Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

4 ERP Tools for Wholesale Retail Businesses

The line between wholesale, retail and eCommerce continues to blur as more and more businesses are taking an omnichannel approach to selling product. Wholesale and distribution businesses now sell both B2B and B2C through eCommerce, marketplaces such as Amazon, at tradeshows and through retail brick and mortar stores. The ability for customers to purchase product through multiple channels allows your business to reach new markets and increase sales. As with any wholesale company in the industry of buying and selling inventory, those who also sell through retail channels require systems in place for managing product, receiving, picking, packing and shipping, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management and more. ERP software for wholesale retail management provides standard back-end inventory and accounting tools in addition to specialized features for the retail industry such as point of sale, CRM, warehouse management, eCommerce integration and more.

Point of Sale

Point of Sale (POS) refers to a physical check-out counter location where customers can purchase goods and services. For wholesale retail businesses, POS systems allow customers to place orders, submit payment and accept inventory while in-store. Although typically found in traditional retail brick and mortar stores, for wholesale businesses, POS is frequently used for front counter operations within a warehouse, for cash and carry type businesses, in showrooms or while exhibiting at tradeshows. Specialized features allow customers to pay on account and pay using multiple payment types and currencies.

CRM

Built-in customer relationship management (CRM) tools allow businesses to track customers, vendors and prospects. Employees can easily bring up customer accounts or create new ones when dealing with customers in-store. This allows tracking of communication, loyalty points, customer service requests and product returns.

Warehouse Management

Warehouse management functionality helps employees easily manage inventory for wholesale and retail orders. Proper bin and shelf locations allow employees to quickly fulfill orders and helps customers find product in-store. Inventory transfer features automate the process of moving product from one physical location to another to better serve customers in different geographical areas. This also accommodates the ability for customers to place orders online and then pick-up in-store.

eCommerce Integration

Taking an omnichannel approach, wholesale retail businesses are also selling online through B2B portals, B2C websites powered by platforms such as Shopify, through marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon and through customer-specific portals. Whichever channels you work with, it is important that all information is synced and integrated in real-time across the business. This prevents inventory from being sold online that was just purchased from retail locations.

Sophisticated wholesale retail ERP software will also include other important tools for managing the business including landed cost tracking, secure credit card processing, mobile apps for sales reps and robust reporting. If your business decides to sell through new retail channels, make sure you dedicate the time to finding an industry-specific system. The distinction between POS software designed specifically for retail stores and POS ERP software designed for those that also sell wholesale is important, as although both may offer similar features, they are geared towards different markets.

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Preventing Out-Of-Stock Product Through Endless Aisle with ERP Software

Brick and click, e-Tailing, S-commerce…retail jargon is everywhere and just when you think you’ve mastered it all, a whole new group of head-scratching terms seems to pop up. As much as you may want to dismiss new lingo and focus on more important parts of your business, here’s why you should pay attention to them. A lot of insight and value is found in new jargon since they are a reflection of the changes and advancements of an ever-changing market.

Take ‘endless aisle’ for example. Also called extended aisle, it is a relatively new term that has quickly become a norm over the last couple of years not only in the retail space but with B2B Wholesale Distribution businesses as well, especially as businesses continue to develop omnichannel strategies. In it’s simplest form, endless aisle is used to describe the ability for customers to place orders for product either online or in-store, where that product is not physically present in the store and is not actually a part of that business’ stock of inventory. The idea is that the order is placed with one store and then fulfilled using inventory from one of that store’s suppliers.  This process is only possible through direct integration with external suppliers and using technology such as ERP software. As far as the end customer is concerned, they are purchasing product from the original store.

Let’s take a look at an example. A customer orders product either in-store or online for a pair of shoes from Store ABC. This customer then either pays online or in-store and the product is shipped directly to them. Behind the scenes, Store ABC lists shoes on its website and in catalogs and other advertising mediums, however, when it comes to inventory management and fulfilling orders, this is done by the actual shoe distributor.  When an order comes into Store ABC, this updates the company’s inventory and accounting software, which (through integration) updates the shoe distributor’s software that an order is ready to be picked, packed and shipped. When the shoe distributor receives a shipment of new shoes, once again through integration, this will update Store ABC that there is new product available.

This method of inventory management and fulfillment is actually very popular. Larger businesses such as Walmart will list items/SKUs on their website and advertise in-store, even if those products are not physically present at their stores or warehouses. When a customer orders an item that Walmart doesn’t physically house, the order automatically gets sent to the supplier/wholesale distributor. The wholesale distributor then drop ships to the customer meaning they will ship the product directly to the customer from their own inventory. The best part of this process is that the wholesale distributor is completely invisible to the customer so it appears that the business has an endless supply of products.

This also works with product catalogs. Store ABC can still advertise all of it’s wholesale distributors’ inventory in their online catalogs even if they don’t physically house those products themselves. Alternatively, Store ABC might have a computer/kiosk set up in-store that allows its customers to order directly from the supplier, but the products the customer sees are still branded as ABC.  The product will then be drop shipped directly to the customer from the supplier. Store ABC simply pays that supplier’s invoice for the agreed upon cost for those items and receives a profit in the amount of whatever margin was set for those items and based on the price the customer pays.

Benefits of Endless Aisle

Out-of-stock items (OOS) combined with overstocks and even returns cost businesses $1.75 trillion a year (and growing)!  $252.3 billion a year is the cost of mismanaged inventory in North America alone.  In fact, around 21% to 43% of shoppers will actually go to another store to buy the out-of-stock items so it’s no wonder that retailers are jumping on the endless aisle strategy. Some of the other benefits include:

Supports the Omnichannel Purchasing Experience – having all products available on all channels whether it’s in store, phone/email order or on your eCommerce store will avoid any disruptions to the flow of your customers’ omnichannel buying journey.

Eliminate Wait Times – rather than having the ‘endless aisle’ items that are not in the store’s location shipped to the store or put on backorder where the customer would have to wait for the product to arrive, the store can easily drop ship the items directly to the customer meaning customers won’t have to return to the store for pick-up and will not have to wait.

Avoid Overstocking- The endless aisle strategy prevents businesses from having too much stock which equals extra expense for businesses as it can lead to an excess in storage costs. Having too little stock equals lost income in the form of lost sales, while also damaging the customer’s confidence in your ability to supply the products you advertise. Extended aisles addresses both of these issues.

Increased Sales and New Customers –  Extended aisles allows you to have the freedom to offer a more diverse product catalog and you can leverage cross-selling tactics to offer recommended product.

Accommodating Endless Aisle Customers

Whether you’re the retailer/store placing orders with the supplier, or the supplier fulfilling these endless aisle orders/drop shipping, it’s crucial to implement the correct ERP software in place to automate processes.

As a retailer/eCommerce store:

It may seem that as a retailer in this situation you would not need a full wholesale software solution since you hold very little physical inventory. However, because you are dealing with multiple vendors, meaning your customer can order product from several vendors depending on the SKU, it is very important to keep track of what product is available, and what orders have been placed.

It’s best to find an ERP solution that will allow you to integrate with whatever software your wholesale distribution partners are using. ERP software allows for features such as  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which enables retailers and suppliers (if they have EDI also) to seamlessly, accurately and instantly exchange information  such as purchase orders, invoices, advanced shipping information and more. It can even be used to transmit financial information and payment in electronic form (EFT).

When you submit an order to your wholesale business through EDI, your supplier will not need to key in the customers information manually – this will be done automatically reducing any errors on their side.

An ERP solution will also allow you to see what inventory is available for customers to purchase (even if it is an endless aisle strategy), and monitor the shipping of product to the customer that actually placed the order. With drop shipping, the wholesale distributor/supplier will do the actual shipping of the product to the end consumer, but it is your responsibility to send out order confirmations and shipment tracking information to your customers which can also be automated through the software.

As a supplier:

ERP software and EDI is a benefit for both the retailer and the supplier – as a supplier, you will automatically receive all the necessary information to fulfill the drop ship order for your customer’s customer.

Shipping- The retailer takes customer orders and shipment information, and transfers these via EDI. The ERP software is able to generate shipping labels with your customers logo/information on it and indicates the shipping information for that drop ship order. This is commonly found in the eCommerce arena, and specifically with Amazon. Although Amazon holds a lot of their own inventory they also generate drop shipping of product by other distributors and wholesalers.

Automating Picking and Packing – the ERP system generates a pick slip so that warehouse staff can begin picking items.  Functionality such as verification barcode scanning at the packing station or mobile barcode scanning during the pick process ensures that there are no human errors.  Once the item is packed, the system will generate and print any required paperwork and share information electronically between shipping carriers in order to generate a tracking number and cost information.

Invoicing and inventory updates –  Once the order is shipped and is dictated as such in the system, you can automatically post the invoice and email the invoice directly to your customer. The inventory count will also be updated to show your customers the latest product count available for the items you shipped.

Reorder management – is another big benefit with wholesale software and will help you to have the right amount of stock in place to fulfill your customers’ endless aisle orders. This functionality automatically assesses which SKUs or product you need to order and generates purchase orders for these items. A proper solution such as Blue Link’s wholesale software utilizes robust reporting capabilities to pull historical sales data based on product within a given timeframe. You can easily pull sales information from within Blue Link to view data for the number of units presently on hand for individual or multiple items, units on backorder, units on purchase order and average monthly units sold to better prepare for these endless aisle sales. You also have the ability to flag abnormal sales so it doesn’t impact the monthly average projection.

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Break-up with Spreadsheets for Accounting and Inventory Software

Small to medium size businesses are becoming more confident in their ability to compete against larger competitors thanks to new technology helping to level the playing field. Chatbots, machine learning, AI and voice command tools are providing opportunities for small businesses to reach more customers and improve processes without the need to hire highly qualified staff, and as technology continues to advance, these types of features are becoming available at a lower price tag. But, before small businesses can reap the benefits of more sophisticated technology, they must first look internally at their existing processes and systems to evaluate opportunities, and this means breaking up with their reliance on one of the most popular small business tools in the market today – spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets: Friend or Foe?

It’s no secret that businesses love spreadsheets – since 1985 when Microsoft released the first version of Excel, companies around the world have been relying on the tool to crunch numbers, analyze data and present business information. And, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s make one thing clear – Microsoft Excel is a great tool. Our staff uses it internally, many of our customers use it and as a Microsoft product it is simple to use, translates well across business departments and allows people within an organization to easily share and manipulate data. Therefore, this post is not making the case to stop using Excel, but rather it’s making the case to change the way your business uses Excel and to stop relying on it for certain tasks that are much better accomplished with more sophisticated technology such as accounting and inventory software.

As a company grows, it’s business needs will change. This is why many software solutions set limits on the number of users in terms of fit – not because the technology will fail past a certain number (although with introductory software this is often true), but because there are certain user and employee counts that require a fundamental change in business processes. The processes and structure of a 25 person company will be quite different from that of a 50 person company and a 150 person company – even if they all operate in the same industry.  As an organization grows and becomes more complex, relying on spreadsheets and basic accounting solutions will be inadequate. An increase in transactions, the addition of product lines and an expanding customer base make it difficult to manually track pertinent information via spreadsheet. With Excel, gathering, managing and manipulating data becomes unwieldy, time-consuming and prone to the smallest human error – which can lead to massive bottlenecks and significantly impact the decision-making process. Data entry errors and redundancies are hard to spot and hard to fix, and it prevents management from getting insight into company health in real-time. As a business begins to grow, its relationship with Excel turns from love to love/hate. Although spreadsheets were initially a great tool, they will slowly become a drain on resources and productivity.

A Better Way

Instead of using introductory software and spreadsheets, consider implementing all-in-one accounting and inventory software. Integrated solutions have come a long way from 20 years ago and many accounting and inventory packages focus on small-medium size businesses with affordable monthly subscription fees. The right software is built to last and grow with your business for years to come and optional components enable businesses to expand and add new features when the time is right. Robust accounting and inventory software does not integrate with existing systems and instead replaces introductory software as an all-in-one solution. Although this means companies can eliminate spreadsheets as a software tool for managing information, such as customer contact details and inventory, spreadsheets are still a powerful tool when used in conjunction with sophisticated accounting and inventory software. Instead of manually rekeying information between systems, users can live-link data from the system database with Excel.  This allows users to open existing reports in Excel and simply refresh the data to get real-time insight into business health. When used as a supplement to accounting and inventory software and not as a full data management system, Excel still provides many useful benefits. However, many accounting and inventory systems will also provide optional reporting tools that are more powerful and sophisticated than Excel to easily generate reports and share with the appropriate stakeholders. Examples include Crystal Reports, SQL Reports and Power BI.

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The Biggest Misconceptions About Cloud-Based ERP Software

Guest Post by Lisa C. Dunn

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

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

So, what exactly is “the cloud”?

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

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

Myth 1: It’s Not Secure

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

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

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

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

Myth 2: It’s Harder to Use

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

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

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

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

Myth 3: It’s Difficult to Implement

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

Myth 4: It Will Slow Us Down

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

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

Unlock the Benefits of Cloud-Based ERP

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

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

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

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

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

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Blue Link ERP Pricing

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

Pricing Categories

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

Pricing Factors

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

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

System set-up and configuration
 Training

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

Data migration

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

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

Comparing Vendors Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn how Blue Link’s WMS helped Kroeger:

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

WMS – Kroeger Inc

What is Kroeger Inc.?

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

Who are your customers?

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

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

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

How has inventory visibility improved after Blue Link?

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

What types of customization have you done with Blue Link?

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

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

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

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How Small Businesses Can Leverage Amazon and eCommerce Inventory Integration

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

How it Works

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

FBA – Fulfilment by Amazon

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

Benefits

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

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

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

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3 Steps to WMS Change Management Success

Guest Post by Helen Peatfield

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

Step 1: Communicating Change in the Workplace

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Identifying Stakeholders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Ongoing Training & Support

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

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

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

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

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

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Customizing Wholesale Distribution Software: What You Need to Know

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

Customization vs. Configuration

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

Planning a Custom Specification

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

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

Maintaining Custom During Upgrades

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

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

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

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

(1) Robust Accounting

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

Specific functionality includes:

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

(2) Secure B2B Order Portal

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

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

(3) Controlled Substance Order System

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

Benefits include:

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

(4) Trxade Integration

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

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

(5) Contact Management

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

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

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

(6) Electronic Document Management – DocuWare

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

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

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

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

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

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