Guest Post by Laura Hudgens
Wholesale distribution ERP software, also known as Enterprise Resource Planning Software, helps distribution businesses buying and selling product to better manage business processes—such as automated reporting, inventory management and even picking, packing and shipping through robust and advanced functionality. With typical features like a common transactional database and the ability to manage inventory and data in real-time, implementing wholesale distribution ERP software is a vital part of any business. However, look at the implementation as a marathon, not a sprint. Implementation can be a long process, so it is important to ensure the system you choose has future-proof features and capabilities to withstand company growth. Of course, all wholesale distribution ERP software is not created equal, and when deciding on a system that is right for your company, there are a few key points to keep in mind:
When incorporating wholesale distribution ERP software into a distribution business, chances are, you already have a few systems in place. The idea with true wholesale distribution ERP software is that it is an all-in-one solution designed to replace all your existing software. Having said that, sophisticated software is not a closed system, meaning it is flexible enough to integrate with other pieces of software or apps as the marketplace and your business changes. For example, a distribution business looking to expand its market online can integrate its wholesale distribution ERP software with an existing eCommerce platform and online marketplaces such as Amazon an eBay.
While the cost of ERP may be higher than the introductory platforms that your company currently has, ultimately, the freedom and ease that comes with an open system will be worth it, especially as more and more companies are choosing to expand into the eCommerce market. The competitive advantage that successful eCommerce distribution businesses have is that they have superior insight into their inventory and order fulfillment processes. An all-in-one wholesale distribution ERP software can help you better manage online orders, keep credit card information secure, improve customer service by saving on shipping costs and increase accessibility to your products, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Another important integration is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). When you integrate EDI with your wholesale distribution ERP software, the sharing of data between systems helps eliminate the need for manual entry of sensitive information like product, shipping, and customer data—which saves all parties involved time, money, and hassle.
Opportunities for Automation
The ability to automate operational processes is the most valuable advantage of incorporating wholesale distribution ERP software into any organization. The reduction of manual processes provides many continuing benefits, so automation is key when making decisions on software. Introductory and basic wholesale software tools that don't provide opportunities for automation may cost less up front, but the time and resources saved through the automation of processes will quickly outweigh the costs of a new system. Again, always think about the implementation in the long-term.
Wholesale distribution ERP software with one database that acts as a central hub to store all company data including eCommerce data, reduces the need for manual data entry, which in turn can improve productivity, boost efficiency, reduce processing times, and even decrease overall operating costs. Automation also helps improve accuracy and reduce user error.
Having well-managed data allows for more robust reporting functionality, as reports within the system get exported, edited, and shared in real-time. Wholesale distribution ERP software with specific reporting tools allow users to create rules in the system to automate data flow and the distribution of important information (for example, creating a workflow that automatically emails invoices to customers). With options to send reports and emails internally and externally, sharing real-time, accurate data is timely and simple. For example, you can set the system to send out a weekly sales report on the day that you choose and to the people/team you want to send to.
Improved reporting and analytics through the system offer clearer insight into how your organization is doing as well as providing better customer service. Workflows are also made easier through automation as tasks can be strategically set-up and managed.
Better reporting and analytics also help reduce supply chain friction by helping you keep more accurate tabs on inventory and developing a better a supply chain management plan. An integrated wholesale distribution ERP software also allows you to better monitor and measure your progress in real-time, and since everything is all-in-one, it’s easier to stay organized and know that you’re not overlooking any pieces of the puzzle.
Service-Oriented Business Models
Customer needs are always changing. Modern advancements in technology mean that consumers are now accustomed to having everything they need from a company, at their fingertips, any time they need it. Because of this, customer service is more important than ever, and it’s imperative that your business can keep up.
One way to ensure your customers are always getting the assistance they need is to offer self-service features, such as online order portals that clients or customers can access 24/7 to find information about products, pricing, or order status—all without ever speaking to an employee. Or, for those times when a self-service portal isn’t enough, accurate, efficient, service-oriented help is a must. Fortunately, with all of your information integrated and at your fingertips through wholesale software, it’s easier than ever to better serve your customers with accurate, up-to-date, and easily accessible information.
And while you are taking care of your customers, you need your wholesale software to be taking care of you. Every business has different needs, and what works well for one organization might be detrimental to the next. Ensuring your system is a good fit is a vital step in ensuring you are getting the most out of your system. Ongoing consulting services from the software vendor during the sales process and even after the software is purchased and implemented can help you review and re-evaluate the state of your business, your unique needs, and opportunities for growth. This information empowers you to make knowledge-based decisions about the best software selection for your business.
Of course, once you’ve picked out your software, it’s important you know how to use it. Look for a provider that offers training in-person, so you can feel confident that the implementation of your new system is going to produce the desired results. And be sure to plan out your implementation process in a documented and openly accessible place, like a company-wide project management tool.
Just like you are there for your customers after they’ve made a purchase from you, it’s important to find a software provider that’s there for you even after the sale is closed, too. Self-service support options and free resources about the implementation and optimization add to the training you receive and enable you to reap the most long-term benefits from your new system.
Perhaps most importantly, when exploring wholesale software options, you want to look for one that offers customization of services. Your business and needs will change over time, and your software should too. Look for a vendor that is continuously improving their system and providing yearly updates that keep the functionality relevant and competitive as marketplaces change. They should also be open and willing to make the necessary modifications and customizing that address the unique aspects of your organization.
Laura Hudgens is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a communications instructor and freelance writer who studies and writes about technology, media, science, and health.