Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Customizing Wholesale Distribution Software: What You Need to Know

When starting the search for new wholesale distribution ERP software, one consideration to make is if it’s better to develop a custom-based application or find something out-of-the-box. Although it might seem like having a system developed specifically for your business is the best solution, there are many dangers associated with paying for a custom piece of software. For starters, even if you customize the system to meet your specific needs, it is likely that your business will change over the years and so this will require constant modifications and upkeep, which can be time-consuming and costly.  Another issue is that support costs tend to be higher with custom software since maintaining the system requires someone who understands your specific version of the software, and if that person decides to retire or change jobs, your business will be left in the dark. The good news is that the need for custom software is becoming less and less prevalent, as technology continues to evolve and vendors work to develop specific functionality geared towards certain industries and business types.

Customization vs. Configuration

Now, you might be thinking that every successful business has a unique selling proposition and so, of course, this will require custom functionality to manage. However, unique business requirements can usually be addressed through the configuration settings of wholesale distribution software or through small custom projects – as opposed to building a system from the ground up. Although it’s true that most Blue Link customers have some piece of custom that makes their version of the software unique, these custom enhancements were done through a combination of small custom projects, system configuration and the creative use of existing features. In general, it’s best to start with an all-in-one wholesale distribution system with built-in functionality for accounting, order entry and processing, and inventory and warehouse management, as these requirements will not vary significantly from one company to the next. Then, when addressing custom requests, it is best to start by determining if the requirements can be managed through the system’s configuration settings. Common examples of configuration include setting up bank accounts and net receivable times, creating user-defined fields in the system to track certain information, setting up notifications such as credit limit alerts, setting different user and user group permission levels and setting up commission levels for sales reps. If configuration cannot help a business achieve its goals, the next step is to look towards existing functionality. For example, instead of trying to create a new module within the system, there might be existing functionality that can be “misused” to accommodate a business’ unique needs. Only then, if neither configuration nor the use of existing features will work, is it time to look towards custom programming.

Planning a Custom Specification

Assuming you’ve identified custom programming requirements that cannot be handled through configuration or existing features, there are certain best practices to help minimize the cost of custom programming and the amount of work and effort required to develop and maintain new features. For starters, it is important to discuss the goal of the specific custom project at the beginning of the conversation with software consultants before getting into the execution or “how to”. Good software consultants will be able to help you design a solution based on their experience working with other businesses in the industry and using their understanding of how the wholesale distribution system works, and its capabilities. When you do start to design a custom specification, consider the following:

Make sure to involve the end users when finalizing the spec – although management might have an idea of how the system should work, this is frequently different than how users actually interact with the software
Make sure to review the spec in detail before you sign off to avoid unexpected surprises based on assumptions that were not documented in the spec which can cost extra to resolve
Exhaust all possible standard processes and existing functionality before deciding to create a custom project – there might be an easier way to accomplish your goals
Keep it as simple as possible to improve scalability and reduce upgrade costs

Maintaining Custom During Upgrades

One of the biggest concerns with customizing any software solution is managing upgrades. Will the custom be reapplied when receiving software updates or does it have to be reprogrammed? Are you able to upgrade your existing version and all custom without having to pay extra? These are important questions to ask whatever wholesale distribution software vendor you choose as the answer tends to vary across industries and between vendors. In the past, businesses were able to get away without upgrading systems on a regular basis, and some companies were able to get by using legacy systems. However, software updates are even more important in today’s fast-paced environment as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace and using outdated software is becoming less cost-effective for all parties involved. Consider the fact that with an outdated wholesale distribution system built on old technology, a simple issue might end up taking several hours to resolve as the software vendor tries to (a) get the old version installed on a computer, (b) load the old development tools, (c) try to free up a developer who still remembers how to work with those old tools, and (d) finally work on the issue in question. Not to mention the fact that many operating systems such as Microsoft and Apple do not support old versions of technology at all. Therefore, custom programming and how to upgrade your system must be a part of the same conversation.

By |

Don’t Dismiss These Not-So-Obvious Pharmaceutical Distribution Software Features

When pharmaceutical distributors search for new software, there are a few common features that are at the top of their checklist. These features include inventory management, lot tracking/traceability, EDI integration and frequently landed cost functionality. These features all work together to automate processes and increase transparency to help achieve various pharmaceutical industry compliance requirements set by the FDA/ISO.  However, it’s time for pharmaceutical distributors to expect more from a software solution. A good pharmaceutical distribution software will have additional, market expanding and process automating functionality to not only make day-to-day tasks easier but to also play a critical part in growing the company’s bottom line. A good pharmaceutical distribution software will be able to grow with the company and be a long-term fixture in the business.

An all-in-one solution like Blue Link ERP offers additional functionality on top of pharmaceutical specific components that help to advance all parts of your pharmaceutical distribution business.

(1) Robust Accounting

Aside from the lengthy list of compliance and regulatory requirements, pharmaceutical distributors have the same needs as any other business owner. Accounting is the language of any business. All businesses need to have accurate and up-to-date financial information to make informed decisions. Blue Link’s accounting functionality is tightly integrated with its inventory management, order entry and processing and warehouse management functionality for greater accuracy and visibility of finances.

Specific functionality includes:

Accounts Receivable/Payable
Bank Management
General Ledger
Advanced Landed Cost Tracking
Multi-Company/Multi-Currency
Financial Report Writer
Advanced Accounting Features

(2) Secure B2B Order Portal

Blue Link provides a fully integrated B2B eCommerce Online Order Portal known as Web.Venture, for use by both customers and sales reps. The webstore can be completely customized to include company graphics, colors, and information and is integrated in real-time with Blue Link’s back-end ERP. Customers are able to log-in to the site, browse inventory with customer-specific pricing, place orders online, track order status, print transaction reports (T3s) and more.

The great thing about the order portal being integrated with Blue Link is that all your online order information is stored in one central hub. You don’t have to re-key information into the system or update the website every time a transaction is made. Sales Reps can also access up-to-date inventory information on multiple devices and enter orders for their customers from anywhere they have an internet connection.

(3) Controlled Substance Order System

CSOS allows distributors, pharmacies and manufacturers to transmit Schedule II (CII) orders electronically. This DEA approved legal process is based on regulations that allow CII items to be ordered electronically, assuming certain criteria have been met. CSOS is built into Blue Link’s B2B Online Order Portal.

Benefits include:

Fast and easy data transfer between ERP and CSOS
Less expensive than having two separate systems to manage
Less time consuming as there is no need to switch back and forth between multiple applications
One vendor to handle all your pharmaceutical software and support needs such as set-up, training and implementation

(4) Trxade Integration

Blue Link integrates with Trxade allowing for data to be electronically passed between Blue Link and the Trxade platform. Founded by an independent pharmacist in 2010, the Trxade platform offers true price transparency to its over 7,500 Pharmacy members with industry-leading cost comparison tools and advanced search features that put Pharmacies in control of their Rx purchases like never before. They are the leading pharmaceutical e-commerce marketplace featuring 30+ pedigree and VAWD compliant wholesaler’s prices competing in real-time like Amazon and eBay.

The Trxade platform is a huge competitive advantage for those looking to widen their market. Integrating Trxade with pharmaceutical distribution software like Blue Link, allows the flow of information such as sales orders and customer shipping/payment information directly from Trxade to Blue Link which means data is only entered once.

(5) Contact Management

Like with any business, maintaining a good relationship with customers is key to improving retention…this is where having Contact Management tools comes into play. Contact Management is a broad term that can refer to tracking of customer/vendor information and communication as well as tracking sales opportunities (leads and prospects). Blue Link does both contact management as well as advanced Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as part of our integrated inventory and accounting system. Some of the benefits of this type of functionality are that users are able to create user-defined steps and processes according to the business’ workflow. Companies are able to manage Marketing lists, integrate with MS office including emailing via Outlook and more.

Pharmaceutical distribution sales teams are able to track leads and prospects through a comprehensive sales cycle to help ensure they don’t allow any leads to ‘slip through the cracks’. Having a centralized location of customer information such as meeting dates, archived emails, and other notes allow the sales team to maintain a strong relationship with potential clients. Having this information stored in one access point through an all-in-one solution allows for comprehensive views of information related to customers across all business departments. Information includes order history, shipping addresses, email communications etc.

This information can benefit other departments as well.  For example, if your accounting department needs to know a billing address of a customer, or perhaps the sales and marketing team wants to call and check in on how things are going, all the information needed is easily accessible.

(6) Electronic Document Management – DocuWare

The integration between Blue Link and DocuWare- an electronic document management system – allows users to quickly store, index, search, display, download, retrieve, edit and integrate documents and create automated workflows to help your business operate in a paperless environment. Benefits include:

Users can view pictures of documents that require specific programs to open.  For example, DocuWare will store CAD files as an image so that users without the CAD program can still view an image of the document from their own computer or phone.
Users can create workflows within DocuWare so that documents automatically get sent to the right employees based on document type.

Workflows can be used in creating an approval process whereby multiple users interact with a document before it gets sent to Blue Link with the document automatically being sent to the appropriate person throughout each stage of the workflow.
Workflows can be used to create automatic email responses and alerts based on document status.

Users can “clip” and “staple” documents together so that they get stored as 1 file – such as multiple expense receipts.
Intelligent indexing will learn how to index new and similar documents without manual help.

Here’s a quick video to see Docuware in action and be sure to download our resource below to ensure you’re implementing the proper technology and following the correct processes to be compliant in the pharmaceutical industry!

eCommerce Inventory Management – B2B vs. B2C

For B2B companies looking to sell B2C through eCommerce channels, it’s not as simple as just setting up another consumer-facing website. Instead, changes to warehouse set-up, inventory management, back-end software and fulfilment processes all need to be considered. In many ways, B2B eCommerce and B2C are quite similar – both sales channels involve the same product and require the same basic end-to-end processes for picking, packing and shipping product. However, the demand of B2C eCommerce customers is quite different from B2B and the geographic spread of customers tends to be much larger. As a starting point, it is important to make sure that both B2B sales and B2C sales are managed through a single database – such as an all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP solution. This means eCommerce inventory management is consolidated across all sales channels and reduces the amount of manual work involved with managing multiple, standalone solutions. Other considerations include:

Different Order Types

With B2C eCommerce, many customers purchase “one-off” or single piece items, compared to the nature of B2B bulk purchases. Designing warehouse space to accommodate this means placing popular, single items closest to packing stations and the addition of consolidated picking. Consolidated picking works best when dealing with high sales volumes and a large number of SKUs. With consolidated picking, the order picker picks the same SKU for multiple orders at the same time – reducing the travel time throughout the warehouse. Once an employee has finished picking the same SKU for multiple orders, items are brought back to a packing station where they are sorted by order, packed and shipped. This allows a business to fulfil multiple orders (B2B and B2C) more quickly.

Omni-Channel Management

B2C eCommerce inventory management must encompass sales from all channels including B2B wholesale phone and email orders, orders from trade shows, orders from sales reps in the field, as well as other B2C orders through marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. One mistake many companies make when implementing a B2C website is trying to use the B2C eCommerce platform as an inventory management tool. Not only does this involve additional manual work, but it does not provide a true view of inventory availability. Even if you distinguish B2B and B2C inventory within your system, the ability to see all product available helps to fulfil as many orders as possible. Consider the situation where an online B2C customer places an order for product that is only available from your B2B inventory. However, a quick review of available inventory shows that the product in question is arriving on a purchase order the following day. Would you rather lose the sale or fulfil from your B2B stock?

Warehouse Design

Another consideration with eCommerce inventory management is the virtual warehouse. This groups distribution warehouses together in a network so that back-end systems consider all available inventory for fulfilling orders (irrespective of actual physical location of product). With virtual warehouse management, inventory might be held in a warehouse, retail store, vendor location or 3PL. When a customer places an order, effective virtual inventory optimizes the fulfilment process by locating the product closest to the customer for fulfilment. This method of inventory management has many benefits including the ability to offer more product and brands to all customers without having to buy additional warehouse space. However, it requires that you build and maintain good relationships with suppliers, 3PLs and other vendors who manage inventory on your behalf – to ensure they provide the same level of customer service and efficient order fulfilment.

By |

Why Data Center Features are Important When Searching for Wholesale ERP Software

“What are your data center features?” Surprisingly, this type of question rarely gets asked of our Sales Team by those looking for new Wholesale ERP Software. I say surprisingly because the data center is one of the most critical parts of a business’ success, and its efficacy and security directly impacts the daily operations of your business making it a crucial aspect to explore when conducting a software search.

As the popularity of cloud-based (hosted or SaaS) software solutions reach new heights, the demand for data centers also parallels this trend resulting in continuous developments to the technology behind the infrastructure. If you decide that a hosted wholesale ERP software solution is the right fit for your business, this means that the vendor will house the appropriate hardware and maintain your data, and employees access the software and information via the cloud (through the internet). The vendor becomes responsible for managing hardware and servers and also dealing with IT maintenance on the equipment, data backups and security. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself on some of the latest features and compliance requirements to ensure you’re signing up with a vendor that measures up to today’s high standards of data center security.

First, let’s briefly explore what a data center is….

Think of the data center as the information warehouse of your business. Instead of housing inventory, it houses everything your business needs to collect, manage, store and protect your data such as servers, routers, firewalls, backup equipment…components that make up the core of your business’ information system. Businesses are able to store, process, distribute and allow access to large amounts of data from the software vendor’s data center where the software lives. These facilities are able to store information such as website data, credit card data, sales data, inventory data, accounting data, eCommerce data etc. Hosted software implies that the ERP system and all data maintained with the software is hosted (managed) off-site by the wholesale ERP vendor. You may be familiar with other cloud applications such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure – both of which are cloud computing services created for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of managed data centers. Behind every cloud-computing service is a network of equipment – servers, routers etc. – that live within data centers around the world.

A data center may be as complex as having an entire dedicated building to house equipment or as simple as having just an area within a building that houses only a few servers. Depending on the level of redundancy, security, compliance and other factors, using a data center is typically a significant investment and asset to software vendors and other businesses, so the smart move is to work with a business partner and data center that is designed to the highest tier of security and technology.

To understand the classifications for the different tiers, it’s important to first understand what redundancy is…

Redundancy

In basic terms, redundancy is the duplication of critical components which increases reliability in case of a power outage, natural diaster, or for backup/maintenance. There are different levels of redundancy… N, N+1, N+2, 2N, 2N+1.  If a data center is only at an “N” standard, it means that the facility was designed to account for only the full load of processing power with no redundancy added. N+1 means that an additional component is added to support a single failure.  2N means that the data center is fully redundant and is a mirrored system where the duplicate components are usually housed at a different physical location for greater resiliency.  Some data centers offer 2N+1, which is like 2N but with an additional component or piece of equipment as an extra fail-safe.

Tiers

A data center is ranked as a specific tier based primarily on redundancy, the infrastructure, security,  amount of downtime and other factors that establish its reliability.

Tier I –  The simplest of all the tiers provides very little to no levels of redundancy.

Usually lacks features such as a backup cooling system or generator
Higher annual downtime

Tier II – Has more measures and infrastructure in place that ensure it is not as vulnerable to unplanned downtime as a Tier 1 data center.

Has partial redundancy
Lower downtime minutes than Tier I
Has some backup features such as a backup cooling system or generator

Tier III – A data center built according to Tier III data center specifications must have redundancy and maintainability capabilities.

Requires at least n+1 (redundancy as well as concurrent maintainability for all power and cooling components and distribution systems).
Multiple power and cooling distribution paths to the server equipment meaning that if the equipment served by one distribution path fails, it switches to another path as a fail-safe.
Specific procedures in place that allow for maintenance/updates to be done in the data center, without causing downtime.
No more than 95 minutes of annual downtime

Tier IV – Very few companies will qualify at this Tier and facilities are usually used by larger enterprises which are reflected by the cost of the software and services.

2N+1 fully redundant infrastructure (the main difference between Tier III and Tier IV data centers)
26.3 minutes of annual downtime

Other data center features to look out for include:

Infrastructure and Location

When looking to implement a new hosted wholesale ERP solution, it’s important to ask vendors where the data center is physically located. Depending on the location, it may be subject to laws of access different from those in your own country – the very legitimate fear that a foreign government may be able to legislate its way into your confidential business information. Data centers located in different cities within a country or across countries provide added security in the case of a natural environmental disaster or during times of war.

In addition,  a data center also requires a significant amount of infrastructure to keep the hardware and software up and running such as power subsystems, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), ventilation and cooling systems, backup generators and cabling to connect to external network operators. A couple features to ask about are:

 Cooling systems

Raised floor warm aisle, cold aisle configuration
2N cooling infrastructure

Fire suppression

Pre-action fire suppression system
Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus (VESDA)
Fire and smoke alarm system
Fire detection and suppression systems

Reliability 

Power backup is of the utmost importance for a data center.  In case of an emergency situation or as part of a disaster recovery plan, redundancy/backups of your stored data should be ensured by the data center. Have a discussion with the software vendor to ensure that any potential for failures such as power outages, maintenance, fires and weather have been addressed and a disaster recovery plan and fail-overs are in place.

Levels of Security

A good data center will offer multiple levels of security (BioMetric, PIN code, Access card etc.) to prevent the wrong people from gaining access to the equipment being housed. Other security measures include:

24/7 video monitoring and manned security
24/7 monitoring by Network Operations Center
Security professional at the complex main entrance
Secure loading dock area

Management and Monitoring

The odds of someone breaking into the average small business and stealing the actual server are much better than getting into a secure data center. So too are the odds of there being a small fire or flood that goes unnoticed until its too late to save equipment and data. Realistically your data is actually much safer and more secure in a cloud computing environment than in-house. Having said that, the management of the data center is a continuous action. There should be dedicated IT staff to oversee:

Data management, storage and distribution for customers
Handling any software, hardware and equipment updates
Continuous development of  backup regimes
Facilitating and updating emergency planning

Blue Link’s Secure Data Center

Blue Link’s equipment resides at a facility designed to Tier III data center standards, located in Mississauga, ON. The flagship facility is purpose built and equipped with 2N power, cooling and connectivity infrastructure and an indoor generator facility located off-site for added redundancy, providing high levels of reliability and support. Blue Link’s disaster recovery plan includes managing data from multiple physical site locations with extensive backup power. In the event of a blackout, the data center has two times the generation capacity required to run the entire building – so even if one set of generators fail the other set can still run everything. Learn More!

Still don’t trust the cloud? Learn more about cloud-based software solutions, where data is stored and how data is managed.

A Recap of the HDA Distribution Management Conference for Pharmaceutical Distributors

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

Blue Link was excited to participate for the first time in the 2018 HDA Distribution Management Conference and Expo March 4-7 in Austin, Texas. The annual conference is the largest supply chain education event of it’s kind and aims to engage attendees on topics related to healthcare supply chain and provide a forum for operation and strategic discussions among key players in the pharmaceutical distribution industry.

As an exhibitor at the show, Blue Link spoke with pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution companies about how Blue Link’s pharmaceutical ERP software, complete with CSOS functionality, helps automate processes and maintain compliance across all business departments. Having attended the HDA’s Traceability Seminar in November of 2017, most of the information discussed at the Distribution Show was in line with information shared at the Traceability Seminar and continues to confirm that Blue Link’s pharmaceutical specific functionality and software is aligned with existing regulatory requirements and future compliance updates. As a leader in the pharmaceutical ERP space, Blue Link continues to provide advanced functionality for small-medium sized pharmaceutical distributors at an affordable price.

Key Takeaways from the Show:

In General:

Most information discussed at the DMC was similar to that discussed at last year’s Traceability Seminar. Read our full recap of the show last year to learn more.

Suspicious Order Monitoring:

States across the USA are seeking greater clarity for suspicious order monitoring (SOM). Many states are specifically concerned with the ability to manage the data received and deal with irrelevant information. In addition, there is a concern around receiving data in inconsistent formats from multiple sources. To address these concerns, the HDA is advocating for a single DEA Suspicious Order Reports database that will be accessible by state legislators and law enforcement to help make it easier to deal with suspicious order reporting. It will also expand the DEA’s data collection capabilities and allow it to more effectively use advanced analytical tools to help deal with the opioid epidemic. This database is currently in development by the DEA and the HDA is advocating to share the information in the database with the appropriate members of legislative bodies and law enforcement.  This database will then allow distributors to submit suspicious order reports electronically instead of through manual processes.

The HDA supports the DEA’s development of an online system for managing suspicious orders which require users follow a specific reporting format. The goal is to standardize reporting to help the DEA identify trends which may indicate that a pharmacy or other dispenser has violated distribution allowances when it comes to controlled substances.

Blue Link functionality for suspicious order monitoring consists of an automated procedure that assesses all open sales orders containing scheduled drug products against past invoiced sales orders for each individual customer. An algorithm then determines if there are any suspicious order quantities on a sales order based on sales history.

If the SOM determines a suspicious order quantity, a number of activities automatically happen simultaneously:

A file is automatically sent via email to the assigned user with the applicable information for easy review
The same file is automatically saved in a pre-determined folder
The sales order in question is automatically placed on “hold” and its order status changed, preventing the order from being processed

To release the “hold” status, an authorized user must change the status. In some situations, the quantity outside the threshold calculated is acceptable and the user has the ability to change the order type to prevent the SOM process from placing that specific order on hold again.

Serial Verification Router Service:

Starting November 2019, distributors accepting saleable returns will be expected to validate returned serial numbers with manufacturers prior to re-introduction into the channel.

Blue Link is adding features to its 2018/2019 application update that will allow distribution companies to scan and validate that the serial numbers accepted were in fact originally sold by the company, by comparing data elements of the product with company data stored in Blue Link. Alternatively, Blue Link intends to add support for any standardized “Router Verification Service” to allow customers to validate with the manufacturer. As of today, no such Router Verification Service exists, and during the DSCSA panel discussions at the conference, no one was able to verify is such a service is in development.

Opioid Tax Issue:

To address concerns about the abuse of opioids, legislation targeting manufacturers was brought forward in 2017. Some states received multiple proposals to add tax to the sale of opioids, but all proposals were successfully defeated by the HDA. Starting in 2018, additional requirements to the 2017 legislation has been brought forward with a focus on shifting from taxing mostly manufacturers to targeting distributors as well. This change of direction puts pressure on distributors to take more ownership of the safe and compliant sale of opioids, requiring stricter systems for tracking product and sales.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2018, Blue Link will be attending the HDA Traceability Seminar again this year in Washington, DC from October 17-19th. Be sure to stop by and say hello if you plan on attending. Other projects ahead for 2018 include further software advancements as the industry pushes towards the November 2023 DSCSA deadline.

By |

Blue Link ERP Wins for Warehouse Tech Writers’ Awards 2018

For Immediate Release

VAUGHAN, Ont – March 20, 2018. – BLUE LINK ERP & SAMANTHA HORNBY WINNERS AT THE WAREHOUSE TECH WRITERS’ AWARDS 2018

Blue Link Associates have won the Bronze Award in the Best Vendor Blog category at the Warehouse Tech Writers’ Awards 2018. Samantha Hornby has also won the Bronze Award for her article ‘Different Picking Methods with Warehouse Inventory Software’.

The awards recognise top writing talent across the Warehouse Tech industry from all types of publications, 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 Editor Kathryn Beeson said:

“The standard of entries for the awards this year was incredibly high. The winners stood out against some fierce competition and I’d like to congratulate them on their success. The judges praised the winners for their contribution to industry conversation and their engaging writing style. Well done!”

ABOUT THE AWARDS

The Warehouse Tech Writers’ Awards were launched by Explore WMS to recognise top writing talent across the warehouse technology and supply chain industry. We’re excited – as ever – to recognize the brightest and best of this year’s warehouse tech writing talent. Run every year, the WMS Tech Writers’ Awards recognise the brightest, most switched on bloggers, writers and journalists working in the industry, with prizes available in Best Vendor Blog, Best Independent Blog, Best Writer and Best Article categories.

ABOUT EXPLORE WMS

EXPLORE WMS is an online publication which caters to professionals in the warehouse technology and supply chain industry. It provides product and industry news, whitepapers, comparison tools and how-to guides for professionals looking for advice on selecting, implementing and running WMS.

ABOUT BLUE LINK WAREHOUSE INVENTORY SOFTWARE

Blue Link provides all-in-one warehouse inventory software complete with a full accounting suite, designed for wholesale and distribution businesses. Blue Link is a great fit for small to medium size businesses and provides functionality to improve speed and accuracy and increase automation during the receiving, picking, packing and shipping process. Blue Link’s warehouse inventory software is the perfect solution for businesses with small warehouses, stock rooms and storage facilities and includes features to manage multiple warehouse locations, as well as other functions such as:

Tracking of bin/shelf plus overflow locations
Ability to print picking, packing and shipping labels
Barcode scanning
Mobile wireless handheld picking
Consolidated pick slips
Ability to generate master shipment and specific box (within a shipment) tracking
Serial number and lot number selection
And more!

By |

Couldn’t attend Dx3 2018? We’ve Got You Covered [Recap & Video]

Thousands of tech and digital marketing aficionados flocked to the Metro Toronto Convention Center over the past couple days (March 7-8) for this year’s buzzed-about Dx3 Conference. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the two day expo is Canada’s largest digital marketing and retail event. Blue Link ERP exhibited at the show for the third year in a row.

Browsing the showroom floor, we noticed that the event had more of an intimate feeling this year with fewer exhibitors than the past two years we’ve exhibited and more focus on the many speaking sessions. The speaking sessions included big name keynotes such as Amazon who shared insights into how the retail giant has achieved tremendous growth by focusing on the customer experience. A keynote from Snapchat focused on the changing nature of “breakthrough” mobile advertising while Element AI spoke about how businesses can prepare for artificial intelligence integrations to achieve stronger results in the near future.

As always, the show boasted numerous interactive installations which always seem to be big draws with the crowd.

Battleverse, who was part of the interactive lab aspect of the show turned heads with their large AR gaming booth.
Kinetic Commerce showcased a fully-functional connected store with a series of apps that enabled visitors to experience first-hand how seamless the future of shopping is going be.
Our favourite tech journalist and Dx3 regular, Amber Mac yet again interviewed exhibitors live on the show floor as part of her Canadian Tech Spotlight.

Check out Blue Link’s own CTO, Darren Myher’s interview with the TV personality from last year’s show! 

PayPal Canada, another regular at the show, once again hosted the start-up alley.

Nudnik, a unisex children’s clothing and accessories line won the Startup Pitch Competition.

There was certainly an underlying theme in the speaking sessions and the show in general of the changing consumer experience and what it means for businesses and marketers today. The evolution of  the way consumers engage with brands  and the journey they take from awareness to purchase was the center of discussion with a focus on the intertwining elements of the digital and physical shopping experiences.

This was also the topic of Blue Link’s speaking session at the Censhare’s Tech Talk stage. Our president and CEO, Mark Canes, gave a thought-provoking talk called “Leveraging Back-End Technology For eCommerce Success” which took a deep dive into the importance of an omnichannel experience, the importance of eCommerce and the role back-end software plays in achieving this goal.

We’d like to thank the Canshare Tech Talk stage and our special co-presenter and Blue Link customer Peter Smith of Daneson!

Check out the full presentation below:

Key Takeaways:

Selling through multiple channels

From Amazon and Home Depot to Hudson Bay and Canada Goose, many businesses are realizing that they can be more profitable and remain competitive in today’s market if they offer their customers more than one method of purchasing their products. According to Forbes, multi-channel shoppers spent $82 more on average than online-only shoppers, and $49 more on average than customers who only shopped in stores. Multi-channel shoppers also have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel.

eCommerce is a necessity 

eCommerce as a channel plays a big part in the multi-channel sales philosophy and is continuously changing the way customers shop. It is no  longer just an added benefit to customers, but has become a necessity for both B2B and B2C retail/wholesale businesses in creating a seamless shopping experience.

B2B vs. B2C eCommerce

While there are key differences in B2B and B2C eCommerce such as order volume (B2B customers purchase in larger quantities), the way customers search for product (B2C usually search by product names whereas B2B search with product codes), and the need for  B2B businesses to have customer specific accounts and pricing, wholesalers and distributors are starting to offer the same B2C experience to their customers with features like:

Mobile-optimized websites.
Ability for visitors to pick up product from a nearby store location or alternatively visit the store to see the product in person before deciding to purchase.
Suggesting new products to visitors, displaying discounts and promotions, as well as sharing recommendations based on past orders.
Ability to search by brand/vendor/category.

Omni channel experience

Whether you’re selling B2C, B2B or B2All, it’s important to think about eCommerce as part of the multi-channel system that is unified. Most businesses think that setting up a Shopify site and leaving it at that will help their business grow and expand into new markets but what happens after you set up shop? Is your eCommerce site in sync with the rest of your sales channels? How will you manage order entries from multiple channels? And, how do you know how much inventory to purchase and when? These fulfillment questions must be addressed in order to provide seamless shopping experiences for customers. Whether they’re purchasing your products through eCommerce, EDI, in-store, through marketplaces, over the phone, through email, or any other form, they need access to up-to-date, accurate inventory information such as availability and pricing.

Benefits of a back-end ERP software

Integrating the proper back-end software such as an ERP system to your multichannel business model helps streamline redundant and manual processes to improve visibility and better manage inventory. Benefits include:

All company data is stored and maintained in one database.
Easily manage reports and analytics from one location.
Reduce manual processes such as keying data into QuickBooks, and Excel and Shopify/Magento/Amazon and downloading spreadsheets of information – no more single-purpose software!
Automation of data flows: orders from all channels show up in your ERP (including paym­­­­ent information – for example, pre-authorizations)
Procurement- accurate insight into reorder levels – knowing how much inventory to buy and when.
Automate printing of picking slips:

Consolidated pick slips for one-off orders means more efficient picking.
Picking that takes into account bin/shelf locations.

Automated shipping notifications and updates to inventory information on eCommerce site.

About Blue Link Associates

Blue Link ERP provides integrated inventory and accounting ERP software for small-medium size businesses and is best suited for those in the wholesale and distribution industry. As an all-in-one system, we help 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.

Want to get started with eCommerce but not sure where to start? Check out our eCommerce ERP Integration guide for more information.

By |

Join Blue Link at HDA’s Distribution Management Conference for the Pharmaceutical Industry

For the first time, Blue Link will be exhibiting at the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA)’s 2018 Distribution Management Conference and Expo March 4th – 7th in Austin, Texas. As a key organization in the pharmaceutical industry, the HDA’s annual conference is the largest supply chain education event of it’s kind. The conference aims to engage attendees on topics related to healthcare supply chain and provide a forum for operation and strategic discussions among key players in the industry. This year’s conference is co-hosted with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW) and the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM). The show is a must-attend for influential managers, executives, and specialists from across the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Highlights of the Distribution Management Conference and Expo include:

The option for attendees to participate in a variety of educational sessions on healthcare supply chain issues facing businesses today
Updates from the pharmaceutical industry’s leading experts on regulatory changes and compliance
More than 30 breakout sessions on crucial distribution issues such as DSCSA implementation/product traceability, specialty pharmaceutical trends, contracts and chargebacks, supply chain security, controlled substances regulations as well as legislative updates
The chance to network with more than 500 manufacturers, distributors, consultants and 3rd parties who keep the pharmaceutical distribution industry moving

As Blue Link’s family of pharmaceutical distributor customers continues to grow, and in anticipation of attending not only HDA’s Distribution Management Conference but also the HDA’s Traceability Seminar, we wanted to reflect on the company’s pharmaceutical development from 2017 and look ahead at what’s to come for 2018.

2017 Recap:

CSOS Launch

Blue Link released our own DEA Certified, CSOS component back in March 2017, becoming the only Pharmaceutical ERP software that has its own built-in CSOS with no integration required.

HDA Traceability Seminar

Blue Link sponsored and attended the 2017 HDA Traceability Seminar in early November in Washington, DC to continue our goal to stay up-to-date with current industry direction and compliance. There was a lot of valuable information shared, and we encourage you to read our key takeaways from the seminar.

Pharmaceutical Software Update Released

Blue Link released a new version of its pharmaceutical specific software functionality.
This update was a result of suggestions, issues, and ideas from our existing pharmaceutical partners and internal discussions.
Highlights from the update include:

Improved quick item look-up
Addition of fields to enter license and expiry information for inventory locations
Controls to prevent pack slips and invoices from being printed if a customer license has expired
Additional reports
Restrictions on inventory by state
Ability to exclude RX products from controlled items

What’s Ahead for 2018?

New User Interface Launch

Blue Link released a new version of the entire software’s user interface
Click here for a quick overview of the new look and feel
Release of UI with pharmaceutical functionality expected in summer 2018

Serialization Update

Blue Link has been working on the specification for serialization functionality for many months and finalized the features after we attended the 2017 HDA Seminar to ensure our strategy for functionality was inline with the industry, DCSCA, and requirements discussed at the seminar. As a result, the serialization spec was completed in late December.
Once we determine Scope of Work, the development will be scheduled, and at that time we will have a better idea when the Serialization release will be available
The Serialization development is a priority and is estimated to be completed sometime in mid-summer 2018, far in advance of the current DSCSA serialization tracking requirement of November 2019

HDA Conferences

Blue Link will be exhibiting at the 2018 Distribution Management Conference and Expo in Austin, Texas March 4th-7th (booth #406) and at the 2018 Traceability Seminar in Washington, DC October 17th-19th. If you are thinking about attending either event drop us a line – we would love to meet you!

 

By |

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.

By |

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!

 

By |

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.

By |

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!

 

By |Tags: |

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.

By |

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!

     

By |Tags: |

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.

By |
Menu