Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Take Control of Your eCommerce Inventory with the Right System

eCommerce inventory management is the foundation for a successful online business. Of course, generating online sales is the key to initially securing customers and gaining part of the available market, but if you’re unable to fulfil those orders, these sales will quickly get lost to more efficient competitors. As eCommerce companies continue to drop prices, provide similar products and offer favourable shipping options, it will be your company’s ability to accurately manage inventory and fulfil orders in a timely manner that has the greatest impact on the success and longevity of your eCommerce operation. For companies that sell online, this is typically not the only sales channel available – more and more retail, wholesale and distribution businesses are also making products available on homegrown eCommerce sites built on platforms like Shopify, and through marketplaces such as Amazon. Therefore, it is imperative that your business can manage orders and inventory across all sales channels – including knowing what product is available in real-time. The need for proper eCommerce inventory management software is nothing new, and according to a global eCommerce survey by TradeGecko, 39% of companies under $1M in annual revenue express inventory frustrations, with this number growing to 61% for companies over US$1M.

Managing Inventory Online
Managing eCommerce inventory requires integration between your existing eCommerce platform or marketplace and a back-end inventory and accounting solution such as Blue Link ERP. Integration allows you to share information back and forth between your ERP solution and various webstores, such as inventory descriptions and images, pricing and product availability. Your ERP software acts as the backbone to your business and inventory operations. All inventory information in terms of purchase orders, backorders, inventory descriptions and pricing as well as all sales orders from all available channels is maintained in your ERP solution, deeming the software the single point of truth. This is in addition to other features inherent in ERP software such as order entry and processing, contact management, accounting, financials and reporting. This ensures information from the system is available online to customers without fear that it’s inaccurate. Information should only be modified, added or updated in the ERP solution and then pushed automatically to online channels.

Managing Inventory in Your Warehouse

A lack of proper software can result in many inefficiencies throughout your business operations, and the same eCommerce survey mentioned above found that companies under $1M spend over 90 HOURS on inventory management, product sourcing, and managing purchase and sales orders EVERY MONTH. When there is no software to manage operations, companies rely on manual processes including manually counting inventory items to know what is available, manually writing pick slips and packing slips when fulfilling orders and then manually updating inventory information in introductory software on an ad hoc basis. As with any manual process, the room for human error is quite high – this can lead to a higher number of product returns, loss of money on obsolete inventory, employee theft and longer lead times from order to shipment. Once again, a proper ERP solution to manage inventory streamlines your operations from sales order to invoice and helps to automate warehouse processes. Barcode scanners that allow you to receive, pick, pack and ship products eliminate the number of picking and shipping errors, and ensures inventory is accurately reflected in your system. Instead of performing manual inventory counts or physically searching the warehouse for available product, inventory information is maintained in your ERP solution and online, making it easy for employees and customers to quickly find the information they need. Specific warehouse shipping functionality allows information to flow between your ERP and common shipping carriers, eliminating the need for double entry and helping to get product out the door more quickly. Warehouse shipping functionality also provides features for combining shipments that are going to the same location, tracking orders and product by container and the ability to compare shipping rates across carriers in order to save money on shipping costs.

Find the Right System

Managing your eCommerce inventory is not difficult with the right software. Gone are the days of managing inventory using manual processes and tracking information on pen and paper – in today’s marketplace, software exists that allows you to create automated workflows so that you can focus on more important tasks such as generating sales. Gaining control of your inventory and warehouse operations will reflect online and to your customers, ensuring they have a positive interaction with your company, leaving them to continue to purchase your product well into the future. Given the stiff competition and expectations of customers, it’s no wonder that warehouse automation stood out as being the most impactful technology, especially by companies over $1 million in sales and further still, by those over $5 million in sales.

 

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Is Your Accounting ERP Software Provider Just Another Vendor or a Partner?

Whether it’s filling up your gas tank or ordering your morning coffee, we don’t often give a lot of thought to the vendors we purchase our everyday items from. This is because these are simple and instant transactions. You pay the vendor for a particular product at a set cost and that’s that. However, when it comes to accounting ERP software providers, it’s important to think of these companies as more than just another “everyday” vendor. An accounting ERP software implementation impacts your entire organization  not just accounting and finances…it impacts your order entry and processing, warehouse management, CRM and, more and these solutions are meant to be a long-term investment in your business.  It is therefore essential that you choose an accounting ERP software provider who you can trust and one that has the values of a partner rather than a vendor. They should share the mutual goal of growing your business and offer unbiased advice and solutions that work for your unique situation and not just for their personal gain.
Read more to see if your accounting ERP software provider or software candidate stands up to the test!

How to Recognize an Accounting ERP Software Partner

As with most good relationships in our lives, there needs to be a level of mutual trust, understanding, and good communication to maintain an enduring partnership and avoid having to switch systems on a periodic basis. Essentially, an accounting ERP software partner will invest the time to really understand your business in-depth, before assuming they have a solution to meet your needs. Many good software partners will actually slow down the sales process in order to make the necessary time to ensure a good fit and will go through each of your requirements instead of jumping straight into demos and try to impress you with the bells and whistles.

Unlike most vendors, a partner will not be afraid to say “no”. If a vendor promises you the world and claims they are a 100% fit, it is often too good to be true. Accounting ERP software partners are typically not “yes people”. Think of your personal relationships with loved ones. It’s very likely that most of these people have said no or advised against something you wanted to do at some point in the relationship. They told you the truth instead of what you wanted to hear because they are looking out for your best interest. ERP partners are not afraid to let you know right away during the sales process if they are unable to meet a requirement or if a process in your business should be done differently. This type of honesty and accountability should be central to the providers’ sales processes and should also reflect in their customer service long after the sale has been made.

Warning Signs

Be cautious of vendors who try to sell a cookie cutter solution and push technology or strategies that simply do not fit your unique situation or industry in order to make the sale. This is a good clue that they’re not really listening or in-tune with your needs. The last thing you want is to sit in on frequent sales calls where the other party is trying to sell to you the entire time – especially when they’ve taken very little time to actually understand what you require.

Think about how your current provider handled your post-implementation issues. How long did they take to get back to you or resolve the problem? Do you get bounced from one person to the other when you call in for support? A true accounting ERP software partner has dedicated resources for their customers. They also don’t limit their recommendations and advice to just their system – they will often have trusted 3rd party companies they work with that integrate with their solution to provide you with the most cost-effective and efficient solution. Some of these integrations may include 3rd party payroll services, electronic document management, credit card services and more.  These integrations can eliminate the need for costly customizations and workarounds for your business, resulting in greater success at a lower cost.

What Role Do You Play In the Partnership?

While accounting ERP software providers should deliver solutions on time and on budget, and be completely transparent in the implementation process as well as after go-live support, the customer also needs to manage the key milestones internally to ensure the business is doing everything they can to ensure the best results.  It is practically impossible for any software solution provider to successfully deliver an ERP implementation without the participation and cooperation of the customer on the other side of the equation.

It is also important to include your accounting ERP software partner in the organization’s strategic plans. How do you see the business growing 5 years from now? 10 years from now? What do you think should be done to get you there? It is very likely that these plans will have an impact on the ERP system you are using. By opening the communication channels with your ERP partner, they will be more prepared to offer you the best advice and solutions to help you attain those goals.

Should You Trust Your Accounting ERP Software Provider?

Any good partnership requires trust but how is trust measured in the accounting ERP software world? There are two main ways. First, take a look at the past credentials of your ERP software provider or candidate. This can be in the form of testimonials, case studies and, speaking with their customers. This will give you a clear idea of their reputation, reliability, turnaround times, data integrity etc.

Secondly, it’s important to also look at the present capabilities and security features, especially with cloud-based services. Here are a few things to look for:

Data center trust –  ERP partners will often have exhaustive and extensive data center security measures to ensure your data is in good hands.

Automatic failover and high level of redundancy/backup power infrastructure
Cooling systems
Fire suppression
Security such as multi-factor access authentication to the center, 24/7 monitoring

Detailed Service Level Agreements (SLA) that includes clear verbiage around

Delivery measures
Data confidentiality
Data ownership policies

Remember, you’re not just choosing technology, you’re also choosing the people behind the technology so don’t be afraid to put your potential ERP software partner through the paces as this is the best way to find out what your customer experience will be like.

Thank you Blue Link Customers!

Blue Link leverages decades of industry expertise to provide the best advice to our customers that work for their unique business needs. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal customers who have allowed us to become their trusted ERP software partner over the years! We are proud to have long-term partnerships with many of our customers and look forward to continuing to be a part of their business growth for many years to come. Check out some of our testimonials below and contact us today to learn what we can do for your business!

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Using Behavioural Science to Influence Employee Change

We would all like to believe that the decisions we make as consumers and in a business setting are rational and predictable. However, as we’ve learnt over the years and thanks to research performed by behavioural economists, the reality is that when people make decisions quickly and under pressure, they do so based largely on intuition, emotions and unconscious biases and psychological fallacies. For businesses, this can result in people from all areas of an organization struggling to make decisions in general and then frequently making the wrong decisions. Since researchers now know that irrational decision making is commonplace, this type of behaviour tends to follow predictable patterns. In understanding these patterns, organizations and leadership teams can learn to create subtle “nudges” that encourage employees, customers and vendors to choose the most beneficial option. Nudges are essentially subtle interventions that guide choices without restricting them, resulting in a win-win scenario for businesses, employees and customers alike.

Using elements of economics and psychology, behavioural economists are able to identify the types of irrational factors that ultimately influence the decision-making process – including a person’s habits, emotions, amount of willpower, framing of alternatives and the ability and need to trust someone. Once you understand exactly how these factors drive behaviour, you can use this understanding to design interventions or nudges that lead employees, consumers and vendors to make better (i.e. safer, easier and more economical) choices – while still providing them with the option and freedom to make a decision that goes against the nudge. This type of intervention strategy works especially well when implementing a change management project. Gently nudging employees before, during and after a specific change management initiative can lead to better adoption of the changes. In order to be effective, the nudges must be used to create win-win situations for an organization and its employees – where there are real short-term and long-term benefits to a specific behaviour change.

Common examples of nudges include providing social cues that reflect how other people have acted in a similar situation, defining default choices and making processes easier to start and finish. Let’s look at an example of using nudge theory to manage change in your warehouse. Your business has decided its time to make the change to a more robust accounting ERP software solution with warehouse management functionality and to move away from QuickBooks. The company has been using QuickBooks for several years and so employees are familiar with the specific features and the way in which the system operates, and warehouse operations have largely been informal and manual. Employees find products based on their individual knowledge of the warehouse layout, items are typically not put away in the right spot, manual inventory counts happen on a weekly basis to determine what product is actually in stock, and frequently the wrong item is shipped to the customer. Manual workarounds and data entry has become commonplace and the time required to pick, pack and ship product is impeding sales. Before implementing a new solution and changing processes, slowly begin to nudge employees to adopt new practices. Consider sharing information on how similar companies have modernized their warehouse operations and provide details of how other businesses in the industry have been able to significantly decrease paper use, winning over environmentally friendly customers. Redesign your warehouse floor with bin and shelf locations and automate workflows with wireless barcode scanning. Print and display colourful floor maps, colour-code shelving displays and set-up electronic barcode scanners close to printers where employees would previously receive pick slips. All these subtle changes can have big impacts as employees begin to slowly adopt new procedures and rely on visual cues to find and retrieve inventory.

Can you think of other nudges that would benefit employees, customers and ultimately the business as a whole? Understanding how people make decisions and taking advantage of these insights can aid in designing appropriate nudges. For example, one of behavioural economics’ most powerful insights is around prospect theory and the idea that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains with more weight being given to the loss. This can be applied to our example above by positioning the changes and new workflows as the obvious, default choice and describing the benefits of moving to a more automated system (such as less time spent walking to pick an order and fewer errors associated with manual picking resulting in happier customers) as something that will be lost if the company decides to stick with existing processes. This nudge focuses on the potential loss of productivity and efficiency as opposed to strictly listing the benefits of implementing new processes and technology. Other common examples of behavioural economics and unconscious biases that may impede the employee decision-making process include:

Choice-Supportive Bias: where people will distort memories to make decisions seem good.
Hyperbolic Discounting: in which people prefer and choose short-term benefits over long-term gains.
Ambiguity Effect: where people prefer a known probability to an unknown one.

Even where the decision and benefits of a specific choice seem obvious, the use of nudge theory can help people get to a stage where they are confident in these decisions more quickly. Implementing small nudges as you guide employees to change will help make the transition easier and allow both parties to reap the benefits sooner.

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Blue Link Pharmaceutical Distribution Software vs QuickBooks

When you started out your pharmaceutical distribution business, what were your goals? Have you accomplished them within your expected timeframes? If not, what held you back? In most cases, pharmaceutical distributors fall behind on their growth forecasts mainly due to operating on insufficient software that can’t handle the complex and ever-changing compliance requirements of the industry. Like most start-ups, you may have launched your business with introductory software such as QuickBooks, which is a great solution for small businesses. However, there are numerous limitations within this software that start to become apparent as your company increases its sales volumes. And, the lack of industry-specific functionality puts your business at risk of not being able to meet regulatory requirements, pass audits, provide necessary documentation etc. If you find that you are spending more and more hours during the day trying to stay on top of manual tasks such as filling out DEA forms, manually managing license expiration dates and the biggest nuisance of all – manual reporting – it’s time to break free from QuickBooks.

First things first; don’t give up on your goals. You shouldn’t have to compromise your dreams of business growth due to insufficient software. It’s a scary thought leaving the familiar ups and downs of a system you’ve been using for a while, and you may have gotten used to manual workarounds for the systems many automation pitfalls, but think about it this way. Why would you settle for a system that’s holding back your growth when there are better options out there that will ultimately make you, your employees, customers and vendors happier? Start your search with an open mind and a good understanding of the different types of pharmaceutical distribution software on the market that are ideal for your specific requirements. And don’t forget to consider what you will require in the future (think expanding into online marketplaces or increasing the number of SKUs etc).

Click the image below to download our full comparison chart to make the best decision for your pharmaceutical distribution business.

 

 

Don’t Dismiss The Importance of Industry Compliance

As you can see from the above comparison chart, QuickBooks’ accounting and inventory functionality is ideal for small businesses starting out with a few users and products, however, a more robust system is required for industry-specific functionality and compliance requirements. Based on a survey conducted by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA),  100% of the specialty distributor members said that one of the primary drivers of technology adoption for distributors is to automate services and ensure regulatory compliance are met. This is not a surprise as pharmaceutical wholesale distribution businesses are subject to numerous stringent state and federal regulations and licensure laws. Did you know that pharmaceutical wholesalers are subject to civil and criminal penalties for distributing drugs without the appropriate pedigree paperwork tracing the physical movement of and title to drugs?  In certain states like Florida, failure to maintain and deliver complete and accurate pedigree papers is a felony.
“Since transitioning from QuickBooks to Blue Link, our operations have streamlined – from inventory tracking to security controls to pharma regulatory needs such as lot tracking and pedigree reports.  It’s nice to have one integrated platform that does everything and you only have to deal with one vendor for billing and support” –  Aniket Dhadphale, Owner, Republic Pharmaceuticals
With Blue Link’s all-in-one pharmaceutical distribution software, you no longer have to worry about integrating compliance software to QuickBooks and managing multiple different solutions. Besides meeting compliance needs, another factor to keep in mind when looking for a new solution is not only the functionality you need today, but the functionality you need to expand your business into the future.

Optimizing Business Growth With Blue Link ERP 

When searching for a new system, look beyond your current requirements and think about what you will need to do to expand your market and grow your business even more. The below Blue Link functionality is optimal for reaching a wider market and creating smart business strategies.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) – allows for easy communication between locations, helps track and update inventory when working with big-box retailers and other operations with EDI requirements, it enables the sharing of information between vendors and distributors and is used to transmit financial information and payment in electronic form (Electronic Funds Transfer or EFT).

Online Order Portal – a fully integrated online order platform for use by both your wholesale distribution B2B customers and sales reps. Customers and sales reps can…

Log-in to browse inventory online with customer-specific pricing
Track order status in real-time
View or print online statements, and drill down to order and invoice detail
Copy and submit a previous order or create an entirely new one
Create shopping lists
Search product by brand, vendor and/or category
Gain access to the order portal across devices connected to the internet – including tablets, phones, and laptops

Trxade Integration – Trxade is a web-based, US supplier-to-pharmacy marketplace created to bring independent pharmacies and qualified/accredited national suppliers/distributors of pharmaceuticals together to provide efficient and transparent buying and selling opportunities. Since the launch of the platform back in 2010, it has opened and expanded the distribution channel to more than 8000 independent pharmacies and features 40+ track and trace and VAWD compliant wholesalers.

Blue Link is now a proud member of HDA! Meet us at this year’s HDA Distribution Management Conference. The Distribution Management Conference (DMC) and Expo is HDA’s largest supply chain education event, attended by more than 600 manufacturers, distributors, consultants and third parties who keep the pharmaceutical distribution industry moving. The conference immerses attendees in topics related to the healthcare supply chain and provides a forum to engage in operational and strategic discussions.

 

 

 

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Using Business Management Software to Become a Process Driven Organization

You may have heard the term “Turn-Key Revolution” made popular by the bestselling book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, essentially it refers to setting up your business to be process dependent as opposed to people dependent. This means implementing specific systems and processes that allow for a consistent, effective and orderly day-to-day operation without having to rely solely on human resources. According to the book, the goal of the turn-key revolution is to turn your business into a franchise, but even if you operate a standalone business, the principle is still the same. The idea is to implement processes and systems within your organization that allow you to run efficiently no matter who you hire. Realistically, the role of well-trained, competent employees is still very important within every company – especially when it comes to the management team, customer service roles, warehouse staff and more. The benefits of executing this concept are not to diminish the importance of hiring the right people, but rather it aims to help businesses streamline operations through automated processes and system integrations. Let’s explore this idea further.

Traditionally, for most businesses the go-to on how to manage an increase in order volume is to increase resources and hire more people. However, as technology continues to evolve to support historically manual processes, this is not always the best option. True, there are some businesses that require additional human-capital to physically complete the work, but even in these businesses, there are usually specific processes that can be streamlined through the use of business management systems and automation. This does not mean that technology is replacing the need for human capital – it just aims to make a case for automating as many processes as possible. This allows the people you do hire to focus on meaningful work – such as finding new customers – as opposed to having to deal with tedious data entry and administrative tasks. Human resource costs are significantly higher than those of business management software – even when implementing robust inventory and accounting ERP software. Consider the costs associated with finding, hiring and training new staff, salary and benefit costs and then the related costs to your business when that employee is sick, away on holidays or the costs associated with that person leaving, requiring you to hire a replacement. In contrast, the costs of implementing business management software will be significantly less, especially when you compare the costs year over year. In addition, most software solutions provide access to annual upgrades which means you’re always operating on the latest and greatest technology enabling your business to grow into the future.

Automating Processes with Blue Link ERP

There are countless ways your business can automate processes with the right software to increase efficiencies. Incorporating technology into different departments of your business helps to eliminate the errors associated with manual work and makes it easy to train new employees when you do have to hire people. The opportunities available will depend on the software in place and existing processes and infrastructure. Below we examine a couple of examples.

Warehouse Operations

Picking – increase pick times with the help of inventory bin and shelf locations and pick lists that itemize products according to the most efficient route within your warehouse. A properly organized warehouse and barcode scanning technology mean inventory information is available and accurate in real-time – this helps warehouse staff find product quickly when picking orders. With tools such as Blue Link’s mobile picking application, employees can quickly identify and rectify pick issues at the source. Mobile picking also reduces the errors associated with handwritten pick tickets and notes.
Receiving – quickly receive inventory into your business management system with barcode scanning so that inventory is updated in real-time. This allows employees and salespeople to know exactly what product is available and where it’s located in the warehouse when picking orders and speaking to customers.
Packing – use verification scanning to double check items against the sales order while packing product into containers. Track items per container to easily look-up information for the customer and quickly identify missing items if the customer does not receive the entire shipment.

Accounting/Finance

Accounts Receivable – automate the accounts receivable process by configuring the system to automatically email account details to customers or internal staff when A/R amounts are above a certain threshold or timeframe. This removes the need for employees to manually check each customer’s account and instead notifies the appropriate people automatically.
Reporting – generate reports using data within Blue Link that can then be rendered into a PDF and automatically emailed to the appropriate stakeholders. Automatically write back to Blue Link ERP to modify data like adding a new record, updating a field or changing a status based on specific criteria being met within the system. This allows employees to create automated workflows around specific processes and eliminates the need to spend hours creating detailed reports every reporting period. Furthermore, exception reporting means information is only updated and sent to the appropriate people when it is inconsistent with specific thresholds or KPIs.
Landed Cost Tracking – define expected landed costs on a purchase order and factor these into inventory costs. Employees also have the ability to specify default landed cost factors by product and then apply each landed cost factor to each line on a purchase order using one of several pro-rated methods – or enter individually. This eliminates the need to manually update spreadsheets with pricing information and the associated errors that can result from manual data input.

Sales

eCommerce – automatically crawl webstore and integrated marketplaces (such as Amazon) for new orders which then get pulled into Blue Link ERP and sent directly to the warehouse for picking, packing and shipping or configure the system to have the orders appear in the Sales Order Review screen for further processing.
CRM – easily track communication with customers and prospects with the ability to add notes, schedule next actions, change a status and assign a sales rep to a specific account for review. Following a process for tracking customer and prospect information allows you to easily offload accounts to different salespeople, allows anyone with the correct permissions to look up customer data and allows you to easily generate reports from the information in the system.
B2B Online Order Portal – provide customers with the ability to easily log into their account through Blue Link’s online order portal to browse inventory online with their own customer-specific pricing, place orders 24/365, track order status in real-time, view or print online statements and drill down into order and invoice detail. This eliminates the need for additional staff to manually enter orders and empowers customers to review their own account information.

The above examples are just a few of the many ways a business can become more efficient and process-driven with the help of business management software such as Blue Link ERP.

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How to Manage B2B Webstore Shipping with eCommerce ERP Integration

If you can’t ship and deliver products to your customers in a timely fashion, you’re out of the competition…especially in the fast-paced world of eCommerce. Thanks to eCommerce giants like Amazon, customers expect better services and faster shipping times and these offerings aren’t slowing down anytime soon – as of June 2018, there were approximately 95 million Amazon Prime members in the United States alone.  While there are some key differences between B2B and B2C eCommerce, your customers still expect you to keep up with the offerings that they are accustomed to with B2C webstores. This is evident as we see more and more  B2B eCommerce stores offering  B2C functionality such as having high-quality images and videos, online search functionality, personalized recommendations, mobile optimization etc. With the growing number of Amazon Prime members, all customers, whether B2C or B2B have come to expect faster delivery times, flexible shipping options, and cheaper shipping costs.

B2B eCommerce sales tend to have higher than average dollar value and include fewer one-item orders compared with B2C, which helps to simplify the picking, packing and shipping process for wholesale distributors. However, selling online means increased order volume which leaves no room for an inadequate order fulfillment process. Order fulfillment is a critical element of a B2B eCommerce operation and customers expect that their orders are dispatched quickly and efficiently – this is a key factor in attaining repeat business and ensuring customer satisfaction. So, before diving head first into the exciting world of online selling, integrate your eCommerce webstore with proper ERP software first, to ensure you have a rock-solid process for the picking, packing and especially shipping of product. This will allow you to keep up with the demands of an increased order volume and remain competitive.

Blue Link ERP & eCommerce

With Blue Link ERP, once an order is placed online the information automatically generates a sales order in the system, updating quantities available both on the website and in the ERP system and allocating inventory for picking. Once the order is picked and packed, you can easily select the order to ship, enter shipment details, print the documents required to accompany the order, and mark the order as shipped. Once the order is shipped, Blue Link maintains a history of the shipment, the number of boxes shipped, and the items assigned to each box.

Other shipping functionality to consider in a new ERP system includes:

Pack-to-Container 

With Blue Link’s pack-to-container functionality, you can see picked orders from multiple sales channels (including eCommerce) that are going to the same ship-to address from the sales order review screen. The pack-to-container screen is used to verify the accuracy of the items picked in relation to the items ordered and to record which products are packed in which containers and which containers make up the entire shipment. Detailed sections in this screen allow you to see how many packing boxes or containers are part of the shipment and gives you the ability to add more as required. You can see which products are packed and which items are remaining to pack into the boxes.

If a user tries to include any product not on the list, the system will generate an error message that the product is not a part of the order thereby preventing the incorrect product from being shipped to the customer. An ERP system that integrates with shipping courier sites populates the overall tracking number for each shipment as well as the sub-tracking number for each shipping container which is populated back into the ERP. This eliminates the time required entering information into multiple systems and the associated keying errors with doing so. Once all items are packed into the boxes and the order is ready to go, the ship button triggers the system to do many different things such as emailing shipping confirmations and printing and/or emailing and posting the sales invoice.

When the order is shipped, Blue Link maintains a history of the shipment, the number of boxes shipped, and the items assigned to each box. Container history information is especially useful in determining which products the customer did not receive in the event of a specific shipping box not arriving at its destination. By tracking shipping containers within your ERP system, the data is accessible to those who need to see it and reports and analysis can be done with the data captured to further enhance efficiency in the process.

Check out the below demo of how the pack-to-container functionality works in Blue Link!

 

Courier Integration

Courier integration with an ERP system is a challenge that many B2B eCommerce wholesale distribution businesses face. Many require employees to spend countless hours manually extracting orders from their current software or Excel spreadsheets, which they then have to input into courier websites by logging into separate accounts. Then, they must manually enter the shipment and customer information order by order.  This type of repetitive, manual process is time-consuming and can be costly when errors are inevitably made.

The key here is to automate this process by integrating courier systems with a true ERP solution.  When looking for an ERP system to manage your picking, packing and shipping processes, be sure to choose one that can integrate with large courier companies such as FedEx, Purolator or UPS. With this type of integration, your ERP system will push and pull information from your account on the shipment courier’s site to save you from having to enter shipment details twice into two separate software screens. You will be able to access courier screens with links in the actual ERP software and do not need to open or login to courier screens as a separate task. This will allow you to:

Automatically feed customer shipment information from the ERP system, such as addresses, phone numbers, and emails to courier screens.
Eliminate the need for employees to manually enter information, thus significantly reducing dispatch times.
Set up shipment and delivery requirements such as signature needed upon delivery, or insurance required for order over a certain amount.
Utilize email tracking functions offered by the selected courier services.

Rate Shopping

Blue Link ERP integrates with rate shopping applications to help your business and customers get the best shipping rates on every order. Once orders are packed into boxes and the size and weight of each box has been entered, the ERP system will automatically populate a list of available courier companies as well as the types of services they offer and the rates for each service. Employees then choose an option and the information is used to generate shipping labels and any associated paperwork.

Reducing Delivery Status Update Requests

One of the most common issues for customers is around obtaining tracking information or status updates for their orders. Not only does integrating your B2B eCommerce site with ERP software remove the need for employees to manual enter tracking information into the system, it also enables customers to track orders online themselves, reducing order status update inquiries.

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Distribution ERP Software Tools for a Successful Tradeshow

Does your business attend tradeshows? Are you considering starting to attend tradeshows this year? While in certain industries attending tradeshows has long become a thing of the past, there are still various industries where it makes sense to sponsor, exhibit or walk tradeshow floors to increase brand awareness for your company, network with potential clients and partners, and sell product. This is especially true for emerging markets like the recreational cannabis industry in Canada and other specific industries such as automotive, entertainment and the healthcare/medical industry. To be successful at a tradeshow, a lot of thought and consideration needs to go into your marketing and sales plan. It is important that you present a strong, cohesive and relevant brand image through your booth design, brochures and handouts, displays, demos and swag. You want to prepare the appropriate sales collateral to give to visitors at your booth and you want to ensure you have a process in place for following up with leads after the show. As a distribution business, there may be an opportunity to generate actual product sales at a tradeshow in which you need the right tools and processes in place to show product, create sales orders, collect payment and then ship and invoice orders from your warehouse. Before you start to consider manually taking orders or looking at alternative solutions, consider whether your existing distribution ERP software has the functionality to help. Below we explore distribution ERP and specifically Blue Link tools your team can use to successfully exhibit and sell at a tradeshow.

Point-of-Sale (POS)

Not just for use in a retail brick and mortar stores, point of sale software allows you to easily create an order and accept payment from anywhere you have a terminal set-up. Since Blue Link’s POS solution works offline, it’s a great tool for businesses that want to take and process transactions at a tradeshow. Your company can simply sync with your system’s real-time data before the show for an up-to-date list of inventory, then set up a computer terminal with payment processing equipment to enter orders and accept payments during the actual show. At the end of the day, once again you can sync the system to update inventory and order information which then automatically sends appropriate orders to your warehouse staff to pick, pack and ship.  Blue Link’s POS system works with barcode readers, cash drawers, receipt printers and display poles and so you even have the ability to scan and sell product that is physical on display at your booth.

RepZio (Mobile Sales App)

RepZio is a mobile sales app designed for use by sales people in a showroom, at a tradeshow or while onsite with customers. Fully integrated with Blue Link ERP, RepZio allows your business to sync orders between applications, sync product details, pricing and photos as well as sync client information. Available on iOS devices, RepZio works great for a variety of industries, especially those that would benefit from a visually appealing representation of products.  RepZio allows you to show customers a visual representation of available inventory and can even specify alternate or similar items. Since the app also works offline, even if you don’t have a good internet connection, you’re still able to process orders.

Contact Relationship Management (CRM)

Although it is unlikely that you will be capturing leads through your CRM system while interacting with prospects on the tradeshow floor, access to your distribution ERP’s CRM functionality allows you to manage this information easily from your hotel room after the show. Instead of waiting until you’re back in the office to manage all of the sales leads collected from the show, cloud-based distribution ERP with CRM functionality means you can access the system from anywhere with an internet connection to start triaging leads. CRM functionality allows you to generate lists, track communication, schedule appointments, set follow-up dates, log field changes, specify primary contact information, manage lead status’ and maintain a record of verbal and email communication.

Tradeshows are busy enough without having to manually track customer, prospect and order information. As you prepare for the tradeshow season, check with your existing ERP vendor for the above tools, and consider switching to a more robust solution if you require additional functionality. Not only does processing orders and contacts at the show save your team time when back in the office, but it also eliminates errors when you try to remember who you spoke with an ensures you actually have the product to ship that was sold at the show.

 

 

 

 

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4 Ways to Keep Your ERP Software Resolutions in 2019

On behalf of everyone here at Blue Link ERP, we wish you a happy new year and all the success and prosperity in 2019! The advent of a new year presents a sea of new possibilities and is the optimal time to fulfill your ERP software resolutions for your wholesale distribution business. Employees are better engaged and more flexible to change which means they are more willing to embrace new projects — take advantage of this frame of mind before the year gets into full swing and time runs out to make the switch to new software.

Here are a few tips to help you stick to your resolution to implement new ERP software this year.

Define Your Technology Change Management Plan

Implementing a new ERP system is so much more than just swapping out old technology — it impacts your entire wholesale distribution business. With the right new technology comes improvements to inventory and warehouse management, picking/packing/shipping, customer management etc. However, this also means that current processes and your employees’ day-to-day tasks will change. The objective of creating a technology change management plan is to address the people that are impacted by the transition and to help them and the teams and departments they belong to within the organization, to adopt the new software in the most efficient manner possible.

In order for this to occur, first, you need to get buy-in from stakeholders and employees right from the very beginning, even before you start speaking with ERP software vendors. The more people you have supporting the project, the less likely that it will fall off the radar come Q2. However, prepare to receive some push back as some people are reluctant to change – to some, the thought of swapping their current, familiar and comfortable processes with new ones is daunting.

Here are a few things to consider in your change management plan:

Create a compelling and common vision for the future

Address employee questions – technology can affect the relationships between management and employees, it is up to the leadership of the company to address any employee questions and concerns such as “Am I going to lose my job?”, “How complicated will the change be?” etc.
Present the benefits that will occur with new software to stakeholders and employees such as improved processes, automated tasks and workflows, improved inventory and warehouse management, opportunities for growth with eCommerce integration, industry-specific functionality, etc.

Educate staff on what types of changes to expect in their day-to-day tasks to create a more digestible vision. How will the new software impact accounting, your warehouse workers or your sales team? Speak with individual departments and collect feedback on the specific tasks they expect to improve with new software and set realistic expectations.
Training – reassure employees that they will receive the necessary training to be a successful user in the software and that it will be a learning process. Never shortchange the training period as unsuccessful implementations commonly happen when training gets brushed over.  It is also important to keep track of who received training so no one is missed.
Identify a project manager, search team and any key stakeholders

Address differing skill sets and competencies of your employees to assign roles for the project.
This allows these specific individuals to plan ahead and dedicate the necessary time to complete project tasks.
It also clearly defines who is responsible for what and holds individuals accountable to set goals and meet deadlines to ensure that the project stays on track and top of mind.

Timeframe

To make any type of new year’s resolution a success, it’s critical to create a timeframe and stick to it.  Having an idea of the project completion date is useful when speaking with vendors to ensure that both parties are on the same page. Consult with the key stakeholders in the company on when the software implementation should take place taking into account peak seasons. Keep in mind that implementation is not an overnight process and the time it takes to get set up with the software depends on several factors such as the amount of data to be migrated, software training, etc. Furthermore, change management also requires time. No matter how user-friendly the software is, implementing a new inventory accounting solution requires significant change as employees learn to integrate the new software into their everyday processes and across departments – this should be accounted for when setting a timeframe.

Deadlines/Milestones

Think of the timeframe as the overall deadline for project completion – specific deadlines must be created for individual tasks of the project. By creating deadlines for each task, you’re measuring out your time and making it easier to track your progress towards meeting that overall timeframe. These tasks cover the project from start to end – from creating a search team and establishing functionality and budget requirements to choosing vendors to speak with and shortlisting candidates. Consider having weekly or bi-weekly check-in meetings to ensure the team doesn’t fall behind with the tasks.

Along with your deadlines, choose a few milestones that will let you know you’ve made progress.  Make the most important events your ERP software project milestones such as:

Completion of major project tasks such as completing the research phase, setting a budget, setting a timeframe, shortlisting top vendors, etc.
Go/no-go decisions and other key decision points
Implementation of the new ERP system
Completion of testing and final sign-off

Preserve Employee Buy-in

To avoid the project from dropping lower on the priority list as the months pass, it’s important to continuously communicate to stakeholders and employees how the business will change with new technology. Communicate any important milestones that are reached and updates throughout the process and be sure to listen to any feedback.  It’s important to keep the momentum going even after the vendor has been selected. Have a company meeting to share information to preview the system and share information on the vendor. Use videos, posters, and other methods to create excitement and a buzz around the office to create a positive atmosphere about the upcoming changes.

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Why ERP Will be the Biggest Decision Your Company Makes in 2019

With 2019 just around the corner, have you started planning for the year ahead? If software is on your radar, it’s important that you have a plan in place BEFORE you start searching for a new solution. In the world of back-end business management software, there is sometimes a disconnect between the types of systems available on the market and how they can help run your business. This is further complicated by the fact that may software vendors use the same terminology in different ways. Let’s start by distinguishing between two common types of software solutions – introductory systems (which includes standalone accounting and inventory systems) and ERP (enterprise resource planning software). Introductory software solutions such as QuickBooks, are designed to manage one aspect of a company’s operations such as accounting. Even if these types of systems provide additional features for inventory or contact management, it’s primary functionality is around one business process and often requires integration with additional systems to include advanced functionality for inventory, contact management, warehouse management and barcode scanning. Introductory systems are great for companies with a low number of transactions, inventory items and users, and for basic management of operations. These types of solutions have a lower price tag and are quick to implement. However, as the name implies, introductory solutions are just that – a starting system for when your business is new and small. As your business grows and you expand into new markets, there may come a time where ERP is a more appropriate solution. This can happen for a variety of reasons including a restriction on the amount of data or number of users your existing system can manage, the need for additional functionality such as lot tracking, landed cost tracking or barcode scanning, or the need for a unified solution to manage all business operations (as opposed to manually entering information into multiple, standalone systems). Whatever the reason, if you decide to make the transition to a sophisticated ERP solution, you need to prepare the appropriate resources, as the search for ERP and implementation process will be the biggest decision your business makes in 2019 and should be treated as such.

It’s true that researching different ERP solutions, speaking with vendors, watching demonstrations, implementing the software and training employees is a big project – but that is not the only reason why the transition to ERP software should be treated as such. Rather, ERP software is designed to manage all aspects of your company’s operations – including sales, inventory management, invoicing, purchasing, warehouse management, POS, eCommerce, customer service – and therefore, as the backbone to running your business, has huge implications on the success and growth of your company. Moving to ERP software provides your company with various opportunities to automate processes, eliminate errors and tedious manual work, reduce double entry, scale to reach new markets and customers, improve your warehouse operations and much more. This is why proper thought and consideration needs to go into the search and implementation process – the ERP project as a whole. As with any capital investment such as purchasing additional warehouse or retail space, launching an eCommerce store or buying new equipment and machinery, a successful ERP project requires significant planning, research and dedication of resources. Whoever is responsible for finding a new solution and making the purchase, needs to feel confident that their decision will be well received by all employees and that it will provide positive ROI and help the company achieve its goals. Proper planning for such a solution helps to mitigate this fear of failure and find the right solution. In addition, you want to work with a vendor who will give you peace of mind that you will always have access to the latest and greatest in technology and process improvements through an ERP solution that is under constant development and provides regular upgrades.
Download our Software Buying Guide to help your business find the right ERP system. 

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Blue Link Food Distribution Software Named to Food Logistics’ 2018 FL100 Top Software Providers List

Blue Link Food Distribution Software is named to Food Logistics’ 2018 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers List for the sixth year!

Vaughan, Ontario. (December 17, 2018) – Blue Link Food Distribution Software, a  leader in all-in-one B2B ERP software, announced today that it has been recognized by Food Logistics for the sixth year to its 2018 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list serves as a resource guide of software and technology providers whose products and services are critical for companies in the global food and beverage supply chain. The publication recognized Blue Link for helping its many food and beverage customers to remain FDA/CFIA compliant, automate processes and sustain growth with its all-in-one ERP solution.
“The digital supply chain continues its rapid emergence, bringing with it expanded capabilities that impact visibility, security, compliance and efficiency,” remarks Lara L. Sowinski, editorial director for Food Logistics and its sister publication, Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “Every aspect of the global food supply chain stands to benefit from new and innovative software and technology that is fundamentally changing the global food supply chain.”
Companies on this year’s 2018 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list will be profiled in the November/December 2018 issue of Food Logistics, as well as online at www.foodlogistics.com.

“We’re thrilled to once again be recognized by Food Logistics on its FL100+ list,” said Mark Canes, President and CEO of Blue Link. “With the food safety regulators recalling about twice as many products as a decade ago, we’re going to continue to see an increasing demand by food distributors for agile, all-in-one software to manage processes in 2019.  In order for food distributors to remain competitive and compliant in today’s market, end-to-end food distribution software must be implemented to not only help manage recalls but to automate all parts of the business from accounting and inventory management to landed costs and warehouse management.  We ’re constantly improving our system and functionality to meet the changing needs of our food distribution customers and look forward to continuing to be a part of their success.”

– Mark Canes, President, Blue Link Associates
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 Software

Blue Link ERP software is designed for small to medium size distribution, wholesale and retail businesses looking to grow their company. Business management processes are improved with Blue Link’s flexible and user-friendly ERP functionality such as inventory management, accounting, warehouse management, barcode scanning, eCommerce integration, lot tracking, customer relationship management (CRM), and more. Blue Link functionality can be readily customized to match customer specific business processes. The result is higher productivity, more meaningful reports and better business decisions to drive growth.
“Blue Link Elite has provided us with easy access to important business data via an extremely user-friendly interface. This has allowed us to make informed business decisions and has helped us manage our business effectively.”

– Ray Martin, President, Qualifirst Foods Ltd.
Blue Link’s Food Distribution Software offers a variety of flexible tools that can manage and automate business processes across the entire company and also help to achieve and sustain FDA/ISO/CFIA compliance. Blue Link features include:

Fully integrated inventory, accounting, contact management, order entry, warehouse management and more
Traceability – lot tracking
Price matrices with automatic markup, volume discounts and contract pricing (individual or group)
Landed cost tracking – duty, brokerage, freight etc.
Multiple units of measure: unit conversions – buy and sell the same products by weight, multiple containers, volume etc.

 

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