Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

RECAP: 2019 HDA Distribution Management Conference [DSCSA Updates for Pharmaceutical Distributors]

Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed in this blog are based on the author’s best understanding of the updates from HDA’s 2019 Distribution Management Conference and Expo and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of the industry in whole.

Blue Link was excited to once again attend the HDA’s Distribution Management Conference and Expo, March 10-13 in beautiful Palm Desert, California. Exhibiting for the first time as an official HDA member, Blue Link had access to numerous networking opportunities and spoke with many pharmaceutical wholesalers and distributors about how to best prepare and manage activities surrounding the impending DSCSA compliance deadline with Blue Link’s pharmaceutical ERP software.

The show was attended by more than 500 industry players and boasted numerous informative sessions and productive roundtable discussions that allowed attendees from all backgrounds (distributors, software providers, 3PLs, manufactures) to share their plans and concerns regarding traceability and getting ready for DSCSA.  Other sessions included discussions around specialty pharmaceutical trends, supply chain security, controlled substance regulations, legislative updates and more.

While there was a lot of information shared, the below recap will focus on DSCSA specific updates.

Here are the DSCSA requirements currently in effect in the industry:

TI/TH/TS
Trading Partner Requirements (Authorized Trading Partners –ATPs)
S&I Product Procedures, Investigations and Notifications
Wholesale Distribution and 3PL Licensure Reporting
Saleable Returns Verification
Product Identifier/Serialization

Distributor Requirements Starting November 27, 2019

Distributors will no longer be able to buy/sell a product unless it has a “product identifier” including  4 data elements; GTIN, Lot #, Serial # and Expiration Date, (unless grandfathered or subject to Waivers Exceptions Exemptions -WEE).

Saleable Returns – Products returned to a distributor will not be able to be placed back into inventory to be resold unless the unit is “verified” through an approved method of verification
If determined that a product is suspect, the “Form FDA 3911” must be filed with the FDA
Manufacturers and repackagers must respond to saleable returns verification requests within 24 hours

Verification of Saleable Returns

There are over 60 million returned products annually in the pharmaceutical industry. Effective November 27, 2019, products that are in the supply chain that are returned for potential resale, must first be “verified” to ensure the legitimacy of the product before it can be put back into circulation and re-sold. In order to do this, distributors must “verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, for each sealed homogeneous case of such product or, if such product is not in a sealed homogeneous case, verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, on each package.”

Some of the challenges discussed with the verification of saleable returns are that there is a need for speed and accuracy in terms of turnaround times for approval as some distributors deal with high volumes of returns. Some other issues discussed were:

Data mismatches/discrepancies
The timing of development of technology
Limited FDA guidance
Can a distributor that receives a returned product, legally “verify” the returned product using only the data they have stored in their system(s)
Acceptable methods of saleable returns verification

Current Solutions for Saleable Returns (Verification Router Service)

There are a few options for compliance in 2019 for saleable returns verification including EPICS, VRS, Email/Phone, EPICS & VRS. While people are choosing one or a mix of all, there is a large demand for VRS providers such as LSPediA, rxfcel, and Adents. VRS providers enable pharma wholesalers and distributors to verify serialized products with a single scan of 2D barcodes and meet the requirements of GS1 standards. With these types of service solutions, the verification request and response is almost instantaneous.

If a wholesaler opts for the more manual approach, they can communicate directly with the manufacturer, provide the applicable information and once the verification is requested, the manufacturer is required to respond to these requests within 24 hours.

The issue of being able to “verify” a returned product using only the data stored in a distributor’s system was discussed during one of the sessions. Although it was not 100% confirmed legally, the consensus to be able to use stored data to verify a returned product was the following:

Product MUST be purchased directly from the manufacturer/repackager
Product elements “GTIN, Lot#, Serial #, Expiration Date” MUST be received electronically into the system, NO secondary service provider information is acceptable

What this means to the industry, is only those distributors that are buying directly from the manufacturer/repackager can verify any returns using the data they are storing in their systems. If a distributor is purchasing from another distributor in the supply chain, their data (although it might be accurate) IS NOT viable data to use for “Saleable Returns Verification”.

As a leader in the pharmaceutical ERP space, our goal is to help our customers meet these requirements by providing advanced functionality such as VRS connectors (powered by LSPediA) as part of its all-in-one pharmaceutical ERP solution, at an affordable price.  Our full suite of pharmaceutical functionality can be found at the end of this post.

Grandfathered Product

There are currently non-serialized and serialized products in the market. Only about 35% of returns will have serialization as of November 2019. As a result of products with very long expiration dates, that were packaged prior to the November 2018 deadline, the FDA has implemented “Grandfathering” of such products.

If a product doesn’t have a 2D barcode accompanied by the 4 data elements, this product will not meet the requirement by the DSCSA and after the November 2019 deadline, will no longer be able to be sold or received unless the product has been deemed as “Grandfathered”. As it appears there will be many of these products still in the supply chain in November 2019. Blue Link raised the question in one of the sessions if there was a “list” of Grandfathered products. After a short giggle, the answer was “NO, not at this time”.

Product Identification at the “Smallest Saleable Unit”

The DSCSA required that as of November 2018, Manufacturers and Repackagers apply serial numbers to what they deem to be the “smallest saleable unit”. During a round table session, it was discussed that to some distributors, the smallest saleable unit is often the individual units within a case that are sold separately and may no longer be sold at this individual unit level. It is strongly suggested that if you are a distributor that has in the past purchased by the case and sold individual units from that case to your clients, you must ensure that each unit level of product you are selling will have a serialized number in November. If not, you may have to re-think how you are going to sell this product.

Is the Industry Ready?

The general feel of the conference was that although significant work has been done by the industry to prepare for and meet upcoming DSCSA requirements,  there is still a lot more to do. The marketplace is ready but the biggest challenge is around the management of serialized and non-serialized product. Adoption, collaboration and bringing key stakeholders to meet these requirements is a significant challenge.

With our all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP solution, Blue Link strives to help and support our pharmaceutical customers through these challenges and better manage these requirements to meet compliance and ultimately help keep the pharmaceutical market safe. We will continue to review new FDA Guidance and attend future conferences such as the HDA Distribution Management Conference and Expo and HDA Traceability Conference to ensure our Blue Link Pharmaceutical ERP software continues to provide the functionality needed by the industry to comply with requirements set out by the DSCSA.

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

Sophisticated product tracking to meet industry standards/regulations
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Transaction History Management
Automatic printing and emailing of T3 reports
Integrated VRS for Saleable Returns Management
Integrated Drummond Certified CSOS and ERP sold as one system (the first of its kind!)
Secure B2B Online Ordering Portal for convenient online ordering (including Controlled Products)
Integration to 3rd party applications such as TrXade
Business process functionality such as inventory management, warehouse management, and robust accounting features

If you have questions, please email our Pharmaceutical ERP Software expert:

 

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert –Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com
Subscribe to our blog and never be left out!
   
 
Here are some pics from the show!

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Protect Your Business with an IT Security Plan

A guest post from Dave Locke of Value Added Systems – a leading edge provider of comprehensive IT Services, from systems design to implementation and management

IT security is often one of the most overlooked parts of managing your business and can be one of the least understood. This is especially true for small organizations without the help of a full IT service department running 24/7/365. Even if you do have an IT department or work with a third 3rd party vendor, it’s always great to regularly review processes to make sure your business and critical business data is protected from external threats. With new vulnerabilities being detected every day, and frequently coming from some of the most unlikely sources, your systems need to be protected using multiple layers.

In the world of IT security, we often look at 2 options; Re-Active and Pro-Active. While both have their merit, a redundant combination is often the only way to protect your business and data. Having a purpose-built IT security strategy and budget is imperative to eliminate system downtime and data loss.

In order to implement a successful IT strategy, it’s important to consider all areas of potential risk. Starting with the hardware, a great place to start is with evaluating your Internet connection. Having a proper Firewall in place to protect your business from the outside world will help block unwanted traffic and allow the connections that drive your business. This is truly a Pro-Active first step.

Just as your doctor will recommend any number of immunizations to protect yourself from unwanted infections when travelling in a foreign country, your computers also require protection when given access to the internet. The right Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware protection (such as Cylance) work to keep your computer safe from all the little bugs that you will encounter as you browse different areas of the internet. This offers both a Re-Active and Pro-Active step to staying safe while gaining access to all the information the internet has to offer!

Another big security concern is around protecting and managing your data. When you have issues accessing critical business data your business can’t afford to waste time finding out what happened – first and foremost you need to get your data back so that you can continue to operate business as usual. Only then can you dedicate time to diagnosing issues. This leads us to the 3 B’s of IT security: Backups, Backups, Backups! When it comes to backup management, working Pro-Actively is the only option. Having a copy of your data replicated to a central server of storage location is great for a fast restore, but if the whole network gets infected or the central storage fails, you want to be able to access information that has been stored on offline media. Tapes or USB drives both work great and are a fast solution for lost data and give you a second line of defence. Adding a 3rd level of media protection by rotating copies offsite also provides that extra level of protection from theft and environmental disasters like a fire or the sprinkler system going off. Taking advantage of cloud-hosted offerings for backups takes the responsibility out of your hands and means you never have to remember to change a tape or swap a drive.

One of the last major points to consider is also one of the most used services for business computers – EMAIL.  As one of the most common communication methods across businesses today, email also presents one of the biggest security concerns. While there is no surefire way to prevent the worst, having some of the best spam filtering options in the market at your disposal can help stop threats before they ever become anything serious. Pro-Active scanning options provide some of the most active and advanced threat protection scanning tools so that emails are authenticated before they ever hit your inbox or mail server in the first place. As a second level of protection and for those with on-premises email servers, some spam filter options will queue your email if your local server is not accessible for any reason.

While the above examples only cover a couple of the many ways to protect your network and your data, a review of current strategies is often the best place to start. Begin by finding out what protection you currently have and how it works, to then identify any gaps and allow you to prepare a disaster recovery plan. Each business has unique requirements and so working with a knowledgeable team and the right people can help you make informed decisions that work best for your business needs.

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[Customer Testimonial Video – ECS Coffee] – Marketplace and eCommerce ERP Integration for Retailers

Blue Link customer, ECS Coffee has certainly come a long way since their humble beginnings as a small company with part-time operations out of a garage in North Burlington, Ontario. They have grown quickly since launching in 1997,  from having just one employee and one truck to now having over 30 employees, and operating a growing omnichannel business. As an omnichannel operation ECS has a B2B distribution channel, two B2C retail locations, an in-house service and repair center, and, if that wasn’t enough, they have also successfully expanded into the eCommerce retail sphere and have integrated with marketplaces such as Amazon!

The below testimonial video featuring ECS Coffee’s Owner and President, Neil Madden shows how the business was able to expand into these markets and streamline their omnichannel operations by implementing Blue Link ERP software. If you’re thinking about expanding to new markets, this testimonial is a great example of how integrated technology such as ERP software allows businesses to manage multiple sales channels while maintaining information in a single database.

 

 

Why integrate Blue Link with your eCommerce retail site?

Blue Link ERP is an all-in-one solution that takes care of all your eCommerce/omnichannel needs. The robust functionality found in Blue Link goes beyond sophisticated accounting and inventory management. The ability to fully integrate with existing B2C and B2B eCommerce webstores whether it’s Magento, Shopify, Shoptrol or any other major hosting site, and marketplace such as Amazon and eBay, allows businesses to grow rapidly and efficiently.

Benefits of integrating your front-end eCommerce and marketplace websites with back-end ERP software includes:

Bi-directional, up-to-the-minute live updates between Blue Link’s ERP software and your webstores including inventory, orders, shipments and payments.

As orders come in from your online store inventory levels are tracked and updated automatically and any changes made in an inventory management system will be automatically reflected online. This will prevent you from “selling” products that you cannot deliver.
Easily share information between both your back-end distribution inventory system and front-end eCommerce sites such as order details, credit card information, ship-to and bill-to addresses and contact information and product details (pricing, descriptions, quantities etc.).

Automatic notifications to customers – an integrated system can automatically notify customers when orders have been shipped and allow them to track the delivery of products.
Reduced errors – this type of integration is meant to automate your processes and reduce the need for manual work such as keying in customer information and product information multiple times.
Simplified price changes to inventory such as quantity or promotional discounts.
Increased order volume and decreased costs as customers can purchase more products, more often without the need for additional staff to deal with maintaining accurate inventory data and processing transactions.
Secure, online credit card transactions.
Integration with shipping tools allows you to shop for the best rate and determine the cheapest shipping method/carrier on each order.

Extensive Reporting

Blue Link also provides robust reporting functionality to enable real-time visibility into the status of accounts, orders, inventory and sales, sales-by-date, sales-by-customer/product, inventory slow-moving items, profit-by-customer/product, income statements etc., for all channels.  Users are able to pull information from different areas of the software to customize virtually any report employees, customers or management may want.

Blue Link reporting services include:

Completely customizable report creation for all your sales channels including eCommerce data
Ability to leverage data already entered into Blue Link in order to generate a report, render it a PDF, create an email, put your message in the email and send it to all appropriate stakeholders – this is done automatically
Automatically send a message/report to customers through your email
Live link Blue Link data to Excel to easily create reports and pivot tables with the ability to automatically refresh data every time the report is accessed

To learn more about what eCommerce and ERP integration can do for your omnichannel business, contact us today! And, be sure to check out  ECS Coffee’s new Coffee and Water Services program at  www.ecscoffeeservice.com.

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Optimize Inventory Management with Wireless Barcode Scanning

As a warehouse manager, optimizing warehouse operations is a top priority. This applies to receiving, picking, packing and shipping inventory, as well as maximizing warehouse space, and simplifying tasks for warehouse employees. At a minimum, properly utilizing warehouse space with bin and shelf labelling and location management ensures inventory is easy to find and access when picking orders. It also helps to reduce obsolete inventory and overall inventory carrying costs. It is important when setting up your warehouse floorplan to do so in conjunction with the right business management software and to consider the benefits of implementing wireless barcode scanning. Relying on technology to manage the flow of information helps to reduce human error and increase efficiencies. Wireless barcode scanning works to automate the entire receipt, pick, pack and ship process – helping to reduce fulfilment times, decrease the number of shipping errors and in turn RMAs, and it helps your business move towards a paperless environment. Technology helps to streamline operations so that you don’t have to rely on manual processes for tracking inventory – which is time-consuming and error-prone. Blue Link ERP provides wireless barcode scanning functionality specifically designed for iOS devices, giving customers the choice of which devices to use based on their requirements and budget. Below we explore some of the specific functionality available.

Receiving Inventory

Blue Link’s wireless barcode scanning functionality allows users to receive inventory using a handheld iOS device. As inventory gets brought into the warehouse, users simply scan items against the purchase order with the quantities automatically updating within the device. Once all items have been scanned, the user submits the PO from the device for further processing. When dealing with exceptions – such as trying to scan and receive an item not on the PO, or when scanning too many or too little of an item – a warning message will appear alerting the user. After all items have been scanned, users simply log into Blue Link ERP to sync the received mobile quantities to the PO data in Blue Link in order to update inventory information based on what was actually received. Users can then take the appropriate steps to finish processing the PO and to deal with any exceptions – for example, keeping the PO open if an item was under-scanned but you still expect to receive it from your supplier in a different shipment.

Receiving Inventory with Lot Numbers

For Blue Link customers who manage inventory with lot numbers, the receiving process is slightly different. Items on the PO in Blue Link will not include lot numbers. Instead, as items are received and scanned using Blue Link’s wireless barcode scanning, a lot number is allocated to the inventory items which then updates the lot allocation and inventory information in Blue Link. Alternatively, users have the option to override allocated lot numbers.

Picking an Order

When creating a sales order in Blue Link, users have the option to choose from a variety of user-defined statuses as a means to track the order’s progress, such as when an order is ready for picking. Once an employee changes an order status to indicate that it is ready to pick, employees can choose to print off a physical pick slip or bring up the same information electronically from within the wireless barcode scanning device. To optimize the picking process, the items on the pick list will be ordered according to bin and shelf locations. As the employee begins to pick and scan items from the pick list, the information is updated on the device in real-time. If necessary during the pick process, users can drill down into specific inventory details to get more information such as alternative locations in the warehouse. If a user accidentally picks the wrong product or too much of an item, an error message will appear on the device alerting the employee. Once an order has been picked and submitted, it will automatically remove the pick list as an option from the device to ensure another employee does not try to pick the same order. Back in Blue Link ERP, the order will update to show any discrepancies in what was picked and what was on the original order for further action. From the warehouse shipping screen, employees can then pack and ship the order.

For all inventory items including lot tracked product, employees can easily look up inventory information from the wireless barcode scanning device. This allows users to find information about the location and overflow location and enables employees to update and edit details of a product when moving inventory to a different location in the warehouse. When looking up information on lot tracked items, users can also edit the lot information including splitting the lot. Once you have updated the information from the handheld device, this automatically updates the information in Blue Link ERP.

With wireless barcode scanning, your wholesale distribution business can significantly improve warehouse operations and fulfilment processes. Real-time updates between the wireless barcode scanners and your back-end ERP (in this case, Blue Link ERP) means you always have a single point of truth for accurate information. There is no need to reconcile data across multiple systems and you will always have a true count of inventory. Learn more about how to manage inventory with Blue Link’s Inventory Management Techniques eBook.

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How to Protect Your Business from Email Phishing Scams [INFOGRAPHIC]

Have you recently been contacted as the recipient of an unknown inheritance worth millions of dollars? Has a beautiful woman messaged you because she is interested in building a relationship? Has the Amazon order you forgot you placed finally shipped? Did you forget to pay an old invoice? Do you have a new voicemail message? Is your boss attempting to schedule a meeting with you? While the above questions stem from the outright ridiculous to the more plausible, the scary truth is that they are all examples of email phishing scams coming from today’s cybercriminals. Malicious emails are nothing new – in fact, according to Symantec’s 2018 Internet Security Threat Report, 54.6% of all email is spam. This means that over half the emails you receive every day are malicious attacks from third-party criminal organizations. Never mind trying to maintain inbox zero with those numbers, think of the security risk to your business and employees. According to the same report, the average user receives 16 spam emails per month – this means that if you have 20 employees, that’s over 3500 spam emails a year! That’s 3500 times your business is at risk of giving the wrong people access to sensitive data.

There are various different ways in which cybercriminals try to gain access to personal and sensitive data in order to make money off their victims. This includes through buying and selling product, dating and romance schemes, fake charities, investments, jobs and employment, unexpected winnings and threats or extortion. Some of the more popular scams include RansomWare and phishing scams.

RansomWare

A ransomware attack is a malicious attack on a person’s computer to gain access and exploit sensitive data. This type of attack is typically delivered via an email attachment that releases malware into the user’s system once it’s been opened. Another common method for distributing malware is through a website, where the malware is released into the system once a user visits the site.  The malware that infects the victim’s computer encrypts data so that the victim is unable to access important and sensitive information without first paying a ransom to the attacker – however, it is never recommended to actually pay the ransom as it’s unlikely that you will get all your data back.

Phishing Scams

A phishing attack is when an unsolicited party sends you an email trying to be something they are not in order to get the receiver to share sensitive information or give access to their computer. Similar to RansomWare attacks, phishing scams start with the attacker trying to bait the victim into clicking a link, opening a document or sharing personal data. Spear phishing is a more targeted approach where the attacker uses personalization to target one or a limited number of people. Spear phishing can be much for effective for the attacker as the goal is to make the email seem like it is coming from a legitimate source, or someone the victim personally knows. Attackers continue to get cleverer in the disguises they use when sending phishing emails with the most common being in the form of a bill or invoice, accounting for 15.9% of all phishing emails. The next common disguise is an email delivery failure notification at 15.3%, legal/law enforcement messages at 13.2%, scanned documents at 11.5% and package delivery notifications at 3.9%.

How to Keep Your Business Safe

With the average cost of a phishing attack for a mid-size company coming in at $1.6 million, keeping data safe should be on the top of the priority list for all businesses. To help keep your company and employees safe from phishing scams, there are several preventative measures you can take.

1. Awareness

First and foremost, it is important to spend the time educating employees to increase their awareness of potential threats and to provide training on security best practices. Provide employees with examples of common phishing scams and make it clear on what types of emails are safe to open. If an employee is ever unsure, have them speak with your IT team to double check whether the email is safe.  Encourage employees to double check with each other if they are receiving spear phishing emails from the attacker pretending to be another employee and have a standard for sending common emails like calendar invites.

2. Double-Check

Even if you believe an email is coming from a trusted source, always double-check that the sender email is one that you recognize. Frequently, attackers will make the email seem like it is coming from a trusted source while hiding behind an unknown email address. They may also slightly modify the spelling of a well-known brand name to catch people off guard. Take the time to fully review each email and sender before clicking on any links. And once again, if you’re unsure, always double check with other people in your organization.

3. Technology

There are various pieces of technology that can help protect your business from phishing attacks. For example, as a Microsoft partner Blue Link provides additional services to hosted customers to help protect your business – including Office 365 security features such as two-factor authentication, extra malware protection, email encryption and more. Before you hire an outside IT team, consider speaking with your ERP software provider to learn more about the services they offer and partner discounts they have that can help keep your data safe.

4. Data

Never send sensitive data like credit card information through email, encrypt data where possible, use complex passwords updating them regularly and consider using a password protection site like Last Pass. We all know managing passwords is hard, however, it doesn’t have to be. If you know that you will not be able to remember a dozen randomly generated complex passwords (and let’s be honest, no one can), consider using a protection site such as Last Pass or at least create complex passwords yourself. 123456789, QWASZX and password are not and have never been good passwords.

 

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Blue Link ERP to Exhibit at HDA’s 2019 Distribution Management Conference and Expo

For the second time, Blue Link will be exhibiting at the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA)’s 2019 Distribution Management Conference and Expo (DMC) March 10th –13th in beautiful Palm Desert, California. HDA’s DMC is an annual conference and the largest supply chain education event of it’s kind. The comprehensive conference aims to engage attendees on topics related to the healthcare supply chain and provide a forum for necessary operation and strategic discussions among key players in the industry. The show is attended by more than 600 manufacturers, distributors, and consultants who keep the pharmaceutical distribution industry moving and is a great opportunity for pharmaceutical distribution businesses to connect with potential partners that can contribute to their future growth and success!

We are also proud to announce that Blue Link is now an official HDA member! As an HDA member, Blue Link has access to networking opportunities, exclusive research and member-developed education and resources for the healthcare supply chain. This information aids us in closely monitoring the progression of DSCSA requirements and other industry regulations to stay ahead of changes to keep our pharmaceutical distribution software up-to-date with industry standards.

 

Here are some of the highlights and key topics the conference will be covering:

Attendees will hear updates from the pharmaceutical industry’s leading experts on regulatory changes and compliance
More than 30 breakout sessions on crucial distribution issues such as:

DSCSA 101 and implementation/product traceability and updates
Specialty pharmaceutical distribution trends
Contracts and chargebacks
Specialty distribution
Current EDI initiatives and future solutions
Supply chain security
Controlled substance regulations and legislative updates

The chance to network and raise brand awareness with more than 600 manufacturers, distributors, and consultants

EVENT INFORMATION
Date: March 10-13, 2019
Location: JW Marriot Desert Springs, Palm Desert, CA
Don’t miss out! Register for the event today
 

Visit Blue Link at Booth #103 to Learn About all-in-one Pharmaceutical Distribution Software 

Blue Link’s all-in-one Pharmaceutical Distribution Software caters to both medical and pharmaceutical distributors/wholesalers who require robust inventory management and traceability functionality to meet industry compliance. We take pride in our product and continuously improve industry-specific functionality for our customers as changes occur in the industry.

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

Sophisticated product tracking to meet industry standards/regulations
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Transaction History Management
Automatic printing and emailing of T3 reports
Lot number to serial number integrity
Integrated Drummond Certified CSOS and ERP sold as one system (the first of its kind!)
Secure B2B Online Ordering Portal for convenient online ordering (including Controlled Products)
Integration to 3rd party applications such as Trxade
Business process functionality such as inventory management, warehouse management, and robust accounting features

Available in 2019:

Integrated Verification Routing Services for Saleable Returns Management with LSPediA, rfxcel, Adents
Integrated Suspicious Order Monitoring functionality

If you have a question for us ahead of time or would like to schedule a date/time to speak with us at the show, please email our Pharmaceutical ERP Software expert:

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert –Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com
Have you subscribed to our blog yet?
 
 

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Take Control of Your eCommerce Inventory with the Right System

eCommerce inventory management is the foundation for a successful online business. Of course, generating online sales is the key to initially securing customers and gaining part of the available market, but if you’re unable to fulfil those orders, these sales will quickly get lost to more efficient competitors. As eCommerce companies continue to drop prices, provide similar products and offer favourable shipping options, it will be your company’s ability to accurately manage inventory and fulfil orders in a timely manner that has the greatest impact on the success and longevity of your eCommerce operation. For companies that sell online, this is typically not the only sales channel available – more and more retail, wholesale and distribution businesses are also making products available on homegrown eCommerce sites built on platforms like Shopify, and through marketplaces such as Amazon. Therefore, it is imperative that your business can manage orders and inventory across all sales channels – including knowing what product is available in real-time. The need for proper eCommerce inventory management software is nothing new, and according to a global eCommerce survey by TradeGecko, 39% of companies under $1M in annual revenue express inventory frustrations, with this number growing to 61% for companies over US$1M.

Managing Inventory Online
Managing eCommerce inventory requires integration between your existing eCommerce platform or marketplace and a back-end inventory and accounting solution such as Blue Link ERP. Integration allows you to share information back and forth between your ERP solution and various webstores, such as inventory descriptions and images, pricing and product availability. Your ERP software acts as the backbone to your business and inventory operations. All inventory information in terms of purchase orders, backorders, inventory descriptions and pricing as well as all sales orders from all available channels is maintained in your ERP solution, deeming the software the single point of truth. This is in addition to other features inherent in ERP software such as order entry and processing, contact management, accounting, financials and reporting. This ensures information from the system is available online to customers without fear that it’s inaccurate. Information should only be modified, added or updated in the ERP solution and then pushed automatically to online channels.

Managing Inventory in Your Warehouse

A lack of proper software can result in many inefficiencies throughout your business operations, and the same eCommerce survey mentioned above found that companies under $1M spend over 90 HOURS on inventory management, product sourcing, and managing purchase and sales orders EVERY MONTH. When there is no software to manage operations, companies rely on manual processes including manually counting inventory items to know what is available, manually writing pick slips and packing slips when fulfilling orders and then manually updating inventory information in introductory software on an ad hoc basis. As with any manual process, the room for human error is quite high – this can lead to a higher number of product returns, loss of money on obsolete inventory, employee theft and longer lead times from order to shipment. Once again, a proper ERP solution to manage inventory streamlines your operations from sales order to invoice and helps to automate warehouse processes. Barcode scanners that allow you to receive, pick, pack and ship products eliminate the number of picking and shipping errors, and ensures inventory is accurately reflected in your system. Instead of performing manual inventory counts or physically searching the warehouse for available product, inventory information is maintained in your ERP solution and online, making it easy for employees and customers to quickly find the information they need. Specific warehouse shipping functionality allows information to flow between your ERP and common shipping carriers, eliminating the need for double entry and helping to get product out the door more quickly. Warehouse shipping functionality also provides features for combining shipments that are going to the same location, tracking orders and product by container and the ability to compare shipping rates across carriers in order to save money on shipping costs.

Find the Right System

Managing your eCommerce inventory is not difficult with the right software. Gone are the days of managing inventory using manual processes and tracking information on pen and paper – in today’s marketplace, software exists that allows you to create automated workflows so that you can focus on more important tasks such as generating sales. Gaining control of your inventory and warehouse operations will reflect online and to your customers, ensuring they have a positive interaction with your company, leaving them to continue to purchase your product well into the future. Given the stiff competition and expectations of customers, it’s no wonder that warehouse automation stood out as being the most impactful technology, especially by companies over $1 million in sales and further still, by those over $5 million in sales.

 

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Is Your Accounting ERP Software Provider Just Another Vendor or a Partner?

Whether it’s filling up your gas tank or ordering your morning coffee, we don’t often give a lot of thought to the vendors we purchase our everyday items from. This is because these are simple and instant transactions. You pay the vendor for a particular product at a set cost and that’s that. However, when it comes to accounting ERP software providers, it’s important to think of these companies as more than just another “everyday” vendor. An accounting ERP software implementation impacts your entire organization  not just accounting and finances…it impacts your order entry and processing, warehouse management, CRM and, more and these solutions are meant to be a long-term investment in your business.  It is therefore essential that you choose an accounting ERP software provider who you can trust and one that has the values of a partner rather than a vendor. They should share the mutual goal of growing your business and offer unbiased advice and solutions that work for your unique situation and not just for their personal gain.
Read more to see if your accounting ERP software provider or software candidate stands up to the test!

How to Recognize an Accounting ERP Software Partner

As with most good relationships in our lives, there needs to be a level of mutual trust, understanding, and good communication to maintain an enduring partnership and avoid having to switch systems on a periodic basis. Essentially, an accounting ERP software partner will invest the time to really understand your business in-depth, before assuming they have a solution to meet your needs. Many good software partners will actually slow down the sales process in order to make the necessary time to ensure a good fit and will go through each of your requirements instead of jumping straight into demos and try to impress you with the bells and whistles.

Unlike most vendors, a partner will not be afraid to say “no”. If a vendor promises you the world and claims they are a 100% fit, it is often too good to be true. Accounting ERP software partners are typically not “yes people”. Think of your personal relationships with loved ones. It’s very likely that most of these people have said no or advised against something you wanted to do at some point in the relationship. They told you the truth instead of what you wanted to hear because they are looking out for your best interest. ERP partners are not afraid to let you know right away during the sales process if they are unable to meet a requirement or if a process in your business should be done differently. This type of honesty and accountability should be central to the providers’ sales processes and should also reflect in their customer service long after the sale has been made.

Warning Signs

Be cautious of vendors who try to sell a cookie cutter solution and push technology or strategies that simply do not fit your unique situation or industry in order to make the sale. This is a good clue that they’re not really listening or in-tune with your needs. The last thing you want is to sit in on frequent sales calls where the other party is trying to sell to you the entire time – especially when they’ve taken very little time to actually understand what you require.

Think about how your current provider handled your post-implementation issues. How long did they take to get back to you or resolve the problem? Do you get bounced from one person to the other when you call in for support? A true accounting ERP software partner has dedicated resources for their customers. They also don’t limit their recommendations and advice to just their system – they will often have trusted 3rd party companies they work with that integrate with their solution to provide you with the most cost-effective and efficient solution. Some of these integrations may include 3rd party payroll services, electronic document management, credit card services and more.  These integrations can eliminate the need for costly customizations and workarounds for your business, resulting in greater success at a lower cost.

What Role Do You Play In the Partnership?

While accounting ERP software providers should deliver solutions on time and on budget, and be completely transparent in the implementation process as well as after go-live support, the customer also needs to manage the key milestones internally to ensure the business is doing everything they can to ensure the best results.  It is practically impossible for any software solution provider to successfully deliver an ERP implementation without the participation and cooperation of the customer on the other side of the equation.

It is also important to include your accounting ERP software partner in the organization’s strategic plans. How do you see the business growing 5 years from now? 10 years from now? What do you think should be done to get you there? It is very likely that these plans will have an impact on the ERP system you are using. By opening the communication channels with your ERP partner, they will be more prepared to offer you the best advice and solutions to help you attain those goals.

Should You Trust Your Accounting ERP Software Provider?

Any good partnership requires trust but how is trust measured in the accounting ERP software world? There are two main ways. First, take a look at the past credentials of your ERP software provider or candidate. This can be in the form of testimonials, case studies and, speaking with their customers. This will give you a clear idea of their reputation, reliability, turnaround times, data integrity etc.

Secondly, it’s important to also look at the present capabilities and security features, especially with cloud-based services. Here are a few things to look for:

Data center trust –  ERP partners will often have exhaustive and extensive data center security measures to ensure your data is in good hands.

Automatic failover and high level of redundancy/backup power infrastructure
Cooling systems
Fire suppression
Security such as multi-factor access authentication to the center, 24/7 monitoring

Detailed Service Level Agreements (SLA) that includes clear verbiage around

Delivery measures
Data confidentiality
Data ownership policies

Remember, you’re not just choosing technology, you’re also choosing the people behind the technology so don’t be afraid to put your potential ERP software partner through the paces as this is the best way to find out what your customer experience will be like.

Thank you Blue Link Customers!

Blue Link leverages decades of industry expertise to provide the best advice to our customers that work for their unique business needs. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal customers who have allowed us to become their trusted ERP software partner over the years! We are proud to have long-term partnerships with many of our customers and look forward to continuing to be a part of their business growth for many years to come. Check out some of our testimonials below and contact us today to learn what we can do for your business!

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Using Behavioural Science to Influence Employee Change

We would all like to believe that the decisions we make as consumers and in a business setting are rational and predictable. However, as we’ve learnt over the years and thanks to research performed by behavioural economists, the reality is that when people make decisions quickly and under pressure, they do so based largely on intuition, emotions and unconscious biases and psychological fallacies. For businesses, this can result in people from all areas of an organization struggling to make decisions in general and then frequently making the wrong decisions. Since researchers now know that irrational decision making is commonplace, this type of behaviour tends to follow predictable patterns. In understanding these patterns, organizations and leadership teams can learn to create subtle “nudges” that encourage employees, customers and vendors to choose the most beneficial option. Nudges are essentially subtle interventions that guide choices without restricting them, resulting in a win-win scenario for businesses, employees and customers alike.

Using elements of economics and psychology, behavioural economists are able to identify the types of irrational factors that ultimately influence the decision-making process – including a person’s habits, emotions, amount of willpower, framing of alternatives and the ability and need to trust someone. Once you understand exactly how these factors drive behaviour, you can use this understanding to design interventions or nudges that lead employees, consumers and vendors to make better (i.e. safer, easier and more economical) choices – while still providing them with the option and freedom to make a decision that goes against the nudge. This type of intervention strategy works especially well when implementing a change management project. Gently nudging employees before, during and after a specific change management initiative can lead to better adoption of the changes. In order to be effective, the nudges must be used to create win-win situations for an organization and its employees – where there are real short-term and long-term benefits to a specific behaviour change.

Common examples of nudges include providing social cues that reflect how other people have acted in a similar situation, defining default choices and making processes easier to start and finish. Let’s look at an example of using nudge theory to manage change in your warehouse. Your business has decided its time to make the change to a more robust accounting ERP software solution with warehouse management functionality and to move away from QuickBooks. The company has been using QuickBooks for several years and so employees are familiar with the specific features and the way in which the system operates, and warehouse operations have largely been informal and manual. Employees find products based on their individual knowledge of the warehouse layout, items are typically not put away in the right spot, manual inventory counts happen on a weekly basis to determine what product is actually in stock, and frequently the wrong item is shipped to the customer. Manual workarounds and data entry has become commonplace and the time required to pick, pack and ship product is impeding sales. Before implementing a new solution and changing processes, slowly begin to nudge employees to adopt new practices. Consider sharing information on how similar companies have modernized their warehouse operations and provide details of how other businesses in the industry have been able to significantly decrease paper use, winning over environmentally friendly customers. Redesign your warehouse floor with bin and shelf locations and automate workflows with wireless barcode scanning. Print and display colourful floor maps, colour-code shelving displays and set-up electronic barcode scanners close to printers where employees would previously receive pick slips. All these subtle changes can have big impacts as employees begin to slowly adopt new procedures and rely on visual cues to find and retrieve inventory.

Can you think of other nudges that would benefit employees, customers and ultimately the business as a whole? Understanding how people make decisions and taking advantage of these insights can aid in designing appropriate nudges. For example, one of behavioural economics’ most powerful insights is around prospect theory and the idea that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains with more weight being given to the loss. This can be applied to our example above by positioning the changes and new workflows as the obvious, default choice and describing the benefits of moving to a more automated system (such as less time spent walking to pick an order and fewer errors associated with manual picking resulting in happier customers) as something that will be lost if the company decides to stick with existing processes. This nudge focuses on the potential loss of productivity and efficiency as opposed to strictly listing the benefits of implementing new processes and technology. Other common examples of behavioural economics and unconscious biases that may impede the employee decision-making process include:

Choice-Supportive Bias: where people will distort memories to make decisions seem good.
Hyperbolic Discounting: in which people prefer and choose short-term benefits over long-term gains.
Ambiguity Effect: where people prefer a known probability to an unknown one.

Even where the decision and benefits of a specific choice seem obvious, the use of nudge theory can help people get to a stage where they are confident in these decisions more quickly. Implementing small nudges as you guide employees to change will help make the transition easier and allow both parties to reap the benefits sooner.

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Blue Link Pharmaceutical Distribution Software vs QuickBooks

When you started out your pharmaceutical distribution business, what were your goals? Have you accomplished them within your expected timeframes? If not, what held you back? In most cases, pharmaceutical distributors fall behind on their growth forecasts mainly due to operating on insufficient software that can’t handle the complex and ever-changing compliance requirements of the industry. Like most start-ups, you may have launched your business with introductory software such as QuickBooks, which is a great solution for small businesses. However, there are numerous limitations within this software that start to become apparent as your company increases its sales volumes. And, the lack of industry-specific functionality puts your business at risk of not being able to meet regulatory requirements, pass audits, provide necessary documentation etc. If you find that you are spending more and more hours during the day trying to stay on top of manual tasks such as filling out DEA forms, manually managing license expiration dates and the biggest nuisance of all – manual reporting – it’s time to break free from QuickBooks.

First things first; don’t give up on your goals. You shouldn’t have to compromise your dreams of business growth due to insufficient software. It’s a scary thought leaving the familiar ups and downs of a system you’ve been using for a while, and you may have gotten used to manual workarounds for the systems many automation pitfalls, but think about it this way. Why would you settle for a system that’s holding back your growth when there are better options out there that will ultimately make you, your employees, customers and vendors happier? Start your search with an open mind and a good understanding of the different types of pharmaceutical distribution software on the market that are ideal for your specific requirements. And don’t forget to consider what you will require in the future (think expanding into online marketplaces or increasing the number of SKUs etc).

Click the image below to download our full comparison chart to make the best decision for your pharmaceutical distribution business.

 

 

Don’t Dismiss The Importance of Industry Compliance

As you can see from the above comparison chart, QuickBooks’ accounting and inventory functionality is ideal for small businesses starting out with a few users and products, however, a more robust system is required for industry-specific functionality and compliance requirements. Based on a survey conducted by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA),  100% of the specialty distributor members said that one of the primary drivers of technology adoption for distributors is to automate services and ensure regulatory compliance are met. This is not a surprise as pharmaceutical wholesale distribution businesses are subject to numerous stringent state and federal regulations and licensure laws. Did you know that pharmaceutical wholesalers are subject to civil and criminal penalties for distributing drugs without the appropriate pedigree paperwork tracing the physical movement of and title to drugs?  In certain states like Florida, failure to maintain and deliver complete and accurate pedigree papers is a felony.
“Since transitioning from QuickBooks to Blue Link, our operations have streamlined – from inventory tracking to security controls to pharma regulatory needs such as lot tracking and pedigree reports.  It’s nice to have one integrated platform that does everything and you only have to deal with one vendor for billing and support” –  Aniket Dhadphale, Owner, Republic Pharmaceuticals
With Blue Link’s all-in-one pharmaceutical distribution software, you no longer have to worry about integrating compliance software to QuickBooks and managing multiple different solutions. Besides meeting compliance needs, another factor to keep in mind when looking for a new solution is not only the functionality you need today, but the functionality you need to expand your business into the future.

Optimizing Business Growth With Blue Link ERP 

When searching for a new system, look beyond your current requirements and think about what you will need to do to expand your market and grow your business even more. The below Blue Link functionality is optimal for reaching a wider market and creating smart business strategies.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) – allows for easy communication between locations, helps track and update inventory when working with big-box retailers and other operations with EDI requirements, it enables the sharing of information between vendors and distributors and is used to transmit financial information and payment in electronic form (Electronic Funds Transfer or EFT).

Online Order Portal – a fully integrated online order platform for use by both your wholesale distribution B2B customers and sales reps. Customers and sales reps can…

Log-in to browse inventory online with customer-specific pricing
Track order status in real-time
View or print online statements, and drill down to order and invoice detail
Copy and submit a previous order or create an entirely new one
Create shopping lists
Search product by brand, vendor and/or category
Gain access to the order portal across devices connected to the internet – including tablets, phones, and laptops

Trxade Integration – Trxade is a web-based, US supplier-to-pharmacy marketplace created to bring independent pharmacies and qualified/accredited national suppliers/distributors of pharmaceuticals together to provide efficient and transparent buying and selling opportunities. Since the launch of the platform back in 2010, it has opened and expanded the distribution channel to more than 8000 independent pharmacies and features 40+ track and trace and VAWD compliant wholesalers.

Blue Link is now a proud member of HDA! Meet us at this year’s HDA Distribution Management Conference. The Distribution Management Conference (DMC) and Expo is HDA’s largest supply chain education event, attended by more than 600 manufacturers, distributors, consultants and third parties who keep the pharmaceutical distribution industry moving. The conference immerses attendees in topics related to the healthcare supply chain and provides a forum to engage in operational and strategic discussions.

 

 

 

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