Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Is Your Wholesale Distribution ERP Software Adaptable to Changing Times?

Guest Post by Laura Hudgens

Wholesale distribution ERP software, also known as Enterprise Resource Planning Software, helps distribution businesses buying and selling product to better manage business processes—such as automated reporting, inventory management and even picking, packing and shipping through robust and advanced functionality. With typical features like a common transactional database and the ability to manage inventory and data in real-time, implementing wholesale distribution ERP software is a vital part of any business. However, look at the implementation as a marathon, not a sprint. Implementation can be a long process, so it is important to ensure the system you choose has future-proof features and capabilities to withstand company growth. Of course, all wholesale distribution ERP software is not created equal, and when deciding on a system that is right for your company, there are a few key points to keep in mind:

Integration Options

When incorporating wholesale distribution ERP software into a distribution business, chances are, you already have a few systems in place. The idea with true wholesale distribution ERP software is that it is an all-in-one solution designed to replace all your existing software. Having said that, sophisticated software is not a closed system, meaning it is flexible enough to integrate with other pieces of software or apps as the marketplace and your business changes. For example, a distribution business looking to expand its market online can integrate its wholesale distribution ERP software with an existing eCommerce platform and online marketplaces such as Amazon an eBay. 

While the cost of ERP may be higher than the introductory platforms that your company currently has, ultimately, the freedom and ease that comes with an open system will be worth it, especially as more and more companies are choosing to expand into the eCommerce market.  The competitive advantage that successful eCommerce distribution businesses have is that they have superior insight into their inventory and order fulfillment processes. An all-in-one wholesale distribution ERP software can help you better manage online orders, keep credit card information secure, improve customer service by saving on shipping costs and increase accessibility to your products, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Another important integration is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). When you integrate EDI with your wholesale distribution ERP software, the sharing of data between systems helps eliminate the need for manual entry of sensitive information like product, shipping, and customer data—which saves all parties involved time, money, and hassle.

Opportunities for Automation 

The ability to automate operational processes is the most valuable advantage of incorporating wholesale distribution ERP software into any organization. The reduction of manual processes provides many continuing benefits, so automation is key when making decisions on software.  Introductory and basic wholesale software tools that don’t provide opportunities for automation may cost less up front, but the time and resources saved through the automation of processes will quickly outweigh the costs of a new system.  Again, always think about the implementation in the long-term.

Wholesale distribution ERP software with one database that acts as a central hub to store all company data including eCommerce data, reduces the need for manual data entry, which in turn can improve productivity, boost efficiency, reduce processing times, and even decrease overall operating costs. Automation also helps improve accuracy and reduce user error.

Having well-managed data allows for more robust reporting functionality, as reports within the system get exported, edited, and shared in real-time. Wholesale distribution ERP software with specific reporting tools allow users to create rules in the system to automate data flow and the distribution of important information (for example, creating a workflow that automatically emails invoices to customers). With options to send reports and emails internally and externally, sharing real-time, accurate data is timely and simple. For example, you can set the system to send out a weekly sales report on the day that you choose and to the people/team you want to send to.

Improved reporting and analytics through the system offer clearer insight into how your organization is doing as well as providing better customer service. Workflows are also made easier through automation as tasks can be strategically set-up and managed.

Better reporting and analytics also help reduce supply chain friction by helping you keep more accurate tabs on inventory and developing a better a supply chain management plan. An integrated wholesale distribution ERP software also allows you to better monitor and measure your progress in real-time, and since everything is all-in-one, it’s easier to stay organized and know that you’re not overlooking any pieces of the puzzle.

Service-Oriented Business Models

Customer needs are always changing. Modern advancements in technology mean that consumers are now accustomed to having everything they need from a company, at their fingertips, any time they need it. Because of this, customer service is more important than ever, and it’s imperative that your business can keep up.

One way to ensure your customers are always getting the assistance they need is to offer self-service features, such as online order portals that clients or customers can access 24/7 to find information about products, pricing, or order status—all without ever speaking to an employee. Or, for those times when a self-service portal isn’t enough, accurate, efficient, service-oriented help is a must. Fortunately, with all of your information integrated and at your fingertips through wholesale software, it’s easier than ever to better serve your customers with accurate, up-to-date, and easily accessible information.

And while you are taking care of your customers, you need your wholesale software to be taking care of you. Every business has different needs, and what works well for one organization might be detrimental to the next. Ensuring your system is a good fit is a vital step in ensuring you are getting the most out of your system. Ongoing consulting services from the software vendor during the sales process and even after the software is purchased and implemented can help you review and re-evaluate the state of your business, your unique needs, and opportunities for growth. This information empowers you to make knowledge-based decisions about the best software selection for your business.

Of course, once you’ve picked out your software, it’s important you know how to use it. Look for a provider that offers training in-person, so you can feel confident that the implementation of your new system is going to produce the desired results. And be sure to plan out your implementation process in a documented and openly accessible place, like a company-wide project management tool. 

Just like you are there for your customers after they’ve made a purchase from you, it’s important to find a software provider that’s there for you even after the sale is closed, too. Self-service support options and free resources about the implementation and optimization add to the training you receive and enable you to reap the most long-term benefits from your new system.

Perhaps most importantly, when exploring wholesale software options, you want to look for one that offers customization of services. Your business and needs will change over time, and your software should too. Look for a vendor that is continuously improving their system and providing yearly updates that keep the functionality relevant and competitive as marketplaces change. They should also be open and willing to make the necessary modifications and customizing that address the unique aspects of your organization.

Laura Hudgens is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a communications instructor and freelance writer who studies and writes about technology, media, science, and health.

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Managing Pricing Rules in Blue Link’s Accounting Inventory Software

Setting prices, maintaining margins, keeping customers happy, managing discounts and promotions – a company’s pricing strategy is a complicated yet imperative part of business management. Using accounting inventory software such as Blue Link will provide tools for managing different pricing rules and strategies, to help automate the process of maintaining and updating price. However, the terminology used to describe different pricing rules can vary from one company to the next which can be confusing when trying to find the right solution to manage your specific needs and understand the options for doing so. Here we look to explore some of the pricing strategies used by wholesale distribution businesses, and the functionality available in accounting inventory software to manage them.

List Price

A product’s list price is a price assigned to a product as a means to standardize pricing across an industry. The term “list price” is also referred to as the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MRSP), the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) or the Suggested Retail Price (SRP). For the most part, this number is used by distributors and wholesalers for informational purposes only – for example, to print on labels – and not for actual customer pricing. A product’s list price can also be used as part of the calculation to determine actual customer pricing. For example, distributors might want to set the regular price at 10% lower than the list price.

Regular Price

A product’s regular price is generally the price charged to the customer, where the customer is not entitled to any other pricing (i.e. volume discounts, price matrix or contract pricing).  With Blue Link, the regular price for a product can be set in each currency accepted by the company and for each UOM. The regular price set by a company is completely discretionary and does not have to take into account the MRSP.

Contract Pricing

Contract pricing is used to allow for pricing other than the regular price. Contracts can be set up for one specific customer, or multiple customers and a contract price might apply to one product or multiple products. Contract pricing can have a start date and an expiry date – which once again can be applied to all customers and all products or some customers and some products.

There are many different reasons why a distribution business might have contract pricing in addition to regular pricing. For example, contract pricing might be a result of initial negotiations of doing business with a customer for a set period of time or a company may provide contract pricing to customers of good standing or high sales volumes to retain their business into the future.

Special Pricing

Special pricing is usually set-up through a specific price contract. Special pricing can apply to specific product promotions, time-sensitive discounts, holiday or seasonal pricing and volume discounts. A price contract with special pricing will often have a start date and expiry dated based on certain criteria. As of the expiry date, the pricing reverts back to regular or contract pricing for that customer and/or product.

Quantity Breaks

Quantity breaks are a certain type of special pricing where the customer receives a discount based on purchasing a certain amount of product. In Blue Link, quantity breaks can be set up for each currency and unit of measure and apply against the regular price of the item. Specific quantity break pricing contracts can also be set up to apply against customers with contract pricing as opposed to regular pricing.

Price Matrix

To set up a price matrix, you need to first group products into different categories and then set up different discount levels for each category. The next step is to assign customers a discount level. Then, where the discount level and product number meet within the matrix, is where the price is determined. Let’s look at an example.

You’re a distributor of food and foodservice products and your customers include restaurants, other distributors and bakeries. You set up the following product categories:

Matrix Category 1: dry goods, sauces, oils and condiments
Matrix Category 2: paper and disposable products such as napkins, straws and take-out containers
Matrix Category 3: apparel products such as chef hats, aprons and uniforms

You then go ahead and set up different discount levels for each product category:

Product Category
Discount Level 1
Discount Level 2

1
10% discount
15% discount

2
0% discount
5% discount

3
2.5% discount
5% discount

 

The next step is to assign customers to a discount level. In this example you decide to assign all your bakery customers to Discount Level 1 because they tend to buy a lot of product from Matrix Category 1, but not from Matrix Category 2 or 3. You then decide to assign all your restaurant customers to Discount Level 2 because they also buy a lot of products from Matrix Category 1 and also from Matrix Category 2 and 3. However, you have one bakery customer that is much larger than the rest and so you choose to also assign them to Discount Level 2 instead of Discount Level 1.

Minimum Price

A minimum price dictates the lowest possible price allowed for a product to maintain a specific margin. This can be used as a means to restrict salespeople from selling items at too low a price. Within Blue Link, the ability for sales reps or other employees at an organization to override a price is based on permissions – with the appropriate permissions, anyone can change pricing.

Fluctuating Pricing

In certain industries, pricing may change on a regular basis according to the market. In this situation, look for accounting inventory software that allows you to easily import and update pricing information across the product in question. Blue Link’s accounting inventory software allows a company to import price lists based on information from the vendor and have those lists automatically update pricing in the system. Product pricing can also be updated on a one by one basis or a global price change can be made where prices for all products or a range of products based on product code or product class can be changed (up or down) by a specific dollar amount or percentage. Global price changes can be applied to regular pricing, specific contracts or all contracts and against all UOMs, specific UOM’s, all currencies or specific currencies.

As you can see, there are a lot of different pricing rules available to a company. Depending on the type of customers and products you deal with, different types of pricing will be more appropriate. With robust accounting inventory software, you will be able to manage multiple pricing rules based on the customer and product and then set up a hierarchy of rules that can override one another depending on the situation. For example, you may want to set up a seasonal special pricing contract for a certain product that overrides the regular price, however, the system will not apply this seasonal pricing to customers where their contract price is already lower than the seasonal discount.

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Takes One to Know One – SMBs Should Look for SMB Business Management Software Vendors

Has your wholesale distribution business ever had to deal with a large company’s sub-par customer service? Did you have to wait for hours on end on the phone for support only to be bounced from one rep to another? Did you have to repeat information? Were they able to understand your issue and resolve it in a timely manner? Whether it’s your supplier, third-party logistics partner or your software vendor, poor customer service can certainly test the patience of the most understanding of individuals not to mention cost a business unnecessary time and money.

When searching for new business management software for your small-medium wholesale distribution business, you will certainly learn about how the functionality of software itself improves the customer experience (CX) for your own customers with fewer manual entry errors such as shipping information errors, but it is also just as important to learn about the type of customer service the vendor will provide YOUR business. Have they worked with a business similar in size and structure to yours? How accessible is their tech support? What type of expertise do their team members have? These types of questions are important to have answered during the initial sales conversations to avoid headaches down the line.

If you’re a SMB wholesale distributor, consider working with a  business management software vendor that is also a SMB as they are most likely to have a very similar company culture which makes for a better relationship. Consider the following when evaluating options.

Understanding Company Growth 

If you’re a small to medium size business that is growing and looking to implement new business management software to manage an increase in inventory, sales and customers, it is important that you find a software vendor that is also growing.  This means that the software itself is continuously in development and not stagnant, and that the vendor is always working to improve the system and update the software in response to changes in the marketplace or industry-specific compliance/regulatory changes. Be sure to ask the vendor directly about recent releases or updates to the system in the past year and future plans for improving the software.

Any growing small-medium size business management software vendor will have experienced the related pains and hurdles that come with adding employees, products and customers so will have a good understanding of what your business is going through with growth. Be sure to ask for references of companies similar to yours as you go through the sales process to see how they have managed projected growth for other companies your size (1-150 employees). A business management software vendor similar in size to your business will also be able to understand your budget much better than larger software companies who mainly deal with larger businesses where budget is not an issue. They understand that purchasing and implementing new business management software is a huge undertaking and will have insight into how to get the most out of the software to see a worthy ROI.

Similar Company Processes 

While the products you sell may be different, the organizational structure and processes of a business management software vendor your size will be fairly similar to your own. As a result, the vendor will be able to provide valuable insight into any changes you need to make to your internal processes to take full advantage of the various features of the software. SMB tend to have fewer resources available per department and therefore know how important it is that a system is able to automate processes as much as possible to avoid tying up those valuable resources on numerous manual tasks.

This understanding is especially important when it comes to the implementation of business management software. As a SMB ourselves, here at Blue Link we recognize how important it is that the individuals working on the implementation of our business management software fully understand our customer’s unique business needs to make the implementation process as efficient as possible. We are aware that our customers have limited resources available to dedicate to the implementation and we work with them to make joint decisions about the best way to manage each step of the implementation process. The Blue Link consultant assigned to your implementation will focus on only your business during the implementation and will not be distracted by juggling multiple installs at the same time. We will work with you to go over your current processes such as inventory management, accounting, order entry and processing, invoicing, purchase orders etc. to identify any unique business requirements and feature requirements you may need as well as provide suggestions on process changes to get the most out of the system. Our team will also review your existing data to jointly determine which information needs to be migrated over to the new system and which format is best for the migration – saving you from tying up your valuable resources for hours on end with manual data migration work.

Accessible Tech Support

An in-house, personalized tech support team means that you will be speaking with the same representatives each time. The benefit of this is that they will get to know you and your business on a personal level. You can feel comforted knowing that someone with the right expertise and knowledge of your specific business requirements is there to help.  Our Blue Link tech support staff know our customers on a first name basis and develop a clear understanding and history of the types of hurdles, issues and expectations you have so you spend less time repeating information.

“When we did our due diligence in searching for a new accounting system, we narrowed our search down to three different providers. Each offered, for the most part, the same type of software and features that my company needed. What set Blue Link apart from the other two was the level of engagement we received from our initial phone call. We immediately felt at home and had not just the right software, but the right partner to grow our business. That partnership remains even stronger today.”
– Michael Ricks, President, Furniture Classics Limited

 

1- on 1 Employee Training

When speaking with  business management software vendors, pay attention to the different personalities. Are they someone you and your employees will be able to work well with? This is especially important when it comes to training employees on how to use the new software. The success of any software implementation is employee adoption and you want to make sure that you work with a qualified individual who can adjust their teaching speed and methodology to your employees’ needs. Blue Link provides comprehensive on-site, face-to-face training to ensure that employees are comfortable using the system and address any questions or concerns they have on the spot.
Download the below resource to learn more about how to evaluate software vendors and take a look at our Software Services page to see what you can expect when you sign up with Blue Link!

 

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Managing Canada’s New Food Importing Regulations with Food Traceability Software

Even though Canada is recognized for having one of the best food safety systems in the world, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) still receives an average of 2,000 reports from consumers concerning food safety issues every year. Significant improvements to food distribution supply chains, food production and the speed and volume of food manufacturing and transportation every year continue to provide government entities with food safety challenges. Add to this changing consumer preferences, food-based allergen concerns and healthy eating trends and you’re left with a complex and ever-changing food distribution network. To address the concerns of businesses and consumers alike, the CFIA and other regulatory entities have long since implemented standards for managing and tracking food production and distribution across Canada and the world. The latest in food safety regulations, known as The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) will come into force on January 15, 2019.

What is SFCR?

Similar to existing food regulations in Canada, the SFCR works to further protect Canadian consumers by putting a greater emphasis on proactively preventing risks to food safety and making it easier to quickly remove unsafe food from the supply chain. These regulations specifically target food imports and exports in Canada.

The ultimate goal of any food regulation is to give Canadian consumers peace of mind that the food on grocery shelves is safe to eat – whether those products are produced in Canada or abroad. With SFCR Canadian consumers can expect:

Safer food on all grocery shelves
More strict regulations targeting unsafe food practises with a focus on proactive prevention
Tougher penalties for activities and businesses that violate these regulations
Greater control over imports into Canada
More efficient and faster processes for managing recalls and removing unsafe food from the supply chain

For Canadian businesses in the food industry, these regulations will continue to strengthen Canada’s reputation for food safety and increase opportunities for exporting Canadian products worldwide.

The 3 Key Elements of SFCR

The SFCR applies to all businesses that import or prepare food for export across provincial and territorial borders and will help Canada’s food safety regulations become in line with international standards. The SFCR recognizes 3 key elements:

(1) Licensing

New licensing regulations require all food import companies to have a license from the CFIA. Licensing requirements apply to any business that conducts the following activities1:

Import food or food products
Manufacture, process, treat, preserve, grade, package, or label food for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders
Export food (where an export certificate is requested)
Slaughter food animals from which meat products are derived for export or to be sent across provincial or territorial borders
Store and handle a meat product in its imported condition for inspection by the CFIA

The CFIA is making it easy for businesses to apply for a license online and will be phasing this requirement over a 12-30 month period depending on the food commodity, type of activity and business size.

(2) Preventive Controls

As a business that imports food products, it is imperative that you have preventive controls in place to ensure the food you import and sell is safe. This involves working closely with your foreign manufacturing and supply partners to understand and control the risks associated with importing their food products. More specifically, preventive controls require that all food import companies:

Know the food that is imported in terms of biological, chemical and physical make-up and any associated hazards that pose a risk of contamination to the food.
Be able to describe and clearly identify any potential risks and have a plan in place to control these risks.
Know the foreign supply partners with which you do business – are your suppliers using safe methods for preparing, storing and transporting product? This includes making sure foreign suppliers are aware of allergens in Canada and are properly documenting and tracking their existence. Food import businesses need to be able to show that the foreign suppliers they work with are meeting the same food safety standards that are required by Canadian manufacturers.
Identify and outline a written plan that dictates processes for meeting regulations.

(3) Traceability

Traceability is already an important part of the food distribution supply chain and requires businesses to trace where product comes from and to whom it is sold. This includes keeping detailed records of the food supply chain for each individual product and helps make the recall process easier by ensuring food is removed from the supply chain in the most efficient way possible.

Food Traceability Software

Food traceability software such as Blue Link ERP helps food import and distribution businesses comply with government regulations by managing and tracking inventory along the entire supply chain. As part of an all-in-one inventory and accounting system, Blue Link’s food traceability functionality provides specific features for tracking lot numbers and expiry dates and includes lot reporting features to better maintain product records and quickly identify affected inventory in the event of a product recall.

Blue Link’s lot tracking functionality aids businesses in achieving CFIA compliance and enables your business to track product end-to-end from your foreign or domestic supplier to your warehouse and then ultimately to your customer. This functionality works in conjunction with Blue Link’s inventory and accounting tools so that all business processes – sales through to invoicing, purchasing, shipping and receiving – are managed from a single database.

Next Steps
To best prepare for the upcoming SFCR in January 2019, start by doing an analysis of existing systems and processes. Does your business meet the specifications for needing a license? Do you have existing preventive controls in place for managing inventory and are you tracking product along the entire supply chain? How does your business manage product recalls? Consider finding a software solution designed for food import and distribution with traceability functionality as a way to help automate and manage these new requirements.

For additional information on the new SFCR we’ve included some resources below:

1Licensing: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/the-cfia-chronicle/special-edition-2018-/licensing/eng/1528488744086/1528488744335
SFCR for Businesses: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/the-cfia-chronicle/special-edition-2018-/food-businesses/eng/1528486120649/1528486120899
A Quick Look at the New SFCR : http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/sfcr/videos/importing-food-to-canada/eng/1528315408961/1528315409226
The CFIA Chronicle: Special Edition about SFCR: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/the-cfia-chronicle/special-edition-2018-/eng/1528380073398/1528380073850

 

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Cautionary Tale for non-VAWD Pharmaceutical Wholesale Distributors – OptumRx Revokes Extensions

Many people do not know that the prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets have quite the tale to tell.  Its’ story ends with them, the consumer, a regular Joe going in to fill a prescription at a local pharmacy. The beginning of the tale? Well, that’s slightly more complicated. You know as a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor that the drug sitting snug in their cabinet has come a long way from the time it was made. For every single prescription drug a person takes, the product has passed through at least four different companies to end up at their local pharmacy – it starts at the manufacturer, the manufacturer then sells it to you, the pharmaceutical wholesale distributor(s) who then sells the product to either other distributors or a network of  pharmacies. The pharmacies then offer it to their clients. The requirement to track each drug throughout its journey along the supply chain is why the pharmaceutical distribution industry is one of the most complex and highly regulated systems to exist.

With every member of the supply chain, additional fees and markups get added to the cost of the drug, which is why the prescription drugs that end up in the consumer’s hands have such a high value. In fact, the costs of prescriptions drugs became so high in the 1960’s that health plans were not able to accommodate coverage and so companies called Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) rose to cover these prescriptions on behalf of the insurance companies, and in turn, the pharmacies that sell the drugs. OptumRx is one of the three major PBMs still in existence today. PBMs are responsible for negotiating drug prices to keep costs down for end consumers and to push the most effective drug out of the many options available on the market. While not everyone agrees with the existence of PBM’s (since they also make a nice profit from insurance companies through what’s called spread pricing), they are an important part of this convoluted cycle today to keep costs down for the end consumer.

So where do pharmaceutical wholesale distributors fall into this cautionary tale? Well, back in 2016, OptumRx introduced a compliance rule that restricts pharmacies within its network from accepting product from wholesale distributors, unless those wholesale distributors are Verified-Accredited Wholesale Distributors (VAWD) certified. OptumRx first announced this requirement in August 2016 but at the same time granted an extension to distributors to achieve their VAWD accreditation. Although not every pharmacy requires its distributors to be VAWD certified, it establishes your wholesale distribution business as a trustworthy trading partner in the US pharmaceutical market and opens the door to do business with more pharmacy customers. 21-months after the extension was granted, OptumRX ended the extension for almost all distributors that sell to their network of pharmacies and are still not VAWD certified. As of July 5th, the company decided to provide many, if not all distributors another extension which will retroactively be effective from June 30th through August 31st. This new extension was likely due to the law firm Frier Levitt seeking to file a class-action suit against OptumRx for unfairly ending the original extension. Even with this new extension, however, distributors who will not be able to make the new VAWD deadline by August 31st are positioned to lose clients, the integrity of their products and millions of dollars in revenue as it restricts the pharmacies they can sell to and will end with many of them having to shut down their doors for good.
For those who are unfamiliar with the U.S. accreditation, VAWD, read this blog post to learn what is required of businesses to achieve the accreditation.
Whether you agree or disagree with OptumRx’s decision, as a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor, you need to have accurate data to capitalize and maintain your position in the growing market and adhere to quality control and industry regulations. It is not unlikely that we will start to see a trend where more and more pharmacies work solely with VAWD-accredited companies, and so it is important for distributors to achieve their VAWD accreditation to remain competitive in the market.

The VAWD accreditation process cannot be achieved overnight. In fact, the accreditation takes several months to complete, which makes it all the more important for candidates to be fully prepared for the rigorous reviews to avoid having to re-apply. The time it takes to complete the program is greatly impacted by a facility’s readiness. Once you have achieved the accreditation, it is valid for 3 years which means maintaining the integrity of your data is also an important factor.

Feeling overwhelmed? Yes, the accreditation process will not be easy but the key is to start! The longer you delay the process, the more you put your distribution company at risk. Why live with that unsettling feeling? The first step a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor can take is to  implement the right industry-specific pharmaceutical ERP software with advanced abilities for “maintaining inventories and records of all transactions regarding the receipt and distribution or other disposition of all drugs and devices” to  help meet the VAWD criteria faster and to maintain the accreditation for years to come.
“VAWD accreditation is considered to be the “gold-standard” for distribution companies across regulatory agencies and trading partners within the supply chain. It requires adherence to specific standards spanning purchasing, sales,  inventory control and more – the right pharmaceutical ERP is crucial in achieving VAWD accreditation.” – Sumeet Singh, President, Five Rivers RX
Automation is Key

Having the right industry-specific functionality in pharmaceutical ERP helps businesses to not only comply with VAWD requirements but also help to meet the requirements of DEA, FDA and the DSCSA efficiently and accurately. The key to making your life a bit easier when it comes to maintaining compliance is automating your processes. The below pharmaceutical specific ERP features help to do this.

Lot tracking (traceability) – Blue Link offers lot tracking functionality as part of an all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP solution. Lot tracking, or batch tracking, allows for product traceability to keep track of which customers received specific groups (or shipments) of items and when they were received. The supplier and date these items were purchased are also tracked allowing managers to track an individual group of products (or shipment) from the supplier to their own warehouse and ultimately to the customer. Lot tracking is a core component in achieving FDA / ISO / CFIA compliance for many businesses. This feature of Blue Link ERP also allows users to perform lot costing – tracking actual costs instead of FIFO or average.

Serialization – Blue Link is in the process of developing SNI Serialization features. Specific functionality will include:

Ability to identify a product as Lot Controlled, Serialized, or both Lot and Serialized (a requirement by the DSCSA)
Ability to relate the Unique Serial Number with its applicable Lot Number
Ability to scan GS1 Datamatrix barcodes that include the NDC Number, Serial Number, Lot Number, and Expiration Date and parse the number so it can be stored and retrieved as applicable.

Inventory Control – Robust inventory management features such as backorder fulfillment, warehouse transfers, EDI integration, multiple units of measure, inventory counts and more!

Contact Management (CRM) – Track customer/vendor information and communication with a single point of entry into the system, store unlimited contacts, log communication, automate emailing etc.

Suspicious Order Monitoring (SOM) – Ensures distributors are in compliance with DEA laws. You can view average single or monthly order total amount or quantity of product by NDC #.

Learn more about advanced pharmaceutical features. 
Download the below Case Study to learn how Blue Link customer IPD was able to achieve VAWD accreditation using the above pharmaceutical-specific features.

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Is Blue Link’s Distribution Software Right for You?

You’ve decided to replace your existing business management system. There are many reasons why a company decides its time to update existing systems – perhaps you’re using an introductory accounting solution like QuickBooks and are looking for additional features such as inventory management, or maybe you’re looking to sell through new sales channels such as eCommerce or Amazon and want to integrate solutions. Maybe you’re using a product that is no longer supported and running on outdated technology. Whatever the reason, it is important that you dedicate the time and resources to finding a solution and make it a priority – for risk of letting it fall by the wayside. Theoretically, the process of finding, implementing and training staff on a new solution will be the biggest project your business takes on in any given year. And it should be – the right distribution software is the backbone of your company and will help to run every department from sales to accounting to customer service to warehouse management to eCommerce. So how do you find the right solution? Its no wonder people become overwhelmed when they start the search process – a simple Google search of distribution software yields over 402 million results! To narrow down your search, start by speaking with people in your industry and network to learn what system they are using, try to find unbiased 3rd party websites that offer simple comparisons between vendors, and dedicate the time to sift through some of the Google results until you have a shortlist of about 6-8 vendors to evaluate. To help you narrow down your search, we’ve included a break-down of information about Blue Link, and whether or not our distribution software is the right fit for your business.

About Blue Link

Blue Link is an owner-managed company and Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and has been in business since 1992. Blue Link provides all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP software for small to medium size businesses and is best suited for those in the wholesale and distribution industry.

As an all-in-one solution, Blue Link ERP helps businesses reduce manual work and automate processes by providing tools for inventory management, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management, contact management and advanced reporting. In addition, Blue Link includes various optional components that can be turned on at any point in time, such as point of sale, lot tracking, landed cost tracking, barcode scanning, and eCommerce integration with sites such as Shopify and Amazon.

Blue Link is available to businesses in North America and the Caribbean and can be customized to meet the specific needs of clients.

Industries Served

With a focus on wholesale and distribution businesses, as well as businesses that sell through eCommerce and retail, Blue Link provides functionality for a variety of sub-industries and niche markets. These include:

Pharmaceutical
Medical
Apparel, Fashion and Sporting Equipment
Baby and Children’s Products
Building, Construction and Home Supplies
Electronics and Technology
Consumer Packaged Goods
Garden and Floral
Food and Beverage
Foodservice Equipment Supply
Industrial Products, Machinery and Equipment
Salon and Cosmetics
and more!

Right Fit

As a SMB, Blue Link understands the mindset of other SMBs  and as such Blue Link customers typically have between 5-200 employees and under 150 users. Blue Link customers choose the software and trust our team as their business partner because…

They are excited about the opportunity to grow their business and expand into new markets
They are frustrated with using multiple, standalone solutions that do not interact with one another
They are anxious to start selling through other channels such as EDI, eCommerce and Amazon and need an integrated solution to do so
They are worried about their existing legacy systems crashing and losing data and productivity with no access to support

Who Are We NOT a Good Fit For?

Blue Link is not a fit for every company, and through our experience over the last 26 years, we’ve found that there are a few situations where we are unlikely to contribute high value to an organization. It is our job as part of the sales process to identify these unique cases as soon as possible to make sure we don’t waste anyone’s time. We are likely not a good fit for your business if:

You don’t want an all-in-one solution

Blue Link ERP software is designed as an all-in-one solution to manage all aspects of a businesses’ operations. We do not offer individual components such as just inventory functionality or just accounting. The nature of the system is to eliminate the need for duplicate entry and for information to easily flow between departments. Blue Link replaces the need for introductory solutions and does not integrate with accounting software (such as QuickBooks).  Instead, Blue Link provides more advanced functionality to help you grow your business.

You’re a manufacturing company

Many distribution companies identify as also a manufacturing business, even if all manufacturing processes are outsourced to 3rd party vendors. Where this is the case, Blue Link is a great fit and we even have functionality for light manufacturing – in terms of managing simple BOM requirements and kitting and assembly processes. However, if your business manages manufacturing and processing in-house in addition to distribution, and requires functionality for scheduling production, MRP and tracking waste/yield, you’re better offer finding a true manufacturing system as opposed to distribution.

You’re looking for catch weight functionality

Although we work with companies in the food and beverage industry, if you deal with produce, meat, poultry and fish, that require specific weight of a specific batch of product which is close to the average or standard weight used for that product (also known as catch weight)- Blue Link is not the right fit.  Where Blue Link is a good fit, is for those businesses dealing with canned, frozen and dry packaged goods, in which the weights and sizes will be standard each time. For these types of food businesses, Blue Link offers specific functionality such as lot tracking and landed cost tracking.

Ready to start your software search? Download our free guide to get started, or feel free to contact us today!

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Take Control of Your Business With Executive Dashboards – Wholesale Distribution Software

An executive dashboard is a powerful tool for the modern wholesale distribution business owner. A well-designed dashboard can quickly provide powerful insight into business health including summaries of complicated data translated into digestible views. Dashboards offer a visual display of organizational KPIs, metrics, and data that owners and employees can analyze in mere seconds. Information can be drilled down for a more granular, investigative view, which will help owners make smart decisions to improve their businesses’ bottom line.
But the key to the success of dashboards for wholesale distributors, is having a fully-integrated wholesale distribution software in place to store all business data, including key metrics of the business in one central hub. This means users can easily pull data to create and automatically populate executive reports. It is also best to only display the most important information and to make the dashboard as clean and uncluttered as possible in order to reap benefits such as:

Increased operational visibility:  With the right dashboards, you will know exactly what’s happening in all aspects of your wholesale distribution business instantly when you log in to the system on any given day, including information like views of sales outstanding in A/R, available credit, and A/R aging summary. For the best results, find a wholesale distribution software vendor that allows you to create multiple custom dashboards so you can switch back and forth between them. For example, you can have an additional dashboard that covers sales information such as sales by source, top selling products, top vendors, top customers, inventory quantities etc. You also want the flexibility to determine how this information is displayed, whether it be various types of charts (pie charts, column charts etc.), table formats, or simple text.

Data drill downs: The convenience of having all business data stored in one wholesale distribution software is that it is easy to “drill down” or further investigate information behind the metrics in the dashboard. By clicking on the metric, you can see more information such as factors influencing the summary of finances (A/R, A/P  etc.), current account balances, month-to-date and year-to-date net profit or loss statements, key financial ratios such as liquidity, asset management and debt management…all crucial information to have at your fingertips as a wholesale distribution business owner.

Smart strategic planning:  As you may have guessed, the primary objective behind dashboards is that they allow business owners to make smart decisions. It’s not enough to create a business plan and hope things go according to your expectations – you need to verify and monitor that your business is performing according to that plan. Dashboards allow you to actually measure key indicators of business performance throughout every part of your organization and analyzing the data helps you decide which areas need improvement and which objectives need to be adjusted.

Employee access: It’s always good for management/employees to have an idea of what’s happening in the business across all departments such as sales and accounting. Look for a software vendor that allows you to create user and group permissions so that each user login can have specific reports/dashboards available to them. This way, you are only showing employees the information they need in order to make better decisions about their day-to-day tasks.

Save time. Lots of it. How many hours do you currently spend creating financial and operational reports? How often do you create them? With the right executive dashboard, you will always have real-time results from all the reports you need, saving countless hours a month. When information in your wholesale distribution software is updated, so will the information in the dashboards.

Here are a couple tips to keep in mind to improve reporting for your business…

First and foremost, choose the right wholesale distribution software vendor.

This is crucial for business owners looking to improve their reporting capabilities. Chances are that every wholesale distribution software vendor will demo dashboards during the sales process, however, it’s important to not be distracted by the bells and whistles. Consider the reporting tools that are used behind the scenes to create the actual dashboards…are they easy to use? For example, Blue Link currently supports a variety of reporting tools depending on the nature of the report required. One of the reporting tools that we offer is SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), which is extremely useful for creating dashboards of information across departments. This reporting tool allows Blue Link customers to generate any report/chart in any format using information stored within the Blue Link system. The idea is to simplify the process of populating dashboards and to avoid having to manually enter data which is prone to human error, incomplete/wrong data or outdated information.

The dashboards are only as good as the integrity of the data behind them. The benefit of having an all-in-one wholesale distribution software such as Blue Link is that data from all areas of the business is collected and stored within the system and can be pulled to create various reports. Since the system handles everything from inventory management, accounting, warehouse operations, sales orders, purchase orders, invoices, lot tracking, landed costs, commission processing and more, you are able to report on any aspect of your business  You don’t have to input data from multiple sources and disconnected systems.

Be selective when choosing metrics.

It’s not necessary to view everything under the sun when it comes to your business, as this can become overwhelming quite quickly. The first step is to decide which metrics are the most important to your wholesale distribution business. For example, an obvious one would be net income.  After choosing this key metric, the next step is to figure out the “underlying” factors such as sales and revenues which influence the net income.

Remember, you don’t have to display everything in one dashboard. You can create supporting dashboards such as a sales specific reports that display sales activity influencing the net income. Think about what factors influence sales numbers in your business. Should you keep track of the number of proposals sent out? Which products sell better than others, or what the costs of products are? This is the recipe for creating clear dashboards and understanding which areas need improvement and which steps to take to meet those specific objectives.
Take a look at the below video which demonstrates how Blue Link’s executive dashboard views work, including displaying information in various formats, how to drill down into data, customizing the dashboard and more.

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4 ERP Tools for Wholesale Retail Businesses

The line between wholesale, retail and eCommerce continues to blur as more and more businesses are taking an omnichannel approach to selling product. Wholesale and distribution businesses now sell both B2B and B2C through eCommerce, marketplaces such as Amazon, at tradeshows and through retail brick and mortar stores. The ability for customers to purchase product through multiple channels allows your business to reach new markets and increase sales. As with any wholesale company in the industry of buying and selling inventory, those who also sell through retail channels require systems in place for managing product, receiving, picking, packing and shipping, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management and more. ERP software for wholesale retail management provides standard back-end inventory and accounting tools in addition to specialized features for the retail industry such as point of sale, CRM, warehouse management, eCommerce integration and more.

Point of Sale

Point of Sale (POS) refers to a physical check-out counter location where customers can purchase goods and services. For wholesale retail businesses, POS systems allow customers to place orders, submit payment and accept inventory while in-store. Although typically found in traditional retail brick and mortar stores, for wholesale businesses, POS is frequently used for front counter operations within a warehouse, for cash and carry type businesses, in showrooms or while exhibiting at tradeshows. Specialized features allow customers to pay on account and pay using multiple payment types and currencies.

CRM

Built-in customer relationship management (CRM) tools allow businesses to track customers, vendors and prospects. Employees can easily bring up customer accounts or create new ones when dealing with customers in-store. This allows tracking of communication, loyalty points, customer service requests and product returns.

Warehouse Management

Warehouse management functionality helps employees easily manage inventory for wholesale and retail orders. Proper bin and shelf locations allow employees to quickly fulfill orders and helps customers find product in-store. Inventory transfer features automate the process of moving product from one physical location to another to better serve customers in different geographical areas. This also accommodates the ability for customers to place orders online and then pick-up in-store.

eCommerce Integration

Taking an omnichannel approach, wholesale retail businesses are also selling online through B2B portals, B2C websites powered by platforms such as Shopify, through marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon and through customer-specific portals. Whichever channels you work with, it is important that all information is synced and integrated in real-time across the business. This prevents inventory from being sold online that was just purchased from retail locations.

Sophisticated wholesale retail ERP software will also include other important tools for managing the business including landed cost tracking, secure credit card processing, mobile apps for sales reps and robust reporting. If your business decides to sell through new retail channels, make sure you dedicate the time to finding an industry-specific system. The distinction between POS software designed specifically for retail stores and POS ERP software designed for those that also sell wholesale is important, as although both may offer similar features, they are geared towards different markets.

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Preventing Out-Of-Stock Product Through Endless Aisle with ERP Software

Brick and click, e-Tailing, S-commerce…retail jargon is everywhere and just when you think you’ve mastered it all, a whole new group of head-scratching terms seems to pop up. As much as you may want to dismiss new lingo and focus on more important parts of your business, here’s why you should pay attention to them. A lot of insight and value is found in new jargon since they are a reflection of the changes and advancements of an ever-changing market.

Take ‘endless aisle’ for example. Also called extended aisle, it is a relatively new term that has quickly become a norm over the last couple of years not only in the retail space but with B2B Wholesale Distribution businesses as well, especially as businesses continue to develop omnichannel strategies. In it’s simplest form, endless aisle is used to describe the ability for customers to place orders for product either online or in-store, where that product is not physically present in the store and is not actually a part of that business’ stock of inventory. The idea is that the order is placed with one store and then fulfilled using inventory from one of that store’s suppliers.  This process is only possible through direct integration with external suppliers and using technology such as ERP software. As far as the end customer is concerned, they are purchasing product from the original store.

Let’s take a look at an example. A customer orders product either in-store or online for a pair of shoes from Store ABC. This customer then either pays online or in-store and the product is shipped directly to them. Behind the scenes, Store ABC lists shoes on its website and in catalogs and other advertising mediums, however, when it comes to inventory management and fulfilling orders, this is done by the actual shoe distributor.  When an order comes into Store ABC, this updates the company’s inventory and accounting software, which (through integration) updates the shoe distributor’s software that an order is ready to be picked, packed and shipped. When the shoe distributor receives a shipment of new shoes, once again through integration, this will update Store ABC that there is new product available.

This method of inventory management and fulfillment is actually very popular. Larger businesses such as Walmart will list items/SKUs on their website and advertise in-store, even if those products are not physically present at their stores or warehouses. When a customer orders an item that Walmart doesn’t physically house, the order automatically gets sent to the supplier/wholesale distributor. The wholesale distributor then drop ships to the customer meaning they will ship the product directly to the customer from their own inventory. The best part of this process is that the wholesale distributor is completely invisible to the customer so it appears that the business has an endless supply of products.

This also works with product catalogs. Store ABC can still advertise all of it’s wholesale distributors’ inventory in their online catalogs even if they don’t physically house those products themselves. Alternatively, Store ABC might have a computer/kiosk set up in-store that allows its customers to order directly from the supplier, but the products the customer sees are still branded as ABC.  The product will then be drop shipped directly to the customer from the supplier. Store ABC simply pays that supplier’s invoice for the agreed upon cost for those items and receives a profit in the amount of whatever margin was set for those items and based on the price the customer pays.

Benefits of Endless Aisle

Out-of-stock items (OOS) combined with overstocks and even returns cost businesses $1.75 trillion a year (and growing)!  $252.3 billion a year is the cost of mismanaged inventory in North America alone.  In fact, around 21% to 43% of shoppers will actually go to another store to buy the out-of-stock items so it’s no wonder that retailers are jumping on the endless aisle strategy. Some of the other benefits include:

Supports the Omnichannel Purchasing Experience – having all products available on all channels whether it’s in store, phone/email order or on your eCommerce store will avoid any disruptions to the flow of your customers’ omnichannel buying journey.

Eliminate Wait Times – rather than having the ‘endless aisle’ items that are not in the store’s location shipped to the store or put on backorder where the customer would have to wait for the product to arrive, the store can easily drop ship the items directly to the customer meaning customers won’t have to return to the store for pick-up and will not have to wait.

Avoid Overstocking- The endless aisle strategy prevents businesses from having too much stock which equals extra expense for businesses as it can lead to an excess in storage costs. Having too little stock equals lost income in the form of lost sales, while also damaging the customer’s confidence in your ability to supply the products you advertise. Extended aisles addresses both of these issues.

Increased Sales and New Customers –  Extended aisles allows you to have the freedom to offer a more diverse product catalog and you can leverage cross-selling tactics to offer recommended product.

Accommodating Endless Aisle Customers

Whether you’re the retailer/store placing orders with the supplier, or the supplier fulfilling these endless aisle orders/drop shipping, it’s crucial to implement the correct ERP software in place to automate processes.

As a retailer/eCommerce store:

It may seem that as a retailer in this situation you would not need a full wholesale software solution since you hold very little physical inventory. However, because you are dealing with multiple vendors, meaning your customer can order product from several vendors depending on the SKU, it is very important to keep track of what product is available, and what orders have been placed.

It’s best to find an ERP solution that will allow you to integrate with whatever software your wholesale distribution partners are using. ERP software allows for features such as  Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which enables retailers and suppliers (if they have EDI also) to seamlessly, accurately and instantly exchange information  such as purchase orders, invoices, advanced shipping information and more. It can even be used to transmit financial information and payment in electronic form (EFT).

When you submit an order to your wholesale business through EDI, your supplier will not need to key in the customers information manually – this will be done automatically reducing any errors on their side.

An ERP solution will also allow you to see what inventory is available for customers to purchase (even if it is an endless aisle strategy), and monitor the shipping of product to the customer that actually placed the order. With drop shipping, the wholesale distributor/supplier will do the actual shipping of the product to the end consumer, but it is your responsibility to send out order confirmations and shipment tracking information to your customers which can also be automated through the software.

As a supplier:

ERP software and EDI is a benefit for both the retailer and the supplier – as a supplier, you will automatically receive all the necessary information to fulfill the drop ship order for your customer’s customer.

Shipping- The retailer takes customer orders and shipment information, and transfers these via EDI. The ERP software is able to generate shipping labels with your customers logo/information on it and indicates the shipping information for that drop ship order. This is commonly found in the eCommerce arena, and specifically with Amazon. Although Amazon holds a lot of their own inventory they also generate drop shipping of product by other distributors and wholesalers.

Automating Picking and Packing – the ERP system generates a pick slip so that warehouse staff can begin picking items.  Functionality such as verification barcode scanning at the packing station or mobile barcode scanning during the pick process ensures that there are no human errors.  Once the item is packed, the system will generate and print any required paperwork and share information electronically between shipping carriers in order to generate a tracking number and cost information.

Invoicing and inventory updates –  Once the order is shipped and is dictated as such in the system, you can automatically post the invoice and email the invoice directly to your customer. The inventory count will also be updated to show your customers the latest product count available for the items you shipped.

Reorder management – is another big benefit with wholesale software and will help you to have the right amount of stock in place to fulfill your customers’ endless aisle orders. This functionality automatically assesses which SKUs or product you need to order and generates purchase orders for these items. A proper solution such as Blue Link’s wholesale software utilizes robust reporting capabilities to pull historical sales data based on product within a given timeframe. You can easily pull sales information from within Blue Link to view data for the number of units presently on hand for individual or multiple items, units on backorder, units on purchase order and average monthly units sold to better prepare for these endless aisle sales. You also have the ability to flag abnormal sales so it doesn’t impact the monthly average projection.

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Break-up with Spreadsheets for Accounting and Inventory Software

Small to medium size businesses are becoming more confident in their ability to compete against larger competitors thanks to new technology helping to level the playing field. Chatbots, machine learning, AI and voice command tools are providing opportunities for small businesses to reach more customers and improve processes without the need to hire highly qualified staff, and as technology continues to advance, these types of features are becoming available at a lower price tag. But, before small businesses can reap the benefits of more sophisticated technology, they must first look internally at their existing processes and systems to evaluate opportunities, and this means breaking up with their reliance on one of the most popular small business tools in the market today – spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets: Friend or Foe?

It’s no secret that businesses love spreadsheets – since 1985 when Microsoft released the first version of Excel, companies around the world have been relying on the tool to crunch numbers, analyze data and present business information. And, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s make one thing clear – Microsoft Excel is a great tool. Our staff uses it internally, many of our customers use it and as a Microsoft product it is simple to use, translates well across business departments and allows people within an organization to easily share and manipulate data. Therefore, this post is not making the case to stop using Excel, but rather it’s making the case to change the way your business uses Excel and to stop relying on it for certain tasks that are much better accomplished with more sophisticated technology such as accounting and inventory software.

As a company grows, it’s business needs will change. This is why many software solutions set limits on the number of users in terms of fit – not because the technology will fail past a certain number (although with introductory software this is often true), but because there are certain user and employee counts that require a fundamental change in business processes. The processes and structure of a 25 person company will be quite different from that of a 50 person company and a 150 person company – even if they all operate in the same industry.  As an organization grows and becomes more complex, relying on spreadsheets and basic accounting solutions will be inadequate. An increase in transactions, the addition of product lines and an expanding customer base make it difficult to manually track pertinent information via spreadsheet. With Excel, gathering, managing and manipulating data becomes unwieldy, time-consuming and prone to the smallest human error – which can lead to massive bottlenecks and significantly impact the decision-making process. Data entry errors and redundancies are hard to spot and hard to fix, and it prevents management from getting insight into company health in real-time. As a business begins to grow, its relationship with Excel turns from love to love/hate. Although spreadsheets were initially a great tool, they will slowly become a drain on resources and productivity.

A Better Way

Instead of using introductory software and spreadsheets, consider implementing all-in-one accounting and inventory software. Integrated solutions have come a long way from 20 years ago and many accounting and inventory packages focus on small-medium size businesses with affordable monthly subscription fees. The right software is built to last and grow with your business for years to come and optional components enable businesses to expand and add new features when the time is right. Robust accounting and inventory software does not integrate with existing systems and instead replaces introductory software as an all-in-one solution. Although this means companies can eliminate spreadsheets as a software tool for managing information, such as customer contact details and inventory, spreadsheets are still a powerful tool when used in conjunction with sophisticated accounting and inventory software. Instead of manually rekeying information between systems, users can live-link data from the system database with Excel.  This allows users to open existing reports in Excel and simply refresh the data to get real-time insight into business health. When used as a supplement to accounting and inventory software and not as a full data management system, Excel still provides many useful benefits. However, many accounting and inventory systems will also provide optional reporting tools that are more powerful and sophisticated than Excel to easily generate reports and share with the appropriate stakeholders. Examples include Crystal Reports, SQL Reports and Power BI.

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