Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

WMS for Small Warehouses – Cost Considerations

As with any major business purchase, when it comes to WMS for your small warehouse it’s important to set a budget based on a realistic understanding of your requirements and what is available in the market. Firstly, you need to determine what WMS functionality you need, and therefore which type of system will be best for your operations. Typically, you have three options and each has a significantly different price tag. The first option is to make do with any existing warehouse management functionality available in your ERP solution. These tools will include basic functionality for picking, packing and shipping, but will have limited options when it comes to managing more complex needs. The second option is to buy a standalone WMS system that you can integrate with your existing ERP software, however, these types of standalone solutions are usually designed for very large and complex warehouses – and have the price tag to reflect this. A better option for small warehouses is to find an ERP solution with advanced WMS capabilities. Something in between basic warehouse management tools and an all-out WMS system. This is where Blue Link works great. Not only do you get robust ERP functionality with built-in warehouse management tools, but you also have the option to turn-on more sophisticated WMS capabilities (such as the ability to set-up multiple stocking locations for the same SKU).  For the sake of this post, we are going to take a closer look at option number three, and some of the cost considerations to keep in mind when budgeting for a WMS for your small warehouse.

Software Costs

When you buy ERP with WMS capabilities, you will need to take into account the cost of the ERP plus the cost of the WMS features. Many software vendors base pricing off the number of user licenses and any additional functionality that’s required outside of the basic inventory management and accounting features. This allows your business to pick and choose which advanced features you need – for example, WMS, eCommerce, lot tracking, point of sale and more. The cost to turn on additional features is significantly less than having to purchase a sophisticated standalone WMS software which can cost as much if not more than the cost of your ERP system.  And having an all-in-one solution can save you time and money down the road as well. It’s much easier to deal with one software vendor and support team than having to manage and integrate multiple solutions from different vendors.

Other costs associated with implementing WMS functionality include:

Hardware Costs

One of the major benefits of WMS for small warehouses is the inclusion of sophisticated barcode scanning functionality. Part of setting a budget will involve determining how many devices you will need in the warehouse and what sort of accessories or other barcode scanning equipment is necessary. When planning for hardware purchases, keep in mind the following:

What sort of devices do you want to use and what devices are available? 
How many employees will need to use a device?
How will you use the devices – will they be mounted on carts or forklifts? Will employees be holding them in their hand?
Do you have adequate WiFi for the warehouse and are there any dead spots that need equipment?
How many charging stations or lock cabinets do you need for storing barcode scanners?
Will you be printing barcode labels for product without them? Will you need to print barcodes for your shelving? If yes, what size will the labels be and do you have an adequate printer to make your own labels?

Consulting Costs

When implementing WMS functionality in your small warehouse, you will want to schedule consulting time with the software vendor to review your current warehouse processes, discuss opportunities and changes, get help setting up your warehouse design and any other pre-go-live activities. The more prepared you are before you start using new software, the easier the transition will be.

Training Costs

Training employees on a new WMS will be a significant cost, especially if your team has never used a WMS system before. However, proper training from the beginning can have one of the biggest impacts on how quickly your team will be productive on the new system. Training will include not only how to use both the ERP software and WMS but also training on certain new job responsibilities such as:

Who will be responsible for replenishment?

How frequently? Every morning? Twice per day? Night shift?

Who will be responsible for cycle-counting shorted locations?

Do employees know how to perform cycle counts?

Will you lock up your devices every night?

If so, who will be responsible for ensuring that every device is accounted for and is plugged in/charging every night?

As you can see, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when setting a budget for a new WMS system. However, once you’ve made some initial decisions and have proper processes in place, you will quickly start to realize the many benefits of advanced WMS for your small warehouse. And this is why finding the right software vendor is so important. You want to work with a company who will take the time to understand your business needs to help identify opportunities for improvements – and work with you and your team to create the most efficient processes.

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The Biggest Difference Between Blue Link Accounting and QuickBooks

There are many differences between Blue Link ERP and QuickBooks. For starters, while QuickBooks is designed as an accounting solution, Blue Link includes not only accounting functionality, but also inventory management, order entry and processing, purchase orders, eCommerce, warehouse management, contact management and more. Therefore, trying to compare Blue Link with QuickBooks doesn’t actually make sense. Instead, many Blue Link customers decide to move from QuickBooks to our software when they start to grow and require additional features and want to automate processes. Since Blue Link is designed to replace QuickBooks, our system includes all the same basic accounting features and more – such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger and bank management. However, there is one huge difference between Blue Link’s accounting functionality and QuickBooks – and that is transactional integrity.

Transactional Integrity

Entry-level systems like QuickBooks are very end-user friendly and are forgiving to users who make mistakes. One such example of this is how QuickBooks allows almost any transaction to be retroactively “corrected” as if the error were never made. This makes the system easy-to-use for people without any bookkeeping or accounting experience but is not good for auditing purposes.

With Blue Link, transactions are purposely not editable after the fact. This is a very good thing to support audit requirements, and any good ERP system like ours will not allow retroactive changes to posted transactions.  Instead, to “undo” a mistake, you have to make the proper correcting entries. This ensures there is always a complete audit trail of what happened in the system.

Since Blue Link includes functionality to support proper accounting processes, it is important that you hire and train the right people to perform these tasks.

Hiring

As a growing distribution company, you need to consider hiring candidates that are from larger companies running Enterprise ERP packages for certain positions. While there may be roles within your business that are appropriate for people with fewer qualifications, you will want to make sure you have at least a couple of people on staff who have a background or experience in accounting/bookkeeping. These people will be expecting software features like those we have in Blue Link and will have the accounting knowledge to support proper accounting processes.

Training

Even if you have hired the right people, to fully optimize the features available in Blue Link’s software, proper training is a must. Most Blue Link customers receive a full 4-5 days of training as part of our implementation process. The good news though is that if you have hired the right people, you will only need to train them on how to use Blue Link to complete their tasks – instead of having to train them on actual business processes such as accounting processes. Then, as your business grows and you add more people in the future, you can continue to schedule additional training.

As you can see, while QuickBooks is great for small businesses for managing simple processes, it lacks the transactional integrity necessary for growing businesses that need to follow proper accounting rules. As your business continues to grow, the need for proper accounting knowledge and procedures will only increase until you find the right solution and hire the right people to support this.

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Advanced ERP Warehouse Management – What to Expect

For wholesale and distribution businesses, warehouse management is a crucial part of business success. Proper warehouse management has an impact on all aspects of business operations – including your bottom line when it comes to planning inventory levels and purchasing to meet demand, on customer service by helping you get the right product to the right customer on time and on meeting regulations by your ability to properly track and record the movement of product from your supplier to your customer. ERP warehouse management is just one of the many features found in ERP software to help run your business and will include functionality for managing multiple warehouse locations, receiving, picking, packing and shipping product, and tracking bin and shelf locations (to name a few). However, for larger, growing businesses with more complex warehouse operations, ERP warehouse management features may not be enough. Instead, many large businesses will either (1) purchase a standalone WMS system to integrate with their ERP, or (2) consider finding a solution like Blue Link, which includes advanced ERP warehouse management functionality. Blue Link’s advanced warehouse management functionality (which we call “WMS Lite” – Warehouse Management Software Lite) is a great option for those businesses that are too small for an expensive standalone WMS but still need more functionality than is what is included in most ERP solutions. 

Features of WMS Lite

To better understand the difference between Blue Link’s WMS Lite component and the software’s built-in ERP warehouse management features, we’ve included a list of some of the advanced functionality available in WMS Lite. 

Put Away/Move Inventory – Blue Link logs every single movement of product in the warehouse. This includes from different shelfing units, to carts and forklifts, to loading docks and put-away stations, and the system differentiates between what is physically available but already allocated to a specific order, to what is available to add to a new order.
Pick Review – this includes a list of sales orders that are ready to be picked based on their status.
Pick – users can pick products as they walk the warehouse floor using sophisticated barcode scanning with mobile pick functionality.
Count – users can perform inventory counts using barcode scanners.
Show All Warehouse Stocking Locations – this allows users to see a master list of all stocking locations and optionally filter for empty locations to help determine where to place inbound items.
Multiple Stocking Locations – this is the ability to manage and track multiple storage locations for the same SKU. 
Receive – this allows a user to receive a Purchase Order direct to WMS Shelving, then pass that data to the Purchase Order screen in Blue Link ERP for the “real” receipt.

In addition, Blue Link’s WMS Lite allows you to set up stocking and non-stocking locations, set stocking location priorities and ratings and it allows for cross-docking which is the ability to receive and ship product without putting it away. 

Benefits of WMS Lite

One of the main benefits of using Blue Link’s advanced ERP warehouse management functionality is that it creates an extremely easy to understand pick workflow that is as error-proof as it can be. Essentially, with Blue Link’s WMS Lite, it tells employees: 

Go to this location in the warehouse
Identify that you’re at the location by scanning the barcode on the shelf/floor/cart etc.  
Physically pick the first item according to the electronic pick slip
Scan the item as you pick it to ensure that you’ve picked the correct item 
Scan the cart that you’re putting the item on
Move to the next item on the list and repeat

With WMS functionality, you can optimize the pick, pack and ship process to help you get the right product to your customers more quickly. With a properly organized and decorated warehouse, you significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to pick product and put-away items and with barcode scanning you essentially eliminate picking errors. 

 



Hardware Requirements

Since WMS is designed for picking, packing, shipping and receiving in the warehouse, special consideration needs to go to help decide which type of hardware will run the software. Since the WMS screens are part of the main Blue Link ERP application, any physical device that can establish an RDP connection can run the WMS features, however, Blue Link has a couple of recommendations when it comes to choosing which hardware to purchase:

Rugged Tablet Devices – these types of devices are great for using the software if you want to be able to hold the device in your hand, and scan barcodes directly from the tablet
Mounted Tablet with Bluetooth Scanner – another option is to mount a tablet to a cart, and then use a smaller, handheld Bluetooth scanner to scan products  
Mounted Tablet with Long Range Scanner – long-range scanners allow you to easily scan hard-to-reach products or items that are higher-up on shelves, and require forklifts or other equipment to reach

Employee Training 

To truly reap the benefits of Blue Link’s WMS functionality (and our ERP software in general), employees must be properly trained on how to use the system and on best practices and proper warehouse processes. If you’re new to warehouse management functionality than there will likely be a bit of a learning curve as employees get used to a new way of thinking when it comes to managing inventory and picking, packing and shipping orders. With WMS Lite, first and foremost, you need to train employees to never mover product in the warehouse without a scanner. Using a WMS system requires discipline by all employees who set foot in your warehouse, and it is critical that no one ever places product into a location or takes product from a location without using a scanner to scan it into/out of that location. This is one of the key differentiators between warehouse management and advanced WMS functionality. Failure to do this will result in bad data in the system that will prevent users from being able to pick and ship orders. On the flip side, following procedures will result in a dramatic reduction in the amount of time required to pick orders and will also dramatically increase the accuracy of inventory.

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How to Improve Order Fulfilment to Succeed Post Pandemic

According to a recent report from Shopify, order fulfilment is emerging as a competitive differentiator for 2021 and beyond as consumers demand fast and free shipping with sustainable and branded packaging. This emerging trend is one of several identified in the recently released Future of eCommerce report based on data collected from online sales in 2020. While we can all agree that COVID helped to expedite the popularity of eCommerce, according to the report, the actual numbers show 10 years’ worth of eCommerce growth in just 3 months! With this type of growth, it’s going to take a lot more than just a well-designed website to thrive in the future, and it’s no surprise that fulfilment is one of the biggest trends identified by Shopify.  Other trends identified in the report include:

Record online competition

New consumer behaviour is helping to reshape the future of eCommerce
Consumers started purchasing items rarely bought online before the pandemic and the desire for convenience and immediacy when shopping online significantly increased

Marketplace domination (think Amazon) is challenging companies’ brand-building efforts

With half of all global purchases happening on marketplaces, consumers are using these types of websites as new search platforms to find solutions rather than brands

Customer acquisition costs are increasing worldwide across channels

Businesses need to prioritize retention and come up with ways to incentivize and reward repeat and loyal customers

You can find the full Shopify Future of eCommerce report here to read more about each trend above, but today we are going to focus on how wholesalers and distributors that also sell online can use fulfilment to their advantage to win more customers and thrive in the future.

Key takeaways for wholesalers and distributors

As we learnt over this past year, eCommerce emerged as an opportunity for every type of business, including wholesalers and distributors. While many wholesale companies were already selling online, 2020 reiterated the importance of having proper systems to manage front-end sales and back-end operations when trying to reach customers, and according to Shopify, the following key trends emerged around order fulfilment:  

Consumers are favoring businesses that provide fast, free and sustainable shipping

67% of U.S. consumers expect same-day, next-day or two-day delivery times. Add to this the fact that 64% of global consumers want their orders shipped for free, and it’s obvious that successful companies need to put fulfilment at the forefront of their business priorities. If that wasn’t enough pressure for small businesses, 75% of consumers are also more likely to buy a product that has been packaged sustainably.

Carrier and shipping costs are increasing

As more and more consumers looked to purchase online in 2020, shipping companies were operating at peak season levels for most of the year, resulting in higher service rates and FedEx announced that customers worldwide can expect an average 9% rate increase for 2021.

Consumer expectations are becoming more complex

More and more consumers expect free returns with the worldwide total cost of returns topping $1 trillion in recent years.

How to improve order fulfilment to succeed in 2021 and beyond

While it may seem daunting to move forward after hearing stats like the above, the good news is that there are lots of ways your business can automate processes, streamline operations and increase efficiencies to remain competitive and thrive in the future.

eCommerce ERP Integration

First and foremost, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that eCommerce ERP integration is a must. Proper integration means that there is minimal (if any), human intervention between customers placing an order online, and warehouse staff being able to pick, pack and ship the order. Proper integration pushes and pulls data between your ERP and eCommerce site in real-time and provides one system to manage sales from all channels.  

Improve Shipping Processes

Getting a handle on your shipping processes will help to reduce costs, keep customers happy and improve order fulfilment. Rate shopping functionality allows you to quickly compare carriers to find the best price and shipping method for each order. Even if you have a good relationship with a local carrier company, it is always a good idea to sanity check the prices they are charging and have a back-up if they become too busy. Consolidating shipments that are going to the same region can also help to cut down on costs and shipping times.

Warehouse Organization

Proper warehouse management and organization helps you improve your picking, packing, shipping and receiving processes. With bin and shelf labelling and an optimized warehouse layout, you ensure that you have easy access to fast-moving items and can quickly find the right product for each order. Virtual warehouses allow you to maintain separate inventory for eCommerce sales in the same physical location as inventory for wholesale orders to better manage stock levels.

Mobile Barcode Scanning

Mobile barcode scanning allows you to scan product as you pick items, helping to cut down on the number of picking errors and speeding up the order picking process. Employees can scan items into boxes as they walk the warehouse floor or bring items to a packing station for a double-check. Barcode scanning makes it easy to find products when you don’t know where they are in the warehouse and helps improve the picking process when dealing with different inventory items that look similar. Because barcode scanning helps to reduce the number of picking errors, this also helps decrease the number of returns due to shipping the wrong product.

Automate Inventory Management

Automating the inventory management process allows you to accurately forecast demand by making use of min and max levels for purchasing and replenishment. Tracking inventory from one system allows you to fulfil orders from multiple sales channels, and if you have multiple warehouse locations, look for a system that automatically fulfils orders based on whichever location is closest to the customer. This helps reduce shipping costs and shipping times.

How Blue Link can help

With a focus on wholesale and distribution, Blue Link ERP has been helping businesses automate the order fulfilment process and streamline operations for over 25 years. We understand that wholesale and distribution is changing, and have advanced functionality for managing online sales through integration with existing eCommerce sites and marketplaces such as Shopify and Amazon, plus our own B2B Online Ordering Portal. Learn more about how the right software can help your business grow and succeed today and into the future. 

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How to Find Accounting and Inventory Software for Your Start-up Business

You’ve decided to open a new wholesale and distribution business. Maybe you’re going to start selling home goods, industrial machinery, furniture, food items, clothing, or pharmaceutical products…whatever the situation, one of the most important business decisions to make is what accounting and inventory software you need to run your business. This is an important consideration when first starting out and will depend on several different factors. Aside from required functionality and working within a budget, you will also want to take into consideration your growth projections and future needs. How quickly do you plan on growing your business and what do realistic growth projections look like? You don’t want to implement a new system only to have to replace it a year later, but you also don’t want to burden yourself with an expensive software solution if you do not grow as quickly as planned. We’ve put together some more information on how to help you find the right system for your start-up business.

Typically, as a start-up wholesale distribution company, there are a couple of different areas to focus on when looking for a solution – accounting, inventory management and possibly eCommerce.

Accounting

First, you will need something to manage the accounting side of the business. This includes invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, bank management and more. Ideally, you will want a system that can also handle creating sales orders and purchase orders, and something that allows you to generate different business reports – such as Profit and Loss Statements, Balance Sheets and then additional reports to track sales, customer data and inventory information. A great solution for small businesses is QuickBooks. With a sole focus on accounting, QuickBooks is an inexpensive solution that can be implemented in a short time frame to help you manage your basic accounting requirements.  

Inventory Management

Your next order of business will be finding a solution to help manage inventory. You need to track how much product you have available for sale, inventory levels for purchasing, and the management of inventory in your warehouse for picking, packing and shipping. As a start-up company, you may be able to get away with using spreadsheets to manually track data. Although using spreadsheets is time-consuming and error-prone, with a small number of SKUs, transactions and orders, using spreadsheets is a great option to get your business up and running. Alternatively, as your business starts to grow, or if you would prefer something more advanced, there are many inventory solutions that will integrate with QuickBooks.

eCommerce

If you want to sell product online, you will need to get an eCommerce site. This involves finding and creating a website based on existing platforms in the marketplace such as Shopify, WordPress, BigCommerce, Magento, etc. Once again, when just starting out, you may be able to survive by manually updating information between your accounting/inventory system and on your website such as inventory, descriptions, pricing and more. Implementing a proper eCommerce store requires a significant investment, but manually updating information between your different systems can save you some money while order volumes are still low.

What About ERP Software?

You may have heard the term “ERP Software” and are wondering about using that as a potential system. ERP software is designed to automate processes and streamline operations by providing functionality across all business operations – including accounting, inventory management, warehouse management, order entry and processing, reporting, contact management and more. However, because ERP is essentially multiple systems in one, it comes at a higher price tag and with a longer and more complex implementation process than an accounting solution like QuickBooks. Therefore, it can be hard to justify purchasing ERP at the beginning, and realistically, most start-up companies are better off using QuickBooks and spreadsheets (or some integrated inventory solution) to start off with. It is only after your business starts to grow and transaction volumes start to increase that it’s time to look at ERP as an option. There are some situations where start-up companies can benefit from ERP software as the first system implemented – for example when companies want to automate as many processes as possible and expect significant growth within the first couple of years. Frequently, start-up companies who do choose to implement ERP software will do so instead of hiring more people to perform tasks.

Search Process Tips

Now that you have a better understanding of the different systems available to your start-up business, here are some tips to help you with the search process.

One of the biggest challenges as a start-up entrepreneur is time. Since you have limited staff, you have to wear a lot of hats and inevitably get stuck performing tasks across the different areas of the business. This makes it hard to find the time to dedicate towards finding a proper solution, however, this is a double-edged sword as once you do find a solution, it will help you free up time.
While systems like QuickBooks can be implemented very quickly, this is not the case with ERP software. If you decide you want to implement an all-in-one solution, start searching well in advance of needing a new system. Implementing ERP can take several months based on a vendor’s availability and resources so you will want to start your search ahead of time – when it’s still manageable to run your business using your existing systems.

 

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Blue Link Named as Top Food and Beverage Distribution Software by Food Logistics’

Once again, Blue Link ERP is proud to be named to Food Logistics’ 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers for our food and beverage distribution software. Food safety and consumer trust is more important than ever in today’s world, and one mishandled issue can have devastating effects along the whole supply chain in the food and beverage industry. With a focus on wholesalers and distributors, Blue Link works hard to ensure we have the right functionality to help our customers maintain compliance with regulations and governing bodies, and have peace of mind knowing that they can rely on our technology to help keep the supply chain safe. We want to thank and congratulate the other vendors who made the list for their continued efforts and support of the food and beverage industry. See below for the full press release. 

BLUE LINK Named to Food Logistics’ 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers

VAUGHAN, ONTARIO—December 17th, 2020 — Food Logistics, the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain, has named BLUE LINK ERP to its 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers honors leading software and technology providers that ensure a safe, efficient and reliable global food and beverage supply chain.

 “From fleet management to warehouse management to simply just track and trace along the cold food chain, these software and technology providers have definitely stepped it up to ensure cold food and beverage products continue moving along the line with out incident,” says Maina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “This pandemic has thrown the food industry a curveball, but many of these providers fast-tracked the development and deployment of their solutions to ensure food safety, traceability, visibility and quality assurance. So, to these winners and others in the industry working to make a difference, thank you!”

Companies on this year’s 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list will be profiled in the November/December 2020 issue of Food Logistics, as well as online at www.foodlogistics.com.

About Food Logistics

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

About Blue Link ERP

Blue Link ERP provides inventory management and accounting ERP software for SMBs in North America and the Caribbean. With a focus on wholesalers and distributors, Blue Link includes advanced functionality for businesses dealing with food and beverage distribution such as lot tracking, barcode scanning, mobile picking, landed cost tracking, eCommerce integration, recall management and more. 

MEDIA CONTACT

Samantha Hornby
Blue Link Associates
905-660-0599
LearnMore@BlueLinkERP.com
www.BlueLinkERP.com

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ERP Software Features: User Defined Fields

One of the more robust and frequently overlooked ERP software features is User Defined Fields. With Blue Link ERP, User Defined Fields (or UDFs as they are commonly referred to as), are a great option for managing different attributes and additional information related to inventory, customers, prospects, transactions and more. UDFs allow you to track information that is unique to your business processes without having to customize the system. You can make use of UDFs for many different things – for example, you can use UDFs to store different inventory attributes in the system and then automatically push that data to your integrated eCommerce site for your customers to see. You can also create UDFs for customer and prospect data to help improve your sales and customer service process. And, like any field in Blue Link ERP, you can also use the information stored in UDFs to automatically create and share robust reports.

What is a User Defined Field in Blue Link?

UDFs allow users to add information to certain screens in Blue Link for miscellaneous purposes, without the need to customize the software.  With a little bit of training, any user with the right permissions can set-up, add, remove and edit UDFs in the system. To create a User Defined Field, you first have to choose which type of field it will be. In Blue Link, you have the choice of the following field types: 

A free form field with the option to limit the number of characters
A drop-down field where you can either force users to choose an option from the drop-down menu, or you can have a set of suggested items and give the user the ability to create a new item
A SQL select statement (query) 

You can then add each UDF to multiple screens in Blue Link or only to specific screens, and lastly, you have the option to define a default value for specific UDF fields. Now that you understand what a UDF is, let’s explore different uses for UDFs.  

 

Manage eCommerce Product Attributes

From the inventory screen in Blue Link, you can add UDFs for tracking product attributes. For example, if you’re selling alcohol, you can create a series of UDFs to easily track alcohol content, varietal and whether the product is organic or not. If you’ve integrated Blue Link with your eCommerce store, you can choose what (if any) product attributes to share online for your customers to see. You can also use this information for reporting purposes through Blue Link’s reporting tools or by live-linked data in Excel.

Track Customer and Prospect Information

User Defined Fields are a great way to track customer and prospect information from Blue Link’s Contact Manager and CRM screens. UDFs provide a quick snapshot of customer information when you’re interacting with customers on the phone and allows to you easily see information about the business such as the number of employees, inventory primary class interest and more. This helps to build your relationship with customers and keeps important information at your fingertips.

UDFs are also a great way to track information about sales prospects and leads. For example, you can quickly assign a lead a Persona, Lead Score or Rank by using UDF fields which helps you cater your sales process to their specific needs. You can then report on this information to help you make decisions about where to put your marketing and sales efforts. For example, you can track how many leads fall into each Persona category, and therefore which type of content your marketing team should be dedicating their efforts towards.

Add Information to Important Documents

UDFs can also be useful from a transactional point of view. In Blue Link, you can add UDFs to the Sales Order screen and Purchase Order screen to track information. By creating UDFs on a Sales Order, you can then use that information on important documents, such as order confirmations, bills of lading, invoices, export documents and more. Blue Link allows you to choose which information you want printed/included on which documents. This is useful for tracking information such as Product Type of Use, Product Shape and Equipment Make. Once again, the information you store in UDFs can also be used for reporting purposes.

As you can see, UDFs are a very useful feature of ERP software and can be used in a variety of different ways. Before you consider customizing the software to meet a specific need, determine if you have the option to create your own User Defined Fields. If you do, remember to ask your staff if they too would like to track certain information that is not already in the system as a means to provide better service, and create useful reports. 

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Make Sure Your Pharmaceutical Distribution System Includes These Reports

Proper reporting and analytics are important to every company, but even more for businesses in regulated industries where compliance involves submitting reports to governing bodies and “downstream” to your customers. This includes requirements set forth by the DEA and FDA in the pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution industry. Not only does proper reporting ensure that supply chain partners are adhering to regulations, but it helps keep the supply chain safe from illegitimate products, reduces the number of items that make it into the black market, and gives customers peace of mind that the products they receive are legitimate and safe. Blue Link’s pharmaceutical distribution system includes robust functionality for managing reporting and analytics, including the many standard reports for all businesses and then additional reports based on the categorization of products you buy and sell. We’ve broken down some of these reports below.

Transaction Reports (T3 Reporting)

A Transaction Report or T3 is a report that tracks the “Transaction Information” (physical transaction between the seller and buyer), “Transaction History” (Pedigree of the product) and “Transaction Statement” (statement by the seller that the products being sold are legitimate) of each unit of a product along the supply chain. Every time product changes ownership, the new owner is added to the Transaction History which is included with the specific product information. Each unit of a product/lot has its own history.

Originally set forth by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), the regulations around T3 reporting dictates that all trading partners including manufacturers, re-packagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers cannot accept pharmaceutical products unless the trading partner they receive the product from can provide specific information about the product – including a Transaction Report or T3. This allows each trading partner in the supply chain to verify that the product is legitimate and legal.

Want to learn more about the information included as part of the Transaction Report? Check out this blog post: Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) Transaction Report (T3).

ARCOS Reporting

The Controlled Substances Act outlined in 1970 requires that all manufacturers and distributors report their controlled substance transactions to the DEA.  To monitor the movement of controlled substances along the supply chain, ARCOS (or the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System) was established, which tracks transactions involving controlled substances from their point of manufacture through commercial distribution channels to the consumer (through use at hospitals, via practitioners, through sales at pharmacies, etc.).  The DEA requires submission of ARCOS by the distributor after the sale of any controlled substance. ARCOS reporting includes information from DEA Form 222, which is submitted by a customer (such as a pharmacy, hospital, specialist, practitioner, etc.) that wants to purchase Schedule II drugs from their supplier. Submission of Form DEA 222 by the customer dictates that they have the authority to purchase the product based on their licenses and helps to track the movement of Schedule II product along the supply chain. The information from DEA Form 222 submitted by the customer is then included in the ARCOS report which must be submitted by the distributor selling the product.

The point of ARCOS is to accumulate transactions of controlled substances so that Federal and State government agencies can identify and address any diversion of product into illicit channels of distribution.

Reporting with Blue Link

Blue Link recognizes the importance of proper reporting for pharmaceutical distribution businesses and has developed specific features to meet all the above reporting requirements.

Blue Link ERP includes functionality that captures all the information required in a T3 for each product/lot and stores the information in the system. This data can then be automatically turned into a report and sent to other members of the supply chain or used for other reporting purposes.
Blue Link includes CSOS functionality as part of its B2B Online Order Portal, which allows customers to electronically submit orders containing Schedule II drugs with their suppliers. This eliminates the need for customers to manually submit DEA Form 222 through mail or courier, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Blue Link includes functionality that automatically captures and stores relevant ARCOS and/or CSOS information which allows businesses to then automatically generate reports that can be uploaded to the DEA site.

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Using Software to Enhance your Competitive Advantage

There are many benefits to implementing the right ERP solution in your company. Advanced reporting functionality, opportunities for automation, streamlined operations across departments, etc. And if you are moving from mostly manual processes, the benefits speak for themselves. But there is another important factor to consider when you are evaluating different solutions…can a new system enhance your competitive advantage?

Your competitive advantage will be any sort of process, product offering or service that gives your company an edge over the competition. For example, it could be your fast shipping and delivery times, your great prices, your customer service or loyalty programs, your unique product offering or a combination of the above. While it may be necessary to customize your software solution to accommodate your competitive advantage, you may also find that a robust ERP solution already includes a lot of the functionality you need, out-of-the box.

If your competitive advantage is ….

Fast & Reliable Shipping

Nowadays, same-day or next-day shipping is becoming the norm, thanks to retail giants like Amazon. If your business prides itself on fast-shipping times, or local deliveries, you want to make sure any new software solution will contribute to this competitive advantage. When evaluating different software vendors, try to find a solution that provides the following functionality:

Rate-shopping features to ensure you always get the best price for shipping
Wireless barcode scanning to help you pick orders faster and with fewer pick errors
Integration with common shipping carriers to easily share package, address, shipping and tracking information between your ERP and the carrier of your choice

Excellent Customer Service

Customer Service as a competitive advantage can refer to many different things. It might be personalized service from an in-house team of experts, it might be a great loyalty program or return policy, or free services provided with certain purchases. Whatever the case, an important aspect of great customer service is having the right data, available to the right people at the right time. An ERP solution with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality can help you easily manage different customer accounts and includes functionality for:

Tracking communication with different customers and individuals
Scheduling follow-up items and setting next action dates
The ability to easily create a quote or sales order or look up customer sales history
Functionality for automatically emailing information from the system
The ability to manage marketing lists for special promotions, or for organizing customer and product-specific information

Value Pricing

If your business offers competitive pricing, you need to have a way to manage this in your software. Manually trying to track multiple pricing contracts, volume discounts, promotional prices etc. for each customer and for different products is very time-consuming and prone to errors. Instead, look for a system that provides the following:

Allows you to easily set-up different pricing levels for different customers and products
Includes automated processes for identifying the best price when creating a new sales order
Has tools to override prices depending on specific promotions
Allows you to set a hierarchy of pricing rules

A Unique Product Offering

Lastly, another common competitive advantage is having a unique product offering or exclusive relationships with distributors and manufacturers. Some companies also remain competitive by being able to easily source “hard-to-find” products. In any case, it’s important to have software to help you manage your inventory levels to make sure you always have enough product to meet customer demand. Look for software that allows you to:

Easily create a purchase order from a sales order when an item is out of stock
Suggest similar or substitute products when something is out of stock
Track product in-transit or on the water
Set min and max inventory levels with alerts for when product is getting low

Your competitive advantage is what sets you apart from the competition and keeps your customers coming back. Therefore, you must be able to continue to support this competitive advantage as your business grows and requirements change. Find a software partner that not only supports your competitive advantage but can offer features and products to help enhance it.

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Introducing Kinex Media – Blue Link’s Partner for Website Development & Management

Blue Link ERP is proud to be adding Kinex Media as an official partner for website development and management. Our team at Blue Link was first introduced to the team at Kinex Media back in 2015 after researching companies to help with our website redesign. We were very happy with the project results and have been recommending Kinex Media ever since. After recently gaining some mutual customers, we have decided to make the partnership official and are very excited to continue working together.

As part of Blue Link’s all-in-one inventory management and accounting ERP software, we also provide functionality for eCommerce. This includes our proprietary B2B online order portal and integration with existing eCommerce sites and marketplaces through our API. With proper eCommerce integration, information in Blue Link ERP including products, inventory images, descriptions, pricing, quantity information, and shipping information is shared between your website for real-time order processing. When a customer places an order online, this information is then recorded in Blue Link so that the order can be picked, packed and shipped and inventory quantities updated. Our partnership with Kinex Media allows our team to provide the back-end inventory and accounting ERP functionality and Kinex Media to provide the front-end web development and management. All systems are then integrated as part of a fully automated solution.

About Kinex Media

Kinex Media is a digital agency providing services for website design, web development, eCommerce, and online marketing. The company started in 2008 in Mississauga, Ontario and has since grown to become a leading digital agency in Canada, working with top brands, some of which are included in the Fortune 500 list. Kinex Media’s specialty includes website design and development, SEO, pay per click, eCommerce and digital marketing, and the company works with a variety of eCommerce platforms such as Magento, Shopify and WordPress.
“Having worked with a number of different ERP systems over the years, we find Blue Link by far the most robust ERP system that we recommend for medium to larger businesses. We have recommended Blue Link to many of our clients and they have always delivered on their promise and our clients are thrilled with their choice. “
Amir Waheed, Project Manager, Kinex Media Inc
At Blue Link, we are very selective when it comes to finding and choosing partner companies to compliment the features in our ERP solution. All our partners, including Kinex Media, share a culture of superior customer service and support and provide solutions built on the most up-to-date technology. Just like we are not afraid to tell potential customers when it is not a good fit, we are also adamant about only working with partners we trust to offer the same level of service and commitment to our customers. From our first interaction with Kinex Media when we engaged them to re-do our website, to the shared customers we now support on a day-to-day basis, the company has always been quick to respond, can easily admit to and correct issues, and always goes the extra mile to make sure customers are happy.

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