Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

CRM and Accounting ERP Software – To Integrate or Not to Integrate?

It’s no question that the better a wholesale distribution business can manage the relationships with its customers and suppliers, the more successful it will become. Customer relationship management software or CRM for short is a pivotal tool to retain existing customers and expand the business by gaining insight into buying behavior. However, we often speak with wholesale distribution businesses who ask to integrate their existing CRM or new CRM software they’re looking to purchase with our accounting ERP software.  While in some cases it would make sense to do so, many are unaware of already built-in CRM functionality in the accounting ERP software itself.

The culprit here is the confusion in terminology. When people think of accounting ERP software, they often associate it with general business management software that has features such as inventory management, sales order/purchase order management, accounting etc…they don’t think of it as a CRM system. However, depending on the ERP vendor, the existing CRM capabilities already built into the system may be sufficient enough for your contact management requirements without having to integrate a costly, standalone CRM software.

For example, Blue Link’s contact management and CRM functionality is part of an integrated all-in-one accounting ERP software. On top of inventory management, order entry, invoicing, warehouse management, the CRM functionality in the system comes into play when managing multiple customer and supplier communications. If you think about why you want to implement a more robust system like accounting ERP software, it’s usually because you don’t want to deal with multiple systems. By choosing an accounting ERP system with CRM capabilities you eliminate the need for a secondary standalone system used primarily to manage your sales processes.

Let’s take a look at the type of CRM functionality that can be found in Blue Link’s accounting ERP Software.

Tracking Customer and Vendor Information

One of the key benefits of utilizing CRM functionality in accounting ERP software is that all data is stored in a centralized location. You can store unlimited contacts with an unlimited number of companies and quickly look up customer and vendor information by company code, company name, phone number, etc. as well as the functionality below.

Set meeting dates
Manage archived emails
Log communication such as sales notes
Track contact information

Names
Shipping addresses
Order history
Phone numbers and email addresses

Having all this information in one system can also benefit many departments other than Sales and Marketing such as accounting who needs to access billing addresses of a customer. Not to mention the increase in security – you are lessening the risks of confidential contact information getting into the wrong hands by storing the data in one, centralized, secure system.

Drive Sales

One of the key purposes of CRM functionality is to make more sales. It’s important that the CRM functionality in the accounting ERP software enables the Sales and Marketing department to track leads as and prospects as they move through the businesses’ sales cycle to ensure that there are no missed opportunities. Some functionality to aid in this are:

Set statuses, next action dates, appointments and more
Enter comprehensive notes and track detailed communication
Acts as a sales dashboard for follow-ups
Manage marketing lists
Look at quotes (more on this below), sales orders and purchase orders relating to a contact

Again, having this information in a centralized system can come in handy – for example, when a salesperson is away on a vacation, other team members can review any notes left on customers and prospects and pick up where the salesperson left off.

Manage Quotes and Automate Emails

Blue Link’s CRM functionality allows for easy creation of quotes, sales orders, purchase orders and links them to customer and vendor accounts.  You can look at open and expired quotes and each salesperson can convert the quotes to orders with one click.

Proper accounting ERP software will allow you to send customized reports and automatic email notifications to customers. This includes quotes and invoices, as well as tracking information if they order a product that needs to be shipped. You also have control to send statements which lists any outstanding balances and/or order history during specific time intervals – weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.

Customer/Vendor Reporting

It’s important to add here that you can also report on any customer/vendor information from within the system. For example, a sale-by-customer-by-product report allows you to drill into your customers purchasing habits and patterns. Another useful report is profit-by-customer/product report which allows for a detailed view of which customers are buying the most and which product is selling the most to make actionable, smart decisions on your business.

CRM Software Integration – What’s Involved?

If your wholesale distribution business decides that additional/more robust CRM functionality is required, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to integrating outside CRM systems with accounting ERP software.

Consulting time – it’s important to set a budget for consulting time to work with the accounting ERP software vendor to determine exactly what you want to do in the 3rd party CRM software and how you want it to interact with the ERP software.

Be prepared with an outline of objectives that you’re hoping to achieve with the CRM system to discuss with the accounting ERP software vendor team. A good vendor will let you know what processes will work in the system and offer alternative approaches to those that do not work.

Integration work – most vendors also work with an integration partner which requires an additional cost.
Timeframe – be sure to speak with the accounting ERP software vendor to get an idea of the amount of time involved in the integration for both pre and post-implementation activities.

If you’re still having trouble deciding whether to integrate your CRM with an ERP system or to implement an all-in-one accounting ERP software which includes CRM functionality, check out the below demo video for a detailed view of the built-in CRM functionality in Blue Link’s accounting ERP software. If you have any questions, contact us for a free consultation!

 

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Inventory & Warehouse Management Terminology [CHEAT SHEET]

Every industry has its own collection of acronyms and slang which can be confusing when dealing with customers, vendors and partners if you are not up-to-speed on their meanings. This can frequently be made more difficult if businesses in the industry use the terminology differently. For wholesale distribution businesses, there are a lot of different terms used to describe various processes for inventory and warehouse management. If you aren’t familiar with the terminology associated with the tools and resources available in the industry, trying to determine the best way for managing inventory in your warehouse, designing efficient processes around picking, packing and shipping and creating good relationships with customers can be difficult. This cheat sheet explains several common acronyms and specific language used throughout the supply chain for easy reference.
You can download a PDF copy of the cheat sheet here.
Shipping Terminology

The way in which you ship product from your warehouse to your customers will depend on several different factors. These include the type of shipment (and if the inventory requires any extra care or special treatment – for example, cold storage), the size of the product and shipment, the ship-to location, and the speed of which the shipment needs to be delivered. Depending on your answers to the above, different strategies for shipping product will apply. Below we examine some of the options.

Freight Forwarder

A freight forwarder is a company responsible for coordinating the shipment of goods from one location to another, using a single or multiple carriers via air, rail, marine or highway. Freight forwarding companies are experts in the efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods and take responsibility for maintaining the condition of goods and making sure that product arrives to the right place on time. Freight forwarders will also negotiate with other members of the supply chain including customs, and are also responsible for managing the risk associated with moving product.

LTL Freight (Less Than Truckload)

An LTL shipment or LTL freight is the transportation of relatively small freight in which the entire shipment from one company is not large enough to take up an entire truck.  In this situation, the wholesale distributor shipping the product only pays for the space in the truck that gets filled by that shipment, leaving the rest of the truck empty to be filled by other shipments from other companies. LTL shipments are a great option for smaller shipments with long lead times as the shipments typically take longer to arrive at the destination due the combination of multiple shipments onboard and therefore frequent stops.

FTL Freight (Full Truckload)

A FTL shipment or FTL freight is a shipment that takes up an entire truck by itself. This is usually reserved for shipping multiple pallets of product or larger items. Since the truck is filled with only shipments from your wholesale distribution business, the time it takes to get the product to the customer may be quicker, and the product stays on the truck the entire time which reduces the risk of damage. Even if you aren’t able to fill an entire truck with your shipment, this option is beneficial for high-risk shipments.

JIT (Just In Time)

Just In Time is a strategy that applies to a variety of industries and processes. For wholesale distributors, it often applies to the receipt of inventory or raw materials from suppliers just in time to align with production schedules, orders and shipping requirements. This strategy aims to increase efficiencies and decrease the costs associated with holding inventory. JIT only works if the entire supply chain is aligned to ensure product is ordered, shipped and received exactly when needed.

Terminology Around Costs

Landed Costs

Landed costs are the costs incurred with getting product from your supplier/manufacturer into your warehouse, not including the cost of the good itself. At a minimum, landed costs typically include insurance costs, storage costs, purchasing agency commissions, regulatory fees, freight costs and imports costs. It is important to track and accurately associate landed costs to inventory items to track total costs and to determine product pricing.

Rate Shopping

Rate shopping is the process of comparing costs across multiple solutions. For wholesale distributors, rate shopping can apply to comparing the costs of using different carriers when shipping product. Some wholesale distribution software providers will include functionality that allows customers to easily and quickly compare shipping costs for multiple carries on any given package or shipment in order to determine the best shipping method. Even if your business has a good relationship with existing carriers, you may be able to benefit from significant cost savings by comparing rates.

Warehouse Terminology

Virtual Warehouse

A virtual warehouse allows inventory to be physically housed anywhere – including at a distribution center, temporary facility, within a specific section of an existing warehouse etc. – and then tracked and accounted for in wholesale distribution software as its own “warehouse” location. There are a variety of benefits to setting up a virtual warehouse, including the ability to separately track and manage inventory (such as B2C eCommerce inventory) from within the same physical location as inventory for wholesale (B2B) customers.

3PL Logistics

A 3PL logistics company is a 3rd party business that allows you to outsource specific elements of inventory management and the supply chain. Depending on the 3PL in question, they may provide different services including management of all distribution activities, warehousing, fulfillment and shipping services. Working with a 3PL is beneficial to smaller businesses with limited resources and makes it easy to sell product to customers in other geographic locations by working with a 3PL in that region.

Cross-Docking

Cross-docking is a strategy for warehouse management where employees unload inventory/product from an incoming shipment during the receipt process, and then load that material directly onto outbound trucks for shipment to customers – with little to no storage in between. Cross-docking is designed for specific warehouse operations, such as when dealing with time-sensitive and perishable inventory as it allows product to get to your customers faster.

Reverse Logistics/Reverse Supply Chain

Reverse logistics is essentially managing returns and relates to the movement of goods from the customer to the vendor. This process also applies to sending unsold product back to the manufacturer to be taken apart, sorted, reassembled or recycled. Utilizing efficient reverse logistics strategies minimizes inventory holding costs and improves the RMA process.

RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization)

RMA or Return Merchandise Authorization is the process for dealing with customer returns. The right wholesale distribution software will allow you to track and manage the RMA process, providing better insight into what products are being returned the most and why, and if the return process is easy and intuitive for customers (without making it so easy that it encourages returns). Efficient RMA processes improve customer satisfaction and retention by helping businesses pay more attention to faulty goods and repairs of merchandise.

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Distribution ERP Software – Not Just for Inventory Management [Accounting and Financial Reporting]

“We have QuickBooks for accounting. I am just looking to manage inventory”

We sometimes hear this answer when we ask some wholesale distribution businesses if they are looking for an all-in-one distribution ERP software. Oftentimes, those assigned with the task to find better inventory software for the company are looking for just that – standalone inventory software to use on top of other systems already in place such as QuickBooks. However, through our initial discussions, we often unearth bigger issues facing the business by having multiple disconnected systems such as siloed financial and inventory data and manual data entry resulting in numerous errors. To us, the answer is simple. Have one system to manage all accounting and inventory needs to eliminate these issues. Here’s why it’s important to keep an open-mind about replacing QuickBooks or other introductory software with all-in-one distribution ERP software.
First, let’s take a look at the inventory management side of things. Inventory management software helps to evaluate and maintain the health of your inventory. It’s about gaining insight into what you have on stock at your warehouse(s), exact locations of product, track where that inventory was shipped and who it was shipped to. However, without accounting and financial reporting functionality, it is very difficult to optimize that inventory and find opportunities to increase profit. The marriage between the two allows you to not only verify your inventory asset value to what you have in your warehouse but you can easily pull real-time, accurate financial reports based on the inventory data stored in the system to make smart decisions for your business. Doing this with two separate systems only leaves your business at risk for manual error and missed opportunities.
You might ask, “why not integrate QuickBooks or introductory software with a more robust distribution ERP software?” While there are valid reasons to integrate two systems such as eCommerce integration or electronic document management software integration, think of it this way. Would you pay twice or work twice as hard to achieve the same results? Why have multiple disconnected systems if all inventory and accounting processes can be managed from one system? Organizations utilizing both accounting as well as inventory data from one central system gain more accurate insight to improve operational processes and drive profits.

Here are a few examples of how inventory and accounting functionality works hand-in-hand in distribution ERP software:

Tracking Profit  

No matter what you sell, every business needs to verify inventory with accounting data to avoid financial discrepancies. Having inventory and accounting information stored within one system allows for accurate financial statements, a clear idea of cash flow, liquidity, forecasting and thus, improved organizational efficiency. Using executive summary dashboards, you have insight into all aspects of your wholesale distribution business instantly on a daily basis. Information such as views of sales outstanding in A/R, available credit, and A/R aging summary. You can have an additional dashboard that you can switch back and forth from that covers inventory information such as sales by product, inventory quantities, top selling products, etc. all from one system.

Ditch Tracking Invoices Manually

Although invoicing processes differ depending on how your business is set up, the idea is to automate invoicing as much as possible to avoid data redundancy and manual errors.  For example, by having both inventory and accounting functionality, once an employee ships an order and marks it in the ERP system as such, you can have a workflow that automatically posts the associated invoice and changes the status in the system. Since inventory and accounting are tracked from one system, employees are able to see add billing or banking details and minimize time spent on administration and redundant tasks.
“Blue link does all of it, it takes orders in, manages the inventory, processes the orders, does the invoicing, accounts recievable, accounts payable… it takes care of everything!”

-Melanie Beckett, SAGA Sciences
Employee Access

It’s vital that the right employees have access to both accounting and inventory information to aid in their daily tasks. Do the same QuickBooks users have access to inventory, sales and warehouse information or just accounting information that lives within QuickBooks? How easily can inventory and accounting reports be shared with others? Look for distribution ERP software that allows for user and group permissions so that the right employees gain better insight into both accounting and inventory information without having to log in to multiple systems.

Accurate Financial Reporting

Ensuring the accuracy of your financial reports such as monthly statements, tax returns, reports pulled for audits, etc., is vital for business growth. The value of your inventory is part of your business assets and is important that these numbers are the same as what’s in your physical warehouse and what’s recorded in your books. With all-in-one distribution software, robust reporting functionality allows for real-time visibility into the status of accounts, orders, inventory and sales all from one system.

Blue Link ERP – All-in-one Functionality

At Blue Link, we like to see our customers get the most out of our software and we advise against integrating with other introductory accounting software such as QuickBooks– it’s simply unnecessary. Blue Link’s distribution ERP is designed for wholesalers and distributors who are frustrated with multiple disconnected technologies to manage their business. The all-in-one system operates as a centralized hub for important data for departments such as accounting, inventory, CRM, warehouse, shipping, etc. This means you don’t need to switch back and forth through multiple systems to have access to real-time, accurate accounting and financial information to make smart inventory decisions.

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Setting Up Your Warehouse with Wholesale Distribution Software

As a wholesale distribution business, warehouse management is a key component to your operations. The way in which your warehouse is organized, your processes for receiving, picking, packing and shipping and the people you hire to manage your warehouse will all have an impact on operations and your bottom line. It’s, therefore, a good idea to regularly review your existing processes to determine if there are any opportunities for automation and ways to increase efficiencies. It is also beneficial to speak with your wholesale distribution software provider to learn about the tools and resources they have available. If you’ve never done a full warehouse review in the past, or it’s time for another one, consider the following.

Back to the drawing board – literally.

The first step in warehouse management is designing your actual warehouse layout and determining the picking style that makes the most sense for your business. When it comes to picking styles, most wholesale distributors will implement either individual/discrete picking or batch/consolidated picking. How you plan to pick product will affect where to store inventory. Consider aisle layout and bin and shelf locations. How many levels of shelving will you have? What type of equipment is necessary to manage product (such as forklifts)? Do you sell large and heavy pieces of inventory? Do you sell full pallets and cases or mostly by individual pieces? Or some combination of both? Do you require cold-storage? Your answers to the above questions will help determine where certain types of inventory should be kept in your warehouse and therefore the best design for your needs. Even if you operate only one physical warehouse location, consider setting up virtual warehouse locations within the building to help separate specific types of stock such as eCommerce inventory for online sales.

If you don’t currently have wholesale distribution software in place to manage your warehouse, it is time to start searching for a solution that can meet your needs. Manual processes are both time-consuming and error-prone. If you do already work with a software vendor, be sure to reach out and take advantage of their industry knowledge and expertise. This is why it’s important to find a vendor geared towards wholesale distribution companies.

Take advantage of specific tools.

Once again, it’s important to speak with your existing wholesale distribution software vendor to learn about existing tools available in their software. It is difficult to understand the entire capabilities of a software solution during the implementation process and therefore you may be unaware of features available in your current system. Many wholesale distribution software vendors will provide optional components that can be turned on at any time as your business grows and evolves. Wireless barcode scanning functionality is one specific tool that can significantly decrease the picking, packing and shipping process to help manage an increase in order volume without the need to hire additional staff. Wireless picking enables your employees to scan and pick products as they navigate through your warehouse floor, eliminating multiple steps and reducing pick times by helping to identify picking errors at the source. This is especially useful for companies who sell similar products. Barcode scanning also speeds up receiving times and eliminate errors. You can also implement barcode scanning at packing stations to double check inventory against orders before shipping product to customers. This leads to another determination – how many packing stations to set-up and where to locate them.

Wholesale distribution software with robust reporting capabilities allows your business to continually monitor warehouse operations and inventory movement to find new opportunities and address any bottlenecks in your current processes. Insight into fast and slow moving items and sales by channel, for example, help to dictate where to keep inventory in your warehouse and aid in setting re-order levels.

Determine the types of people you want to hire to work in your warehouse.

Although it might seem less expensive to hire employees with little experience to work in your warehouse, consider the extra costs associated with training these employees. This is why implementing the right software tools such as barcode scanning, allows your warehouse operations to become more process-driven meaning you don’t need to rely on certain individuals having all the knowledge associated with product locations and procedures. This also makes it easier to hire and train additional staff during peak seasons to deal with an increase in transaction volume. Depending on how you assign roles in the warehouse, certain people may be required for picking product while others are assigned to packing and shipping. If you have a smaller number of daily orders, one person performing multiple tasks may be the better option.

Remember, just because you set-up your warehouse operations a specific way in the beginning, does not mean that you can’t change them down the road as your business evolves and grows. Continuously monitoring existing processes, working with your software vendor to find new opportunities and taking advantage of specific tools helps to ensure your warehouse is operating as efficiently as possible at any given time.

Want to learn more about wholesale distribution software? Download Blue Link’s Software Buying Guide.

 

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LSPediA Adds Blue Link as OEM Partner for Verification Router Service

Vaughan, Ontario, April 26, 2019 –Blue Link Associates, a leading all-in-one pharmaceutical and medical inventory and accounting ERP software provider, today announced it has signed an agreement with LSPediA to become an authorized partner to market and resell LSPediA’s drug tracking and verification software.

Under the agreement, LSPediA will provide Verifier®, its turnkey, sub-second Verification Router Service, along with training, implementation, and support. Blue Link ERP will promote and market the LSPediA VRS software to pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution companies using Blue Link’s enterprise resource planning software.
“The Pharmaceutical supply chain is facing big changes — and we are committed to being at the forefront of solving the challenges,” stated Riya Cao, CEO of LSPediA. “We are thrilled to license our VRS technology to Blue Link Associates. The development of wider ecosystem and the adoption of advanced technologies are important factors in establishing the interoperable electronic system by 2023.  Blue Link ERP can count on LSPediA to provide the VRS foundation upon which greater interoperability is built.”
Blue Link ERP’s extensive work in the pharmaceutical industry includes launching an impressive Controlled Substance Ordering System as a component of its enterprise solution, certified in accordance with the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Code. Blue Link also has taken a leading role in implementing systems to comply with requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, including this new partnership with LSPediA.
 “At Blue Link, we are committed to providing the best solutions to meet our clients’ needs today and in the future. We are thrilled to partner with leading VRS solution, LSPediA, who also shares in this common goal and confident that this partnership will further strengthen and expand our offering to help our clients meet DSCSA standards and ultimately make the US drug market safer for patients. We look forward to working with the fantastic team of  VRS experts at LSPedia”

– Mark Canes, Blue Link Associates
About Blue Link Associates

Headquartered in Vaughan, Ontario, Blue Link ERP develops and provides accounting and inventory management enterprise resource planning software designed to meet the needs of small to medium-sized businesses in the wholesale and distribution industry. Founded in 1992, Blue Link ERP continues to be a leader in the pharmaceutical ERP space with innovative solutions and dedicated in-house experts to meet the changing needs of the industry.

About LSPediA – Life Sciences Solutions

Headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, LSPediA is a leading supply chain software provider for the pharmaceutical industry. LSPediA’s serialization solution RxChain enables pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers to manage data, distribute products, and track inventory at the serialized level. LSPediA’s Verification Router Service enables authorized trading partners to authenticate serialized products, verify returns, and deter counterfeiting.

To learn more, please call (877) 258-5465, email learnmore@BlueLinkERP.com or visit www.BlueLinkERP.com

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5 Things To Evaluate During Accounting Inventory Software Vendor Demos [Downloadable Scorecard]

Blue Link ERP – Software Vendor Demo ScorecardYou’ve spent the time speaking with accounting inventory software vendors about your specific business requirements. You’ve asked the right questions and have a solid understanding of what each vendor has to offer and how the different systems will address your needs. You’ve narrowed down the list to 3-4 vendors based on functionality, company fit, costs, customer satisfaction, and support. Now, it’s time to evaluate the much-anticipated software demos. While seeing the software in action is simply the final piece of clarification to what you already know about a system, it is still a great opportunity to see how user-friendly the interface is and how the flow from screen to screen works to accomplish your daily tasks.

Before we get into what to evaluate during demos, here are some important steps to take BEFORE the accounting inventory software demos to ensure you will get the most out of this time.

Before the Demo

Some accounting inventory software vendors offer pre-recorded demo videos on their website or may have a dedicated YouTube channel for showcasing product demos, as well as testimonials, tips and tricks and more. Watching these are a great way to gain an understanding of the software before the actual live demo session. This way, you won’t get overwhelmed or distracted with all the bells and whistles if you know what to expect and evaluate the software on your own to come up with any questions to ask during the demo.

It’s also important to go into any product demos with a list of must-haves as well as nice-to-have items when it comes to the system itself…think personalization, UI, navigation. These should however not outweigh the functionality that you already know the system can handle.  Keep in mind that the demo is designed to educate you on how the system can solve your problems and not necessarily a training session on how to use the software.

Involving the right stakeholders before the demo stage is also a huge time-saver. When you pull in additional team members into a demo without them having any prior knowledge of what the accounting inventory software is or can do, it is a confusing situation where information previously discussed with the vendor will often have to be repeated to get other team members up to speed. This is not ideal as most vendors will only allow an hour or so for demos.

Bonus tip: Have a scorecard ready so you can easily rank vendor strengths and weaknesses in a logical manner. After looking at a couple of demos, it will be hard to remember specific details of each presentation to have a fair comparison. Creating a consolidated scorecard for rating vendors will help you record impressions when it’s freshest in your mind. Download Blue Link’s free scorecard below!

DOWNLOAD DEMO SCORECARD

During the Demo

There are a lot of moving pieces to an accounting inventory software demo so go in with a plan of action. Here are a few areas to evaluate.

Basic Introduction 

Most accounting inventory software vendors will give you a system overview to begin the demo – this is important. It will give you an idea of the ease-of-use and what you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. Can you see yourself using the system regularly? How easy is it to understand and to navigate? Can you see your employees in different departments using the system?

User Interface

Does the UI have dashboard views?
Are the screens and information organized in a logical manner?

Navigation – Menu and Toolbars

Are the menus and toolbars easily accessible on every screen and interactive?
Can you favorite frequently used items on the menu?
Can you get from point A to point B and even point C without frustration?
What functions are in the toolbar? Is there a help button? Is there a settings button?

User Preferences

How flexible is the system?
Can you customize the homepage?
Can you choose a different color scheme for managing multiple companies to help differentiate between each business?
Group and user permissions– can specific screens be blocked for certain employees and how is this managed in the system?

Search Functions

Are wildcard searches available?
What specific information can you search for?
Is there universal search functionality?

Shortcuts/Bells and Whistles 

Are there any time-saving shortcuts in the system?
What makes this specific system stand out from the rest?

Does it have industry-specific functionality or a dedicated help site?
Are you able to drill down into data fields?

 

 

Personalization

Ensure that the accounting inventory software vendor is not teaching you how to use the product during the demo, but rather using the time to showcase how the software addresses your unique needs and concerns discussed in previous meetings. It’s important to see how the vendor and software can solve a specific issue identified during previous discovery calls, and the demo will show you what these solutions look like in the actual software. A good vendor will customize the demo keeping in mind the specific types of inventory you’re selling, different units of measure, unique processes, how you price items, etc., and it should not be an overly scripted generic presentation.

Reporting

No matter the industry you’re in, reporting should be at the top of your functionality must-haves. Although you’re already familiar with what the vendor has to offer, it’s insightful to see how specific reports related to your needs are generated in the system. How much effort does it take to create these reports? What specific tools are used to create the reports? Did the vendor customize these reports to relate to what you need?

Some vendors will have many useful reporting tools to leverage in order to customize and edit reports, as well as pre-built reports such as:

Sales by date
Profit by customer/product report
Vendor/customer payment history report
Sale by customer by product report
Inventory slow moving items
Top inventory sales by unit report

Screens

A good vendor will not show you the entire system, but rather specific screens and functionality that are relevant to YOU and YOUR business. This is a good sign that they have honed in on your needs and have a full understanding of what you require.

Some of these screens may include:

Sale Order Entry
Purchase Order Entry
AP/AR screens
Bank Management screen
CRM
Inventory Overview and Set-up screens
Landed Cost
Warehouse Transfer
Lot Tracking

Take note of how these screens look and function. Are you able to access the main menu, toolbars and search bars from every screen? Does the flow from one screen to the other make sense? Take the sales order entry screen for example.  What information is available? Can you see customer information, order type, order details, order status, shipping addresses, credit health etc. easily?

Extras are always nice! Think future growth

It’s important that the software vendor not only focuses on the functionality and components you need now but what you will require in the future as the business grows. A good vendor will also show you options to expand your business and improve the way you do things such as eCommerce integration, different tools for your sales teams such as sales apps or how to become a paperless office with electronic document management and further automate your workflows.

 
Check out Blue Link’s pre-recorded demo videos and contact us to learn more!

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The 3 Phases of Change Management – Implementing Distribution Software

Did you know that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals? And that this is largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support? Statistically speaking, the odds are not great when it comes to implementing organizational change. And with failure rates that high, you may be asking yourself if the change is even worth it. But when it comes to implementing new distribution software at your wholesale distribution business, the answer is yes. With the right software vendor and technology partner and by taking the time to better understand how to implement change projects, the risk is virtually eliminated.  Not to mention that the benefits you will gain from replacing introductory or legacy systems are worth it. With the right distribution software, your business will be able to save money and reduce manual processes such as entering orders from eCommerce sites into your accounting software, increase cash flow with the help of automated accounts receivable routines, save time and increase customer satisfaction with better inventory management enabling you to know what product is available in real-time, and decrease shipping errors as a result of implementing warehouse management features.

No organizational change project will ever be perfect, and every implementation will have its fair share of hiccups. However, with the help of Blue Link’s team of experts and with the right preparation and understanding of organizational change, your business will be equipped to succeed with any change project – including software implementation.

This blog post examines one important aspect of change management – the 3 phases of change. For more information on change management strategies and tips, download Blue Link’s Change Management Guide.

An excerpt from Blue Link’s Change Management Guide:

Phase One: Endings
“When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell
All changes begin with an ending. This means letting go of something stable, known and dependable. This stage includes the decision to replace an existing software solution. Even if employees can intellectually accept a change, and understand the need to replace existing systems, they may still emotionally resist it. It is important to recognize that change can trigger an emotional response and that grief is a natural component to change. Employees need adequate time to process the decision to move to a more robust solution and time to grieve existing solutions and moving away from the status quo.

Phase Two: Neutral Zone/Transitions

During phase two is where the actual search and implementation process occurs. A transition is an internal, process-based situation that allows employees to come to terms with a change and a new situation. During this time, employees may exhibit specific reactions to change based on their personalities and it may require extra support from leaders. Having a plan in place, adhering to timelines, involving employees throughout the process are all critical for getting employees onboard with the change.

Phase Three: Beginnings

The beginnings phase is all about providing employees with a clear vision of what the future looks like based on the changes made. A good leadership team will constantly be thinking of beginnings and change, but if employees are not involved in the process early enough, this change will stall. Looking towards new opportunities, outlining a specific strategy and discussing improvements to the company based on new ERP system features and technology will keep employees engaged and motivate them to make the most from the change.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distributor Requirements Starting November 27, 2019

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

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

Verification of Saleable Returns

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

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

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

Current Solutions for Saleable Returns (Verification Router Service)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandfathered Product

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

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

Product Identification at the “Smallest Saleable Unit”

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

Is the Industry Ready?

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

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

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

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

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

 

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert –Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com
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Here are some pics from the show!

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Protect Your Business with an IT Security Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why integrate Blue Link with your eCommerce retail site?

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

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

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

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

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

Extensive Reporting

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

Blue Link reporting services include:

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

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

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