefit from the most- introductory business management software systems, middle tier systems or top-tier systems. Each level of software provides different types of functionality and prices can range from $1,000 or less to millions of dollars for larger systems. Secondly, determine other factors that influence price such as the number of users needed, deployment method (hosted/cloud-based vs on-premises), maintenance requirements, implementation and training for employees – the cost of software will vary depending on the choices you make.

Understanding project complexity and establishing a realistic timeline

Acquiring new business management software is not like going to a grocery store to pick up a carton of milk. It is a complex process and cannot happen overnight. From data migration, employee training, customization requirements, software set-up, configuration to vendor availability, there are several steps to complete before a business can be up and running on new software which can often take months to complete depending on your unique situation and the vendor you choose to go with.

It is best to speak with a couple vendors and gain an understanding of realistic timelines instead of arbitrarily deciding on a timeframe. You also have to consider the human resources assigned to the project and their schedules/availability and when in the year is ideal to make the switch to new software – for example, if your peak season is in the summer months, it is probably not the best time to implement new processes.

Organizational strategy – prioritizing projects

One of the major reasons that businesses delay their business management software search is that other projects take priority over implementing new software. Acquiring new software can have numerous benefits to a company’s bottom line and improve the daily tasks of employees, and therefore, it is important to make the software implementation a priority and schedule other projects around the search (instead of vice versa). Investing the time on the search now can have a domino effect on the improvements of other projects due to the many benefits of new software such as automating processes, gaining greater visibility of operations, robust reporting capabilities and more.

Inadequate coordination/ lack of co-operation by teams

Even if everything else in your software search goes smoothly, the project is still at risk of being delayed if you don’t have the support of your employees. This is often one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, however, one way to tackle this barrier is to clearly illustrate the need to change and communicate the big picture.  It is crucial to make clear and demonstrate how new business management software can benefit not only the business but also make daily tasks easier.  Resistance from employees is less likely when they are clear about why the business will benefit from new software and how it will impact the longevity of the business.

Ineffective software search processes 

Having a plan in place as part of your software search will help ensure you spend the time properly evaluating vendors in order to make the right decision. It is also important to stick to timelines for a successful business management software search. Here are a few checklist items to ensure a smooth search.

Set priorities. This will be an on-going process throughout the search as you will need to determine timelines for each stage of the search in order to make it manageable.
Evaluate requirements. Perform an analysis of existing business processes and determine what works well with your current software and where gaps exist in functionality. Establish outline of functionality requirements and determine the required software tier/segment.
Research software vendors and create a shortlist. Many companies make the mistake of speaking with too many vendors and become overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the information and demos they have seen. It’s best to research vendors then create a very short list of your top picks before moving on to the later stages of the search!
Pull the trigger. Don’t be afraid to commit to a vendor. Have confidence that you have taken the necessary steps to make the right choice and don’t delay the implementation process. The sooner you give the okay to begin the implementation work, the sooner you’ll be up and running on the software.

Check out our  Software Buying Guide for more information on how to map out your search!

 

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The Best Software For Your Salon and Cosmetic Distribution Company

Every wholesale and distribution business requires business management software to run operations – from receiving inventory to picking, packing and shipping product to then invoicing the customer and everything in between. For small and start-up businesses, introductory accounting software and a combination of manual processes and spreadsheets are frequently used. However, for large organizations with a high order volume, industry-specific software provides additional functionality to better manage operations. This is where salon and cosmetic distribution ERP software comes into play. Although salon and cosmetic distribution businesses operate similar to any wholesale and distribution company, subtle differences in processes require specific functionality. Distribution ERP software is designed to replace introductory and standalone solutions as an all-in-one system. ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning software includes functionality for inventory management, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management, contact management and more, and all information is maintained in a single database. Distribution ERP for the salon and cosmetic industry will have additional features to accommodate specific business processes such as the features below.

Point of Sale
Many salon and cosmetic distribution companies sell product through multiple sales channels, including some form of retail operation. This includes selling product through membership only brick and mortar locations, cash and carry storefronts within a warehouse space, and at tradeshows while interacting with customers. Whichever combination of retail sales strategy is in use; point-of-sale software helps process orders at the source. When built into distribution ERP software, information across all channels is maintained in a single database so that inventory, order and sales information is accurate and up-to-date. POS functionality enables businesses to place orders and process payments while with the customer and then inventory can be taken at the same time, or delivered at a later date.

CRM and Contact Management
Maintaining good relationships with customers is imperative to garner repeat business, find new customers and grow your company. Regular communication and the ability to easily look-up important customer information such as sales history, shipping preferences, and billing addresses will enable you to process orders and ship inventory more quickly. Built-in contact management functionality enables businesses to store customer and vendor information including bill-to and ship-to addresses, follow-up dates, customer-specific notes and more. With advanced CRM or customer relationship management functionality, employees can better manage lead and prospective customers. Look for features such as the ability to set next action dates, assign sales reps, record notes, look-up sales history, manage marketing lists, view sales dashboards etc. CRM functionality is great for sales reps on the road and in-house customer service teams.

Other notable functionality important to the salon and cosmetic distribution industry includes credit card processing, easy order entry and invoicing capabilities, landed cost tracking (freight, import fees, etc.) and warehouse management. To find the right solution for your business, start with distribution ERP software and then look for vendors who have experience working with other salon and cosmetic distribution businesses.

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Blue Link ERP Debuts New User Interface with Improved Dashboard Views

New Blue Link ERP user interface includes a customizable homepage, user-friendly global navigation, and convenient dashboard toolbar.

VAUGHAN, Ont. – January 16, 2018 – Blue Link Associates, a leader in integrated accounting and inventory management ERP, announced the release of its latest user interface. The new design boasts a sleeker look and improved accessibility to key features and tools, and the star of the update- a new customizable homepage that gives users the option to look at key business data, custom reports, or any information (via URL).

 

“We’re constantly improving our system and functionality to meet the changing needs of our customers. Our goal is always to develop new versions that will enhance the user experience and help perform the tasks more efficiently whether the user is a warehouse manager, accountant, sales person etc. We value our customers’ feedback and it has played a pivotal part in deciding which frequently used functions in the system to develop/improve.  This intuitive new design is clear, consistent and allows for easier access to key information which will certainly increase productivity.” – Mark Canes, Blue Link President

Here is an exclusive look at Blue Link’s latest design.

Key Features:

Customizable homepage for consolidated views of business data 

Display important reports relating to sales, products, customers etc., for a consolidated view of performance upon logging in
Easily set homepage to a URL that has been defined by the System Master
Can choose from a list of URLs based on user and group permissions
Can set default homepage
Can turn off homepage altogether if you choose

Global menu improvements to accelerate navigation

Static left-side menu shows only the modules the user has permissions to

Can “pin” commonly used items
Up to 10 pinned items can be displayed and added or removed as you wish

Adjust the screen size with vertical and horizontal scroll depending on how much information you’re trying to see
Ability to collapse or adjust size of navigation, but still see numbered list of pinned items

A dashboard toolbar for quick access to functions

Static top-right toolbar allows for convenient access to useful buttons such as:

Windows- shows which screens are currently open, ability to easily navigate between screens
Help – quick link to Blue Link’s help site/knowledge base
Pin function to quickly pin most-used/favorite screens
Data sorting buttons –  ascending and descending
User preferences – see below

Better control of what you see with User Preferences 

 Ability to show or hide homepage

Choose a default homepage
Can only see what homepage options you have permission to

Arrange sequence of pinned items
Change color schemes

Save time with search function 

Includes results for all modules/screens which you have permission to
Allows for wildcard searches

About Blue Link Associates: Blue Link ERP provides small to medium size wholesalers and distributors an integrated accounting and inventory management ERP software. As an all-in-one system, Blue Link helps businesses streamline and automate their processes by providing inventory management, accounting, order entry, warehouse management, and customer relationship management. In addition, Blue Link provides various optional components such as eCommerce integration, barcode scanning, POS, lot tracking and landed cost tracking, and can be customized in order to meet the specific needs of clients.  Blue Link ERP is offered as both a hosted (cloud-based) and on-premises solution.

If you’d like to find out if Blue Link is the right fit for your business, please contact us for a free 15-minute consultation.

Follow us on social for the latest updates!

     

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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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