Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Blue Link ERP Launches Financial Report Writer

Financial statements – love them or hate them, they are a necessary component to business management and provide you with a quick snapshot of your financial business health. Without proper financial reporting tools, creating standard financial reports such as income statements (profit and loss statements), balance sheets and cash-flow statements can be a tedious and time-consuming process. However, with the right financial report writing tools, the process of creating, editing, updating and sharing financial reports turns into a quick and easy task – one that yields huge results in helping you see problem areas and opportunities in your business. To better help our customers with their financial reporting requirements, Blue Link ERP is excited to announce the launch of our Financial Report Writer! Provided as part of our accounting ERP solution, Blue Link’s Financial Report Writer is a cost effective tool built into Excel that allows our customers to link general ledger data from one or more Blue Link database to easily create financial reports. Before we tell you more about this awesome tool, let’s start from the beginning with some basic information on financial reports in general.

Reporting 101

There are 3 main financial reports important to every business – the income statement (also referred to as a Profit and Loss or P&L statement), balance sheet and cash-flow statement. These reports provide insight into business financial health, include important information necessary for auditing purposes, and provide shareholders and management a way to quickly see how the company is performing financially.

Income Statement

An income statement is a financial report that looks at your company’s revenues and expenses over a specific time period and then uses that information to determine if your company made a profit or loss. Your company can then compare the information from multiple income statements across a variety of timeframes. This gives you a better understanding of your company’s overall financial health, cyclical changes and patterns, and it helps aid in decision making. Understanding your company’s financials allows you to identify and prepare for any profit increase and losses.

Balance Sheet

Your company’s balance sheet provides insight into how much equity you have in your business. In other words, the balance sheet refers to the total company value for a specific time period after assets and liabilities have been reported. After calculating all your business assets (what you own) and all your business liabilities (what you owe), you are then able to determine your company’s total equity.

Cash-flow Statement

Similar to your income statement, your cash-flow statement includes information about revenues and expenses, but unlike the income statement, the cash-flow statement takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid. Simple calculations allow you to see whether or not your cash flow is positive. If you have more cash coming in than you do going out, you have a positive cash flow. The reverse scenario represents a negative cash flow – when you have more cash going out then you do coming in. A review of your cash flow statement allows your business to prepare and adjust operations to accommodate gaps, and to plan for any specific business projects, large purchases or other business decisions.

Blue Link’s Financial Report Writer

To help our customers easily create, edit and share financial statements, Blue Link ERP recently launched its own Financial Report Writer. As an Excel add-in, this tool is built into the Excel interface and links to live Blue Link general ledger data. This specific tool links to Blue Link general ledger data and facilitates segmenting reports by up to 4 distinct segments including GL account, GL department, job code and cost code. Since Blue Link ERP has the ability to link to other data sources in Excel, users of the Financial Report Writer tool are also able to combine ODBC-linked data from other sources or databases into the same workbook for more advanced reporting. The ability to live-link data turns Excel into a powerful reporting tool that allows businesses to report on various information – including sales, inventory, salespeople and more.
Learn more about Blue Link’s Financial Report Writer and accounting software functionality.

 

 

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Four ERP Sales Reports to Help You Make Better Business Decisions

ERP software gives you access to an endless amount of data about your business, but have you ever wondered if you’re using that information to its full potential? ERP Sales reports such as Sales by Month, Sales by Territory and a variety of others contain crucial company and customer data that could help you boost your business. But, if you aren’t generating and analyzing reports regularly, there’s no doubt that you’re missing out.

Some companies don’t realize the power they can unlock by using these reports, and others just aren’t aware of what types of reports are available. With the right ERP reporting and analytics, it’s easy to identify opportunities and make faster, smarter business decisions.

Blue Link ERP provides tightly integrated inventory management and accounting software tools, out-of-the-box report templates and the ability to generate immediate ERP sales reports tailored to your business. Check out these Blue Link ERP sales reports to see the type of data you have at your fingertips:

Sales by Month – Determine the progress of sales throughout the month, year or given time period. When you generate a sales-by-date report, you can also identify trends or patterns around high-sale or low-sale periods. Using those insights, you can plan targeted campaigns to leverage high peaks or improve low producing months using special discounts or promotions. These types of reports also help you make purchasing designs by identifying demand trends throughout the year.
Sales by Territory – Easily identify how each territory is performing and see the performance of individual reps. This report can help you identify which territories to focus on, where to add resources and other factors that influence sales in any given area.
Customer Ranking – Zero in on customers that are not buying the same quantities of products this year compared to previous years. By investigating increases or decreases in purchasing behavior by customer, you identify industry trends and see which customers need more support.
Weekly Top 10 Customers – Discover customer buying behavior and patterns and pinpoint which accounts customer service and sales teams should focus on. This report can also help you engage inactive customers or drive loyalty with top customers.

PDF Version: More Information on the Above Reports

Sales reports are only just one type of report important for business management. Financial reports such as Income Statements (Profit and Loss Statements) and Balances Sheets provide insight into the financial health of your business. Exception Reports provide information on anomalies and provide guidance as to which area of business processes to focus on. Inventory Reports such as Inventory Ranking Reports provide insight into profitability vs. holding costs for determining purchasing volumes and pricing. It is important to find a solution that allows your business the flexibility to report on all aspects of the business and includes features for customizing reports, reporting on live data and automatically generating and emailing reports to appropriate stakeholders.

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The Top 5 Warehouse Inventory Software Features Every Wholesale Distributor Needs

Do you buy and sell inventory? Do you operate at least one warehouse location? Are you picking, packing and shipping orders to customers every day? Do you purchase inventory from a variety of vendors? Do you take orders from customers over the phone, through email, via a sales team or through eCommerce or EDI? Congratulations! If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need proper warehouse inventory software. Every wholesale distribution business will require much of the same basic functionality for managing inventory, accounting, customer accounts and warehouse operations. And while each business will have its own unique processes, there are several features inherent in warehouse inventory software that can help your business automate processes, eliminate errors, reduce the time it takes to pick, pack and ship orders and keep your customers happy. Manually tracking inventory information in spreadsheets is prone to human error, time-consuming and frankly, frustrating. Although Excel can be a powerful tool, it is not appropriate for growing businesses who instead can benefit from proper warehouse inventory functionality. So, what does that include exactly? Let’s take a look at the top 5 warehouse inventory software features every wholesale distributor needs.

(1) Basic Inventory Control

Starting with the basics, inventory control functionality is an important part of warehouse operations. This includes the ability to set min and max levels, perform cycle counts, track serialized items, pick, pack and ship orders and manage bin and shelf locations. Proper inventory control means knowing what inventory you have available in your warehouse, in-transit, or on backorder at any given time. This allows your business to determine stock levels based on supply and demand and account for leads times and seasonal fluctuations. Holding too much or too little inventory can result in extra costs or lost customers, and without a properly organized warehouse, employees are left wasting time finding product when picking orders.

(2) Accounting

The best warehouse inventory software also includes functionality for accounting. Typically, this type of all-in-one solution is known as ERP software and includes functionality for inventory management, warehouse operations, AND accounting. This is because you can’t do one without the other. The right warehouse inventory system will also include tools for order entry and processing, purchasing, invoicing, tracking accounts receivables and payables and managing the financial processes of your wholesale distribution business. While you may have been able to manually track inventory information in a spreadsheet and then accounting information in a separate solution (like QuickBooks), as your business continues to grow and order volume increase, this will become unmanageable. A simple keying error or a delay in updating information across systems can all cost your business money – and can result in upset customers and employees.

(3) Barcode Scanning

Barcode scanning is an easy way to improve on existing warehouse and inventory management operations. Scanning product during the receipt and pack process reduces the amount of errors, decreases the time it takes to unload and ship product and helps to ensure you’re shipping the right items to the right customers. If you’re looking for more advanced barcode scanning, consider functionality for mobile handheld picking. This functionality works on mobile devices, allowing users to scan products at the source during the picking process.

(4) Reporting & Analytics

Reporting and analytics is a must-have for any business. Tracking information such as top inventory sales by unit, inventory slow moving items, sale by date, inventory movement exceptions, as well as financial reports such as profit and loss statements, allows your business to make informed decisions. The right information available at the right time aids in purchasing decisions, helps to negotiate rates with suppliers and customers and provides insight into opportunities for special promotions or discounts. Reporting provides a snapshot of company health and helps to identify patterns and trends.

(5) Lot Tracking

Lot tracking functionality (or traceability) is an important feature for companies that deal with perishable or potentially harmful products and includes tools for tracking expiration dates. Lot tracking allows your company to track the movement of inventory from supplier through to your customers. In the case of a recall, lot tracking and recall management functionality helps you quickly identify which products were affected and notify the appropriate customers. Lot tracking is also useful for businesses that need to track dye lots for specific color patterns.

Finding a software solution with the 5 features listed above is a great starting point for automating processes and growing your business. At a bare minimum, a solution should include basic tools for inventory and accounting. It is then important to find options that also include advanced functionality depending on your specific needs and industry requirements. The right software solution can be a huge asset for your business – if you take the time and dedicate the resources and money to finding a proper system.

 

 

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What is a SaaS ERP Software Implementation?

Software implementations cover a variety of activities performed by the vendor you’ve selected and its team of experts, internal employees and potential users, your management team, and occasionally any outside consulting or IT representatives. When you make the decision to implement a piece of software, you’re also agreeing to follow the implementation processes laid out by that vendor. This means it is important to ensure all employees are onboard for the change and available to help where needed, outside of their normal job responsibilities. The specific requirements of your team during the implementation process and that of the vendor are identified during initial implementation meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page, and to ensure that adequate resources have been provided to complete the implementation on time. With SaaS-based enterprise software, implementations do not happen overnight, but rather, over the course of several weeks and months depending on the vendor’s schedule and how complicated the implementation. For example, implementations usually take longer when there is a high number of employees that need to be trained, if there is more than one company implementing the software, when there are multiple warehouse locations, when you’re moving from a very old legacy piece of software, or when you’re moving data from multiple existing solutions and sources.

SaaS Applications

As previously discussed, SaaS applications (software-as-a-service) apply to software that is licensed on a subscription model where the software is hosted on the software provider’s servers (or servers leased by the software provider) and not on the customer’s own physical equipment. With SaaS ERP there are different means of accessing the software and data. One common method is through an internet browser where a user types in a URL and then enters login and password information to use software via a specific website. Another option is to connect to software via an RDP connection.  RDP stands for “remote desktop protocol” and is a Microsoft licensed technology that essentially allows a user at a remote computer to log into a server or a specific computer on a network over an internet connection.  Once logged in, the remote user has access to that server or computer as if they were sitting in front of it. In either case, there can be significant set-up required before your company starts using the software and even though not all businesses will require the same set-up, it is important to carefully review each implementation proposal from the different vendors to determine exactly what is included with the implementation, and what is expected by your team.

Initial SaaS Environment Set-Up

For Blue Link ERP, the initial environment set-up includes spinning up and provisioning a new server environment for each individual customer and installing Windows. This means each customer has access to their own server environment, complete with Blue Link’s ERP software and related technologies and systems (including Microsoft, SQL, Crystal Reports, etc.). Each environment is customized and provides resources applicable to the size and requirements of the company, in terms of storage space, number of dedicated servers, RAM, CPU and web services etc. The initial server set-up also includes adding users and setting user permissions – generating secure login details and providing access to applicable applications and services.

As a Microsoft Partner, Blue Link ERP provides additional Microsoft resources (such as Office 365 licenses) at a discounted rate to our customers, which is also included as part of the set-up for a customer’s server environment.

On-Going Server Maintenance

One of the main benefits of SaaS ERP solutions is that your team does not have to manage the physical hardware, infrastructure or software itself. Instead, your company pays a monthly fee to the software vendor, leaving them to manage the server, software data back-ups, IT maintenance and security, and allowing your team to focus on the core objectives of your business and getting more sales. Once a server has been configured for your company, and you’re actively using the software and hosting environment, there is still regular monitoring and maintenance that takes place behind the scenes. The cost to manage these tasks and additional licensing costs is built into any monthly fees and they commonly include:

Updating server and hardware infrastructure to the latest technology
Maintaining security of data and installation of appropriate firewalls etc.
Data back-ups
Microsoft and other software related updates
Managing users and user permission settings
Anti-Virus/Anti-Ransomware protection
Data security and vault protection

When searching for SaaS ERP, keep in mind the work involved as part of the implementation process and make sure you build this into your time frame. If there is a specific time of year that works best for your company to switch systems or a specific date you had in mind, remember to start discussions with potential software vendors well in advance as most vendors schedule implementations a couple of months in advance based on resource availability.

 

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Business Management Software – How Many Users Do You Need?

When it comes to purchasing business management software to run your wholesale distribution business, one important consideration is how many employees will need to use and have access to the information in the system. In other words, how many users do you need? This may seem like a simple question, but it’s complicated by the fact that different software vendors have different types of user settings, different features available to different types of users and different pricing structures for type of user. As a starting point, and before you begin discussions with vendors, speak with existing employees to determine how many people will need to use the software and for what purposes. This includes speaking with employees in the accounting department, people working in the warehouse, sales reps and management. Business management software includes functionality to manage all aspects of business operations – accounting, inventory management, warehouse operations, CRM, sales, purchasing, order entry and processing and more. If you’re looking to move to robust business management software from an introductory solution such as QuickBooks, it’s not enough to just count the number of existing users as there will be additional functionality available. Below we explore tips for determining the correct number of users.

User Requirements

Within any organization, there will be many different ways for people to interact with business management software. Some people may only require access to certain areas of the software, some may require access to tools that interact with the software but not the software itself (for example, warehouse employees using barcode scanning to pick, pack and ship orders) and some people require information from the system in the form of reports, but not actual access to the software itself. Because of this, it’s important to start by evaluating existing users in your organization, and then determining how people interact with existing systems and processes. In Blue Link ERP, there are different types of users depending on the nature of the job role.

Blue Link ERP User

A Blue Link ERP user is anyone who needs to interact with the core features of Blue Link ERP – accounting modules, inventory management tools, contact management and CRM, order entry and processing, etc. These types of users require access to one or multiple areas of the software and need to be able to read and/or write data in the system.

Barcode Scanning User

A barcode scanning user in Blue Link refers to the use of mobile handheld picking and barcode scanning functionality. These users correlate with the number of physical scanning devices in your warehouse. In Blue Link ERP’s case, this means the number of iOS devices used to scan barcodes equals the number of handheld picking users. For many wholesale distribution businesses, employees in the warehouse require scanning technology to receive, pick, pack and ship orders but do not need full access to back-end business management software. Usually, a warehouse manager is set-up as a Blue Link user or a generic login is created for all employees to use when interacting with the software in the warehouse. This includes interacting with Blue Link’s pack-to-container screen and sales order review screen. Even though some businesses share a generic login between employees, it is important to note that in doing this, you will not be able to know exactly who has done what in the system by reviewing the change logs.

Point-of-Sale User

A POS user in Blue Link refers to the use of point-of-sale check-out counter features. Similar to handheld picking users, these users are one in the same as the number of physical check-out counter stations set-up at your business. Each check-out counter POS set-up is counted as a POS user, even though multiple employees can log into the POS station using a unique employee identifier. This allows a business to have multiple full-time and part-time employees use the POS features, at a lower cost while still providing the ability to track the actions of individual employees in the system.

B2B Online Order Portal User

With Blue Link’s B2B online order portal functionality, a user refers to anyone requiring a login to the website. This includes both customers of your wholesale distribution business who want to login, place an order, check available inventory and view past orders and open invoices, and your sales reps who want to do this on behalf of your customers. However, even though these people will require a unique login and password, there is actually no cost for setting up users in the online order portal.

User Permission Levels

As mentioned previously, different business management software vendors will have different pricing per user, and some will have different “user levels”. For example, they may have admin users, super users, and light users. Other vendors, including Blue Link ERP, will have one main user type with the ability to set specific permission levels. This restricts employees from accessing specific areas of the software and provides options for read-only access.

User Pricing

Cloud-based solutions typically charge a monthly fee for access to the software based on number of users and functionality. For enterprise level business management software (true all-in-one ERP solutions) user fees can range between $80-$200/user/month. These types of systems have a higher per user fee than introductory solutions such as QuickBooks, as they provide functionality for all aspects of a business’ operations as opposed to just one core area of functionality.

 

 

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Replace QuickBooks with ERP and Eliminate Silos

When you think about silos in the workplace, you may think about them in reference to large, multi-national companies with 500 plus employees. Although silos can occur in this type of setting, they can also happen in smaller businesses with fewer people. And silos are not always a negative – they can be beneficial to companies in providing a clear structure, fostering expertise, and encouraging accountability and responsibility. They also provide focus around specific processes and departments, however, in the real-world silos often have the reverse effect.  Instead of benefiting the company as a whole, silos more frequently only benefit those directly in the individual silo. They can limit the understanding of the company’s vision across different departments, decrease collaboration between teams and hinder the flow of information – all of which can result in poor decision-making, low morale and a decrease in efficiency and profitability. For silos to work, they need to be transparent and information needs to flow in and out of each silo – allowing all employees to better understand and contribute to the goals, objectives and needs of each silo and the company as a whole. Even though silos can be a part of any company, growing businesses will frequently experience the negative effects of silos as they grow and add more customers, sales channels and employees. This is because the existing processes and systems in place to manage operations for a small company, are not suitable for growing organizations. As a starting point, growing businesses using introductory software such as QuickBooks will soon realize the limitations of the system as the need to manage more inventory, more sales channels and more customers arises. To manage growth and automate processes requires additional software functionality. In this situation, the decision to implement standalone software solutions that integrate with QuickBooks can increase the negative aspects of silos – different departments using different systems with no point of truth, with information not smoothly flowing in the organization. This is where replacing QuickBooks with ERP starts to make sense. An all-in-one ERP solution helps to coordinate and streamline operations across departments from one system. This means that people from different departments are able to access the information they need to do their job, with insight into what other departments are working on. Let’s explore this further.

Types of Silos

Silos can apply to many different aspects of a company’s operations including functional, departmental, channel and hierarchical.

Departmental Silos

Miscommunication across departments is a part of doing business. But the right technology and processes can limit miscommunication and help ensure everyone has the information available to them to complete their work – without making more work for people in other departments. Communication across departments is especially difficult when dealing with remote workers and offices – an issue that the right ERP solution helps to resolve. Let’s look at an example.

Pretend you have a sales team who is responsible for generating orders and creating new customer accounts. These people enter new accounts and information into a standalone CRM solution, meaning the information needs to be sent to the accounting department and re-entered into QuickBooks for billing purposes. This is where the first issue arises…if the salesperson needs to update this information, will they remember to also notify the accounting department? If not, there can be delays in invoicing, collections, and even shipping of goods. When your sales team and accounting department work in silos, it causes extra administrative work and can lead to errors.

With ERP software, all data lives in a central database. This means that when a salesperson updates contact information in the CRM, it is reflected on the accounting side when someone goes to invoice the customer. Both salespeople and accounting staff (with the right permission settings) have access to a complete view on customers and their respective sales history. In addition, users can add notes that are associated with specific accounts in case there are any additional things to be aware of. This helps improve communication between departments and ensures the information available is always up-to-date.

Channel Silos

As technology continues to present opportunities to serve customers in new ways, businesses are continuing to grow new sales channels. eCommerce channels are an integral part of both B2B and B2C businesses and many companies have separate departments for managing wholesale orders and online orders. Even though it’s important to have staff dedicated to managing each sales channel, it’s important that orders and inventory information are still managed through a central system. With QuickBooks, many companies manually track inventory using multiple spreadsheets which can be prone to human error and require extra time looking up information. ERP software allows you to automate processes to pull order information from all eCommerce channels, and integrate this information with wholesale orders so that employees can properly prioritize and fulfill orders from every customer and sales channel. This also applies for businesses with multiple warehouse locations. Proper ERP software allows you to track information across different locations – so that you always know what inventory is available and where it is.

Break Down Silos with ERP Software

It’s easy to see how the right software can help manage operational silos within an organization. Instead of different departments using different software, ERP centralizes the data so that the different business silos can work together to keep customers happy and manage growing operations. Trying to integrate multiple solutions such as QuickBooks, CRM software, inventory management tools, etc. creates more barriers between employees as they focus on the software and processes important to them, instead of the whole company. Businesses can unify organizational silos across company operations by utilizing one system to manage all business operations.

 

 

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Managing Service and Repair with Blue Link ERP

For many wholesale distribution businesses that sell equipment, industrial products, automotive inventory, HVAC products or similar items, they also have a service department for managing inventory service and repairs, regularly scheduled maintenance and for handling warranty items. This service and repair work is typically a small percentage of the company’s revenues and requires fewer resources and attention than the wholesale distribution side. Service technicians may perform work either in-house or on-site or offer both options depending on the product requiring work. Although in this situation, service and repair management is only a small aspect of the company’s operations, it is still important to have software functionality and processes for managing the work. Unlike true service-oriented businesses that need advanced functionality, wholesale distributors with service departments will benefit from an inventory and accounting ERP solution with built-in service and repair features such as Blue Link ERP.

Getting Started

Blue Link recommends that each piece of equipment or inventory that you sell that may require repair or service work, have a serial number. This will allow you to track which specific items presented issues that required work. If you don’t currently use serial numbers, this can be easily set-up in Blue Link.

To track service work within Blue Link ERP, you must configure the different types of service in the system as non-inventory items. Each company will have to define its own service-related items depending on the work. Examples include labour, service, warranty, maintenance, analysis, repair etc. Each non-inventory service item will then have to have an associated set of UOMs. These could include timeframes such as hours, half-day, full day etc. Each time an employee sets up a non-inventory item in the system, they need to define it as a service request item or labour item, or both. For example, the non-inventory item “Rotate Tires” might be a service item, whereas the non-inventory item “30 Minute Initial Analysis” may be both a service item and a labour item.

Creating a Service Order

To create a service order in Blue Link, first, you choose the customer that is requesting the work and then you select the type of work from your pre-determined list of service and labour items. You also have the option to add notes and a description of the problem for each order. Once you have inputted this information, you must choose what equipment or inventory item the service is for. Depending on the nature of your business, you can choose from a drop-down menu based on what equipment the customer in question has previously purchased, or you can set up a new piece of equipment if the customer never bought the original from you. If you need to set up a new piece of equipment, you’re not creating a new inventory item, but rather a separate piece of equipment strictly for tracking purposes.

As you begin to add repair parts to the service order, you must associate them with the service being performed. For example, you might associate the part “Oil” with the service work “Oil Change”. For warranty type work, the parts that get associated with the service category are usually included at zero cost to the customer.

Once you create a service order, you can generate a work order which gets sent to your service department/technicians. Then, once the service is complete, an invoice is created from the work order which has the exact same information as the work order, just displayed in a different format. Alternatively, Blue Link allows you to customize the invoice to hide certain aspects of the work order if you don’t want customers to know the cost of certain items

Although Blue Link is a great fit for wholesale distributors that operate a small service department, the software is not geared towards full service-oriented businesses. If you’re in the market for a new ERP solution, but are not sure which system will be best, consider the following questions as part of your software evaluation process.

What percentage of your business involves selling product compared to providing services?
Do you generate most of your revenue from the sale of goods or from providing service work?
Is service performed in-house or on-site?
How many service trucks and/or technicians do you have on the road?
How many service calls does each truck/technician make every day? Every week?
How do you manage and schedule your service technicians who are on the road?
Do you manage recurring service calls (i.e. yearly scheduled maintenance)?

To learn more about Blue Link ERP and whether our software is the right fit for your wholesale distribution business with service requirements, contact us.

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How to Measure the Success of New Accounting Inventory Software

Implementing accounting inventory software (also known as ERP) is an exciting opportunity for your company to grow sales, expand into new markets, automate processes, reduce manual work and ultimately increase your bottom line. But how do you measure the success of implementing a new system? It can be especially hard to quantify ROI when dealing with intangible benefits. However, by properly documenting processes before making the switch and by taking the time to speak with employees, you can easily measure the success of the project. The ability to share data with employees, management and the company owners that supports the implementation of new accounting inventory software will not only encourage employees to put in the time and effort to adopt the new system and associated process changes but will also allow the company to redirect resources to other aspects of the business for future growth, projects and improvements. Not to mention that showing positive ROI is sure to earn you brownie points with the boss.

Creating Benchmarks

Before you engage with potential software vendors, it is always best practise to put together a list of existing processes, your unique business requirements and existing feature requirements, potential opportunities for improvement and company growth and your plan for evaluating software vendors and making a final decision. As you begin to document existing processes, try to quantify the data wherever possible and consider the following:

How long does it take to create an order in the system? How many people are currently responsible for this job?
How many times a day/week/month do you have to deal with order errors?
Are you entering the same information into multiple systems? How long does this take? How many people are doing this?
Are you, or any of your staff, manually entering data from your existing system or other sources into spreadsheets on a regular basis?
How long does it take to pick an order? How many people do this?
How often do customers return product? What are the main reasons for these returns?

Compiling stats around the above questions will provide a benchmark for comparing data once you have a new accounting inventory system in place. At a minimum, it is important to try and track metrics around time spent, monetary costs, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and number of errors.  Trying to be as specific as possible, record information on the time it takes to complete any given task such as generating a report, creating a sales order, picking an order and receiving inventory, the number of employees required to perform any particular task, the number of errors associated with manually entering data and the frequency of picking errors in the warehouse.

Measuring Success

Once you have a set of benchmarks against which to compare data, it is easier to measure the success of the project. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you likely won’t be able to realize all of these benefits immediately. Only after you have been using the software for a good 6 months should you begin to compile new data. This allows your team time to adopt new processes, receive additional training from the software vendor and adapt to the change. It is then appropriate to complete the same analysis as before the search to better determine how the new system has helped improve business processes. Remember that not all benefits will be tangible, however, you can still gather enough information to reasonably measure these benefits as well. Below we share some examples.

Measuring Intangible Benefits

Accounting inventory software helps to automate processes, allowing employees to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative-type tasks, therefore enabling them to focus on more meaningful work. For example, Blue Link’s accounting inventory software allows users to automatically email customers when A/R accounts meet certain pre-determined criteria – such as dollar value or time frame. This means fewer employees and less time is spent manually tracking accounts and notifying customers. Instead, employees can spend this time on more productive work. Although it’s easy to measure the time saved by automated processes, reducing administrative and manual work can also help increase job satisfaction which is harder to measure. For salespeople, the implementation of an online order portal allows them to place orders on behalf of customers and provides real-time access to important account information, pricing and available inventory. This reduces the amount of time spent going back and forth with people in-house trying to determine inventory availability and the amount of double entry by allowing salespeople to create an order in the field. This frees up time for salespeople to spend prospecting new accounts, working with other customers and selling product. Another consideration when it comes to measuring the success of implementing software is the cost savings from not needing to hire new employees. When order volume increases, instead of hiring another employee, accounting inventory software allows users to create workflows for automating the order entry process. For example, when an order is placed online it gets automatically sent to the warehouse for picking, packing and shipping based on pre-determined criteria. This saves time trying to find, hire and train a new employee and the costs associated with paying an annual salary and covering benefits and other terms of employment.

The best way to measure the success of a software implementation project is to prepare in advance. Create benchmarks based on existing processes and speak with employees to get the full picture of how much time and resources are spent on any given task. After you have been using the new solution for at least 6 months, begin to evaluate the same criteria to compare against your existing benchmarks. You will likely find that there are always ways in which your business can become more efficient and so working with a software vendor who you can count on as a trusted technology partner will allow you to continuously track, measure and improve business processes.

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Mix and Match Quantity Discounts – Accounting ERP Pricing Contracts

Product pricing is an integral part of any business. Set the price too high and you risk losing customers, set the price too low and you risk losing money. Do you need to have different pricing for different customers? What about running promotions and offering discounts? Setting margins and determining product pricing can be a complicated process – especially when you don’t have a sophisticated accounting ERP solution to help track the numbers. Your company’s strategy for product pricing will depend on several different factors and needs to be monitored on a regular basis to account for changes in the market such as production costs, shipping costs, tariffs and the competition. For many wholesale distribution businesses, pricing contracts dictate how much specific items cost and the price paid by different customers. These contracts can be based on a variety of criteria such as timeframes, purchasing volumes and specific product types, and with robust accounting ERP software, you can have multiple contracts set-up at the same time based on different hierarchies. One example of a pricing contract is for mix and match inventory which we will explore below using one of Blue Link’s customers as an example.

Introducing Creager Mercantile

Creager Mercantile, located in Denver, Colorado, is a wholesale supplier and one-stop-shop for everything beverage, candy, Mexican candy, Mexican products, vaporizers, tobacco, automotive products, gift shop supply and more. With a focus on superior customer service, Creager provides its customers with a wide variety of products from top sellers to hard-to-find items. In 2016 Creager decided to replace its existing solution and manual processes for managing operations with Blue Link ERP; an all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP solution to automate processes, better serve customers, gain insight into business health with better reporting and grow the business. One of the specific benefits of implementing Blue Link ERP is around Creager’s Mix & Match Quantity Discount pricing contract.

As a cash and carry business in addition to managing wholesale orders, Creager Mercantile operates slightly different from common wholesale distribution businesses. While customers can place wholesale orders for product, they can also visit the warehouse to shop for their own items much like you would at any retail brick and mortar store. Serving the wholesale convenience and grocery industry, Creager has a lot of inventory items that are quite similar, and the average order could include anywhere from between 30-100 items. To best serve its customers, Creager has always provided Mix & Match Quantity Discounts to help reduce the overall cost of any given order. However, prior to using Blue Link, the process for maintaining these quantity discounts was manual and time-consuming. With the help of Blue Link ERP, Creager has been able to completely automate this process, significantly reducing the time it takes to create an order and the associated admin time with managing pricing contracts.

Mix & Match Quantity Discounts

Quantity breaks are a type of pricing where the customer receives a discount based on purchasing a certain volume of a specific product. This type of pricing works well for wholesale distributors who typically sell in large volumes. However, since Creager also operates as a cash and carry business, they decided to set-up a slightly modified version of traditional quantity breaks known as Mix & Match Quantity Discounts.

Working together with Blue Link’s team of in-house experts, Creager designed a specific pricing contract for Mix & Match Quantity Discounts. The first step was to determine which products or product groups would be eligible for this contract. Once that was determined, Creager then decided on a quantity break that would apply the discount in question. The result? Customers who order any product tagged as belonging to the Mix & Match Quantity Discount contract, receive a discount when they order over a certain amount of any of those products. Essentially this means that instead of a customer having to purchase 20 cases of a particular product before receiving a price discount, they can mix and match from a variety of products to receive the same discount. Prior to using Blue Link, Creager had to manually change the price on all items associated with a mix and match deal. Now, users can click a button in the system to change the price of a mix and match item and quantity discounts are automatically applied.
“We also were able to setup mix and match quantity deals which is awesome.  We were manually changing the prices of items on mix and match then Blue Link did a custom spec for us and now all we do is push a button and mix and match pricing gets changed – this alone has increased our beverage sales by at least 50%.”
– Zach Taylor, Creager Mercantile

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Is Your Inventory Costing You Money? 3 Mistakes Wholesale Distributors Make

Part of managing a warehouse and operating as a wholesale distribution business involves inventory analysis. This includes regular analysis of existing inventory, purchasing history, customer demand and the market in which you’re selling. Holding inventory that you can’t sell takes up valuable space in your warehouse and not stocking high volume items can result in lost sales and unhappy customers. It is important to have a handle on your inventory and maintain processes for managing inventory levels, with the ability to react quickly to changes from customers and/or suppliers. This is particularly important for wholesale distributors who import and export product – where fluctuations in market prices, shipping and import and export tariffs can drastically impact your company’s bottom line. To best manage inventory, it is important to implement proper warehouse inventory software and to put someone in charge of inventory management – someone who is accountable for any inventory issues and losses and who is proactive in making purchasing decisions to maintain demand. When it comes to warehouse inventory software, make sure to find a solution with features for setting min/max levels, for managing different pricing contracts and volume discounts, a system that can properly track and account for landed costs and a system that supports bin and shelf locations and barcode scanning. Below we examine some common inventory management mistakes that could be costing you money.

Poor Management of Excess Stock

Excess inventory can be a result of over-delivery from a supplier, poor inventory and order management or some other factors, and can have a big impact on your bottom line. It ties up your capital and physical storage space that could instead be used to stock more profitable, fast-moving items. When dealing with excess stock, most wholesale distributors end up having to return product to the supplier where applicable, liquidate items to other companies, sell at a deep discount to customers, donate to a charity or try to incentivize sales reps to sell the excess. Most options lead to a loss for the company and the risk of having excess stock is amplified in industries that deal with perishable items or where seasonality is a large factor.

Proper inventory management requires accurate management of fast-moving and highly profitable items, and slow-moving, less-profitable items. This means it is important to organize your warehouse and corresponding bin and shelf locations based on inventory turnover. As a starting point, inventory turnover ratios help to determine how often your company sells and replaces specific inventory items during a certain time period. This allows you to make better decisions about pricing, purchasing, warehouse layout and marketing. Proximity to packing and shipping areas, for example, is important for fast-moving items, whereas slow-moving and less profitable items can be kept in hard-to-reach places.

High Volume of Obsolete Inventory

Obsolete inventory is product that has reached the end of its product lifecycle. This could happen for a variety of reasons including:

Market changes where customer preferences have changed
New advances in technology that render certain products obsolete
Enhancements or improvements to existing product in the market – new version releases
Entry from a new or existing competitor that can offer a similar product that is deemed of better value

Once you’ve determined that inventory is obsolete, even if you’re not able to sell it, it still needs to be removed from your warehouse as to avoid further losses. As a general rule, inventory items become obsolete when they have not turned over for at least a 12 month period and are not expected to be sold in the future. When this happens, it is important to remove these items from your warehouse to offset any carrying costs and make room for new product. Similar to when dealing with excess inventory, your options for getting rid of obsolete items include donating, trying to sell at a discount, etc.

Although inventory obsolesces are a normal part of any wholesale distribution business, there are ways in which you can mitigate the risk of holding obsolete inventory with proper warehouse inventory management software as discussed below.

Lack of Seasonality Planning

Seasonality in inventory management refers to the awareness around how customers make purchases based on seasonal changes. For some businesses, these seasonality patterns are obvious – for example, wholesale distributors who sell baby and children’s toys and deal with an increase in demand around the holiday season.

One consideration with seasonality is that a drastic increase in demand for product is usually followed by a drastic decrease which can make the inventory management process extra complicated. Not only do you want to avoid carrying excess stock, but also understocking items and therefore missing out on sales. Trying to follow market trends, reviewing historical data or looking to international markets are good ways to try and stock up on items that you think will be in high demand – for example, stocking what experts predict will the “it” toy of the holiday season.

For some businesses, seasonality changes require that they take orders from customers months prior to shipping goods. This allows them to avoid storing inventory until it is ready to be shipped and then stock up on those products in high demand when the time comes. In preparation of seasonality spikes, it is important to dump any obsolete and excess stock to make room in your warehouse and depending on the industry, consider adding complementary and alternative products to your inventory and equip sales reps with the appropriate tools to upsell or offer alternatives.

Other consequences of managing seasonal inventory are around resource availability. If you anticipate a higher demand in the summer months, it might be a good idea to consider hiring part-time employees or students to help in the warehouse. Warehouse inventory software that allows for bin and shelf locations and barcode scanning tools can help with quickly getting new employees up-to-speed.

Warehouse Inventory Software

Warehouse inventory software provides multiple features for proper inventory management to avoid the costs associated with holding too much or too little of an item.

Forecasting tools provide insight into inventory sales and projected sales based on previous projections, history and patterns
Barcode scanning and mobile handheld picking ensures every item in your warehouse is accounted for – thus reducing the need to manually check for items when customers place orders and removing the situation where inventory gets “lost” and becomes obsolete
Barcode scanning also allows you to quickly receive, pick, pack and ship orders with minimal errors during times of high demand
Min/max reorder points help you determine when is the right time to order product and how much to order – taking into consideration leads times on getting items to your warehouse
When mix/max levels are set, the system automatically alerts users when certain items are getting too low or too high
Real-time reporting functionality helps you to see purchasing and selling patterns to identify opportunities and threats
Pricing contracts and volume discounts help to entice customers and sales reps to sell the excess stock or obsolete items by easily providing heavy discounts and purchasing incentives
Landed cost tracking allows your business to accurately track the true costs of inventory – to determine exactly how much is made on a sale (or how much is lost with excess stock)

 

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