Electric Document Management Software – What to Look For

Mark Canes

This post outlines functionality one should expect from Electronic Document Management Software in the realm of Inventory and Accounting ERP Software.

All businesses must store information in some form or another, and for most this means a large number of paper documents, stored within filing cabinets, boxes or piled on desks. However, more and more businesses are beginning to use technology to better manage their operations, store data and eliminate the need for paper in the office.  This is where document management software comes into play. Not only does this software help keep information safe, it also eliminates the need for physical storage space and reduces the amount of time filing and retrieving important documentation.  Document management software can be used in conjunction with other systems in a multitude of industries including: health care, transportation, higher education and insurance.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re an Account Manager at an appliance distribution company.  It’s 9am at the office and you receive a phone call from an upset customer - Bob from Bob’s Restaurant is complaining that the oven you sold him is broken.


“I’m sorry to hear that the oven has stopped working – do you know if it’s under warranty? And what’s the serial number?”


“This oven has never worked! And yes of course it’s under warranty! The serial number is 658922E”


[logs into ERP system, searches by serial number, brings up oven and all associated documentation]

“I just brought up your file and it looks like you chose not to purchase the warranty, as can be seen by the signed document I have.  I also have a signed certification document here as well – would you like me to email them to you?”

Of course the above example is very simplified but you get the point – without a document management system you would have spent a lot more time tracking down the customer’s file and finding the correct documentation before being able to resolve the issue.  A proper document management system means all important documentation can be indexed, stored and retrieved from within multiple screens in your distribution ERP software – and then accessed with a few clicks of a button.  In this case the paperwork was accessed by the serial number field, but documents can be associated with many other fields such as the vendor name, vendor invoice number, purchase order number, lot number etc. Common documents to index include:

  • Certification documents
  • Warranties
  • Product specifications and designs
  • Proof of delivery
  • Credit Applications
  • Customer tax exemption certificates

How it Works

There are essentially two sides to the document management software that distribution companies may use in conjunction with their ERP software.  The first is best suited for small organizations that handle a low volume of important documents, and the second is best for larger organizations that receive a high volume of similar documents on a regular basis.

The first side is the less complicated and less expensive solution.   When dealing with physical documents, users scan them into the system and then save them in files on their computer – just like they would normally do.  Users can then associate these documents with specific fields in their ERP system.  Essentially from within the ERP software users find any scanned or saved documents on their computer and associate it with the field – this makes a copy of the document and saves it in a database for easy access.  Once a document has been associated with a field it can be opened from that field anywhere in the system. For example if you have warranty documents associated with a specific customer you can pull that information from the database within any screen that has the customer field such a sales order or purchase order screen.

The second side is the more expensive option, but also the more intelligent. Users scan physical documents into the system, or locate them from folders on their computer and send them into a “queue”.  From the queue a screen opens up which allows users to index and cross-reference the scanned documents.  This is where users can also specify keywords for the system to look for on scanned documents (for example invoice).  This means the software can be trained to recognize repeat documents, such as the invoice you get from a supplier every week.  This can also be automated using document barcodes, which specify what the document is and where it should be stored.  These documents then get stored within files in the database to be retrieved later in the same manner as the first side.  The process of scanning and storing documents is made easier with the more intelligent side, which is why it is best suited for organizations with a high volume of documents.

As you can imagine, document management software can be useful in a variety of areas, and used with many different software systems.  Although indexing historical documentation may be time-consuming at first, on an ongoing basis scanning documents into the system is much faster than manually filing them and makes the retrieval process much faster, more reliable and less costly.