Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Insights from an ERP Software Sales Rep to Help You Find the Right Solution

As an expert in technology software sales for over 5 years, I’ve learnt a lot from my interactions with potential clients. Although sales will be quite similar across all industries, when it comes to selling enterprise software solutions there are some specific nuances unique to the market. My particular area of expertise is in the sale of ERP software (inventory and accounting software) specifically for wholesale and distribution businesses. This type of enterprise system is designed to manage your entire operation – from sales, purchasing, invoicing and customer service, to inventory management, warehouse management, eCommerce, tradeshows, retail and more. The opportunities ERP software provides a business makes the purchase and sales process extremely important – you want to make sure you find a solution that can meet your specific needs, help your business grow for years to come, and ultimately you want to build a partnership with the software vendor to be able to continue to work together after the initial sale. As with any capital investment, purchasing software requires a large dedication of time, human resources and money to find the right solution, and requires that your business…

Evaluate internal processes to determine existing requirements and gaps in functionality
Evaluate available solutions in the market appropriate for your business
Determine a budget and set aside the necessary funds for the project
Find a solution and begin the implementation process – including migrating data from existing systems into the new one
Train staff on using the new solution and update existing processes as required

Ultimately, your experience during the sales process will influence all other aspects of the search and implementation – which means you want to feel comfortable with not only the software solution but also the people behind the software with whom you deal with right from the beginning. Below I’ve shared some thoughts on what I’ve learnt as a salesperson and how they can help your business prepare for the software search and find the right solution.

(1) There is a still a lot of stigma around salespeople.

This one should come as no surprise, and I can’t deny being guilty of the same. Even though I spend most of my time interacting with potential customers in a sales role, I am still hesitant when speaking with salespeople in other industries, however, it’s time to break the stigma. First and foremost, there are definitely still untrustworthy and bad salespeople whose only purpose is to meet quotas and get a commission. However, there are also good salespeople, specifically in the software industry, who are dedicated to helping your business find the right solution and are invested in your company growth and success.  To help break the stigma around interacting with salespeople, and to help you distinguish between the good and the bad, I’ve identified some common issues below.

Information Sharing

With so many privacy breaches it can seem counterintuitive to share information with a stranger, however, information is the key to finding the right solution when it comes to searching for software. Keep in mind that when you speak with a software vendor, they will know next to nothing about your business, operations, challenges and goals – aside from what they can find online. The more information you can provide throughout the sales process, the better each vendor will be able to evaluate whether or not their solution is the right fit. A good salesperson is someone who takes the time to try and understand your specific business needs and processes so that they can make a proper recommendation.  Be wary of salespeople only interested in talking about their product and bashing the competition as it can indicate that they are more interested in making the sale than truly becoming a business partner. Ideally, the right software vendor will become a trusted business partner that you can continue to work with well into the future. Gathering information on specific processes, company size, the number of warehouse locations, geographic customer base, etc. can help both parties determine whether the solution is the right fit, and allow the vendor to provide a realistic idea of costs.

Sales Processes

You’re a wholesale distribution company in the business of buying and selling inventory and have a process for selling to customers. Perhaps you like to assign each customer with an internal account rep, perhaps you have a B2B website that allows customers to purchase product, check open orders, review sales history etc., perhaps you have sales reps in the field who work with your customers face-to-face – whatever the situation, you have a sales process that you’ve developed over time after carefully examining the market and understanding how customers wish to purchase your product. This exact same mindset applies to the software vendors you speak with as they will have also developed a specific sales process that works for them. At Blue Link, we have fine-tuned our sales process over the past 10 years to come up with a specific set of steps that help potential customers find the best system for their needs, in the most efficient way possible – whether or not they choose Blue Link’s software. Therefore, it is important that you’re open to following the vendor’s suggested sales process to ensure success.  Just because the process was different with another software vendor, does not mean that it will be the best approach.
Learn About Blue Link’s Sales Process

Dedicate the Time

If you’re not willing to dedicate the time and resources to the software search and following the vendors’ process, it will be very difficult for you to make a truly accurate and informed decision on what system will be the best fit.  Implementing ERP software does not happen overnight. If you’re interested in a solution that you can get up and running within a week, then you need to focus on introductory software, which may not have all the functionality you need to grow and manage all business processes. If you’re interested in an all-in-one solution to help grow your business, you need to dedicate the time to find such a solution. If you can’t dedicate 10 minutes on the phone to speak with vendors, how are you ever going to find and implement a new solution?

(2) Brand doesn’t matter.  

Aside from the top consumer and business brands around the world, brand names and recognition are quite subjective. You may not have heard of every possible software vendor in the market, but that does not mean that they don’t have a superior product and it doesn’t mean that they won’t be a good fit for your business. Consider the flip side – it is likely that the vendor you’re working with has never heard of your brand or company name either, but does that mean that you don’t operate a reputable business? Instead of only focusing on the big brand name vendors in the market, take the time to do your research on available products for your industry. Frequently, smaller software vendors will have more functionality for specific industry niches – versus larger organizations that cater to a variety of industries with more general functionality. One of the best ways to get a feel for how well a system works is to talk to that vendor’s existing customers. Ask for references, and where possible try and actually visit an existing customer to see the system in action.

(3) Research is important.

For today’s buyers, self-education is the norm. Consumers (and salespeople) do not want to spend their time talking about a system’s features when this type of information is readily available online in the form of videos, customer testimonials, website content, blog posts and more. Finding a solution that is going to be a good fit for your business involves doing some research on your own. Spend the time perusing through vendor websites, watch their YouTube videos and read the testimonials and case studies they have put together. Then, when you do speak with someone on the phone or in person, spend the time discussing information that can’t be easily found online. You wouldn’t decide to buy a new office space without first doing research on the neighbourhood, surrounding businesses, demographics etc. ERP software is another such capital investment that requires research. Keep in mind that the information gathering step is a two-way street – just like you want to learn about whether or not the vendor has functionality that can meet your needs, the vendor also wants to learn about your business processes to ensure there is a fit. After you speak with potential vendors, spend the time reviewing the information they have shared to better understand their offering.

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Manual Reports vs. Blue Link’s Report Automation Tools [Report Scheduling]

Ever have that dream where you are running but getting nowhere? Frustrating, isn’t it? Well, this feeling can be the same when it comes to business reporting. Trying to “run” fast by manually extracting the latest data, plugging it into countless spreadsheets, and then making sure the right people have access to the information, only to repeat the process all over again on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis can be exhausting and unproductive.  This is what work nightmares are made of.

The simple truth is that no one likes to repeat the same manual tasks over and over again. Manual reporting not only takes up valuable resources but hinders management and growth efforts in wholesale distribution businesses as it is often riddled with human error and inaccurate data. Many wholesale distribution businesses are aware that they need to improve their reporting but are unsure how to go about it – mainly because their current software may not be robust enough for advanced reporting or they are unaware of the report automation tools available in their software. This is why reporting functionality and reporting automation are still one of the most frequently requested features by the companies searching for software that we speak with.

But, before we get into the many benefits of report automation tools, a disclaimer is necessary. Reports of any kind are only as good as the data that is used to generate them. This is not to be taken lightly. Wholesale distribution businesses that have multiple systems with disconnected data and/or outdated data are in danger of looking at the wrong information to make business decisions as the accuracy of your reporting will be greatly skewed.

It’s important to implement the right all-in-one business management software which allows businesses to store essential data across all channels in one central hub. This in itself has numerous benefits such as only having to update information once,  thus reducing the chance of human error and providing users access to real-time, accurate insights into business performance. Most importantly, it provides the framework for you to be able to create, automate and schedule the delivery of accurate and meaningful reports.

One-Off Reports vs. Report Automation

There is a significant difference between creating one-off reports that have to be replicated during set intervals whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, and using automated report tools. Instead of manually re-keying information and re-generating reports from the beginning every time, automated reporting allows users to create a report once, and then have that report update based on specific criteria, or as a result of refreshing the data or changing timeframes. One example of this type of report is through live-linked data between your business management system and reporting tool of choice (for example Excel or Power BI). In this situation, once a report is created using live-linked data, the user simply has to open the existing report, hit refresh or plug in a date range to get real-time insight into specific information. No more typos, no more cut and paste errors and no more skewed results!

Report Scheduling with Blue Link Business Management Software 

With Blue Link’s Automated Routines Manager, (or “A.R.M” for short) you are able to create and schedule rules-based, automated reports using real-time information stored within the system. The tool’s functionality goes one step farther, allowing users to render the report into PDFs or Excel format, create an email and send it to all appropriate stakeholders based on certain criteria in the system or set timeframes.  Our customers are particularly fond of this feature because of the time savings it provides just by eliminating manual re-keying.

Here are a few examples of what you can do with report automation and report scheduling:

Weekly Sales Reports

Your sales team can use information such as sales-by-date to determine the progress of sales on a weekly basis or any other set interval.  This allows teams to know, in real time, about changes in sales volume throughout the week and allows them to monitor any other KPIs to make strategic decisions around reordering inventory, or creating targeted campaigns to leverage dates with higher or lower order volumes. Using Blue Link’s A.R.M, you can automatically schedule the creation and delivery of the report to the appropriate people at a set time, let’s say every Monday at 9:00 AM. You no longer have to manually create or share this report.

Automated Order Management

With A.R.M you can automatically email order confirmations, invoices and overdue notices and alerts to customers or internal teams without any need for human intervention. For example, when your customers place an order,  you can set a rule-based action to send those customers a confirmation once the order is shipped and marked as such in the system. The invoice is then automatically posted, changing the status in the system and emailing the invoice directly to the customer.

You no longer have to manually send each customer individual invoices or have awkward conversations around overdue payments as these are now automatically emailed to the customer. How much time would this type of automation save your business? Think about what other tasks employees will be able to accomplish with that free time.
A year later using A.R.M and our phones ring less, we have less emails to respond to, less complaints to address, we have decreased staff, increased productivity, and reduced errors. Because of this we have saved time, money and overall our staff are much happier, and so are our clients. Thank you Blue Link!

– April Tobin, CSR & Warehouse Lead
Warehouse Workflow Management

With Blue Link’s A.R.M functionality, you can send orders from all your sales channels directly to the warehouse to be picked, packed, and shipped if they meet certain pre-determined criteria. For example, you can create a rules-based automation workflow to send orders to the warehouse if the status of that order is “payment received”. The system will generate pick slips so that the warehouse staff can begin picking items. You no longer have to manually print out orders, allowing information to be distributed efficiently and consistently to the relevant warehouse staff in order to get orders out the door faster and without errors.

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Blue Link ERP Wins Tech Company of the Year Award Presented by Tech Connex

Provider of inventory and accounting ERP software recognized as leader in technology industry

VAUGHAN, Ontario— Blue Link Associates is proud to announce that it has been named the winner of the Technology Company of the Year Award presented by Tech Connex in association with the Markham Board of Trade’s 28th Annual Business Excellence Awards.

The annual award presented by Tech Connex celebrates the Technology Company that has demonstrated leadership, success and outstanding quality service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The Tech Connex Technology Leadership Awards are highly competitive, and nominations include businesses from one of North America’s fastest growing technology hubs. To qualify for the Technology Company of the Year Award, nominees must be able to demonstrate innovation and leadership in the technology sector, company and market growth, community involvement, other technology achievements and recognition and a unique offering that benefits the technology ecosystem. Nominations for the Technology Leadership Awards are solicited from the Markham Board of Trade, members of Tech Connex and the surrounding technology community. Other award categories recognized at the annual event include Business Employer of Excellence, Entrepreneurship, Global Business Excellence, High Quality and Service and Innovation. Finalists are judged by a committee of community leaders and awards are presented at an annual gala in Markham.

Blue Link ERP has been helping wholesale and distribution businesses grow and automate processes for the past two decades with its proprietary inventory and accounting ERP software. As a leader in technology innovation, this past year has seen Blue Link continue to build out its’ pharmaceutical specific functionality, becoming the first every ERP with CSOS functionality certified by the DEA. In addition, Blue Link ERP has been able to come up with innovative solutions by working with and mentoring college students to develop custom programming for a mobile app and through integration with partner systems such as the electronic document management solution, DocuWare.

“We are very honored to be named Technology Company of the Year,” says Mark Canes, President and CEO of Blue Link. “This award represents the hard work and dedication of all Blue Link employees, not only to developing quality software and continuously providing innovative solutions but also to excellent customer service. We would not be where we are today without the help of our amazing team and the great relationships we build with our customers”.

In addition to being named Technology Company of the Year, Blue Link ERP has received a variety of other awards and recognition in the technology industry over the years. 2018 marked the release of Blue Link’s latest software version, V14, which includes advanced dashboard views, a customizable homepage and enhanced global navigation. This release comes as a direct result of customer feedback, and research and design from Blue Link’s internal management and development team. Blue Link has also been recognized as a top software and technology provider in the food and beverage industry for 5 years in a row by Food Logistics, and members of the Blue Link team are regularly recognized as being thought leaders in the industry with various awards from Explore WMS and ERP Focus for written content. When Blue Link is not busy developing software, the company actively engages in supporting those in need in the Vaughan, Toronto and global community through various charity initiatives.

About Tech Connex: Tech Connex is the only member-directed industry association in the GTA entirely focused on the cost-effective growth of technology businesses and their people through the sharing of best practices, business insights and bright ideas. For more information visit https://techconnex.ca/.

About Blue Link Associates: Located in Ontario, Canada, Blue Link ERP 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, warehouse management, contact management and advanced reporting. In addition, Blue Link includes various optional components such as point of sale, lot tracking, landed cost tracking, barcode scanning and eCommerce integration with sites such as Shopify and Amazon. Learn about why more and more businesses are choosing Blue Link as their trusted technology partner.

 

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What You Missed at the 2018 HDA Traceability Seminar: Important DSCSA Guidance

Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed in this blog are based on the author’s best understanding of the updates from HDA’s 2018 Traceability Seminar and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of the industry in whole. 

Blue Link was honored to once again sponsor and attend this year’s Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2018 Traceability Seminar this past October in Washington, D.C. As with the previous year, the show was a mecca for over 500 key players in the pharmaceutical world including pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, 3PLs, and service providers – all of whom were looking to gain a better understanding of various industry compliance and regulatory updates.

For Blue Link, the show is an important one to attend to ensure that the continuous development of our all-in-one pharmaceutical software is in-line with the changes, updates, and improvements happening in the industry, especially with DSCSA guidance, in order to provide a relevant and long-term solution to our clients. We thank those who stopped by our table to learn more about our software – we enjoyed meeting you!

If you missed the show, we’ve got you covered. Take a look below for our recap of critical industry updates.

Key Takeaways:

Results of 2018 Manufacturer Readiness Survey 

For the third year, the HDA Research Foundation conducted its annual “Manufacturer Serialization Readiness Survey” aimed to provide insight into the readiness of pharmaceutical manufacturers and repackagers to meet the product serialization requirements defined in the DSCSA. It also provides insight on when distributors can expect to begin receiving serialized product and associated data. The survey was taken by 57 manufacturers and 9 repackagers many of which are the top players in the industry. Here are the key findings:

71% indicated that wholesale distributors are currently receiving serialized products. 5% indicated distributors will start receiving serialized product after Nov. 27, 2018 (DSCSA deadline)
Only 61% of manufacturers are ready to serialize 100% branded products before November 27, 2018
Only 48% of manufacturers are ready to serialize 100% generic products branded products before November 27, 2018
88% of manufacturers asked, plan to aggregate units to case between 2018 and 2023
Only 40% of suppliers plan to start sending EPCIS data by Nov. 27, 2019 (22% do not know when they will start sending data)

It was made clear that there will be no more deferring of the DSCSA serialization requirements that require both manufacturers and repackagers to provide product serialization by Nov. 27, 2018.

2019 Saleable Returns Requirement

Effective November 27, 2019, distributors are required to verify if a product being returned can be re-sold. In order to do this, they must verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, for each sealed homogeneous case of such product or, if such product is not in a sealed homogeneous case, verify the product identifier, including the standardized numerical identifier, on each package.

58.8 million units a year are processed as saleable returns for the US Pharmaceutical Industry

94% of returns are saleable

Currently, there are two preferred options proposed for verification of saleable returns

The manufacturer sends product unit identifiers to the respective distributor for verification
Verification Router Service (VRS) where a distributor query is routed to appropriate manufacturer database

It is expected that there will be multiple Verification Router Services and processes used that will need to communicate with each other
There is a GS1 Standard in development for Verification Requests

DSCSA Guidance and Updates 

Attendees were also informed that the below DSCSA guidance related resources were updated by the FDA and are now available. We urge you to read through them as they cover important information.

Identifying Trading Partners Under the DSCSA

Key takeaways include detailed definitions of the various pharmaceutical trading partners, licensure and reporting requirements for distributors and 3PLs and how to identify trading partners.

Product Identifier Requirements Under the DSCSA
Product Identifiers Under the DSCSA

This draft guidance is provided to help manufacturers and repackagers understand the requirements to affix or imprint a product identifier on a product and homogenous case they produce. It discusses what products are subject, barcoding requirements, and various Q&A’s.

Definitions of Suspect Product and Illegitimate Product for Verification Obligations

This is a must-read for all involved in the pharmaceutical supply chain as it provides very specific definitions of “suspect product” and “illegitimate product” and offers an interpretation of the various terms used to determine if a product is “suspicious” or “illegitimate”.

Standardization of Data and Documentation Practices for Product Tracing

A key takeaway of this document is that “Wholesale distributors, dispensers, and repackagers generally must not accept ownership of a product unless the previous owner provides the transaction information, transaction history and transaction statement prior to or at the time of the transaction”.

Waivers, Exceptions, and Exemptions from the Requirements of Section 582 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

This guidance is provided to help the pharmaceutical industry with the process to request a waiver or exception of a product they feel cannot comply or should not have to comply with the product identification requirements set out by the DSCSA.

2018 Barcode Assessment

This past May, the Big 3 Distributors scanned over 37,000 barcodes at the unit level which revealed 3 times the improvement over the 2017 assessment. However, there are still a few issues to be addressed:

21% of the industry has adopted the use of 2D barcodes containing the 4 data elements required by DSCSA on packages and 15% on homogeneous cases
There will be no more FDA extensions for affixing 2D barcodes on units
Placement of barcodes on packages and cases is still an issue:

Barcodes are too close to each other
Not enough white space around barcodes
Placing labels with barcodes too close to the edge on cases
Percentage of Serial Numbers in the 2D barcodes lower than the other elements (only about three-quarters have serialization element)

There is also a high percentage of expiration dates that are not being included in human readable info, even if they are embedded in 2D barcodes.

GS1 Standards

The use of GS1 Standard of EPCIS 1.2 has been adopted by the US pharmaceutical industry for DSCSA interoperability. GS1 US also released the following whitepaper which offers an overview of the progress of 2D barcodes on unit products: 2018 Update: Implementation of DSCSA Serialization Requirements. GS1 is also offering conformance testing for US Trading Partners.

Blue Link’s All-In-One Pharmaceutical Software

As a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor, it is tricky, to say the least, to keep up with these changing rules and deadlines. It is our objective at Blue Link to ensure our solution remains relevant as these changes take place. As we have always done, we will continue to monitor the industry and update our system to meet the changing needs of the pharmaceutical industry. Our current pharmaceutical functionality includes:

Lot Tracking (Traceability)
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Landed Cost Tracking
Secure Online Order Portal
Serialization
Order Entry and Invoicing
Revision Control
Inventory Control
AR/AP, GL, Bank Management etc.
National Drug Code (NDC) Number Tracking
Contact Management / CRM
Suspicious Order Monitoring (SOM)
Transaction History Management
Controlled Substance Ordering System (CSOS)

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The True (and Scary) Costs of a Food Recall

Lost sales, a disruption to operations, reputation damage…the true costs of a food recall are quite scary for any food distribution business. Not only do you have to worry about contaminated food products, but food sensitivities and dietary restrictions make it more important than ever for manufacturers, distributors and retailers to properly manage, track and label products to help consumers make informed and safe decisions. Customers need to be able to trust that your business is taking all precautionary measures to prevent a food recall from happening.  However, even if you take the proper steps to prevent a recall, your business is still at risk of buying and selling contaminated or mislabelled product from your suppliers. You might not be able to entirely prevent a food recall, but you can implement proper food traceability software to reduce the negative impacts given the worst case scenario. Proper food traceability software tracks inventory across all sales channels and throughout the entire supply chain. Although these types of systems are not cheap, the time and cost savings your business will find from managing a recall when you have a proper solution in place, far outweigh the actual system costs. Below we explore the true costs associated with a product recall.

Direct & Obvious Costs

The systems and processes in place at food facilities will significantly impact the management of a food recall, but in general, the following direct costs will apply across the board no matter the size or operations of a business.

The costs associated with the disruption of managing normal day-to-day tasks as a result of a product recall
The costs associated with alerting the appropriate stakeholders, partners, regulatory agencies and customers of the recall
The costs of managing the communication and logistics required to physically remove the affected product from the supply chain
The cost of investigating the source of the recall and future prevention – including working with partners and suppliers to identify issues and causes, examining inhouse processes and equipment, and reviewing existing recall prevention plans

Penalties & Fines from Regulatory Bodies

Whether you operate in Canada, the US or other parts of the world, there are certain regulatory bodies that exist to help prevent and control product recalls. These organizations have strict laws and guidelines for the safe management of food product and require that businesses adhere to certain industry standards to reduce the chances of a food recall. Failure to comply with regulations and a recall event itself may lead your business to pay hefty fines and dedicate countless hours working through an audit and compliance process, putting specific measures in place to reduce the chances of future issues. Depending on the severity of the incident, US FSMA laws and USDA regulations may inflict specific penalties such as:

Issuing advisory letters
Initiating legal action including seizure of property or sanctions
Mandating a recall of all product at risk
Suspending a facilities operation

Consumer & Supplier Suits

According to numbers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, there were a total of 456 food recalls in the US in 2017, 218 of which were due to allergenic ingredients not being properly labelled. With more than one recall a day, the costs to the industry and individual businesses is high. If your business is involved in the distribution and sale of  the contaminated food product, you’re at risk of a lawsuit. The costs associated with legal action include attorney fees, court costs, settlement fees and loss of productivity as you deal with the ramifications outside of your normal responsibilities. Depending on the severity of the case, you may also be required to pay out damages to those consumers affected. Aside from the costs associated with fighting lawsuits and litigation, the negative impact these actions will have on your business reputation might be impossible to overcome.

Lost Sales

In the event of a recall, manufacturers must stop production and suppliers and retailers must pull product from shelves resulting in lost sales from the contaminated product. However, as word of the recall reaches the ears of consumers, it can change their purchasing habits and trust in your brand. The way in which you deal with a product recall can dictate whether or not consumers decide to continue to purchase your other product lines as well.

Insurance Costs

Recall insurance is designed to protect assets if a recall does occur, however, as with any insurance policy different plans will cover different costs. It’s important to determine what is covered under your plan and how a recall will affect your premiums. If you don’t have insurance, spend the time to learn about your options and make sure you determine ahead of time what is involved in working through a recall with your insurance provider.

Damage to Brand Reputation

Damage to your company’s brand reputation is the biggest factor in whether your business can survive a recall. Not only will a product recall lead your customers to stop the purchase of the product involved in the recall, but it can also lead them to not trust your other product lines as well. Brand reputation is your primary asset – it represents how you do business, your values, and who you are. The way in which you handle a recall and the processes you have in place to do so will indicate to customers whether or not you care about their well-being and safety. The ability to quickly manage a recall and the implementation of sophisticated food traceability software and food safety procedures will let customers know that you have put time and energy into preventing a recall and have the ability to quickly manage the recall process.

For more information about Blue Link’s food traceability software, watch the demo video below.

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How Unhappy Customers Can Benefit Your Wholesale Distribution Business

Unhappy customers are inevitable when it comes to your wholesale distribution business…think about how many times you have been one yourself. It’s bound to happen and it’s a natural reaction to take negative feedback to heart. However, before you go into defense mode and potentially make the issue worse, the old saying “when life hands you lemons….” goes a long way. Unhappy customers are one of the biggest tools you have in your arsenal, especially if you have a small business that is in the early stages of growth. The winning formula is to extract the truths behind negative comments and analyze them to seek out opportunities to improve your product and services.

Mining negative comments for these truths will show you the path you need to take to improve your business. Here’s a quick exercise. Think about a negative comment you’ve received about your business recently. How often does the same complaint arise? What truth is the customer trying to tell you, meaning what have they identified that is lacking from your product or services? Is this a reasonable or feasible request or suggestion? How are you going to solve the problem? And, have you addressed the comment and replied to the customer? While you can’t be everything to everyone, these questions are important to ask especially when you start to see commonalities in issues.

When it comes to wholesale distribution businesses, there are numerous common complaints that are often related to inventory and shipping. Things like shipping errors, packing the wrong products, running out of stock etc. are all too common. If your business is experiencing similar problems, it means that you are lacking the proper technology and processes. More and more businesses are investing in technology to counteract negative feedback. Implementing a true distribution inventory software can not only improve visibility of your inventory and finances and reduce errors, but it also helps to meet your ultimate goal – customer satisfaction.

Below are examples of common customer complaints for wholesale distribution businesses and ways to improve your business and retain your customers with the right distribution inventory software.

“I was shipped the wrong products”

When dealing with large volumes of inventory in your wholesale distribution business, it is extremely difficult to keep track of items without proper technology. It is best practice to use barcode scanners for verification – implementing the right distribution inventory software with verification scanning allows employees to cross-check against pick slips to ensure they are packing the correct items.  When products are barcoded and entered into the system, employees can quickly view information such as product code and description stored within the database. And, the inventory count is automatically updated in the system once an item is picked so pickers will have always have access to real-time inventory information.

More robust barcode scanning functionality such as mobile scanning is paired with hardware such as iPhones and iPods to further automate this process.  Handheld picking allows users to itemize all products to pick and details how employees should go through the warehouse from top to bottom in the fastest order according to bin and shelf locations.

Now, when there are instances of an item missing from a shipment, that also reflects poorly on your business. Blue Link distribution inventory software provides a pack-to-container screen which is an additional layer of accuracy, especially when there are multiple orders going to the same ship-to location. Users can review items picked against the sales order on the same screen, view how many packing boxes and containers are added to the shipment, which items are already packed and which items are missing.

“Shipping is too slow and too expensive”  

A true distribution inventory software will not only be able to integrate with common shipping carriers such as FedEx and UPS but will also offer integration with rate shopping applications to help your business get the best shipping rates, and in turn, save costs for your customers. Once an order is packed and boxed, you can enter the size and weight of the shipment into the system which will automatically populate a list of available carrier services and their rates and estimated delivery times.

Keep in mind that fast delivery times also rely on how fast the order is picked and packed in the warehouse – the sooner orders leave the facility, the faster they’ll reach your customers. For example, Blue Link distribution inventory software provides specific functionality for you to pick, pack and ship orders quickly and allows users to see requested ship dates to prioritize which orders get picked first. With the system’s warehouse shipping functionality, once an order has been picked and packed, you can easily select the order to ship, rate shop with common carriers, enter shipment details, print the documents required to accompany the order, and mark the order as shipped.

“The item I want is not in stock”

This is one of the most common issues for wholesale distribution businesses without proper software and leads to unhappy customers and losing business to your competitors. Throughout the day, your business is moving large volumes of inventory in and out of your warehouse(s) and product is being allocated to orders, so the chance for stock running out is high. When you do run out of product, your business misses out on making sales which directly impacts your revenue and bottom line. Implementing a true distribution inventory software provides functionality to manage out of stock items such as reorder management. With Blue Link, reordering stock is automated – multiple methods are in place to determine order levels and quantities with auto-creation of purchase orders to ensure you always have the right amount of product in stock at all times.

“Poor customer service”

As technology evolves at lightning speed and brands leverage data to create personalized, value-add experiences, your customers’ expectations of your interactions with them are sky high. According to Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of those surveyed agreed that customer service is one of the top deciding factors influencing brand choice and loyalty. And, 61% of respondents have switched brands due to poor customer service. Your business cannot afford to not know your customers.

Having a system in place to track customer satisfaction over time so you can consistently give better service is critical to business success and longevity. More and more businesses are investing in technology to manage customer experiences. When choosing a distribution inventory software, make sure it has all-in-one functionality that not only provides accounting, inventory and warehouse management but also has the functionality to manage your customers and track their interactions with your business which is referred to as customer relationship management (CRM).

Going back to the Microsoft report, 75% of the respondents expect customer service representatives to have visibility into previous interactions and purchases. Customers ranked a representative’s lack of knowledge about their issue and having to repeat themselves as the two most frustrating aspects of a poor service experience. Having CRM functionality allows businesses to track communications with customers, keep up-to-date with their information such as shipping addresses, email addresses, phone numbers etc., log all communications with them, automate email responses etc.

Follow-up with customers!

Most of the time, customers might leave unhappy, but do not say a word about it to you. This is dangerous to your business because they have the power to spread negative criticism about your company to their network and online. It is critical to follow-up with customers not just when they purchase from you but on a periodical basis to ensure they are still happy with your products and services. Not abandoning them after the sale will make them feel appreciated and have their voices heard. Think of your own experiences being a customer.

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Analyzing the Pain Points Behind Your Software Search

You might have heard the phrase, “the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem”, and it’s no surprise – this phrase was coined by Sandler Training, one of the most popular sales training methodologies in use by high-tech companies around the world. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the teachings of Sandler, this phrase is important as a salesperson and customer when searching for new enterprise software.  The philosophy encourages salespeople to dig a bit deeper when evaluating a company’s pain points and reasons for shopping to uncover more details about the search, however, as a business starting the software search, there are benefits to reflecting on the above as well. By spending the time determining a detailed list of reasons for your software search before you speak with vendors, you will be able to prioritize what matters most in deciding on a solution to help narrow down options. Below are a couple of pain points we often uncover during the sales process to help get you thinking.

Pain Point #1: Our existing software is outdated.

Although legacy software itself can be an issue in terms of system aesthetics, the real issues with an outdated solution go much farther than that. Legacy software implies a system built on old, outdated technology which itself leads to various other problems. Working with outdated technology (such as Windows XP) means your software is no longer compatible with modern solutions. This makes it impossible to update hardware, it restricts your company’s ability to integrate with other applications (such as eCommerce platforms) and it makes training new employees more difficult. What happens if you need to replace a computer? Or if one of your suppliers requires EDI? Legacy software restricts your ability to perform your day-to-day tasks and grow the business.  

Pain Point #2: Our existing software is no longer supported.

When your software is no longer supported, this leads to a myriad of other issues. Not only will you not be able to fix any issues or bugs in the software, but software that is no longer supported means it is also no longer getting updates. As a result, your business will miss out on any new features or technology advances. Trying to use software that is no longer supported can result in creating manual processes and workarounds when you do run into a bug issue –  exactly the types of processes that software is designed to eliminate. Software that is no longer supported also puts your business at risk of losing sensitive business data, not to mention the risk of the system crashing. If your software goes down without support during normal business hours, it can leave your employees stuck – or worse – it can leave your customers and suppliers in the dark.

Pain Point #3: Our system does not have any inventory management functionality.

Many introductory software systems do not include functionality for inventory management. Even if they do, it is for very small businesses with a low volume of SKUs and transactions. However, that’s the point. Introductory software is designed to be the first solution in use to get your business up and running. Then, once your business grows and order volume increases, you can begin to look at more advanced inventory management and accounting software. Without the right inventory management features, your business is stuck managing manual processes, entering data across multiple, standalone solutions and creating workarounds to manage orders. Lack of proper inventory management features can lead a business to hire additional staff just to keep track of inventory and organize the warehouse – a much more expensive solution than implementing the right software when you factor in salary costs, benefits, training and employee satisfaction. A lack of sophisticated inventory management software leaves your business at risk of selling product you don’t have, losing money associated with the holding costs of stocking products that you can’t sell, a high number of RMAs due to shipping errors and ultimately, unhappy customers.

Paint Point #4: Our software does not have good, customizable reporting features.

Reporting functionality is more than just making stakeholders and management happy. It’s getting an understanding of business health, threats and opportunities in real-time. Although most businesses can benefit from standard reports in terms of profit and loss statements, top-selling products etc. every business will have unique needs when it comes to reporting. Getting access to information in real-time allows your business to quickly and easily make decisions about purchasing, sales, pricing and more. Without the ability to get insight into the operations of your business, you could be leaving money on the table. Are you purchasing and holding inventory that is costing you money? Are your salespeople meeting their quotas? Which products do not have high enough margins to make it worth your while?

Pain Point #5: Our software is not integrated with our website.

Even if your business is set-up to sell online and you have a high-performing website, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Without proper integration to back-end inventory and accounting systems, time and resources are wasted manually entering data, checking for inventory and updating multiple, standalone systems. Complete, 2-way integration means information flows bi-directionally, and you only ever need to update and manage one database of information. Inventory and pricing are accurate across all sales channels and orders are managed from a single solution to help optimize the picking, packing and shipping process.

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Join Blue Link at HDA’s Traceability Seminar and Get Your Pharmaceutical Regulations Questions Answered!

Blue Link will be sponsoring and exhibiting at The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2018 Traceability Seminar for the second time on October 17th to the 19th in Washington, DC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with HDA, it is a national organization representing primary pharmaceutical distributors with a goal to “create and exchange industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain”. The HDA are the go-to industry resource to learn about pharmaceutical regulations and to keep up-to-date with changing industry compliance.

This year’s show will educate attendees about pharmaceutical regulations in terms of helping the entire supply chain achieve full implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). For many in the pharmaceutical business, whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor or even compliance personnel, there are numerous lingering questions regarding the requirements of the approaching 2023 DSCSA deadline – the show will share available resources, tools, and guidance on a range of DSCSA related topics such as:

Serialization and traceability requirements of each individual product unit to further preserve the safety and security of the healthcare supply chain
Discussions on data storage requirements and methods for traceability purposes
An update on the progress of the industry on meeting the DSCSA deadline including any updates and timeline changes
Implementation of GS1 Standards to enable products to efficiently and accurately move through the supply chain
Discussions on verification methods to ensure illegitimate product do not get into the supply chain to comply with the 2019 saleable returns requirement

The seminar will also feature a DSCSA update from Ilisa B. G. Bernstein, JD, PharmD, Deputy Director, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Get your questions answered face-to-face!

There will be a new addition to the seminar agenda this year – attendees will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in an interactive workshop session on the last day of the show. As an attendee, you will be able to discuss your unique DSCSA and other pharmaceutical regulations related challenges with others and work through some of the hurdles and plans for implementation for your business under the guidance of industry experts.

 

 

 

 

Visit Blue Link at Table #23 to learn about all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP

Blue Link’s all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP software caters to both medical and pharmaceutical distributors/wholesalers requiring advanced inventory management and traceability functionality. We are in the process of testing our Serialization functionality which will be available to Blue Link customers in November 2018. We take pride in our product and continuously improve industry specific functionality for our customers as changes occur in the industry.

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

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

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

 

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert -Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com

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Warehouse Organization Tips for Small Businesses

As a wholesale distribution business, inventory management is the backbone of your company. To be successful, you need to maintain inventory levels to meet demand, you need to be able to find, pick, pack and ship the right product to the right customer, and you need to provide excellent customer service and fast shipping times. However, inventory management is only one piece of the puzzle. A properly organized warehouse equipped with the right tools is the first step to efficient inventory management. This is especially important in today’s market when dealing with competitors like Amazon which have the resources to efficiently manage multiple, large distribution hubs with robotic technology, WMS systems and a plethora of staff. However, even with limited resources, small businesses can still optimize their warehouse space to provide the same efficiencies as larger businesses to get product out the door quickly and efficiently. In fact, small businesses are frequently able to modify processes to increase efficiencies a lot quicker than larger organizations. Below we have included some tips for warehouse organization for your small business.

Software. First and foremost, without the right inventory management software, your warehouse will never be as efficient as it could. Inventory management software will help automate the receipt, picking, packing and shipping of orders and allow your business to easily keep track of inventory in real-time. This eliminates the need for manual inventory checks when trying to find product for an order. With inventory and accounting ERP software, not only is inventory information available in real-time, but your company can also manage all accounting, sales, invoicing, purchasing and customer service processes as well. Inventory availability is visible while creating a sales order so that you never sell product you don’t have. If product is out of stock, the system will show you if it’s currently on back-order and if not, allow you to create a purchase order directly from the sales order.

Organization. A lot can be gained from proper warehouse organization. Whether you operate a small or large warehouse, easy access to products is key to picking more quickly and efficiently and getting orders out the door to customers faster.  Some tips for better warehouse organization include:

Store fast-selling, high-volume items closest to packing stations and organize items front to back based on sales volume and frequency.
Ensure the warehouse is clean and organized so that product is easy to find and always in the right spot.
Consider color-coding aisles and racks to easily find product and make sure to label all bin and shelf locations for better inventory management. Going one step farther, when dealing with multiple, similar products or products that come in different sizes, consider also implementing color schemes to help differentiate items.
Implement proper processes for the receipt and put-away of inventory items. Employees should be able to check your inventory management system for a real-time update on inventory availability – without having to waste time wandering the warehouse looking for product.

Picking. Each warehouse will have a different picking method depending on the size of the warehouse, the number of employees and the types of products being sold.  To help with warehouse organization, your business needs to find the right picking style. This decision will help dictate warehouse layout including bin and shelf locations and aisle set-up. The most common picking styles include:

Individual/discrete picking where one employee picks an entire order, one line at a time, before moving onto the next order.
Consolidated/batch picking where an employee picks the same SKU for multiple orders. Consolidated or batch picking can further be broken down into zone and wave picking.

Barcode Scanning. The use of barcode scanning technology can also aid in the picking, packing and shipping process. With wireless barcode scanning, warehouse staff scan items at the source during the pick process to quickly identify any pick errors and to verify the product on the order while picking and packing items into boxes. Mobile picking also helps to reduce travel time in the warehouse by directing employees to pick based on the most efficient path according to bin and shelf locations. Lastly, wireless picking enables the use of electronic pick slips which reduces paper consumption and the element of human error associated with manual, handwritten pick tickets. Even if you do not have mobile picking, barcode scanning in the form of verification scanning set-up at packing stations helps to double check against the order and reduce any packing errors.

Packing. Verification barcode scanning aids in the packing process and reduces the risk of sending customers the wrong product. Inventory management software with shipping functionality allows warehouse staff to pack-to-container to accurately track specific product. Integration with shipping carriers reduces the need to manually re-enter customer and tracking information and provides tools to rate shop to find the best shipping price.

Even if you don’t have a lot of resources, your small warehouse can still compete against larger distribution companies with the right systems and processes in place. A well-organized warehouse space with the right back-end inventory management and accounting software reduces the need to hire additional staff when order volume increases. Maintaining and managing one software solution is much cheaper than paying more salaries and having to manage employee training, benefits, etc.

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The Importance of Evaluating the People Behind ERP Software [Meet the Blue Link Team]

Investing in new ERP software and the plethora of make-it or break-it decisions that come with the search process is a huge undertaking for any wholesale distribution business, regardless of size or budget. With so much time and resources dedicated to the project, you want to ensure that the ERP software vendor you choose will be with your business for the long haul and not just a temporary fix that you’ll just have to replace in a couple of years. So, how can you tell if a vendor can handle the hurdles that come with time such as company growth,  organizational structure/employee changes and any changes in your industry?

Think of it this way. When you invest in a new software solution, you’re not just investing in the software itself…you’re investing in the people behind the software as well. The type of people they are and the synergy between them and your business will determine how long the software will last and how fast your company is able to grow. Are they innovative individuals motivated to continuously improve their product or do they want a quick sale? Are they willing to learn about your unique software needs or more interested in meeting a quota? While the software functionality itself should take top priority in the search, it’s also important to make note of the people you speak with at the company and how they interact with you and your team to determine a true fit.

Do they understand your growth?

During your ERP software search, many vendors will tell you that their systems are “scalable.” Most of the time, what they mean by this is that they provide upgrades every once in a while and are constantly improving their software, which is great. However, the best vendors will not only offer scalable software they will also take the time to really learn about your business and your pace of growth to offer guidance for how you can get the most out of the system for years to come.

Dedicated consultants in the organization will work with you long after the implementation of the system to determine if you and your team are utilizing all the available functionality to its full potential and doing so to facilitate and accommodate the growth of your business. Frequently these individuals will provide insight and advice on implementing advanced features such as eCommerce integration or integration with popular marketplaces like Amazon or eBay that will keep you ahead of the competition.

The ongoing,  bi-directional relationship you have with the consultants of your software vendor is extremely important and you should work together to set growth goals for your business and how the software can help achieve them.  The consultant’s attitude and willingness to help will make all the difference in creating a beneficial long-lasting partnership.

What are customers saying?

It may seem obvious but during the later stages of  ERP software vendor’s sales process, ask to speak with other customers that are in your industry or similar to your organizational structure. Speaking with a vendor’s clients and reading company reviews can be very telling. It gives you an idea of not only what to expect from the implementation process and the type of results that are achieved with the software, it also provides great insight into what the people behind the software are like – if they are easy to work with, do they provide valuable advice, are they accessible, do they genuinely care about your business and your success etc.

Customer Service and Tech Support 

Providing good customer service long after the sale is made is one of the most important things a software vendor can do to set themselves apart from the competition. Are there any follow-up check-ins after the sale? How long does it take for someone to get back to you on an issue? How efficiently are issues resolved and are you provided with enough information? Are the people you speak with pleasant or do they rush to get rid of you?
“I love working with the clients – that’s my favorite part. When I call the customers, I have not only a business relationship, but we take the time to ask each other how our weekends were, how we are, what’s new. So that’s important, not only on a business level but even just building that relationship with the customer and knowing that you’re not just an employee at Blue Link, you’re also someone that they can turn to for anything that they might need.”

– Joanne Fazari, Customer Service Manager
At Blue Link, we’re dedicated to improve business processes for our valued clients and pride ourselves in our comprehensive list of ERP Software Services that ensure our clients, and those of our channel partners, maximize the benefits delivered by the solutions we offer. We’re fortunate enough to have a tightly-knit team who all share in this vision and are passionate about helping our customers get the most value out of our software.

Hear from them yourself! Click below to learn more about some of Blue Link’s team and watch our new employee spotlight videos!

 

 

 

 

 

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