Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Understanding Lot and Serial Number Tracking

The Pharmaceutical industry is changing quickly and as a wholesale distributor, you must be prepared for specific requirements before the November 2023 deadline that was set out by the DSCSA. As manufacturers, distributors, and software providers prepare, a lot of questions are raised to help us understand why we need to make certain changes. If you understand why the requirements are put in place, you can then find software that has the ability to help you reach those requirements – getting ahead of the game. The big question we are going to answer here is why we need to track lot and serial numbers if we are already tracking lot numbers that tell us so much. Well, to answer this question we first need to understand what lot and serial numbers are and what information they hold.

On top of understanding what those numbers mean, we also have to understand why this change is coming into effect. I’m sure you’ve heard of the opioid crisis – the misuse and addiction to opioids (or controlled substances), which is a serious national crisis that affects public health. While the opioid crisis is not the only reason, it is one of the drivers of change. The ultimate goal of these changes is to be able to manage all information and movement of a single product throughout the supply chain. This will include information about who the manufacturer is, all the way down to the pharmacy that is going to sell it to the consumer.

Review all the guidance’s under the DSCSA released by the FDA.
What Is a Lot Number?
A lot number is a code that identifies one batch of a product that is made at the same time. The Food and Pharmaceutical industries are good examples of those who track lot numbers since lot numbers will be associated with additional information such as the expiration date. The purpose of a lot number is to be able to identify one batch of product including expiration but it also allows us to track the Transaction History of the product including who the manufacturer is. In the event where a product is suspect or is considered to have something wrong with it, the batch that the product came from can be tracked using the lot number back to the company who manufactured it – this is considered a “Product Recall”.
What Is a Serial Number?
While a lot number identifies an entire batch of product that was made, a serial number identifies the lowest sellable unit. The lowest sellable unit is how the manufacturer decides they want to sell that specific product in – this could be a case or a bottle for example. So, if we look at a medication like aspirin, the lowest sellable unit is likely a bottle of 100 pills. The graphic below shows us that no two bottles will ever share the same serial number, but they may share the same lot number. The purpose of a serial number is to be able to track each individual product or the lowest sellable unit.

As you can imagine, a real manufacturer is making a lot more products than what you see above and because they are making so much in one batch, we know that the entire batch is not going to go to the same end pharmacy or store – they likely will not be able to sell them all before the expiration date. Instead, the batch is separated and distributed to different players. One of the biggest advantages of serialization is the ability to track each sellable unit to all players who have owned the product.

Download our Pharmaceutical Software Buying Guide to help you determine the best software for your business.
Why Do We Have to Track Lot Numbers and Serial Numbers?
The DSCSA’s role is to provide requirements that will help to improve the traceability of products moving through the supply chain. Currently, as products are moving from owner to owner, it is simple to inject an illegitimate product and make it appear as though it is a part of a legitimate batch. Once these products are thrown into the mix there is no way for anyone to track where that one product came from or how many were injected into that batch. Since all the bottles can have the same general look, it now becomes necessary to track more than just the number of units – we need to track each unit. The DSCSA has implemented the requirement for serial numbers because it allows us to identify the subsets of each batch. With serialization, we will be able to track the movement of each individual sellable unit, making it difficult to inject illegitimate or suspect products into the supply chain for misuse.

The November 2023 DSCSA deadline requirements outline more than just the ability to track lot and serial numbers. We strongly encourage that you and your team stay up to date on all requirements.

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Promotional Products Order Management Software

Like any company buying and selling inventory, wholesale distributors who deal with promotional products will need software to help manage inventory, accounting, sales and everything in between. However, promotional product companies also have a few unique processes that you should consider when looking for promotional products order management software. For example, many promotional product businesses deal with international manufacturers, make use of catalogues or eCommerce for selling products, provide custom graphics and logo options and sell inventory items available in multiple variables. These specific processes require an order management system that provides features such as product matrix, multi-currency, landed cost tracking, eCommerce and more. Below we take a look at some of the features available in Blue Link ERP and why it’s a great option for promotional product companies that need order management software.
Product Matrix
When it comes to promotional products, we can all think of common examples based on items we’ve received at tradeshows, when visiting a company’s location and from sales reps. Items such as pens, notepads, tote bags, water bottles, t-shirts, office supplies, headphones and more are pretty typical, and all have something in common – each base unit of inventory could be available in multiple colors, sizes or styles. If you’re dealing with inventory items that have different variables, you will want to find an order management system that includes product matrix functionality.  This allows you to create sales orders and purchase orders containing products with multiple variables by entering quantities in a matrix style for a given base item. Following this approach, an order entry employee can place orders by navigating a matrix of product variables (for example, colors and sizes for a given product style), adding quantities as appropriate. This allows you to create multiple order lines in a fraction of the time that it would take to key them in line by line.

Multi-Currency
Blue Link’s software is completely multi-currency which allows you to set default currencies for customers and vendors and ensures that any transaction is converted to your home currency without any additional manual calculations or entries. You can create customer quotes and purchase orders in the customer or suppliers’ currency, and the system will automatically record the transaction in the appropriate currencies once converted to a sales order or purchase order.  For example, a payable in the supplier’s currency with a foreign exchange difference and the inventory or expense in the home currency. This eliminates the manual process of having to remember to convert pricing for inventory or factor in exchange rates when posting the transaction.
Transformation Purchase Orders
Transformation purchase orders (POs) are useful when an existing inventory item needs to be transformed through the use of a third-party vendor into one or more different items. For wholesale distributors in the promotional products industry, this could include a third-party vendor adding embroidery, graphics, a custom logo, or other design elements to an existing inventory item. This is a common request from customers that want to add their branding, logo or message to the promotional items they sell and give away. The benefit of transformation purchase orders is that they capture the cost of the root inventory item, plus the incremental processing cost of the third-party vendor. If you have multi-step transformations using several different vendors, new purchase orders and drop ship information are automatically created in the system for each vendor. The system will then automatically create payables for the incremental costs.
Landed Cost Tracking
If you’re importing inventory from overseas, or even just receiving products from across the country, you will want to have functionality for landed cost tracking in your promotional products order management software. This allows you to track and account for all the costs associated with getting inventory into your warehouse, including duty, brokerage, freight, insurance and storage. Many promotional product companies work with international manufacturers and suppliers and belong to sophisticated supply chains with international shipping. Using software such as Blue Link ERP to track your landed costs allows you to determine your “true” inventory costs to aid in purchasing and pricing decision-making and to help with maintaining target gross margins.
B2B Online Order Portal
Before eCommerce, product catalogues were a great way for your customers to see all your available promotional products for sale and then use the information to place an order with a sales rep. While some companies are still using catalogues today, you can achieve the same results by setting up a B2B online order portal. Blue Link’s portal functionality acts as a secure and fast way for your customers to place orders online. Each customer must have an account set up to place an order which allows you to control customer-specific pricing and inventory. Once logged in, customers can also see past sales orders, create lists and review open orders. Blue Link’s B2B online order portal is also a great tool for use by your sales team when interacting with customers over the phone or in person.

Learn more about order management software for your promotional product’s company and the features available with Blue Link ERP software.

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Creating a Sales Order in Blue Link ERP

No matter how many selling channels you have, creating a sales order in Blue Link ERP is simple. Whatever works for you and your customers, Blue Link offers multiple ways in which a sales order can be entered into the system which will streamline your sales order process and reduce human error. All active sales orders can be viewed in the Sales Order Review screen once they are ready to be picked, packed, and shipped. Below we go over six different ways you can enter a sales order into Blue Link ERP.

Manually Enter a Sales Order
Receiving Sales Orders via EDI
B2C eCommerce Integration
B2B Order Portal
Import Sales Orders via Spreadsheet
Recurring Sales Orders

Manually Enter a Sales Order
Although there are many ways to automate sales orders (which we will talk about below) sometimes it is simply easier for a customer to call their supplier to place an order. If your salespeople are accepting orders via phone or email, it’s easy to enter the sales order manually in Blue Link ERP through the Sales Order Entry Screen. Although there is one place to enter the orders, there are multiple screens that provide access to the Sales Order Entry Screen such as the Customer Lookup Screen and the Customer Maintenance Screen. Tip: If you have thousands of SKUs, Blue Link allows you to do wildcard searches. You can complete a wildcard search directly in the product description field so that it is quick and efficient for your staff to find the products they are looking for. In the photo below you can see that a wildcard search for *shirt was entered and what populates is a list of products that contain the word shirt.

*Click to enlarge

Accepting Sales Order via EDI
Many wholesale distributors work with some of the retail giants of the world who require their partners to communicate through EDI. EDI or Electronic Data Interchange is the act of exchanging information between partners. When a retailer wants to place an order, they will send your distribution business a purchase order by using their own ERP system. Through a third-party EDI middleware service, the EDI-specific file type, also known as an 850, will be translated and transferred – automatically populating as a sales order within your Blue Link ERP.

To learn more about how EDI works download our whitepaper: What is EDI?
B2B Online Order Portal
Blue Link offers its own proprietary business-to-business Online Order Portal specifically for B2B customers and/or sales reps. The online order portal dynamically integrates with Blue Link by flowing information to and from without the need for your team to have in-depth HTML experience. You and your customers will be able to view inventory with customer-specific pricing, sales history and have the ability to place new orders. The new sales orders are directly populated in the Blue Link software as soon as the customer confirms the order.
B2C eCommerce Integration
Blue Link offers ERP software for eCommerce Integration. If you have an already existing webstore using platforms such as Magento and Shopify, with the help of an integration partner you can have access to live updates between Blue Link’s ERP Software and your webstores. This doesn’t just include sales orders but also inventory, shipments, and payment. Your sales orders will again directly populate in Blue Link as soon as the customer confirms the order.
Import Sales Orders via Spreadsheet
Let’s take a look at a tradeshow scenario. You’re attending a tradeshow and have received about 20 different orders on the first day. How do you receive those orders? Maybe you have a clipboard where you jot down the contact’s name, company, order information etc… Then the next day you have 15 more orders that you add to your handwritten list. By the time you’re back in the office, it’s been almost a week and now you must manually enter the orders into the system one by one. Sounds cumbersome, doesn’t it? With Blue Link ERP, you can streamline this process by using a tablet where you enter all the same information into a spreadsheet. With one click of a button, your spreadsheet automatically gets imported into your Blue Link system. No need for manual entry and no need to wait until you’re back at the office.
Recurring Sales Orders
Wholesale Distributors often have many customers, some of which order the same quantity of products on a recurring basis (week after week or month after month). With a recurring sales order, you will enter the same information you would with a manual order and then go into the recurrence settings (as seen in the photo below) to choose exactly when you want the order to be active. All recurring sales orders can be reviewed in the Recurring Sales Order Review Screen until human intervention takes place and the order is ready to become active. Once the specified date has arrived, the order will not automatically become active, instead, manual intervention must take place and the sales reps must “agree” that the order is correct and with a check of a box, it becomes active. In the case where employees may forget to check the Recurring Sales Order Review Screen, the system will suggest you review all the orders that have yet to be processed. Once the salesperson checks the box to make the order active, it will now be considered ready to be picked, packed, and shipped and will be listed in the Sales Order Review Screen. Alternatively, before the recurring sales order specified date comes along, you can review them all in the Recurring Sales Order Review Screen where at any time, you can generate the recurring sales order ahead of the specified date. For example, if the recurrence is set to the 30th of each month and you’ve activated the November order on the 15th, the December order will automatically populate in the Recurring Sales Order Review Screen.

Recurring sales orders are available so that salespeople don’t need to enter the same order every week and the customer does not need to contact the distributor every week.

 

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Supply Chain Optimization for Wholesale Distributors

A supply chain is the life cycle of a product from production to purchase. Compiled of organizations, people, and resources, a supply chain will also include transportation of the product, marketing, operations, finances and even customer service. Wholesale distributors play a large role in the supply chain and are often the middleman who purchase the finished good, hold it, and sell it at wholesale prices to retailers or in some cases directly to the consumers. In wholesale distribution, supply chain optimization is necessary for reducing costs and remaining competitive in the business landscape.  In this post, we outline 3 areas of business you can focus on to optimize your supply chain and grow your business.
Ensure Good Communication With All Players in Your Supply Chain
Good communication will help you build trust with your partners. You may have heard before that trust is hard to build and easy to lose and with that being said, think about how dependable you are as a partner and be sure to follow through with your word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and communicate any issues you may have that would affect your partners. We’ve spoken about managing seasonal inventory before and in some industries, it is common to order something from a wholesale distributor that doesn’t need to be delivered until a later date. Do you have the proper software in place that can manage these types of orders? If you do, it’s important to share this information with your partners so that their order process is smooth and any integrations are seamless. Another great example is big-box retailers who often require that their suppliers and vendors can support EDI transactions. An all-in-one ERP system has functionality for both examples and allows you to be the reliable partner that you promised to be. Whether it’s the manufacturers you’re buying from or the retailers you’re selling to ensuring you have the right level of software to manage your needs and your customers’ needs is the best place to start when thinking about supply chain optimization.
Costing Methods for Supply Chain Optimization
Landed Costs – Tracking your landed costs takes into account all costs associated with getting inventory to your warehouse – your true inventory costs. Common landed costs include duty, brokerage, freight, insurance, storage, wharfage and more. By tracking landed costs, you can determine how to get products to the consumer in the most cost-efficient way. Blue Link’s landed cost tracking software allows you to determine the actual cost of your inventory and gives you the ability to make informed purchasing and pricing decisions, improving your supply chain.

FIFO – First In, First Out is a method that suggests selling the oldest items in your inventory first so that there is a constant flow of fresh products and carrying costs are reduced. This is especially helpful for companies in the food and beverage industry who want to avoid large losses due to spoilage. This also gives you insight into how long you are holding your products – the longer you hold them, the more costly it is to your business.

The video below outlines additional costing methods that will aid your supply chain.

Maintain Visibility of Your Stock
Distributors share the same supply chain challenge as manufacturers and retailers when it comes to the visibility of stock. With a cloud-based ERP system like Blue Link, you will have visibility of your stock in real-time by using inventory management and WMS functionality. A good example of an inventory management technique that can be used for supply chain optimization is consolidated shipping. This means combining different customer orders into one shipment and sending it to a location that is central and in close proximity to each individual order. You can then use local carriers to ship the products to the end consumer.

Warehouse management is integral to business success especially when planning inventory levels and purchasing to meet customer demand. ERP Warehouse management will give you the ability to track the movement of products from your supplier to your customer. If you don’t have enough stock, you will drive customers straight to the competition and if you have too much, it will cost you to hold the extra product. If you have an eCommerce platform and/or a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll also need visibility into the flow of goods in and out of those selling channels. When researching for software ask about order management functionality and analyze historical sales data to help you automate the sales order process, understand the best time to order more products and keep up with demand.

So, as a wholesale distributor who is buying and selling products, you may not have given supply chain optimization enough thought. At the end of the day, the main goal is to balance customer demand and costs which you can do with the right software – ERP Software.

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Managing Business Growth With Software

As a growing wholesale distribution business, you may begin to experience common growing pains as your order and transaction volume increase. You need to be prepared for business growth and be able to grow with it. It can be troublesome when limitations on transaction volume and data storage in existing systems lead to system crashes, slow run times and corrupt databases. Having employees manually update multiple systems and checking inventory information when managing multiple sales channels is a huge waste of time. Not to mention a lack of integration between existing systems leads to double entry and manual work. But remember to think about ALL areas of your business including how you run your warehouse. Unreliable inventory information can cause a high number of picking, packing and shipping errors and can be detrimental to your business.

If any of the above sounds familiar, then it is probably time for your company to start thinking about effectively managing growth, and planning for the future. Here are some options.

Implement an introductory software system or add-on functionality to an existing introductory system to automate certain processes
Invest in a robust ERP system to manage all of your accounting and inventory management needs
Hire an employee to manage the additional workload

Choosing between these three options can be tough so the first step to making the right decision is to further educate yourself on the available options. Take the time to learn about the different levels of software sophistication and what systems are available, compare hiring an employee vs. investing in software, and finally educate yourself on ERP and how it differs from an introductory system.
What is ERP?
Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP software is a fully integrated system designed to be an end-to-end solution for all aspects of business operations. As an all-in-one solution, ERP helps businesses streamline and automate their processes by providing inventory management, accounting, order entry, warehouse management, and customer relationship management. In addition, some ERP solutions will also provide various add-on components such as point of sale, lot tracking, landed cost tracking, eCommerce integration and barcode scanning in order to meet the needs of customers in various industries.

If you have decided that investing in a sophisticated ERP system is the best option for your business, there are several other factors to consider in order to find the right solution.
Make Sure Everyone Involved Is Ready
Before spending time and money researching systems, watching demos, and investing in an ERP system, make sure everyone involved is 100% committed to making the switch to ERP. Implementing an ERP system will be a significant project, especially if moving from introductory software or manual processes. To be successful in finding and implementing a solution, ensure you have commitment from all employees who will be interacting with the system and the management team. Get people on board by effectively communicating benefits and involving those who will use the system in the search process.

Ask Yourself: Are employees excited about making the switch to ERP?
Deployment Method
Most ERP solutions are offered either as a cloud-based implementation or on-premises implementation.

On-Premises: software is hosted on-site at the client’s location and the client is responsible for purchasing and maintaining necessary hardware and servers
Cloud-based: or SaaS (Software as a Service) software is hosted off-site on the vendor’s equipment and the client pays the vendor on-going monthly fees to access the software through the internet.

Ask Yourself: Which is the best option for your company? Download our guide to decide for yourself: Cloud vs. On-Premises Software
Don’t Rush the Process
Investing in software is a big decision that will require commitment from your team, so don’t rush the process! Look into a number of systems, but only shortlist a few – you want to make sure you can thoroughly analyze your top choices, and this can only be done properly if you shortlist only a handful. Spend time researching and determining what exact functionality you need. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the initial discovery call with vendors to make sure you’re shortlisting software that is a good fit for your company. It’s easy to be swayed by all the bells and whistles that ERP software can offer you but sometimes just a standard Middle-Tier system can offer more than enough functionality for your business.

Ask Yourself: Do you have enough time to invest in a proper software search?
Set a Realistic Budget
Make sure you set a budget based on real-world data and not just arbitrary numbers. Most ERP systems will vary in cost depending on:

The level of sophistication and required functionality
Business processes
The deployment method you choose
Number of users

A fully integrated ERP suite is an expensive project, however consider the efficiencies and savings that can be achieved by implementing ERP and automating processes. Research and take a look at pricing guides before speaking closely with vendors, so that you have a realistic idea of costs. When comparing vendors, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and that the costs include similar features and services. A good way to evaluate costs is to compare the cost of ERP with the cost of a similar investment, such as hiring an additional employee. That being said, sometimes companies simply are not large enough, or financially stable enough to invest in an ERP solution. For smaller businesses with limited functionality requirements, an introductory system can be of great use. Spend the time to really evaluate your business processes to figure out where you need help, and set a realistic budget based on your requirements.

Ask Yourself: Are you ready for this kind of financial commitment?

Additional Benefits
Aside from being able to more effectively manage your company’s growth, there are several other benefits to choosing a sophisticated ERP system:

Ability to automate processes across departments
Data is stored and managed in a central database – there is one point of entry and one system to manage all your business needs
Automatic creation of meaningful financial and management reports
Increased accuracy and more informed decision making with easily accessible real-time data

So, after considering everything mentioned above, do you think your company is ready for a robust ERP system?

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Big or Small Your Corporate Data Matters

Corporate data refers to any data maintained by a company including but not limited to, sales, finances, customers, and suppliers. It holds a lot of information that you can use to make better business decisions and surprisingly, it was found that 53% of businesses state that they are not yet treating data as a business asset. That percent is quite alarming and to say the least, they are missing out on the advantages and insight corporate data can provide! Data can be used in every aspect of your business, whether it be eCommerce or your finances you can use your data to determine next steps. In this post, we’re going to discuss the importance of clean data for your entire company and communication with your eCommerce website. We also talk about the best way to keep a backup of your important information and provide a few extra bonus tips on migrating your data from system to system.
Corporate Data and Your Business
We’ve discussed before a few ERP Sales Reports that are great examples of how automated reporting is important for business management. But remember that each business model is different, and you’ll need to do a deep analysis of your data to determine what information will provide a profitable return. The best place to start is by asking yourself this question: What is the problem you are trying to address? Once you know what the problem is, you can then determine which report has the correct information you need to address the issue. As mentioned above, be mindful of the fact that your data can be used in any area of your business. For example, you can look at financial reports like Income Statements to determine profit and loss, use the information on quantities of inventory in your warehouse to determine “deadstock” (product not being moved) or determine what types of customers are buying from you. You can then use this information to determine where you need to make some changes. Qualitative or quantitative, the value of data will constantly change as your business grows. Data analytics is an ongoing process, and you should be constantly thinking about the different ways to use your data.
Corporate Data and eCommerce
You may have heard of the term “clean data” before which refers to the state of your existing data. Before you even begin to design your eCommerce site, you’ll need to look at the state of your current data and if you haven’t already, find a system that has the capability to store the data needed. For many companies, data is stored in an ERP solution such as Blue Link ERP. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a software solution that manages all aspects of a company’s operations including automatically providing the data to your website or other marketing platforms and storing data received from your website such as sales orders from your customers. This communication between your ERP system and eCommerce site sounds confusing – and it is – but you can leave the confusing stuff to your vendor and integration team. Instead, focus on analyzing the data your current system is providing you and determining what information you need to feed through to your website.

The state in which your data is stored directly affects how data is passed and received from your website. For example, the information on your website may look different than the information in the ERP (field names), but the process of passing and receiving information should be seamless. Download Now: eCommerce and ERP Integration Guide. Once your website is up and running and the data is flowing seamlessly, it’s now time to use the information to uncover patterns and trends that will allow you to make better business decisions and promote growth.
Keep a Corporate Data Backup
How bothersome would it be if you put all this work into cleaning your data and setting it up to use every day just for it to crash and disappear forever? Well, in order to avoid this issue, you need to ensure your data is backed up in the most secure way possible – through the cloud. The great thing about backing up your data through the cloud is the fact that your vendor is the one who is managing it as opposed to an on-premises solution where your in-house IT team would be responsible for it. A lot of companies are still unsure about the cloud but it does provide security by lessening the odds of a data breach and it was actually found that  95% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. At Blue Link, your data is always safe with us. Our servers are protected in buildings with biometric entrance, 24-hour surveillance, robust disaster recovery place, fire protection… and the list goes on. To learn more, visit our page: Blue Links Data Centre features.

BONUS: Helpful tips when migrating data from system to system

Make sure you have valid data in the correct fields of your existing software
Check for duplicate content
Improve the quality of your data. Are you happy with the existing product codes?
Determine if you have multiple solutions in which you will need to extract data. For example, you may have accounting systems, warehouse systems, eCommerce platforms etc..
Remember that the cost will depend on the time it takes to migrate the data including the time it takes to clean it up

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The Importance of ERP User Adoption

When it comes to wholesale software and any technology, there is a financial impact to user adoption. The more employees make use of the different features available in wholesale software, the more benefits to your company and the bigger the impact on your bottom line. It can be hard to justify the cost of a wholesale software system, especially when you’re currently using introductory software to manage your business. But you’ll be surprised by how much investing in technology can aid and automate your processes and save you money. According to an analysis of 250 organizations, companies that invest in employee experience are four times as profitable than those that don’t. One of the main reasons any company implements ERP Software is to streamline and automate processes, but it must be done correctly. Users of all levels should have access to training that allows them to know the software inside out, but they also have to want to learn it. We’ve written before about demonstrating the value of enterprise software to employees during your search process, so now let’s focus long term once a solution has been chosen.
What is User Adoption?
When implementing new software such as Blue Link ERP which affects all areas of the business, training employees on how to use the system is only the beginning, user adoption, on the other hand, is the desired training outcome where new software users start working with the system and commit to using it long term. Learning a new system is not easy and it’s best to support your team wherever possible. Open the floor to discussion about any issues or concerns they may have about the new software. Remember that many of the employees are seeing the new system in action for the first time and will have questions about processes changing. Below we outline a few strategies that can help with coaching your employees to commit long term.
Get To the Heart of Why the Change Is Happening
Change can make people feel uncomfortable because it disrupts their daily processes, and we all know how hard it is to break habits. A new system will look different, work differently, and will require in-depth training so it’s easy to make mistakes if employees are not engaged. The best way to get your employees on board with change is to be honest and transparent with them about why the change is happening and how it can help them. According to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory, everyone reacts to change differently, and you should know where your staff lies within the model. Understanding who The Innovators and Early Adopters are will help you better prepare for and react to any push-back from employees. When 5% of the people in the group adopt a change, the change is embedded. When 20% adopt it, the change is unstoppable. Statistically, the Innovators, Early Adopters tend to make up almost 20% of people in an organization so you can focus your efforts on these people who can then help you influence the remaining groups.

 

Download our Change Management Guide to learn more about adapting your business and staff to change.
Adoption Creates Value
Building out an ERP Software Training plan that is tailored to your staff and provides ongoing and flexible training will save you money in the long term. User adoption is not a one-and-done type of situation – it’s an ongoing journey. Once initial training with your vendor is over, your team will likely still have questions or you may hire more staff that require training. Speak with your vendor about Help Desk opportunities to see where resources are located for your staff. The better trained your employees are on a software system, the more productive they will be.  This also means checking in with your employees to obtain feedback on how the system is working and allowing them to voice their concerns and questions. Communicate to employees that their opinions matter and you will work with them on any issues that arise.
Make Learning Fun
Training of any kind can be dreadful even when you know the advantages of what you will be learning. Not all employees are going to be receptive to the new system and not all employees learn the same way. Consider having a lunch and learn for each training session and breaking teams up into smaller groups. Another great way to make learning fun is to focus on an X-Factor – something that will wow your staff. A great example is when businesses implement barcode scanning for warehouse management. Make it exciting that the tool can benefit their daily tasks and make work a little easier! Make the new processes fun and exciting!

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How to Efficiently Manage Online and Offline Sales with eCommerce ERP

eCommerce fulfillment can make or break your online store and is one of the key reasons a business succeeds in the eCommerce space. However, fulfilment is just one part of managing a successful business and eCommerce is frequently only one sales channel of many. As more and more businesses take an omnichannel approach by selling through multiple sales channels, it requires that you streamline sales, fulfilment, and customer service across your entire business. This means you need to have the resources and strategies in place to not only efficiently sell and ship online orders but also orders from traditional sales methods like phone and email. The best way to do this is to integrate your eCommerce processes into your entire business – taking advantage of eCommerce ERP software to help you do so.
Treat eCommerce Like a Separate Business
First and foremost, it’s important that if you’re selling online, you treat your eCommerce business as separate company. This does not mean that you need to manage your eCommerce business without taking into consideration your other sales channels, but rather, it means that you need to dedicate enough resources to manage the different areas of the business. Selling through eCommerce to consumers involves a very different skillset and set of processes than selling directly to B2B customers through phone and email. Therefore, as a starting point, you want to make sure that you have the appropriate people dedicated to each part of the business. Hiring staff to focus on your eCommerce store means that your team won’t get stuck having to prioritize one sales channel over the other when order volume increases. This includes hiring a team to help with website design and management, SEO, customer service and shipping.
Consolidate eCommerce Orders into One System
While it’s important that you dedicate enough resources to managing eCommerce orders, this doesn’t mean that you should have separate systems for managing the different areas of the business. Instead, look for back-end eCommerce ERP to manage your entire business and integrate that with your front-end website. There are many benefits to using only one system to manage everything such as…

With one system, you can manage all orders from the same screen while still easily identifying which orders are eCommerce and which are from another sales channel. This helps with inventory replenishment and allows you to track min and max levels.
Having one system means you don’t have to worry about duplicate and manual data entry which saves time and reduces the instance of human error.
eCommerce ERP software allows you to report on all aspects of the business either separately or together – helping to give you a true picture of revenue and costs and identify threats and opportunities.

Maintain eCommerce-Specific Inventory
When selling online, you can choose to keep your eCommerce inventory separate in your system and warehouse or combine it with total inventory across all sales channels. Keeping inventory separate makes it easier for replenishment and reporting purposes as B2C eCommerce usually means a high volume of low quantity orders, whereas B2B sales tend to include a smaller volume of orders with more line items. Even if you only have one physical warehouse to store inventory, consider setting up a virtual warehouse in your ERP to track eCommerce inventory volumes separately. It’s also important to set up your warehouse to accommodate order patterns. For example, consider dedicating an entire section of your warehouse to eCommerce inventory or have fast-moving items closest to packing stations for those smaller, B2C orders.
Shipping Integration
When shipping orders integration with common shipping carriers is important for both online and offline sales. Integration means that information such as address, contact details and company is automatically populated between your ERP or online store to the shipping carrier site, saving you time from having to manually enter information. Order tracking information and confirmations then get automatically stored in the ERP for future reference and sent directly to eCommerce customers. The idea is that your ERP software maintains a complete record of all sales transactions – with information important to the customer being sent through the eCommerce store.

While your eCommerce store will be different from your back-end system, eCommerce ERP allows for the seamless integration of the two systems to effectively manage your online and offline sales. Customers can place orders by visiting your eCommerce site or through traditional sales channels with information being managed from the ERP. This helps to streamline processes and eliminates the need for manual data entry.

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How to Generate Sales Using Wholesale Software

At the top of every business owners’ mind is…. sales. And when it comes to generating more sales you’re probably thinking about increasing your Marketing budget or hiring a new employee. We have reviewed the advantages and disadvantages of hiring before and an even better investment will be into technology – wholesale software to be specific. It can be hard to justify the cost of a Wholesale Software system, especially when you’re currently using introductory software and manual processes to manage your business. But, an investment in technology may surprise you. We’re going to explore a few ways in which wholesale software can actually benefit your employee’s day-to-day processes, help you generate more sales and give you better insight into your business operations. Topics will include:

Simplifying the Ordering Process

eCommerce Integration
B2B Online Order Portal

Using Technology to Your Advantage

Reporting
Minimizing manual processes

Simplify Ordering with Wholesale Software
eCommerce Integration

As your business continues to grow and you decide to explore an omnichannel approach, you’ll want to make sure all systems are integrated and work seamlessly together. Investing in wholesale software will allow for automating the process of website orders by integrating the back-end of your website to your wholesale distribution software. When a customer places an order online, it automatically creates a sales order in your wholesale distribution solution for picking, packing and shipping and will automatically update inventory levels across all systems. When all systems speak seamlessly, your customers and sales reps will have access to the most up to date and accurate information.

B2B Online Order Portal

49% of customers say salespeople talk way too much. But how do you sell to other businesses without a salesperson? An online order portal allows your customers to create their own purchase orders without ever having to speak with a salesperson. This order will also auto-populate your wholesale distribution solution and automatically update inventory levels. Not only does the integration of eCommerce and a B2B online order portal save time for your employees but it also minimizes human error by automating processes that were once manual. Customers are more likely to come back to you if the sales process was efficient and cohesive amongst all selling channels.

Download our Change Management Guide to prepare yourself and your team for implementing new software. 
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Reporting

With wholesale software, you can expect to have an abundance of data at your fingertips through reporting. You have the ability to set up report automation that reduces the number of times you need to manually re-key information and re-generate reports. Once a report is created using live-linked data, the user simply has to open the existing report and hit refresh to get real-time insight into that information. With Blue Link’s Wholesale Software, another great reporting feature is the Automated Routines Manager (ARM) which allows you to create rule-based automated reports using real-time information stored within the system. This will create an email and send it to all appropriate stakeholders based on a set timeframe.

You may be wondering how all these reports can generate sales. Well, the information in these reports and what you do with them will determine how you generate sales from them. You can have multiple sales reports that show you sales activity across the business and give you insight on where you need to improve. For example, let’s say you set up a Sales by Month report and you start noticing trends and patterns around high-sale periods. You can then plan campaigns leveraging those high-sale periods and plan discount events around the low-sale periods. This report not only helps with the sale of your products but also gives you insight into purchasing trends that will follow the same demand cycle as your sales.

Minimizing Manual Processes

A lot of people like to use the saying “time is money” and that’s especially true when employees make mistakes, and it takes time to correct them. Whether it be the need to rekey in data or a mistake with picking the wrong product in the warehouse, anything that disrupts the sale affects the customer. Consumers and other businesses who are buying your product are familiar with wholesale giants like Amazon and expect all their deliveries to be correct and on time. One of the big tools in automation is Barcode Scanning which leads to faster pick times and fewer picking and shipping error, reducing the risk for human error. This is just one example of how technology can be used by an employee to assist with their tasks and ultimately reduce manual processes and allow the employee to focus on tasks of higher value.

Example: Think about Accounts Receivable (A/R).  Instead of manually finding accounts that are overdue and then one-by-one contacting the customer to get them to pay, Blue Link will automatically create a report with this information and then automatically email customers that have an account overdue x amount of dollars. This uses available automatic reporting AND minimizes manual processes.

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Inventory Allocation: Seasonal Inventory

Halloween is fast approaching, soon after is Christmas then New Year, and we all know how hectic things get towards the holiday season. People are shopping, whether in person or online and most businesses see an increase in sales. But it’s not just at the end of the year that businesses see a pickup. Depending on the industry you belong to, you may see an increase during Mother’s and/or Father’s Day, at the beginning of the summer season or anytime during the year that reflects a “holiday”. As a wholesale distributor, you’ll need to be prepared for the influx of orders and your seasonal inventory must be controlled.
What is Seasonal Inventory?
Seasonal inventory refers to the product that is in high demand during certain times of the year. For example, an ice skate distributor and gardening tool distributor will receive seasonal ordering at different times of the year but they can both use an ERP software solution like Blue Link to assist with the allocation of their advanced sales orders. A lot of small distributors are using a starter solution such as QuickBooks and find that when they input a sales order, their current inventory automatically gets allocated, no matter when the order is to be processed and shipped. This is a hassle if you receive hundreds of pre-booked orders and you don’t want to automatically allocate inventory. With ERP Software, seasonal ordering and managing that inventory is a breeze!

Let’s look at an example and use the ice skate reference above. In North America, the public ice-skating season takes place in the winter months (November-February) but a distributor may attend a tradeshow in March in order to make some advanced sales for later in the year. Let’s say that you currently have 200 ice skates in your inventory. Then, you attend the trade show and receive a couple of sales orders that total 400 ice skates but, none of your customers want them delivered until mid-September so they can stock their shelves before people come in to purchase skates for the winter. Now that the tradeshow is over, you’ll want to input those orders into your system back at the office. Unfortunately, if you’re using a starter accounting solution like QuickBooks, the system will automatically allocate your current inventory to that sales order whether the processing and delivery of the order are set for next week or 6 months down the road.  ERP software on the other hand will allow you to create the sales order and instead of allocating the inventory, you can put the products on backorder. Then, you can create a purchase order for the product you have on backorder. This way, the sales orders from the tradeshow are inputted into your system, you’ll have the correct number of products on its way to you and your current inventory is untouched and ready to be sold to an order that will be processed earlier than the tradeshow orders. With Blue Link ERP, once you put a certain amount of product on backorder, the system will suggest to you how many to purchase as a result of how many are on backorder – so that you always have enough inventory on hand.
QuickBooks vs. ERP
We’ve compared QuickBooks to ERP before but if managing seasonal inventory is important to your business, you may want to rethink QuickBooks as your chosen solution. As mentioned above, when entering a sales order – no matter when it is to be delivered – QuickBooks will automatically allocate whatever inventory you currently have to that sales order. ERP software is an all-in-one solution that will not only assist with your seasonal inventory but it will also help with managing your accounting, track landed costs, contact management amongst other functionality.

Download our QuickBooks Replacement Guide to learn how switching to ERP software can help you streamline your processes and manage seasonal inventory.

 

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