Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Blue Link Named as Top Food and Beverage Distribution Software by Food Logistics’

Once again, Blue Link ERP is proud to be named to Food Logistics’ 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers for our food and beverage distribution software. Food safety and consumer trust is more important than ever in today’s world, and one mishandled issue can have devastating effects along the whole supply chain in the food and beverage industry. With a focus on wholesalers and distributors, Blue Link works hard to ensure we have the right functionality to help our customers maintain compliance with regulations and governing bodies, and have peace of mind knowing that they can rely on our technology to help keep the supply chain safe. We want to thank and congratulate the other vendors who made the list for their continued efforts and support of the food and beverage industry. See below for the full press release. 

BLUE LINK Named to Food Logistics’ 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers

VAUGHAN, ONTARIO—December 17th, 2020 — Food Logistics, the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain, has named BLUE LINK ERP to its 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers honors leading software and technology providers that ensure a safe, efficient and reliable global food and beverage supply chain.

 “From fleet management to warehouse management to simply just track and trace along the cold food chain, these software and technology providers have definitely stepped it up to ensure cold food and beverage products continue moving along the line with out incident,” says Maina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Food Logistics and Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “This pandemic has thrown the food industry a curveball, but many of these providers fast-tracked the development and deployment of their solutions to ensure food safety, traceability, visibility and quality assurance. So, to these winners and others in the industry working to make a difference, thank you!”

Companies on this year’s 2020 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list will be profiled in the November/December 2020 issue of Food Logistics, as well as online at www.foodlogistics.com.

About Food Logistics

Food Logistics is published by AC Business Media, a business-to-business media company that provides targeted content and comprehensive, integrated advertising and promotion opportunities for some of the world’s most recognized B2B brands. Its diverse portfolio serves the construction, logistics, supply chain and other industries with print, digital and custom products, events and social media.

About Blue Link ERP

Blue Link ERP provides inventory management and accounting ERP software for SMBs in North America and the Caribbean. With a focus on wholesalers and distributors, Blue Link includes advanced functionality for businesses dealing with food and beverage distribution such as lot tracking, barcode scanning, mobile picking, landed cost tracking, eCommerce integration, recall management and more. 

MEDIA CONTACT

Samantha Hornby
Blue Link Associates
905-660-0599
LearnMore@BlueLinkERP.com
www.BlueLinkERP.com

By |

ERP Software Features: User Defined Fields

One of the more robust and frequently overlooked ERP software features is User Defined Fields. With Blue Link ERP, User Defined Fields (or UDFs as they are commonly referred to as), are a great option for managing different attributes and additional information related to inventory, customers, prospects, transactions and more. UDFs allow you to track information that is unique to your business processes without having to customize the system. You can make use of UDFs for many different things – for example, you can use UDFs to store different inventory attributes in the system and then automatically push that data to your integrated eCommerce site for your customers to see. You can also create UDFs for customer and prospect data to help improve your sales and customer service process. And, like any field in Blue Link ERP, you can also use the information stored in UDFs to automatically create and share robust reports.

What is a User Defined Field in Blue Link?

UDFs allow users to add information to certain screens in Blue Link for miscellaneous purposes, without the need to customize the software.  With a little bit of training, any user with the right permissions can set-up, add, remove and edit UDFs in the system. To create a User Defined Field, you first have to choose which type of field it will be. In Blue Link, you have the choice of the following field types: 

A free form field with the option to limit the number of characters
A drop-down field where you can either force users to choose an option from the drop-down menu, or you can have a set of suggested items and give the user the ability to create a new item
A SQL select statement (query) 

You can then add each UDF to multiple screens in Blue Link or only to specific screens, and lastly, you have the option to define a default value for specific UDF fields. Now that you understand what a UDF is, let’s explore different uses for UDFs.  

 

Manage eCommerce Product Attributes

From the inventory screen in Blue Link, you can add UDFs for tracking product attributes. For example, if you’re selling alcohol, you can create a series of UDFs to easily track alcohol content, varietal and whether the product is organic or not. If you’ve integrated Blue Link with your eCommerce store, you can choose what (if any) product attributes to share online for your customers to see. You can also use this information for reporting purposes through Blue Link’s reporting tools or by live-linked data in Excel.

Track Customer and Prospect Information

User Defined Fields are a great way to track customer and prospect information from Blue Link’s Contact Manager and CRM screens. UDFs provide a quick snapshot of customer information when you’re interacting with customers on the phone and allows to you easily see information about the business such as the number of employees, inventory primary class interest and more. This helps to build your relationship with customers and keeps important information at your fingertips.

UDFs are also a great way to track information about sales prospects and leads. For example, you can quickly assign a lead a Persona, Lead Score or Rank by using UDF fields which helps you cater your sales process to their specific needs. You can then report on this information to help you make decisions about where to put your marketing and sales efforts. For example, you can track how many leads fall into each Persona category, and therefore which type of content your marketing team should be dedicating their efforts towards.

Add Information to Important Documents

UDFs can also be useful from a transactional point of view. In Blue Link, you can add UDFs to the Sales Order screen and Purchase Order screen to track information. By creating UDFs on a Sales Order, you can then use that information on important documents, such as order confirmations, bills of lading, invoices, export documents and more. Blue Link allows you to choose which information you want printed/included on which documents. This is useful for tracking information such as Product Type of Use, Product Shape and Equipment Make. Once again, the information you store in UDFs can also be used for reporting purposes.

As you can see, UDFs are a very useful feature of ERP software and can be used in a variety of different ways. Before you consider customizing the software to meet a specific need, determine if you have the option to create your own User Defined Fields. If you do, remember to ask your staff if they too would like to track certain information that is not already in the system as a means to provide better service, and create useful reports. 

By |

Make Sure Your Pharmaceutical Distribution System Includes These Reports

Proper reporting and analytics are important to every company, but even more for businesses in regulated industries where compliance involves submitting reports to governing bodies and “downstream” to your customers. This includes requirements set forth by the DEA and FDA in the pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution industry. Not only does proper reporting ensure that supply chain partners are adhering to regulations, but it helps keep the supply chain safe from illegitimate products, reduces the number of items that make it into the black market, and gives customers peace of mind that the products they receive are legitimate and safe. Blue Link’s pharmaceutical distribution system includes robust functionality for managing reporting and analytics, including the many standard reports for all businesses and then additional reports based on the categorization of products you buy and sell. We’ve broken down some of these reports below.

Transaction Reports (T3 Reporting)

A Transaction Report or T3 is a report that includes the “Transaction Information” (physical transaction between the seller and buyer), “Transaction History” (Pedigree of the product) and “Transaction Statement” (statement by the seller that the products being sold are legitimate) of each unit of a product along the supply chain. Every time product changes ownership, the new owner is added to the Transaction History which is included with the specific product information. Each unit of a product/lot has its own history.

Originally set forth by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), the regulations around T3 reporting dictates that all trading partners including manufacturers, re-packagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers cannot accept pharmaceutical products unless the trading partner they receive the product from can provide specific information about the product – including a Transaction Report or T3. This allows each trading partner in the supply chain to verify that the product is legitimate and legal.

Want to learn more about the information included as part of the Transaction Report? Check out this blog post: Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) Transaction Report (T3).

ARCOS Reporting

The Controlled Substances Act outlined in 1970 requires that all manufacturers and distributors report their controlled substance transactions to the DEA.  To monitor the movement of controlled substances along the supply chain, ARCOS (or the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System) was established, which tracks transactions involving controlled substances from their point of manufacture through commercial distribution channels to the consumer (through use at hospitals, via practitioners, through sales at pharmacies, etc.).  The DEA requires submission of ARCOS by the distributor after the sale of any controlled substance. ARCOS reporting includes information from DEA Form 222, which is submitted by a customer (such as a pharmacy, hospital, specialist, practitioner, etc.) that wants to purchase Schedule II drugs from their supplier. Submission of Form DEA 222 by the customer dictates that they have the authority to purchase the product based on their licenses and helps to track the movement of Schedule II product along the supply chain. The information from DEA Form 222 submitted by the customer is then included in the ARCOS report which must be submitted by the distributor selling the product.

The point of ARCOS is to accumulate transactions of controlled substances so that Federal and State government agencies can identify and address any diversion of product into illicit channels of distribution.

Reporting with Blue Link

Blue Link recognizes the importance of proper reporting for pharmaceutical distribution businesses and has developed specific features to meet all the above reporting requirements.

Blue Link ERP includes functionality that captures all the information required in a T3 for each product/lot and stores the information in the system. This data is automatically turned into a report and can then be sent to other members of the supply chain or used for other reporting purposes.
Blue Link includes CSOS functionality as part of its B2B Online Order Portal, which allows customers to electronically submit orders containing Schedule II drugs with their suppliers. This eliminates the need for customers to manually submit DEA Form 222 through mail or courier, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Blue Link includes functionality that automatically captures and stores relevant ARCOS and/or CSOS information which allows businesses to then automatically generate reports that can be uploaded to the DEA site.

By |

Using Software to Enhance your Competitive Advantage

There are many benefits to implementing the right ERP solution in your company. Advanced reporting functionality, opportunities for automation, streamlined operations across departments, etc. And if you are moving from mostly manual processes, the benefits speak for themselves. But there is another important factor to consider when you are evaluating different solutions…can a new system enhance your competitive advantage?

Your competitive advantage will be any sort of process, product offering or service that gives your company an edge over the competition. For example, it could be your fast shipping and delivery times, your great prices, your customer service or loyalty programs, your unique product offering or a combination of the above. While it may be necessary to customize your software solution to accommodate your competitive advantage, you may also find that a robust ERP solution already includes a lot of the functionality you need, out-of-the box.

If your competitive advantage is ….

Fast & Reliable Shipping

Nowadays, same-day or next-day shipping is becoming the norm, thanks to retail giants like Amazon. If your business prides itself on fast-shipping times, or local deliveries, you want to make sure any new software solution will contribute to this competitive advantage. When evaluating different software vendors, try to find a solution that provides the following functionality:

Rate-shopping features to ensure you always get the best price for shipping
Wireless barcode scanning to help you pick orders faster and with fewer pick errors
Integration with common shipping carriers to easily share package, address, shipping and tracking information between your ERP and the carrier of your choice

Excellent Customer Service

Customer Service as a competitive advantage can refer to many different things. It might be personalized service from an in-house team of experts, it might be a great loyalty program or return policy, or free services provided with certain purchases. Whatever the case, an important aspect of great customer service is having the right data, available to the right people at the right time. An ERP solution with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality can help you easily manage different customer accounts and includes functionality for:

Tracking communication with different customers and individuals
Scheduling follow-up items and setting next action dates
The ability to easily create a quote or sales order or look up customer sales history
Functionality for automatically emailing information from the system
The ability to manage marketing lists for special promotions, or for organizing customer and product-specific information

Value Pricing

If your business offers competitive pricing, you need to have a way to manage this in your software. Manually trying to track multiple pricing contracts, volume discounts, promotional prices etc. for each customer and for different products is very time-consuming and prone to errors. Instead, look for a system that provides the following:

Allows you to easily set-up different pricing levels for different customers and products
Includes automated processes for identifying the best price when creating a new sales order
Has tools to override prices depending on specific promotions
Allows you to set a hierarchy of pricing rules

A Unique Product Offering

Lastly, another common competitive advantage is having a unique product offering or exclusive relationships with distributors and manufacturers. Some companies also remain competitive by being able to easily source “hard-to-find” products. In any case, it’s important to have software to help you manage your inventory levels to make sure you always have enough product to meet customer demand. Look for software that allows you to:

Easily create a purchase order from a sales order when an item is out of stock
Suggest similar or substitute products when something is out of stock
Track product in-transit or on the water
Set min and max inventory levels with alerts for when product is getting low

Your competitive advantage is what sets you apart from the competition and keeps your customers coming back. Therefore, you must be able to continue to support this competitive advantage as your business grows and requirements change. Find a software partner that not only supports your competitive advantage but can offer features and products to help enhance it.

By |

Introducing Kinex Media – Blue Link’s Partner for Website Development & Management

Blue Link ERP is proud to be adding Kinex Media as an official partner for website development and management. Our team at Blue Link was first introduced to the team at Kinex Media back in 2015 after researching companies to help with our website redesign. We were very happy with the project results and have been recommending Kinex Media ever since. After recently gaining some mutual customers, we have decided to make the partnership official and are very excited to continue working together.

As part of Blue Link’s all-in-one inventory management and accounting ERP software, we also provide functionality for eCommerce. This includes our proprietary B2B online order portal and integration with existing eCommerce sites and marketplaces through our API. With proper eCommerce integration, information in Blue Link ERP including products, inventory images, descriptions, pricing, quantity information, and shipping information is shared between your website for real-time order processing. When a customer places an order online, this information is then recorded in Blue Link so that the order can be picked, packed and shipped and inventory quantities updated. Our partnership with Kinex Media allows our team to provide the back-end inventory and accounting ERP functionality and Kinex Media to provide the front-end web development and management. All systems are then integrated as part of a fully automated solution.

About Kinex Media

Kinex Media is a digital agency providing services for website design, web development, eCommerce, and online marketing. The company started in 2008 in Mississauga, Ontario and has since grown to become a leading digital agency in Canada, working with top brands, some of which are included in the Fortune 500 list. Kinex Media’s specialty includes website design and development, SEO, pay per click, eCommerce and digital marketing, and the company works with a variety of eCommerce platforms such as Magento, Shopify and WordPress.
“Having worked with a number of different ERP systems over the years, we find Blue Link by far the most robust ERP system that we recommend for medium to larger businesses. We have recommended Blue Link to many of our clients and they have always delivered on their promise and our clients are thrilled with their choice. “
Amir Waheed, Project Manager, Kinex Media Inc
At Blue Link, we are very selective when it comes to finding and choosing partner companies to compliment the features in our ERP solution. All our partners, including Kinex Media, share a culture of superior customer service and support and provide solutions built on the most up-to-date technology. Just like we are not afraid to tell potential customers when it is not a good fit, we are also adamant about only working with partners we trust to offer the same level of service and commitment to our customers. From our first interaction with Kinex Media when we engaged them to re-do our website, to the shared customers we now support on a day-to-day basis, the company has always been quick to respond, can easily admit to and correct issues, and always goes the extra mile to make sure customers are happy.

By |

ICYMI: A Recap of the 2020 HDA Traceability Seminar

Last week concluded the 2020 Traceability Seminar, put on by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA).  As a content-rich, information-heavy event, the transition this year to a virtual conference was easy and allowed attendees to participate in every seminar from the comfort of their own home or office. An annual event, the Traceability Seminar “looks to bring together healthcare supply chain leaders to learn more about upcoming DSCSA implementation milestones, innovative approaches and lessons learned. This helps to aid distributors, manufacturers and dispensers in implementing serialization and traceability technologies to further preserve the safety and security of the healthcare supply chain.” – HDA, Traceability Seminar

As an HDA member, and sponsor, Blue Link ERP participated in each of the 2020 sessions and has summarized some of the key points below.

Verification of Saleable Returns

Enforcement of verification for Saleable returns of products has been pushed until Nov. 27, 2023 – and there is little chance that the FDA will delay enforcement longer than this date

FDA Form 3911 – Identification of Suspect Product Notification

If a distributor receives product either from a purchase order or from a return, that they believe is suspicious, they are responsible for submitting Form 3911 to the FDA
If the distributor has implemented VRS, and are unsure about whether a product is suspicious or not, they can scan the item to get a response from the manufacturer – if the response does not indicate a legitimate product, they must submit Form 3911
If not using VRS for verification, a distributor can use their discretion about the suspect level of the product as long as they work through their SOP to determine suspect or not
Manufacturers receiving a manual request for suspicious product must respond within 24 hours to the distributor
The FDA has seen an increase in submission of Form 3911 as a result of more and more companies implementing VRS technology and identifying potentially illegitimate product

Partnership for DSCSA Governance

A new organization called “Partnership for DSCSA Governance” (PDG) was established in December of 2019

This is a not-for-profit organization
The PDG is a “collaborative forum and FDA public-private partnership dedicated to developing, advancing, and sustaining an effective and efficient model for interoperable tracing and verification of prescription pharmaceuticals in the U.S.” – PDG

EPICS

As of today, primary distributors are receiving EPCIS files from about 25% of their manufacturers in the supply chain
Many primary distributors are facing issues receiving EPICS files due to syntax errors and issues with the data itself
The industry is currently using EPCIS 1.2 as the standard, with version 2.0 (JSON format) expected in early Q1 of 2021
The industry expectation is to be able to have electronic data checks between EPCIS and scanned products, but that not all products will need to be scanned
The industry as a whole is working towards the aggregation of data for EPCIS – which is the ability to provide information at the each, box, case, and pallet level etc. so a supplier does not have to break a case to scan all products in that case
While the industry recognizes that EPICS data received by the Primary Distributor from the Manufacturer is legitimate, Secondary Distributors will still need VRS to verify product   
There was discussion around the possibility of a “Global Data Synchronisation Network” (GDSN) as a standard – this is a Product Data network being used by other countries for managing data for interoperability

About Blue Link

Blue Link ERP provides all-in-one inventory management and accounting ERP software for the pharmaceutical industry. Blue Link works best for pharmaceutical wholesalers and distributors and includes a variety of features to aid in DSCSA and FDA compliance.

 

By |

How to Prepare a Budget for ERP Software

If you are in the market for ERP software, it is important to prepare a proper budget before you start engaging with software vendors. However, keep in mind that while budget is an important part of the software search, it should not be the main deciding factor when it comes to choosing a solution. Budget should be considered in conjunction with comparing software features, industry experience, after-sale support, and your comfort level with the software company and its people.

In order to determine an appropriate budget, the first thing you need to do is figure out what type of solution is the right fit, as this will dictate what features are included, how much the system costs, the opportunities for automation and the level of software support you can expect.

Are you looking for software to manage one specific area of functionality, such as inventory management or barcode scanning?
Are you looking to integrate a new solution with an existing accounting system?
Are you looking for an all-in-one ERP system?

Determining which option makes the most sense will allow you to then prepare a proper budget. And if you’re not sure, it is a good idea to start speaking with vendors to get a feel for what is available in the market – especially if it’s been a while since you’ve looked. For the purpose of this article, we will share information on how to prepare a budget for ERP software – an all-in-one system designed to replace any existing inventory or accounting software currently in use.  

Determine the number of users. 

The first step to creating a software budget is determining how many of your employees need to use the software as many vendors charge a per-user fee. For cloud-based solutions, this means how many employees need an actual login and password, and does not limit access to only one computer. To get a feel for the number of users, ask yourself the following questions:  

Which employees need access to the system? This includes people dealing with accounting, invoicing, sales orders, purchasing and shipping.
What information do these users need access to and what tasks are they responsible for? Are some of these users remote salespeople? Are some of these users picking product in the warehouse?

It is important to know what sort of information each type of user requires from the system and the functionality they need to do their job. For example, some ERP vendors provide tools for employees who don’t need full access to the software – for example, remote sales apps for salespeople on the road, or barcode scanning tools for warehouse staff.

Does your business require any industry-specific functionality?

Determining functionality is another area that will impact your budget. While ERP software will include all your basic inventory management and accounting features out-of-the-box, some vendors such as Blue Link, also provide industry-specific features that you can choose to turn on. These types of features are usually unique to specific industries and therefore can be an additional cost. A good example of this is lot tracking. Lot tracking is functionality specific to companies that need to track specific lots or batches of products for inventory management, lot costing, recall purposes and/or to meet regulatory requirements – such as food distributors and pharmaceutical distributors.

Do you need to purchase new hardware or other equipment?

One of the common reasons why a company decides to replace its software is because they are using outdated equipment or systems. If this is the case, you will need to budget for hardware purchases in addition to new software. This could include new computers, laptops and monitors, new operating system software such as the latest version of Windows, or perhaps other tools for your team such as tablets for your salespeople or barcode scanning equipment for the warehouse.

What about implementation costs?

Implementation costs are the one-time fees associated with getting your company up and running on a new system. These costs are paid upfront, and they make up a significant portion of overall costs and need to be budgeted for appropriately. Implementation costs typically include the cost of user training, system set-up and configuration, and data migration. However, many vendors vary in the implementation services they provide, and may not provide the same level of training or data migration. You also need to be honest with yourself about the amount of work you and your team can do. For example, it may seem enticing to manually import data from your existing software into a new system as a means to cut costs, but this requires that an employee spend a significant amount of time away from their regular duties to complete the work. And what happens if you run into an issue or decide that you want to clean up your data? Therefore, you want to make sure you’re budgeting for all implementation services. Other considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the implementation is…

Training

Do your employees have experience using software? Are they tech-savvy and able to learn a new system quickly? Are employees being trained in multiple areas of the software?

Data Migration

How many systems are you migrating data from? Are you moving data from spreadsheets, your accounting software and your online store? Is this data stored in different file formats? Do you want to clean up your data before you move it? For example, removing duplicate data or incorrect data?

Remember, purchasing an all-in-one ERP solution for your business will be one of the biggest business decisions you make. And rightly so, as a proper solution will be able to streamline operations across all departments, automate processes and eliminate manual data entry and the associated human errors with doing so. Make sure you budget appropriately for a new solution, using the above information as guidance.

By |

[BREAKING] FDA Delays Enforcement of Saleable Returns Verification until November 27th, 2023.

As of October 2020, the FDA has announced an extension of the delay of enforcement around the verification of saleable returns verification for Pharmaceutical Wholesale Distributors. This delay is an extension of the original delay detailed in the 2019 Wholesale Distributor Verification Requirement for Saleable Returned Drug Product—Compliance Policy guidance put forth by the FDA. If your company accepts returns from your customers, the FDA requires that those returns must be verified with the manufacturer as being valid before they can be resold to other customers. Enforcement of this requirement has now been delayed for a second time for an additional 3 years, until November 27th, 2023.

Background

The original requirement for wholesale distributors to verify saleable returned products before redistribution went into effect on November 27, 2019. This requirement dictates that wholesale distributors must have systems in place that enable them to verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, on each package of saleable returned product. Until the product identifier can be successfully verified, the product should be handled as suspect (quarantined and investigated) and only once verified, can the product be further distributed.

Delay

After publishing the 2019 Compliance Policy, in which wholesale distributors were supposed to comply by November 27, 2020, the FDA received comments and feedback from a variety of wholesale distributors, trading partners and stakeholders, expressing their concern around being able to implement the proper processes and systems to meet these requirements. According to stakeholders, the primary factors that influenced the initial delay still exist and have not been properly addressed. These include:

The very large volume of saleable returned products requiring verification;
The need to refine and test verification systems during actual production using real-time volumes of saleable returned product rather than simply in pilots; and
The complexities of building an interoperable, electronic system with the capabilities to timely and efficiently verify the large volume of saleable returned products amid immature technologies

Because of these concerns, the FDA has determined that some wholesale distributors may need additional time beyond the original delay outlined in the 2019 Compliance Policy. Furthermore, according to the latest release from the FDA, “to minimize possible disruptions in the distribution of certain prescription drugs in the United States, the FDA does not intend to take action before November 27, 2023, against wholesale distributors who do not verify a product identifier prior to resale or other further distribution.”

Existing Technology

After the initial requirement set forth by the FDA, several technology companies went to work on building the proper tools to manage these requirements. And although the law did not stipulate how the verification requests would be fulfilled, the use of a Verification Router Service (VRS) began to emerge as the industry leader. According to the law in its current form, manufacturers will be required to respond to requests for verification within 24 hours to comply. As a wholesale distributor, there are three parts to the VRS that you should understand:

Requesters are companies like yours who are “requesting” validation of a given serialized product.
Responders are the manufacturers or repackagers who must respond to the request with a Valid/Invalid type of response.
VRS Providers are the technology companies that provide the software services to which requesters and responders connect that make the system work.  LSPediA, rfXcel, Adents, TraceLink, SAP and others are VRS providers.

“Although there appear to be legitimate reasons why there is another delay in the enforcement of saleable returns verification, I’m disappointed that the industry as a whole has taken so long to solve these issues. With this new enforcement delay, the industry will continue to be vulnerable to illegitimate product entering the supply chain for at least another 3 years. As always, Blue Link will continue to work with industry professionals to provide the capabilities required by the DSCSA. Looking to the future, my question is what additional delays should we expect to see as we grow closer to the 2023 deadline?”

Michael Benedick, Pharmaceutical Software Expert
In response to these initial requirements of Nov. 2019, Blue Link has already developed a solution in partnership with LSPediA, which includes support for calling 3rd party provided Verification Router Services from within the Blue Link software. Blue Link will continue to monitor the industry for any additional changes as we work towards the new deadline in 2023.

By |

5 Telltale Signs it’s Time to Upgrade Your Business Software

Last month, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of Blue Link’s oldest, active customers. While 25 years might seem like a long time to be using the same ERP software, if you can find a trusted technology partner that can grow with your business, this is the ideal situation. Replacing your business software every couple of years is a very time-consuming and costly project, and while certain situations warrant a change, this is why it’s important to take the time to find the right software solution from the beginning. So how long is the right amount of time to stay with your software vendor? When does it make sense to change business systems? We’ve gone ahead and included information about both.

1. The software is no longer supported.

This one is a bit of a no brainer. As soon as you learn that your software solution is losing support, it is time to start looking for a replacement. Even if you don’t tend to use support very often, all it takes is one time where you can’t connect, you have an issue with your data, or you need help….for your business to fall apart. Some software vendors may also decide to “sunset” their software, which means that they decide to stop developing the system and fixing bugs. While this is different from losing support, it means that the product is approaching its end of life and will soon lose support. This is another good reason to start looking for a replacement – you want to make sure your system always has the latest and greatest in technology and features.

2. Your business has outgrown the system.

Congratulations! Your business is growing. While some businesses tend to grow and evolve faster than others, this is not necessarily an immediate cause to upgrade your system and there are certain situations where upgrading may not be the best approach.

When to Upgrade

If you’re using introductory business software, such as QuickBooks, business growth is definitely a reason to start shopping elsewhere. Although QuickBooks is a great accounting solution, it has a lot of limitations on the functionality it can provide for growing businesses in need of inventory management, robust reporting and other capabilities. And since QuickBooks is an introductory software solution, it is designed for exactly that. To be the starting system for small companies until they start to grow. Even if you’re able to bolt on a few different software solutions to provide functionality QuickBooks lacks, it’s important to evaluate how long before your company outgrows this functionality too. Introductory systems also tend to have limits on the number of users, companies, and the transaction volume it can handle.

When Not to Upgrade

If you’re using a more robust ERP software, make sure you talk to your software vendor before you decide to start looking elsewhere. ERP solutions are designed to scale with your business and so many vendors will provide optional features to help meet the changing needs of your company. For example, if your business is ready to start selling online or has a customer interested in using EDI, or you want to add more users. With ERP software, you can “turn on” additional features to help your growing business without needing to replace the entire solution. This is a lot easier and less costly than trying to find something new. When you first implement an ERP solution at your business, make sure you figure out your options for adding on other features down the road.

3. You want to move your business to the cloud.

Moving to a cloud-based solution is a great reason to upgrade your software. Maybe you’re tired of dealing with IT issues, or maybe your hardware and servers need upgrading. Whatever the situation, upgrading to the cloud allows you to focus your attention on running your business, and not on maintaining software. With a cloud-based solution, IT maintenance, upgrades, backups, security etc. are all the responsibility of the software vendor and not your team.

4. Poor technical support.

Your ERP software runs your entire operations – so you want to make sure you have access to expert support to make sure the systems are running smoothly, and to get answers to your questions quickly. You want to work with a software vendor who takes the time to understand your business to help you succeed in the market. If you feel like you’re “just another number” to your software vendor, it’s time to find a company who will work with you to help you achieve your goals.

5. An increase in software license costs.

Ever hear the term bait and switch? It describes a situation where a customer is “baited” into purchasing something due to certain promises or low prices, only to have that promise or price “switched” at a later date. This is why it’s important to always read the fine print when evaluating different software solutions, the functionality offered and the price. You want to make sure that the price you agree to today, will not all of a sudden increase. While increasing prices is a natural part of doing business, you want to make sure that you understand any price increase implications from the beginning. Some vendors may charge you a certain “discount” rate for the first year, only to increase that rate for the years following.

By |

ERP and MRP Systems – What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between ERP and MRP is that MRP software is designed to manage inventory and manufacturing processes, whereas ERP software includes functionality designed to manage all aspects of your business operation. MRP is best for manufacturing-type businesses, whereas ERP will work for wholesalers, distributors, retailers, eCommerce businesses and a variety of other industries. Both ERP and MRP are software systems for business management, but each one is designed to handle different processes and is best suited for different business types.

ERP

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a business software solution designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations along the supply chain. While ERP features will vary depending on the industry, the software acts as an all-in-one system, eliminating the need to have multiple, standalone solutions. For example, ERP for a wholesale and distribution business will include functionality for accounting, finance, inventory management, warehouse management, purchase orders, sales orders, contact management, reporting and more. The main benefits of implementing an ERP solution include:

Having one solution to manage all business operations. This means you don’t need to worry about trying to integrate systems or deal with the cost of buying and supporting multiple solutions.
Eliminate manual and duplicate data entry. Since all information flows between the different parts of the software, it eliminates the need to manually track data in spreadsheets, or across other systems.
Automate processes. Because the system works across departments, you can easily automate processes such as sending customer’s A/R notices when their accounts reach a certain threshold.
Robust reporting on all areas of the business. With ERP software, you’re able to pull information from the different areas of the software to generate reports. For example, a report on Sales by Customer by Product.

MRP

MRP stands for Material Requirements Planning and provides specific functionality to estimate quantities of raw materials and schedule their delivery and use in finished goods processing. MRP is a manufacturing solution and does not necessarily provide features for managing a company’s entire operations.

Since the features of MRP software can be limited to manufacturing type processes, there may be certain situations where a company requires both an ERP system and an MRP system – or, there are some large-scale ERP solutions with built-in MRP functionality.

How do you determine which system is right for your business?

Before you start searching for software, it is important to determine if your company requires an MRP system, an ERP system or both. Many businesses that identify as a manufacturing company do not actually do any of the manufacturing in-house, and instead, act as more of a wholesale distribution business with manufacturing partners. Before you start looking for MRP software, consider the following questions:

Do you deal with raw materials, work-in-progress items and finished goods?
Do you need to track non-inventory items such as labor?
Do you need to schedule production?
Do you have multiple BOMs for the same one product?
Is the product you create “custom” each time?
Do you need to track waste or yield?

If you answered yes to most of the questions above, you likely need a true MRP solution. If not, you may be able to benefit from an ERP solution that has “light-manufacturing” functionality. Some ERP systems will include light manufacturing functionality for kitting, assembly and managing a simple BOM. The need to create kits and assemble products is significantly different from turning raw materials into finished goods. With kitting and assembly functionality, you can create kits of items and track the associated labor to do so. This allows you to then sell and track items as part of a kit, or individually.

By |
Menu