Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Blue Link ERP Wins Tech Company of the Year Award Presented by Tech Connex

Provider of inventory and accounting ERP software recognized as leader in technology industry

VAUGHAN, Ontario— Blue Link Associates is proud to announce that it has been named the winner of the Technology Company of the Year Award presented by Tech Connex in association with the Markham Board of Trade’s 28th Annual Business Excellence Awards.

The annual award presented by Tech Connex celebrates the Technology Company that has demonstrated leadership, success and outstanding quality service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The Tech Connex Technology Leadership Awards are highly competitive, and nominations include businesses from one of North America’s fastest growing technology hubs. To qualify for the Technology Company of the Year Award, nominees must be able to demonstrate innovation and leadership in the technology sector, company and market growth, community involvement, other technology achievements and recognition and a unique offering that benefits the technology ecosystem. Nominations for the Technology Leadership Awards are solicited from the Markham Board of Trade, members of Tech Connex and the surrounding technology community. Other award categories recognized at the annual event include Business Employer of Excellence, Entrepreneurship, Global Business Excellence, High Quality and Service and Innovation. Finalists are judged by a committee of community leaders and awards are presented at an annual gala in Markham.

Blue Link ERP has been helping wholesale and distribution businesses grow and automate processes for the past two decades with its proprietary inventory and accounting ERP software. As a leader in technology innovation, this past year has seen Blue Link continue to build out its’ pharmaceutical specific functionality, becoming the first every ERP with CSOS functionality certified by the DEA. In addition, Blue Link ERP has been able to come up with innovative solutions by working with and mentoring college students to develop custom programming for a mobile app and through integration with partner systems such as the electronic document management solution, DocuWare.

“We are very honored to be named Technology Company of the Year,” says Mark Canes, President and CEO of Blue Link. “This award represents the hard work and dedication of all Blue Link employees, not only to developing quality software and continuously providing innovative solutions but also to excellent customer service. We would not be where we are today without the help of our amazing team and the great relationships we build with our customers”.

In addition to being named Technology Company of the Year, Blue Link ERP has received a variety of other awards and recognition in the technology industry over the years. 2018 marked the release of Blue Link’s latest software version, V14, which includes advanced dashboard views, a customizable homepage and enhanced global navigation. This release comes as a direct result of customer feedback, and research and design from Blue Link’s internal management and development team. Blue Link has also been recognized as a top software and technology provider in the food and beverage industry for 5 years in a row by Food Logistics, and members of the Blue Link team are regularly recognized as being thought leaders in the industry with various awards from Explore WMS and ERP Focus for written content. When Blue Link is not busy developing software, the company actively engages in supporting those in need in the Vaughan, Toronto and global community through various charity initiatives.

About Tech Connex: Tech Connex is the only member-directed industry association in the GTA entirely focused on the cost-effective growth of technology businesses and their people through the sharing of best practices, business insights and bright ideas. For more information visit https://techconnex.ca/.

About Blue Link Associates: Located in Ontario, Canada, Blue Link ERP provides all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP software for small to medium size businesses and is best suited for those in the wholesale and distribution industry. As an all-in-one solution, Blue Link ERP helps businesses reduce manual work and automate processes by providing tools for inventory management, accounting, order entry, warehouse management, contact management and advanced reporting. In addition, Blue Link includes various optional components such as point of sale, lot tracking, landed cost tracking, barcode scanning and eCommerce integration with sites such as Shopify and Amazon. Learn about why more and more businesses are choosing Blue Link as their trusted technology partner.

 

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What You Missed at the 2018 HDA Traceability Seminar: Important DSCSA Guidance

Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed in this blog are based on the author’s best understanding of the updates from HDA’s 2018 Traceability Seminar and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of the industry in whole. 

Blue Link was honored to once again sponsor and attend this year’s Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2018 Traceability Seminar this past October in Washington, D.C. As with the previous year, the show was a mecca for over 500 key players in the pharmaceutical world including pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, 3PLs, and service providers – all of whom were looking to gain a better understanding of various industry compliance and regulatory updates.

For Blue Link, the show is an important one to attend to ensure that the continuous development of our all-in-one pharmaceutical software is in-line with the changes, updates, and improvements happening in the industry, especially with DSCSA guidance, in order to provide a relevant and long-term solution to our clients. We thank those who stopped by our table to learn more about our software – we enjoyed meeting you!

If you missed the show, we’ve got you covered. Take a look below for our recap of critical industry updates.

Key Takeaways:

Results of 2018 Manufacturer Readiness Survey 

For the third year, the HDA Research Foundation conducted its annual “Manufacturer Serialization Readiness Survey” aimed to provide insight into the readiness of pharmaceutical manufacturers and repackagers to meet the product serialization requirements defined in the DSCSA. It also provides insight on when distributors can expect to begin receiving serialized product and associated data. The survey was taken by 57 manufacturers and 9 repackagers many of which are the top players in the industry. Here are the key findings:

71% indicated that wholesale distributors are currently receiving serialized products. 5% indicated distributors will start receiving serialized product after Nov. 27, 2018 (DSCSA deadline)
Only 61% of manufacturers are ready to serialize 100% branded products before November 27, 2018
Only 48% of manufacturers are ready to serialize 100% generic products branded products before November 27, 2018
88% of manufacturers asked, plan to aggregate units to case between 2018 and 2023
Only 40% of suppliers plan to start sending EPCIS data by Nov. 27, 2019 (22% do not know when they will start sending data)

It was made clear that there will be no more deferring of the DSCSA serialization requirements that require both manufacturers and repackagers to provide product serialization by Nov. 27, 2018.

2019 Saleable Returns Requirement

Effective November 27, 2019, distributors are required to verify if a product being returned can be re-sold. In order to do this, they must verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, for each sealed homogeneous case of such product or, if such product is not in a sealed homogeneous case, verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, on each package.

58.8 million units a year are processed as saleable returns for the US Pharmaceutical Industry

94% of returns are saleable

Currently, there are two preferred options proposed for verification of saleable returns

The manufacturer sends product unit identifiers to the respective distributor for verification
Verification Router Service (VRS) where a distributor query is routed to appropriate manufacturer database

It is expected that there will be multiple Verification Router Services and processes used that will need to communicate with each other
There is a GS1 Standard in development for Verification Requests

DSCSA Guidance and Updates 

Attendees were also informed that the below DSCSA guidance related resources were updated by the FDA and are now available. We urge you to read through them as they cover important information.

Identifying Trading Partners Under the DSCSA

Key takeaways include detailed definitions of the various pharmaceutical trading partners, licensure and reporting requirements for distributors and 3PLs and how to identify trading partners.

Product Identifier Requirements Under the DSCSA
Product Identifiers Under the DSCSA

This draft guidance is provided to help manufacturers and repackagers understand the requirements to affix or imprint a product identifier on a product and homogenous case they produce. It discusses what products are subject, barcoding requirements, and various Q&A’s.

Definitions of Suspect Product and Illegitimate Product for Verification Obligations

This is a must-read for all involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain as it provides very specific definitions of “suspect product” and “illegitimate product” and offers an interpretation of the various terms used to determine if a product is “suspicious” or “illegitimate”.

Standardization of Data and Documentation Practices for Product Tracing

A key takeaway of this document is that “Wholesale distributors, dispensers, and repackagers generally must not accept ownership of a product unless the previous owner provides the transaction information, transaction history and transaction statement prior to or at the time of the transaction”.

Waivers, Exceptions, and Exemptions from the Requirements of Section 582 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

This guidance is provided to help the pharmaceutical industry with the process to request a waiver or exception of a product they feel cannot comply or should not have to comply with the product identification requirements set out by the DSCSA.

2018 Barcode Assessment

This past May, the Big 3 Distributors scanned over 37,000 barcodes at the unit level which revealed 3 times the improvement over the 2017 assessment. However, there are still a few issues to be addressed:

21% of the industry has adopted the use of 2D barcodes containing the 4 data elements required by DSCSA on packages and 15% on homogeneous cases
There will be no more FDA extensions for affixing 2D barcodes on units
Placement of barcodes on packages and cases is still an issue:

Barcodes are too close to each other
Not enough white space around barcodes
Placing labels with barcodes too close to the edge on cases
Percentage of Serial Numbers in the 2D barcodes lower than the other elements (only about three-quarters have serialization element)

There is also a high percentage of expiration dates that are not being included in human readable info, even if they are embedded in 2D barcodes.

GS1 Standards

The use of GS1 Standard of EPCIS 1.2 has been adopted by the US pharmaceutical industry for DSCSA interoperability. GS1 US also released the following whitepaper which offers an overview of the progress of 2D barcodes on unit products: 2018 Update: Implementation of DSCSA Serialization Requirements. GS1 is also offering conformance testing for US Trading Partners.

Blue Link’s All-In-One Pharmaceutical Software

As a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor, it is tricky, to say the least, to keep up with these changing rules and deadlines. It is our objective at Blue Link to ensure our solution remains relevant as these changes take place. As we have always done, we will continue to monitor the industry and update our system to meet the changing needs of the pharmaceutical industry. Our current pharmaceutical functionality includes:

Lot Tracking (Traceability)
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Landed Cost Tracking
Secure Online Order Portal
Serialization
Order Entry and Invoicing
Revision Control
Inventory Control
AR/AP, GL, Bank Management etc.
National Drug Code (NDC) Number Tracking
Contact Management / CRM
Suspicious Order Monitoring (SOM)
Transaction History Management
Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS)

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The True (and Scary) Costs of a Food Recall

Lost sales, a disruption to operations, reputation damage…the true costs of a food recall are quite scary for any food distribution business. Not only do you have to worry about contaminated food products, but food sensitivities and dietary restrictions make it more important than ever for manufacturers, distributors and retailers to properly manage, track and label products to help consumers make informed and safe decisions. Customers need to be able to trust that your business is taking all precautionary measures to prevent a food recall from happening.  However, even if you take the proper steps to prevent a recall, your business is still at risk of buying and selling contaminated or mislabelled product from your suppliers. You might not be able to entirely prevent a food recall, but you can implement proper food traceability software to reduce the negative impacts given the worst case scenario. Proper food traceability software tracks inventory across all sales channels and throughout the entire supply chain. Although these types of systems are not cheap, the time and cost savings your business will find from managing a recall when you have a proper solution in place, far outweigh the actual system costs. Below we explore the true costs associated with a product recall.

Direct & Obvious Costs

The systems and processes in place at food facilities will significantly impact the management of a food recall, but in general, the following direct costs will apply across the board no matter the size or operations of a business.

The costs associated with the disruption of managing normal day-to-day tasks as a result of a product recall
The costs associated with alerting the appropriate stakeholders, partners, regulatory agencies and customers of the recall
The costs of managing the communication and logistics required to physically remove the affected product from the supply chain
The cost of investigating the source of the recall and future prevention – including working with partners and suppliers to identify issues and causes, examining inhouse processes and equipment, and reviewing existing recall prevention plans

Penalties & Fines from Regulatory Bodies

Whether you operate in Canada, the US or other parts of the world, there are certain regulatory bodies that exist to help prevent and control product recalls. These organizations have strict laws and guidelines for the safe management of food product and require that businesses adhere to certain industry standards to reduce the chances of a food recall. Failure to comply with regulations and a recall event itself may lead your business to pay hefty fines and dedicate countless hours working through an audit and compliance process, putting specific measures in place to reduce the chances of future issues. Depending on the severity of the incident, US FSMA laws and USDA regulations may inflict specific penalties such as:

Issuing advisory letters
Initiating legal action including seizure of property or sanctions
Mandating a recall of all product at risk
Suspending a facilities operation

Consumer & Supplier Suits

According to numbers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, there were a total of 456 food recalls in the US in 2017, 218 of which were due to allergenic ingredients not being properly labelled. With more than one recall a day, the costs to the industry and individual businesses is high. If your business is involved in the distribution and sale of  the contaminated food product, you’re at risk of a lawsuit. The costs associated with legal action include attorney fees, court costs, settlement fees and loss of productivity as you deal with the ramifications outside of your normal responsibilities. Depending on the severity of the case, you may also be required to pay out damages to those consumers affected. Aside from the costs associated with fighting lawsuits and litigation, the negative impact these actions will have on your business reputation might be impossible to overcome.

Lost Sales

In the event of a recall, manufacturers must stop production and suppliers and retailers must pull product from shelves resulting in lost sales from the contaminated product. However, as word of the recall reaches the ears of consumers, it can change their purchasing habits and trust in your brand. The way in which you deal with a product recall can dictate whether or not consumers decide to continue to purchase your other product lines as well.

Insurance Costs

Recall insurance is designed to protect assets if a recall does occur, however, as with any insurance policy different plans will cover different costs. It’s important to determine what is covered under your plan and how a recall will affect your premiums. If you don’t have insurance, spend the time to learn about your options and make sure you determine ahead of time what is involved in working through a recall with your insurance provider.

Damage to Brand Reputation

Damage to your company’s brand reputation is the biggest factor in whether your business can survive a recall. Not only will a product recall lead your customers to stop the purchase of the product involved in the recall, but it can also lead them to not trust your other product lines as well. Brand reputation is your primary asset – it represents how you do business, your values, and who you are. The way in which you handle a recall and the processes you have in place to do so will indicate to customers whether or not you care about their well-being and safety. The ability to quickly manage a recall and the implementation of sophisticated food traceability software and food safety procedures will let customers know that you have put time and energy into preventing a recall and have the ability to quickly manage the recall process.

For more information about Blue Link’s food traceability software, watch the demo video below.

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How Unhappy Customers Can Benefit Your Wholesale Distribution Business

Unhappy customers are inevitable when it comes to your wholesale distribution business…think about how many times you have been one yourself. It’s bound to happen and it’s a natural reaction to take negative feedback to heart. However, before you go into defense mode and potentially make the issue worse, the old saying “when life hands you lemons….” goes a long way. Unhappy customers are one of the biggest tools you have in your arsenal, especially if you have a small business that is in the early stages of growth. The winning formula is to extract the truths behind negative comments and analyze them to seek out opportunities to improve your product and services.

Mining negative comments for these truths will show you the path you need to take to improve your business. Here’s a quick exercise. Think about a negative comment you’ve received about your business recently. How often does the same complaint arise? What truth is the customer trying to tell you, meaning what have they identified that is lacking from your product or services? Is this a reasonable or feasible request or suggestion? How are you going to solve the problem? And, have you addressed the comment and replied to the customer? While you can’t be everything to everyone, these questions are important to ask especially when you start to see commonalities in issues.

When it comes to wholesale distribution businesses, there are numerous common complaints that are often related to inventory and shipping. Things like shipping errors, packing the wrong products, running out of stock etc. are all too common. If your business is experiencing similar problems, it means that you are lacking the proper technology and processes. More and more businesses are investing in technology to counteract negative feedback. Implementing a true distribution inventory software can not only improve visibility of your inventory and finances and reduce errors, but it also helps to meet your ultimate goal – customer satisfaction.

Below are examples of common customer complaints for wholesale distribution businesses and ways to improve your business and retain your customers with the right distribution inventory software.

“I was shipped the wrong products”

When dealing with large volumes of inventory in your wholesale distribution business, it is extremely difficult to keep track of items without proper technology. It is best practice to use barcode scanners for verification – implementing the right distribution inventory software with verification scanning allows employees to cross-check against pick slips to ensure they are packing the correct items.  When products are barcoded and entered into the system, employees can quickly view information such as product code and description stored within the database. And, the inventory count is automatically updated in the system once an item is picked so pickers will have always have access to real-time inventory information.

More robust barcode scanning functionality such as mobile scanning is paired with hardware such as iPhones and iPods to further automate this process.  Handheld picking allows users to itemize all products to pick and details how employees should go through the warehouse from top to bottom in the fastest order according to bin and shelf locations.

Now, when there are instances of an item missing from a shipment, that also reflects poorly on your business. Blue Link distribution inventory software provides a pack-to-container screen which is an additional layer of accuracy, especially when there are multiple orders going to the same ship-to location. Users can review items picked against the sales order on the same screen, view how many packing boxes and containers are added to the shipment, which items are already packed and which items are missing.

“Shipping is too slow and too expensive”  

A true distribution inventory software will not only be able to integrate with common shipping carriers such as FedEx and UPS but will also offer integration with rate shopping applications to help your business get the best shipping rates, and in turn, save costs for your customers. Once an order is packed and boxed, you can enter the size and weight of the shipment into the system which will automatically populate a list of available carrier services and their rates and estimated delivery times.

Keep in mind that fast delivery times also rely on how fast the order is picked and packed in the warehouse – the sooner orders leave the facility, the faster they’ll reach your customers. For example, Blue Link distribution inventory software provides specific functionality for you to pick, pack and ship orders quickly and allows users to see requested ship dates to prioritize which orders get picked first. With the system’s warehouse shipping functionality, once an order has been picked and packed, you can easily select the order to ship, rate shop with common carriers, enter shipment details, print the documents required to accompany the order, and mark the order as shipped.

“The item I want is not in stock”

This is one of the most common issues for wholesale distribution businesses without proper software and leads to unhappy customers and losing business to your competitors. Throughout the day, your business is moving large volumes of inventory in and out of your warehouse(s) and product is being allocated to orders, so the chance for stock running out is high. When you do run out of product, your business misses out on making sales which directly impacts your revenue and bottom line. Implementing a true distribution inventory software provides functionality to manage out of stock items such as reorder management. With Blue Link, reordering stock is automated – multiple methods are in place to determine order levels and quantities with auto-creation of purchase orders to ensure you always have the right amount of product in stock at all times.

“Poor customer service”

As technology evolves at lightning speed and brands leverage data to create personalized, value-add experiences, your customers’ expectations of your interactions with them are sky high. According to Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of those surveyed agreed that customer service is one of the top deciding factors influencing brand choice and loyalty. And, 61% of respondents have switched brands due to poor customer service. Your business cannot afford to not know your customers.

Having a system in place to track customer satisfaction over time so you can consistently give better service is critical to business success and longevity. More and more businesses are investing in technology to manage customer experiences. When choosing a distribution inventory software, make sure it has all-in-one functionality that not only provides accounting, inventory and warehouse management but also has the functionality to manage your customers and track their interactions with your business which is referred to as customer relationship management (CRM).

Going back to the Microsoft report, 75% of the respondents expect customer service representatives to have visibility into previous interactions and purchases. Customers ranked a representative’s lack of knowledge about their issue and having to repeat themselves as the two most frustrating aspects of a poor service experience. Having CRM functionality allows businesses to track communications with customers, keep up-to-date with their information such as shipping addresses, email addresses, phone numbers etc., log all communications with them, automate email responses etc.

Follow-up with customers!

Most of the time, customers might leave unhappy, but do not say a word about it to you. This is dangerous to your business because they have the power to spread negative criticism about your company to their network and online. It is critical to follow-up with customers not just when they purchase from you but on a periodical basis to ensure they are still happy with your products and services. Not abandoning them after the sale will make them feel appreciated and have their voices heard. Think of your own experiences being a customer.

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Analyzing the Pain Points Behind Your Software Search

You might have heard the phrase, “the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem”, and it’s no surprise – this phrase was coined by Sandler Training, one of the most popular sales training methodologies in use by high-tech companies around the world. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the teachings of Sandler, this phrase is important as a salesperson and customer when searching for new enterprise software.  The philosophy encourages salespeople to dig a bit deeper when evaluating a company’s pain points and reasons for shopping to uncover more details about the search, however, as a business starting the software search, there are benefits to reflecting on the above as well. By spending the time determining a detailed list of reasons for your software search before you speak with vendors, you will be able to prioritize what matters most in deciding on a solution to help narrow down options. Below are a couple of pain points we often uncover during the sales process to help get you thinking.

Pain Point #1: Our existing software is outdated.

Although legacy software itself can be an issue in terms of system aesthetics, the real issues with an outdated solution go much farther than that. Legacy software implies a system built on old, outdated technology which itself leads to various other problems. Working with outdated technology (such as Windows XP) means your software is no longer compatible with modern solutions. This makes it impossible to update hardware, it restricts your company’s ability to integrate with other applications (such as eCommerce platforms) and it makes training new employees more difficult. What happens if you need to replace a computer? Or if one of your suppliers requires EDI? Legacy software restricts your ability to perform your day-to-day tasks and grow the business.  

Pain Point #2: Our existing software is no longer supported.

When your software is no longer supported, this leads to a myriad of other issues. Not only will you not be able to fix any issues or bugs in the software, but software that is no longer supported means it is also no longer getting updates. As a result, your business will miss out on any new features or technology advances. Trying to use software that is no longer supported can result in creating manual processes and workarounds when you do run into a bug issue –  exactly the types of processes that software is designed to eliminate. Software that is no longer supported also puts your business at risk of losing sensitive business data, not to mention the risk of the system crashing. If your software goes down without support during normal business hours, it can leave your employees stuck – or worse – it can leave your customers and suppliers in the dark.

Pain Point #3: Our system does not have any inventory management functionality.

Many introductory software systems do not include functionality for inventory management. Even if they do, it is for very small businesses with a low volume of SKUs and transactions. However, that’s the point. Introductory software is designed to be the first solution in use to get your business up and running. Then, once your business grows and order volume increases, you can begin to look at more advanced inventory management and accounting software. Without the right inventory management features, your business is stuck managing manual processes, entering data across multiple, standalone solutions and creating workarounds to manage orders. Lack of proper inventory management features can lead a business to hire additional staff just to keep track of inventory and organize the warehouse – a much more expensive solution than implementing the right software when you factor in salary costs, benefits, training and employee satisfaction. A lack of sophisticated inventory management software leaves your business at risk of selling product you don’t have, losing money associated with the holding costs of stocking products that you can’t sell, a high number of RMAs due to shipping errors and ultimately, unhappy customers.

Paint Point #4: Our software does not have good, customizable reporting features.

Reporting functionality is more than just making stakeholders and management happy. It’s getting an understanding of business health, threats and opportunities in real-time. Although most businesses can benefit from standard reports in terms of profit and loss statements, top-selling products etc. every business will have unique needs when it comes to reporting. Getting access to information in real-time allows your business to quickly and easily make decisions about purchasing, sales, pricing and more. Without the ability to get insight into the operations of your business, you could be leaving money on the table. Are you purchasing and holding inventory that is costing you money? Are your salespeople meeting their quotas? Which products do not have high enough margins to make it worth your while?

Pain Point #5: Our software is not integrated with our website.

Even if your business is set-up to sell online and you have a high-performing website, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Without proper integration to back-end inventory and accounting systems, time and resources are wasted manually entering data, checking for inventory and updating multiple, standalone systems. Complete, 2-way integration means information flows bi-directionally, and you only ever need to update and manage one database of information. Inventory and pricing are accurate across all sales channels and orders are managed from a single solution to help optimize the picking, packing and shipping process.

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Join Blue Link at HDA’s Traceability Seminar and Get Your Pharmaceutical Regulations Questions Answered!

Blue Link will be sponsoring and exhibiting at The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2018 Traceability Seminar for the second time on October 17th to the 19th in Washington, DC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with HDA, it is a national organization representing primary pharmaceutical distributors with a goal to “create and exchange industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain”. The HDA are the go-to industry resource to learn about pharmaceutical regulations and to keep up-to-date with changing industry compliance.

This year’s show will educate attendees about pharmaceutical regulations in terms of helping the entire supply chain achieve full implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). For many in the pharmaceutical business, whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor or even compliance personnel, there are numerous lingering questions regarding the requirements of the approaching 2023 DSCSA deadline – the show will share available resources, tools, and guidance on a range of DSCSA related topics such as:

Serialization and traceability requirements of each individual product unit to further preserve the safety and security of the healthcare supply chain
Discussions on data storage requirements and methods for traceability purposes
An update on the progress of the industry on meeting the DSCSA deadline including any updates and timeline changes
Implementation of GS1 Standards to enable products to efficiently and accurately move through the supply chain
Discussions on verification methods to ensure illegitimate product do not get into the supply chain to comply with the 2019 saleable returns requirement

The seminar will also feature a DSCSA update from Ilisa B. G. Bernstein, JD, PharmD, Deputy Director, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Get your questions answered face-to-face!

There will be a new addition to the seminar agenda this year – attendees will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in an interactive workshop session on the last day of the show. As an attendee, you will be able to discuss your unique DSCSA and other pharmaceutical regulations related challenges with others and work through some of the hurdles and plans for implementation for your business under the guidance of industry experts.

 

 

 

 

Visit Blue Link at Table #23 to learn about all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP

Blue Link’s all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP software caters to both medical and pharmaceutical distributors/wholesalers requiring advanced inventory management and traceability functionality. We are in the process of testing our Serialization functionality which will be available to Blue Link customers in November 2018. We take pride in our product and continuously improve industry specific functionality for our customers as changes occur in the industry.

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

Sophisticated product tracking to meet industry standards/regulations
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Transaction History Management
Automatic printing and emailing of T3 reports
Secure B2B Online Ordering Portal for convenient online ordering (including Schedule II)
Integrated CSOS and ERP functionality sold as one system (the first of its kind!)
Suspicious Order Monitoring
License management
Lot number and serial number integration
Integration with 3rd party applications such as Trxade
Business process functionality such as inventory management, warehouse management and, robust accounting features and more

If you have a question for us ahead of time or would like to schedule a date/time to speak with us at the show, please email our Pharmaceutical ERP Software expert:

 

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert -Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com

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Warehouse Organization Tips for Small Businesses

As a wholesale distribution business, inventory management is the backbone of your company. To be successful, you need to maintain inventory levels to meet demand, you need to be able to find, pick, pack and ship the right product to the right customer, and you need to provide excellent customer service and fast shipping times. However, inventory management is only one piece of the puzzle. A properly organized warehouse equipped with the right tools is the first step to efficient inventory management. This is especially important in today’s market when dealing with competitors like Amazon which have the resources to efficiently manage multiple, large distribution hubs with robotic technology, WMS systems and a plethora of staff. However, even with limited resources, small businesses can still optimize their warehouse space to provide the same efficiencies as larger businesses to get product out the door quickly and efficiently. In fact, small businesses are frequently able to modify processes to increase efficiencies a lot quicker than larger organizations. Below we have included some tips for warehouse organization for your small business.

Software. First and foremost, without the right inventory management software, your warehouse will never be as efficient as it could. Inventory management software will help automate the receipt, picking, packing and shipping of orders and allow your business to easily keep track of inventory in real-time. This eliminates the need for manual inventory checks when trying to find product for an order. With inventory and accounting ERP software, not only is inventory information available in real-time, but your company can also manage all accounting, sales, invoicing, purchasing and customer service processes as well. Inventory availability is visible while creating a sales order so that you never sell product you don’t have. If product is out of stock, the system will show you if it’s currently on back-order and if not, allow you to create a purchase order directly from the sales order.

Organization. A lot can be gained from proper warehouse organization. Whether you operate a small or large warehouse, easy access to products is key to picking more quickly and efficiently and getting orders out the door to customers faster.  Some tips for better warehouse organization include:

Store fast-selling, high-volume items closest to packing stations and organize items front to back based on sales volume and frequency.
Ensure the warehouse is clean and organized so that product is easy to find and always in the right spot.
Consider color-coding aisles and racks to easily find product and make sure to label all bin and shelf locations for better inventory management. Going one step farther, when dealing with multiple, similar products or products that come in different sizes, consider also implementing color schemes to help differentiate items.
Implement proper processes for the receipt and put-away of inventory items. Employees should be able to check your inventory management system for a real-time update on inventory availability – without having to waste time wandering the warehouse looking for product.

Picking. Each warehouse will have a different picking method depending on the size of the warehouse, the number of employees and the types of products being sold.  To help with warehouse organization, your business needs to find the right picking style. This decision will help dictate warehouse layout including bin and shelf locations and aisle set-up. The most common picking styles include:

Individual/discrete picking where one employee picks an entire order, one line at a time, before moving onto the next order.
Consolidated/batch picking where an employee picks the same SKU for multiple orders. Consolidated or batch picking can further be broken down into zone and wave picking.

Barcode Scanning. The use of barcode scanning technology can also aid in the picking, packing and shipping process. With wireless barcode scanning, warehouse staff scan items at the source during the pick process to quickly identify any pick errors and to verify the product on the order while picking and packing items into boxes. Mobile picking also helps to reduce travel time in the warehouse by directing employees to pick based on the most efficient path according to bin and shelf locations. Lastly, wireless picking enables the use of electronic pick slips which reduces paper consumption and the element of human error associated with manual, handwritten pick tickets. Even if you do not have mobile picking, barcode scanning in the form of verification scanning set-up at packing stations helps to double check against the order and reduce any packing errors.

Packing. Verification barcode scanning aids in the packing process and reduces the risk of sending customers the wrong product. Inventory management software with shipping functionality allows warehouse staff to pack-to-container to accurately track specific product. Integration with shipping carriers reduces the need to manually re-enter customer and tracking information and provides tools to rate shop to find the best shipping price.

Even if you don’t have a lot of resources, your small warehouse can still compete against larger distribution companies with the right systems and processes in place. A well-organized warehouse space with the right back-end inventory management and accounting software reduces the need to hire additional staff when order volume increases. Maintaining and managing one software solution is much cheaper than paying more salaries and having to manage employee training, benefits, etc.

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The Importance of Evaluating the People Behind ERP Software [Meet the Blue Link Team]

Investing in new ERP software and the plethora of make-it or break-it decisions that come with the search process is a huge undertaking for any wholesale distribution business, regardless of size or budget. With so much time and resources dedicated to the project, you want to ensure that the ERP software vendor you choose will be with your business for the long haul and not just a temporary fix that you’ll just have to replace in a couple of years. So, how can you tell if a vendor can handle the hurdles that come with time such as company growth,  organizational structure/employee changes and any changes in your industry?

Think of it this way. When you invest in a new software solution, you’re not just investing in the software itself…you’re investing in the people behind the software as well. The type of people they are and the synergy between them and your business will determine how long the software will last and how fast your company is able to grow. Are they innovative individuals motivated to continuously improve their product or do they want a quick sale? Are they willing to learn about your unique software needs or more interested in meeting a quota? While the software functionality itself should take top priority in the search, it’s also important to make note of the people you speak with at the company and how they interact with you and your team to determine a true fit.

Do they understand your growth?

During your ERP software search, many vendors will tell you that their systems are “scalable.” Most of the time, what they mean by this is that they provide upgrades every once in a while and are constantly improving their software, which is great. However, the best vendors will not only offer scalable software they will also take the time to really learn about your business and your pace of growth to offer guidance for how you can get the most out of the system for years to come.

Dedicated consultants in the organization will work with you long after the implementation of the system to determine if you and your team are utilizing all the available functionality to its full potential and doing so to facilitate and accommodate the growth of your business. Frequently these individuals will provide insight and advice on implementing advanced features such as eCommerce integration or integration with popular marketplaces like Amazon or eBay that will keep you ahead of the competition.

The ongoing,  bi-directional relationship you have with the consultants of your software vendor is extremely important and you should work together to set growth goals for your business and how the software can help achieve them.  The consultant’s attitude and willingness to help will make all the difference in creating a beneficial long-lasting partnership.

What are customers saying?

It may seem obvious but during the later stages of  ERP software vendor’s sales process, ask to speak with other customers that are in your industry or similar to your organizational structure. Speaking with a vendor’s clients and reading company reviews can be very telling. It gives you an idea of not only what to expect from the implementation process and the type of results that are achieved with the software, it also provides great insight into what the people behind the software are like – if they are easy to work with, do they provide valuable advice, are they accessible, do they genuinely care about your business and your success etc.

Customer Service and Tech Support 

Providing good customer service long after the sale is made is one of the most important things a software vendor can do to set themselves apart from the competition. Are there any follow-up check-ins after the sale? How long does it take for someone to get back to you on an issue? How efficiently are issues resolved and are you provided with enough information? Are the people you speak with pleasant or do they rush to get rid of you?
“I love working with the clients – that’s my favorite part. When I call the customers, I have not only a business relationship, but we take the time to ask each other how our weekends were, how we are, what’s new. So that’s important, not only on a business level but even just building that relationship with the customer and knowing that you’re not just an employee at Blue Link, you’re also someone that they can turn to for anything that they might need.”

– Joanne Fazari, Customer Service Manager
At Blue Link, we’re dedicated to improve business processes for our valued clients and pride ourselves in our comprehensive list of ERP Software Services that ensure our clients, and those of our channel partners, maximize the benefits delivered by the solutions we offer. We’re fortunate enough to have a tightly-knit team who all share in this vision and are passionate about helping our customers get the most value out of our software.

Hear from them yourself! Click below to learn more about some of Blue Link’s team and watch our new employee spotlight videos!

 

 

 

 

 

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How the Right Software Tools Can Make or Break Your Black Friday Success

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, retailers are starting to gear up for the impending influx of instore and online shoppers. Preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is well underway as businesses look to beat the competition with better deals that last even longer. As the November 23rd date approaches, marketing departments are busy creating ads instore and online and ramping up their social media presence to further spread the word of upcoming deals. Warehouse staff are preparing by reorganizing high selling items to optimize the picking, packing and shipping process, developers have started to implement code to ensure websites will be able to handle an increase in site traffic and retailers are beginning to hire and train extra staff to work with customers instore. However, to thrive (and survive) during these upcoming shopping holidays, businesses need to ensure they have the right back-end systems in place – the right ERP for managing inventory and accounting, the right point-of-sale (POS) system for managing retail counter sales, and the right eCommerce platform for online purchases.

ERP

The right ERP system is the backbone of your business. All information is managed and stored from within a single database allowing the flow of information across all business departments. Unlike accounting software, ERP accommodates other business processes such as inventory and warehouse management, CRM, eCommerce, POS, barcode scanning and more. With ERP, businesses do not need to manually enter information across multiple disconnected solutions – a method that is time-consuming and prone to human error. Information automatically updates across departments. Sales orders easily become invoices and purchase orders, and picking slips are generated and sent to the warehouse. Purchasing decisions are made using live data from within the system based on inventory levels, orders from all sales channels accumulate for picking, packing and shipping, and barcode scanning improves the receipt of inventory and the shipping process.

POS

Point-of-sale software allows a retail store to create a transaction with the customer paying on site. Customers have the option of paying by gift card, on account, in multiple currencies, with split payments and more. When selling product through multiple sales channels (such as retail, eCommerce and wholesale) it is important that information syncs in real-time. What happens if you sell out of a product instore and decide to order 100 more – without realizing that the warehouse just received a shipment of the same product? This is where ERP software with POS functionality comes into play. In this situation, since all information is maintained in a single database when you run out of the item in the store, the system will show what (if any) is available in the warehouse or is already on backorder. This is just one example of how ERP can help manage processes across multiple sales channels and business departments.

eCommerce

As eCommerce sales continue to grow during shopping holidays, it is important that you have the right platform and solutions in place to handle the entire order process. A robust and atheistically pleasing front-end store is important to convert visitors into customers, however, what happens after the customer places an order online? How does the warehouse staff become aware that an order is ready for picking, packing and shipping? What happens if that product is out of stock? Once again, this is where ERP software comes into play. Integration between your ERP and eCommerce store will enable the transfer of information bi-directionally so that data flows in an efficient and automated way. When an order is processed online, it automatically is pulled into your ERP, inventory levels update, and the order is sent to the warehouse. Once that order is shipped, confirmation and tracking information then flows back online for the customer to see.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not just about maintaining fully stocked shelves, and which company provides the best deals – it’s also about optimizing back-end process to efficiently fulfil orders.

 

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7 Repetitive Tasks Your Competitors are Automating with Business Management Software

We all have some tasks in our workday that we dread doing. Most of the time, these to-dos are often repetitive, mundane and simply boring work that we can’t help but procrastinate on or rush through simply to get it off our plate. This costs your wholesale distribution business money – the time and effort employees spend on these tasks hinders your bottom line.

So what are your successful competitors doing to counteract these snooze-inducing repetitive tasks that take away from meaningful work, and how do they keep employees engaged in their work and reduce turnover rates? The answer? Automation. Thanks to today’s advancements in technology, many wholesale distribution businesses have adopted business management software to automate a number of these tasks and free up time for employees to focus on things that really matter in the business.

It seems like a very simple concept, yet many businesses have no idea which tasks to automate or how to begin the process of automating, let alone deciding which software is right to do so. Below are some processes we’ve seen customers save hours and even days by automating with business management software. Consider the following as best practices for your business.

Integrate Your Sales Channels

We speak with many prospects that come to Blue Link when they have had enough of manually re-keying information into multiple systems and spreadsheets. A key reason for this repetitive work is that the various sales channels of the business are all disconnected. Businesses that have multiple sales channels such as eCommerce, online marketplaces such as Amazon, tradeshows, POS systems, phone, email etc, have to dedicate a number of resources to managing sales orders that come in through these various platforms to ensure all orders are being fulfilled.

Implementing the right business management software acts as a central hub, storing all sales information in one system. This means that regardless of the channel a sale comes in through, it is accounted for in the system so employees have information that is always accurate and in real-time.

Not only is data centralized, but employees no longer have to manually update things like inventory counts once a sale is made. Let’s say you have 100 shirts and someone orders 50 shirts from your eCommerce site. No manual intervention is required to update the inventory count for that particular item online or in your business management system – integration between both applications means inventory is updated automatically.

Landed Costs 

Another time-consuming repetitive task is the need to track landed costs – we speak with many businesses that do not have software that calculates true inventory cost meaning fees such as duties, freight, and shipping costs associated with a product. They have to manually enter these fees into all their purchase orders. We can agree that this is definitely not a good use of your limited resources.

Some business management software such as Blue Link will have functionality to automate landed costs which allow our customers to make informed purchasing and pricing decisions. They can also track the true inventory costs and associate different percentages based on things like the weight of a product.

Document Management

When you think of the repetitive tasks that you do on a daily basis, chances are most of them include some sort of document management whether it’s manually transferring data from documents or retrieving information from documents. These tasks often take up the most time out of your day which is why electronically managing documents is one of the best competitive advantages you can have.

Blue Link business management software customers have the option to include the electronic data management component, DocuWare into the system. Docuware allows users to instantly access files from anywhere on their computer or mobile device. They can index important data in seconds and quickly look up any documents using search functions in the application. No more manually keying in data. This is also beneficial for your sales team who need quick access to various documents when they’re speaking with customers or even suppliers.

Inventory Reordering

If you just rolled your eyes at the thought of this task – you’re not alone. It goes without saying that it is quite difficult to manage the reordering of product, especially when dealing with large quantities of inventory movement. Tracking the movement of product and having access to historical sales information on specific products is crucial to making smart reordering decisions. Manually tracking this information and getting reordering “just right” is challenging for any type of business. This is why many wholesale distribution businesses have automated the reorder process with technology such as business management software.

For example, users can generate reorder reports in Blue Link where historical sales data pulled from the system within a given timeframe indicates the number of units presently on-hand for multiple items, the product on backorder, the product on purchase over and average product sold within a given timeframe that you choose. You can set criteria/values in these live linked reports to alert you when stock is getting low and needs to be reordered and the quantity that needs to be reordered. Then, with the push of a button, you can send the reorder information back into Blue Link to generate purchase orders for those specific items.

Verification Scanning 

Your warehouse workers who are responsible for the picking, packing and shipping of orders most likely have the largest number of repetitive tasks on a day-to-day basis. While not all repetitive tasks can be eliminated due to the nature of the role, you can make processes a little easier with the right business management software.

For example, once a worker has picked an order, they can use verification scanning to pack the items. What this means is that they will be able to cross check the items against the pick slip/ sales order numbers stored in the system to identify any issues.

Customer Information

If you are a growing business, I’m sure you’ve heard employee grievances about re-keying customer information, especially if your business deals with credit card payments. Imagine only having to key in credit card information and customer information once. When a repeat customer makes an order, employees no longer have to ask for their information such as shipping address, credit card number, phone numbers, emails (the list goes on) each time if it is already entered into the business management software.

Reporting & Analytics

Depending on the business management software vendor you choose, you will be able to leverage data already entered into the system in order to automatically generate reports. These reports can be updated within a period of time using the live linked data from the system to gain real-time insight into business health.

For instance, let’s say your sales department manually tracks top products sold by the number of units purchased. This can take hours and hours of manual data entry, whereas with the right business management software, once a product is purchased, that sales data lives within the system. Salespeople can then quickly query all products sold within a given timeframe to gain instant insight into higher performing as well as low performing products. They can also automate the distribution of these reports to the appropriate stakeholders.

Click the image below to contact us to learn more about how automation can help your business.

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