Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

The Biggest Misconceptions About Cloud-Based ERP Software

Guest Post by Lisa C. Dunn

Cloud technology has certainly gained popularity over the last decade with more and more businesses moving away from traditional software models to the modern internet realm. However,  many myths and misperceptions continue to surround Cloud-Based ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.

For many businesses, it seems daunting to hop on the cloud-based bandwagon at first – especially if the company has been turning a blind eye to this transformative technology over the last few years. However, it’s definitely worth investing time to learn about it as cloud-based ERP represents a significant opportunity to your business, including affordability, scalability, and flexibility to grow.

So, what exactly is “the cloud”?

Cloud software, which is sometimes referred to as hosted or SaaS (Software as a Service), essentially stores information off-premises and at the vendor’s data center and the information is accessed via the cloud (or internet). The software itself physically lives on the vendor’s hardware. Users are able to access software and applications from anywhere in the world where they have an internet connection through an RDP connection installed on their local machine, VPN connection or via a web browser.

To help lift the fog, we dispel some of the biggest myths about cloud-based ERP and also offer insight to help you better understand the power of this revolutionary solution.

Myth 1: It’s Not Secure

In the initial days of cloud solutions and offerings, security was a main concern. The cloud was viewed as vulnerable to cyber-attacks since it can be accessed from anywhere in the world. However, those days are behind us.

Today, cloud-based ERP software is designed from the ground up with highly effective, powerful security measures in place. There are many security certifications and data center audits that safeguard the data you store in your ERP software. Ultimately, any data you store in the cloud is heavily secured – even more so than most on-site stored data.

Many small/medium businesses are not equipped with the proper level of disaster prevention systems, nor do they have the same level of safety measures in place at their different locations. The benefit of going the cloud-hosted software route is that if a disaster were to occur such as a fire or flood, your system would still be accessible and all your data would be safe in the vendor’s secure data center.  Backup power generators, as well as state-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems, are all imperative in data centers where servers are being managed. Depending on the vendor, there are several other security features such as levels of redundancy and automatic fail-over.

When it comes to data security, secure data centers will have multiple levels of security to enter the building such as biometric scanning, PIN code, access card and will also have 24/7 monitoring. Vendors also have provisions to encrypt data to protect sensitive business information from being accessed by outside parties.

Myth 2: It’s Harder to Use

Simply put- the majority of today’s cloud-based ERP software are more modern than their predecessors and have evolved to be extremely user-friendly.

Flexibility – Browser-based systems allow users to type in a URL and then enter login and password information to use software via a specific website. Connecting via RDP (remote desktop protocol) means users can access the system by logging in on various devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets, iPads etc. as long as there is an internet connection.  With either way of connecting, you and your team members can share real-time information to make smart business decisions no matter where they are located.

Scalable – Cloud-based ERP systems allow you to share data more efficiently across multiple locations, divisions and departments. Since everyone on your team is interacting with centralized data via a common interface, the chances of misinterpreting the data between functions decreases and the opportunity for collaborative efforts rises. This also makes adding business locations or warehouses and connecting to ERP easy and quick.

Integrations – Integrating additional functionality to cloud-based ERP software is a great way to further optimize the automation of business processes. Be sure to go with a vendor that is able to integrate with third-party software such as credit card payment systems, payroll software, electronic document management platforms and eCommerce platforms to reduce manual processes.

Myth 3: It’s Difficult to Implement

Because cloud-based ERP requires no additional hardware, you don’t have to waste precious time procuring and installing IT infrastructure. With a cloud-based ERP solution, IT departments can roll out the system with ease across multiple regions and divisions, eliminating the high price tag often associated with these types of on-premises solutions. In addition, cloud ERP deployments typically take anywhere from three to six months to implement – compared to the full year that it can commonly take to roll out an on-premises solution.  .

Myth 4: It Will Slow Us Down

Cloud-based ERP delivers better performance than on-site software solutions as its architecture is designed for maximum network performance, which translates to enhanced application availability.

It also offers optimized performance that can adapt to your company’s changing needs. For instance, if there is a spike in business, the technology automatically adjusts and provisions extra resources to handle the uptick in business.

Unlock the Benefits of Cloud-Based ERP

There’s no doubt that the conversation surrounding cloud-based ERP has changed substantially over the last several years.

Overcoming the myths and misconceptions regarding ERP systems and doing your homework in vendor selection can help your organization to land on solid ground to investing in the right solution for your needs.

Easier implementation, in conjunction with the enhanced capabilities of cloud applications and the ability to access the latest in functionality without expensive upgrades, all make a persuasive case for adoption.

Cloud-based ERP is evolving and growing by leaps and bounds. Considering its progression, it is clear that this software is vital to today’s business landscape, from small-to-medium enterprises to global multinational companies.

Lisa C. Dunn is a writer for TechnologyAdvice and a freelance writer, copywriter and ghostwriter who develops high-quality content for businesses and non-profit organizations. For over 20 years, she has worked with numerous PR and digital marketing agencies, and her work has been featured in well-known publications including Forbes, VentureBeat, Mashable, Huffington Post, Wired, B2C, USA Today, among others.

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Blue Link ERP Pricing

The cost of ERP software will depend on several factors and vary from one vendor to the next. However, across software tiers or categories, the price of competing solutions will be similar. This allows businesses to easily compare vendors in the same category on factors other than costs – such as functionality, industry fit, after-sale support and more – which will ultimately have a bigger impact on the benefits the system can provide a business. When it comes to software categories, most ERP solutions will fall into one of three different categories. The first category includes introductory software, which is not technically ERP software. These types of systems are great for small businesses and start-ups but only include features for one main area of the business (think accounting and QuickBooks). Introductory software is a standalone system that requires integration with other solutions for features such as inventory management, point of sale, purchase orders and contact management. The second category includes true ERP software (which stands for Enterprise Resource Planning), meaning the features available cover all operating areas of a business – from accounting, to inventory, to order entry and processing, to contact management, barcode scanning, eCommerce, warehouse management and more. ERP systems are for businesses that have outgrown existing introductory software and are looking to reduce manual work, increase automation and grow. Category three solutions are also true ERP systems, but, are for large multi-national corporations with global operations, a large employee and user base and a high volume of transactions. Within each category, the price of any given system will be comparable, so its important to realize that it doesn’t make sense to try to compare the cost of systems across categories, as the products provide different features and are for different business types.

Pricing Categories

Blue Link ERP falls within category two as outlined above and is for small-medium size businesses with between 5-150 employees. To get an idea of costs for the software, it is best to schedule a 10-15 minute initial discovery call with someone from our sales team. This will allow you to learn more about the costs of Blue Link, and it will also help determine if the software is even the right fit for your business – before you waste too much time on detailed discussions and product demos. There is no point in discussing pricing if the software is not going to be a good fit from a functionality and industry standpoint. Typical software costs will include license fees and implementation costs. License fees can be billed upfront, or on a monthly basis and implementation costs will vary significantly from one vendor to the next.

Pricing Factors

Once you know what category of software to shop for and you have determined that the system in question is a good fit for your business, it is time to get a rough idea of software costs. I say rough because without detailed discussions it is hard to get a specific idea of the cost since it will depend on several different factors. Initial discussions with software vendors to review project needs, scope, requirements and pricing at a high level will provide you with information to determine if there is a fit and if there are resources available for the project. Further discussions then provide businesses with the opportunity to dive deeper into the evaluation to learn more about specific requirements and functionality. Thus, although initial cost estimates will include a large range of numbers, they will at least help you determine if the vendor in question has a product within your budget. Although pricing structures will vary between vendors, for the most part, costs are based on the following:

Number of users
Specific functionality – for example, does your business need tools for eCommerce?
Implementation method – cloud-based or on-premises
Implementation Costs:

System set-up and configuration

Do users have experience using software?
Are users getting trained in multiple areas of the software?

Data migration

Are you migrating data from existing systems into the new software?
Is the data in different formats and coming from different sources?
Does the data need to be “cleaned” up? For example, removing duplicate or bad data

Maintenance costs – these costs cover software upgrades and keep the application in warranty

Comparing Vendors Costs

Although systems within the same category will have comparable costs, it is important to keep in mind slight differences that could have a significant impact. For example, some vendors charge fees for upgrading systems that have custom modifications – outside of standard maintenance fees. This means that even if maintenance costs cover upgrades, you will still have to pay a lump sum to have the custom reapplied. Another example is vendors who discount pricing for the first year. This can happen with large software vendors where sales reps have to meet quotas and so they discount the product to sell more. These prices then increase after the first year or “discount” period. Other examples include vendors who have minimum user requirements and customers have to buy users in groups as opposed to as individual licenses. Other vendors will package together users and functionality which allows them to give businesses a better price but makes calculating individual feature and user costs difficult.

Blue Link ERP Pricing

To learn more about if Blue Link is the right fit for your business, and to learn more about costs, schedule an initial discovery call with one of our sales team today. 10 minutes on the phone allows our team to:

Learn about your basic business processes
Assess software fit in terms of industry, processes and requirements
Gather information to provide accurate pricing
Determine if it makes sense to schedule more in-depth discussions

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How A Warehouse Management System Helped This Company Go From Processing 30 Orders a Day to 100

There are many reasons why a small business would want to implement a warehouse management system. Some examples include an increase in order volume, picking errors when dealing with similar products and manual processes, and wasted time managing inventory in a warehouse that is not organized by bin and shelf location. Whatever the reason may be, it’s important to consider an all-in-one, fully integrated WMS system, which offers not only robust functionality for managing inventory and warehouse space, but also has features such as accounting, order entry and processing, contact management, and eCommerce integration that work together to streamline operations. Blue Link’s warehouse management functionality improves speed and accuracy through automated workflows, and is the ideal solution for businesses with small warehouses, stock rooms and storage facilities.

Check out what optimized warehouse processes look like in this video featuring Blue Link customer, Peter Gerogacopoulos from Kroeger Inc., as he demonstrates how the company was able to go from processing 30 orders a day to 100 orders a day with Blue Link’s Warehouse Management System!

Learn how Blue Link’s WMS helped Kroeger:

Improve product visibility
Reduce manual work through integration with shipping carriers
Accommodate drop shipping
Integrate with tablets and barcode scanning devices including mobile handheld picking
Improve pick/pack/ship workflow management
Create and track serial numbers/lot selection
Create paperless warehouse processes

WMS – Kroeger Inc

What is Kroeger Inc.?

Kroeger Inc. is a distributor of hobby toy/collectible items. One of the most popular items is the Rubik’s Cube and all of the brands that represent the Rubik’s Cube. We have been in business for 48-years. I keep calling us a 48-year-old start-up because the purchase of the company happened about three years ago. My role is Head of Finance and Procurement. I handle all the finance as well as all the inventory movement and probably most of the IT that goes on in here.

Who are your customers?

We ship to everybody in Canada from Walmart and Toys R Us to Indigo and Mastermind. We also deal with a bunch of specialty accounts such as Toys Toys Toys in Brampton and some smaller accounts that are situated all across the country. We do drop ship for Walmart and for Toys R Us and we’re just bringing on Staples.

How did Kroeger manage inventory and order fulfilment before Blue Link?

We had an accounting system and it was able to track our financials, but we did not have an inventory management system and we did not have a warehouse management system, so, we had no means of understanding where our inventory was at any one time throughout any course of the business day so everything was picked by memory, and then checked again. The process was cumbersome to say the least. Picture piles of boxes like Jenga all over the place. When an order was picked, we would pile all the boxes…a second person would check if the pick matched the pick slip before it was shipped. There was no computer system and it was all manual intervention. It was all memorization in terms of where everything was. We’ve probably gone from 30 orders a day in the past, to probably 100 with being able to just one-by-one get the orders out.

How has inventory visibility improved after Blue Link?

We’ve gone from not being able to understand where inventory is to having complete visibility of our inventory every moment in time, whether it’s sitting on a cart, whether it’s in a bin, regardless of where it may be. Prior to Blue Link, we did not pass our inventory audit because of all the inconsistencies we had with respect to what the auditors chose as samples compared to what we were telling them what we had. It got so inundated with errors and it took such a long time, that we decided to drop the inventory audit altogether. This year, because of the WMS, our inventory audit took two and a half hours and it was passed, so right there you can tell and you can see what you get when you have an actual system in place that is able to track the information and track the inventory. It’s leaps and bounds ahead of anything else trying to do anything manually especially in the environment that we’ve got.

What types of customization have you done with Blue Link?

We’ve done some EDI custom work with respect to our drop ship program. We’ve done some Canada Post integration and a Purolator integration which has made our processes a lot more efficient with respect to shipping our product. We have completely revamped the picking process where we know all of our picks which is done through a pick review screen and we’ve gone paperless so we don’t have to print pick slips anymore. We don’t print pick slips and therefore we do not allocate against those picks. It’s all done through a pick review process which makes it a lot easier and efficient. Knowing what’s getting picked at any moment in time is far greater than having a basket with a bunch of pick slips printed in it and then losing track of what’s out there and what’s not out there.

We also customized the sort orders with respect to how customers get picked. We have three types of customers – we have mass customers, we have specialty customers and we have our drop ship customers.  Walmart and Toys R Us, each has its own specific way of how items get picked in the warehouse so we’re in the process of ensuring that one pick does not step on another pick’s process.  Blue Link has been open to allowing us to come to them and say we’ve got all these things that we’d love to do, are you guys willing to do them. You do pay a little bit, but you also get the benefits of the efficiencies that come and the costs pay for themselves in no time flat.

Interested in seeing how Blue Link WMS can improve your order fulfilment processes? Contact us for a free 10-15 minute consultation!

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How Small Businesses Can Leverage Amazon and eCommerce Inventory Integration

It’s no surprise many small businesses fear an Amazon take-over – with Wall Street firm Needham predicting that Amazon will make up 50% of all US eCommerce, the eCommerce giant continues to set the stage for successful online sales. However, instead of worrying about losing sales to Amazon, many savvy small business owners are taking advantage of all that Amazon has to offer and are teaming up with the company to sell their own product. With more than half of Amazon’s sales coming from 3rd party sellers who list their own products, and total net sales of $177.9 billion USD in 2017, Amazon provides a great opportunity for small businesses to sell more product and reach new customers without a lot of extra effort. Instead of spending money on proprietary websites and SEO, small retail and wholesale operations are investing in eCommerce inventory integration between marketplaces like Amazon and back-end inventory and accounting software as a way to efficiently fulfil orders from multiple sales channels.

How it Works

eCommerce inventory integration enables online marketplaces and websites such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Shopify, Magento etc. to electronically share information with back-end inventory and accounting ERP software. ERP software acts as the central database and point of truth for a business. Information from all business departments and sales channels is managed within the system. Everything from inventory information, to accounting, to sales, to customer service, to purchases is maintained in a single database. This means data is accurate across all areas of the company and proper integration enables the flow of data between your warehouse and sales channels for efficient order fulfilment.

FBA – Fulfilment by Amazon

Fulfilment by Amazon provides another option for small businesses to reach even more customers both locally and around the world. In this situation, items sold through Amazon are also stored, picked, packed and shipped through the company for easy delivery and customer service – meaning your business can grow without having to purchase additional resources in terms of hiring warehouse staff and purchasing warehouse space. Even with FBA companies still require eCommerce inventory integration to share order and inventory information between systems and across all sales channels.


Proper integration of sales channels and data systems helps businesses manage an increase in order volume, without needing to hire additional employees for simple manual tasks such as order input. This means small businesses can increase their online presence utilizing online search opportunities and vertical markets on Amazon where potential customers are already shopping. Other benefits include:

Consumers and businesses trust the Amazon brand, and many opt to search for product through Amazon as opposed to directly on the retailer’s site. Small businesses can take advantage of this trust by listing products on Amazon to get more exposure to customers through different channels and to help to make products discoverable without having to spend time and money to develop a website.
Amazon’s automated warehouse technology and great customer service – such as the ability for same-day shipping – provides businesses a competitive edge and is not something most wholesale businesses can’t compete with on their own.
Selling product through Amazon means your company is open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Working with Amazon allows your business to focus on expanding its customer base vs. managing eCommerce orders.

Want to learn more about eCommerce integration between online stores and back-end software? Download our Free Guide to eCommerce Integration.

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3 Steps to WMS Change Management Success

Guest Post by Helen Peatfield

You have chosen a WMS system to optimize your warehouse management processes. As a wholesale and distribution business, you’re excited to realize the potential benefits of warehouse inventory software but know any change in the workplace can be met with resistance. Exisiting employees are familiar with current processes and systems and are unsure of how new software will impact their day-to-day responsibilities. The purchase and implementation of new software is a large project that requires extra resources and commitment from staff, but the long-term benefits of better warehouse management will be well worth the work involved to get started. So, how do you implement a smooth adoption process to ensure ongoing WMS success?

Step 1: Communicating Change in the Workplace

By the time you have selected the right WMS software, you already understand the objectives and benefits inside out. But, this doesn’t mean that everyone else does. So far, only a handful of people in your organization understand what the new WMS will mean for day-to-day operations and the wider business.

Decide on how and when to communicate to the whole company. There are some key points that you should include in company-wide communications:

Explain the primary objectives of the warehouse inventory software implementation
Communicate the benefits to the business and staff
Reassure staff that they will be adequately supported and trained
Make sure everyone understands the importance of successful change
Set out timelines for implementation and training

Communicating change shouldn’t be a one-way street but an ‘all-hands’ meeting lead from the top is a good start. Having the gravitas of a CEO or CTO deliver the first message will add weight to the importance.

You should also give employees a chance to raise questions. A short Q&A at the end of the first meeting is a good start, but make sure you also give people the chance to speak in smaller groups where senior management won’t be attending. Some of the most change-resistant might be afraid to speak out in large groups or in front of anyone that senior -and you can’t address their fears if you don’t hear them.

If you have an intranet, use it to keep all employees up to date. It can also be a good place to post FAQs and other key project resources, like implementation timelines, go-live dates, and training schedules.

Step 2: Identifying Stakeholders

You can’t handle all the work involved in the change management process alone. It must be a team endeavour with the right people supporting both the change and the staff implementing it. The more an individual employee is affected by the new WMS system, the more support they need.

Identify individuals that can perform key communication and training functions on an ongoing basis. The list below is a good place to start.

Leadership – This could include senior management, a consultant from the warehouse inventory software vendor and perhaps an external change management consultant.

Key Users – Identify department managers or experienced members of each department. These key users will help digest and communicate what the changes mean for their teams and can also manage the training specific to that user group. Key user groups for WMS include:

Warehouse team
Supply chain workers (e.g. delivery drivers)
IT department
Senior management
Sales team (so they know whether an item is in stock)

Super Users – These will typically be the most tech savvy users in the organization. Identify and train them early so that they can help with the day-to-day monitoring of WMS usage and low-level user issues. Whilst you could just use your existing IT helpdesk here, consider including members from other teams if your structure permits it.

End Users – This is everyone else that will use the warehouse inventory software.

Step 3: Ongoing Training & Support

Training users is instrumental in change management success. Train each user according to their function in the stakeholder category and their individual needs. Set tasks, tests, and achievable milestones, and be sure to offer plenty of support to make their training relevant and rewarding.

Pickers need distinct training from your inventory managers, team leaders and other users – create job-specific training scenarios for each job function.
Set timely and achievable milestones to help set the pace and keep trainees motivated.
Keep an up-to-date and searchable knowledge management system.
Find the right type of training for your user groups. Use e-learning to provide flexible training modules where appropriate. If you have a shift-based workforce with limited access to desktop computers, face-to-face seminars might be a better option.
Make use of all vendor resources on offer.
Have your super users give face-to-face training to their departments.

Your business, people, processes and technology will continue to shift and so must the support they receive. Training and support must be ongoing in order to succeed in the face of change.

As with any change management, robust planning, clear objectives and buy-in are essential to WMS adoption and success. A WMS system might appear to be a technology-focused project, but by putting the people in your organization first, you will see a quicker ROI and more sustainable long-term gains.

Helen Peatfield is a writer, editor, and regular contributor to ERP Focus. She has a wealth of experience in ad tech, supply chain management and SaaS. When she is not typing away at her desk, she can be found scuba diving or wakeboarding in the sunny Gulf of Thailand.

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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.

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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
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.

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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…


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.


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


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.

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