Digitalization for Your Distribution Business

Danielle Lobo

Small-to-medium-sized businesses or SMBs around the world agree that the advancement of technology and the acceleration of innovation are difficult to keep up with. Many industries are being introduced to new products daily that solve existing needs in a new way. Competition isn’t only based on quality now. Marketing, sales, distribution, speed, and price all have an impact on well-established brands and the smaller guys. As you plan on growing your business, now is the right time to consider digitalization and what areas of your business can benefit.

What is Digitalization?

Digitalization is the process of converting business processes from analog systems such as paper to digital technologies. Improving core operations, customer experience, and employee work-life balance with technology is a not-so-new way of optimizing business efficiency and generating value. You may have come across the term “Digital Transformation”. Many professionals confuse a digital transformation with the digitalization of a specific business process. A digital transformation doesn’t only include business process changes but also organizational changes.

Before you’re ready to take your transformation to the organizational level, you can use an already implemented ERP software to assist with the digitalization of certain business processes. Small distribution businesses need to pay attention to the automation tools available that their ERP software can provide. Some tools to help with your business’ digitalization process are:

• Barcode Scanning
• Point of Sale Software
• Electronic Document Storage
• API Integration

How can ERP Help?

Barcode Scanning
Implementing barcode scanning in your warehouse is a great way to speed up your picking, packing and shipping process, eliminate paper in the warehouse and reduce human error. One of the great advantages of barcode scanning is the budget-friendly factor. Blue Link ERP’s Mobile Scanning Application uses an iOS Device as a less expensive option as opposed to traditional scanners so that the application is suitable for all types of businesses. Although there are many options for devices, it’s important for businesses to research if the technology you are choosing can support your initial needs as well as your future needs.



Point of Sale
Traditionally, many wholesale distributors don’t need a POS system in their warehouses since they take all orders by phone or email and information is inputted directly into the ERP system. Acquiring a POS system allows a company to work with barcode readers, cash drawers and allows the business to process debit, credit and cash sales.

POS in Retail – Some distributors sell products both B2B and B2C and where there are specialized retail operations, an integrated POS system can help you manage a single retail store, help you operate a cash and carry business or assist with the expansion of a few brick-and-mortar stores.

POS at a Tradeshow – Attending a tradeshow is a great way to network, increase brand recognition, and make sales. Having an ERP system that integrates with your POS allows you the ability to sell directly at a tradeshow. If the system has a live connection to the ERP Software, your sales team will be able to sell to a new customer or to a current customer with the ability to lookup customer information right on the spot. Here’s how it would work:

Within your ERP system, you would create a secondary (virtual) warehouse specifically for the tradeshow. You can then transfer the product out of your ‘real’ warehouse and into the ‘tradeshow’ warehouse. When making a sale, product will be taken from the ‘tradeshow’ warehouse allowing you to accurately track and report on how well the tradeshow went.

Electronic Document Management
Have you ever accidentally printed 30 copies of a document instead of 3? We’ve all been there.

Printed copies of documents are great but securing documents electronically is even better. As a much more efficient way of keeping track of information such as invoices, quotes and spec sheets, Document Management Software can integrate directly with your ERP System streamlining the flow of information. Once integrated you can completely get rid of your piles of paper and filing cabinets!

API Integration
When looking to digitize more areas of your business, check that your ERP software has API integration capabilities. API or “Application Program Interface” is a set of routines, protocols and tools that allows the application to share information with other applications that also have an API. Integrations can include EDI, eCommerce, and transportation management solutions. All allow for the digitalization of common business practices.

  • EDI or “Electronic Data Interchange” is used to exchange electronic documents with trading partners. For example, big-box retailers often require EDI transactions because it's easy for them to communicate with multiple businesses electronically.
  • Integrating your already created Magento or Shopify website is easy to do. The information is up to date in real-time and your customers will have access to live inventory levels reducing errors and increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Being a successful business does not mean that the interaction ends after the sale. Once an order is made either online, through the phone or by email, the warehouse then has to pick, pack and ship the product. We mentioned above how barcode scanning can digitize the picking and packing process but did you know you can also digitize and streamline the shipping process. Integrating with a Transformation Management system such as 2Ship helps to automate the shipping process. Shipping can be expensive, but with 2Ship you are able to digitally see real-time shipping rates so you can choose the best option for you.

Implementing digitalization tools can truly help your business grow but requires you to be prepared for change.