Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

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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4 ERP Software Features to Help Cover Employee Vacations this Summer

Ahhh the beginning of summer…longer days, warm weather, no school, sunshine and of course, summer holidays. For many companies, with the advent of summer, comes an influx of employee vacation requests. Although this is to be expected, it can still cause stress as you try to cover holidays, train employees on managing different responsibilities, or shift priorities to complete work. The role of automation and software in this situation is frequently overlooked – with proper processes and systems for tracking information across your organization, covering for employees while they are on vacation is simplified. It’s manual processes and disjointed systems that can leave your business scrambling to operate business as usual. Below we examine 4 features of accounting and inventory software (ERP) that can help cover employee vacations this summer – so you can relax and enjoy the sunshine too.

Accounting

One of the most important departments in any business is accounting and financials. Without proper processes in place to track invoices, outstanding accounts and payments, money is left on the table affecting your bottom line and the relationship you have with customers. Proper accounting and inventory ERP software provides functionality for automating accounting processes to stay on top of customer accounts, easily communicate information and properly record payments. With advanced accounting features, employees can:

Automatically calculate landed costs and allocate proportionally to track true product costs and maintain target margins
Quickly generate financial statements for review of business health
Automatically email customers when Accounts Receivables meet certain pre-determined criteria – such as dollar value or time frame
Automatically email invoices to customers once an order has been marked as shipped
Look up customer history to quickly view past orders, invoices and payments

The above functionality makes it easy for employees in the accounting department to leave on holidays without worrying about work piling up in their absence.

CRM

When it comes to managing sales within an organization, communication is key. Salespeople need to be proactive in communicating important information to leads to move them through the sales funnel. This also applies to maintaining relationships with existing customers to keep them happy. When you decide to book holidays, it may seem impossible to be able to fully disconnect, but it’s a good idea to try and do this for as long as possible and the right ERP software with CRM functionality can help.

Customer Relationship Management or CRM tools allow your salespeople to track and manage leads throughout the entire sales funnel – from prospective clients to qualified leads to customers. The right solution will include functionality that allows your team to…

Create and manage quotes, sales orders and purchase orders
Record customer and vendor information such as contacts, phone numbers, email addresses etc.
Log verbal and email communication
Automatically email invoices and other customer communication
Track and report on specific information using User Defined Fields – such as Persona
Schedule next action dates, appointments and follow-ups
Set statuses

When properly utilized, CRM functionality provides a single point of entry for managing all sales leads and customers. As part of the features offered in accounting and inventory software, CRM tools work in conjunction with processes across other departments – for example, creating a log of communication when your accounting department sends the customer an invoice. This means that when salespeople take their holidays, all records of their interaction with a specific lead and/or customer is accounted for – allowing other employees to quickly get up to speed on recent interactions and any potential follow-ups. Not only does this make it easy for salespeople to cover for each other while on holiday, but it also means that anyone from your company with the right permissions can also quickly get up-to-speed on the status of customer accounts.

eCommerce Integration – B2B and B2C

It may seem obvious to integrate eCommerce sites with back-end accounting and inventory ERP software, but there are many businesses still manually entering orders from online channels into business management systems. Not only is this process time consuming and error prone, it causes issues when order entry staff leave on holidays and there is no one to cover the work. Instead, integrating all eCommerce channels – including customer and vendor portals, B2C sites and marketplaces such as Amazon – automatically creates an order in your back-end ERP solution, completely eliminating the need for manual data entry. Depending on the type of order, this process can be further automated by creating workflows that send orders matching pre-determined criteria directly to staff in the warehouse for picking, packing and shipping. Even for those orders that need human review, it’s still easier and less time consuming for an employee to cover this role, than to try and find someone who has the time to manually enter orders.

Warehouse Management

When it comes to warehouse management, having the right number of bodies is key. Although proper accounting and inventory software can help automate processes, it does not replace the need to have people available to perform the manual task of picking, packing and shipping orders. In fact, many businesses will actually hire additional warehouse staff during peak seasons to account for an increase in order volume. In this situation, and when trying to cover employee holidays, a well laid out warehouse space and automated processes for picking, packing and shipping can make all the difference. Properly labelled bin and shelf locations make it easy for new employees to quickly find the right product, especially when combined with pick lists that are organized according to the most efficient route. Mobile barcode scanning/handheld picking tools enable employees to automatically scan items during the pick process to quickly identify any picking errors at the source. Training new employees on easy-to-use barcode scanning technology is much more efficient than leaving them to decipher handwritten notes, and trying to learn and identify specific SKUs.

Summer vacations should be stress-free – for those employees actually taking them and for the employees, owners and management left behind. Don’t discount the benefits of automated inventory and accounting software when it comes to simplifying job tasks and creating a process-driven workplace. And keep in mind how these benefits are significantly increased when it comes to employees leaving for more than just vacation, such as parental leave, extended time off or when an employee leaves for good.

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Cannabis ERP Software and Tetraduo at Lift & Co Toronto

June 3rd, 2019 kicks off the start of Canadian Cannabis Week – a full week encompassing select Cannabis events across Canada for everyone from the curious consumer to the large-scale Licensed Producer (LP). One event during this week is Toronto’s Lift and Co Cannabis Business Conference and Expo happening June 6th-9th at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. The first day of the conference on Thursday, June 6th  brings together leading experts from across the industry to discuss all things Cannabis from a uniquely Canadian perspective with various presentations covering topics such as the medical and adult-use cannabis markets, opportunities for Canadian businesses to set the stage for the world-wide Cannabis industry and managing new regulations for medical Cannabis and edible products.

The following two days are all about exhibitors, starting with Expo Industry Day on Friday, June 7th and the Expo Consumer Weekend on the 8th and 9th. Industry day focuses on Cannabis commerce and is the perfect opportunity for established businesses, entrepreneurs, and employees in the industry to learn about new and existing technology, equipment, best practices and product in the market. The Expo Consumer Weekend is open to the general public and provides ample opportunities for consumers to learn about emerging and established industry LPs, Cannabis consuming products, accessories and brands and the different uses of the various Cannabis plant properties. The entire expo includes over 250 exhibitors from Canada and around the world, 100 guest speakers, multiple demo stages, specific networking events and more.

Blue Link ERP is excited to exhibit its Cannabis ERP Software for the first time at the Toronto Lift & Co show after a successful Lift Show in Vancouver earlier this year. Blue Link ERP has developed specific Cannabis ERP functionality, offered as part of an ecosystem of other technology partners under the brand Tetraduo.

For Cannabis LPs, distributors and retailers, Blue Link’s Cannabis ERP software is the backbone to your business operations and Blue Link has been providing software solutions for inventory management and accounting since 1992. As an all-in-one solution, Blue Link ERP helps businesses reduce manual work and automate processes by providing tools for:

Inventory management
Accounting
Order entry and processing
Warehouse management
Contact management
Picking, packing and shipping
Purchasing
Landed cost tracking
Lot tracking and batch control
And more!

Partnering with other solutions under the Tetraduo brand has allowed Blue Link ERP to develop full integration with technology for cultivation and production – pre-harvest and post-harvest, eCommerce with Shopify Plus and retail POS.

With experience in the US pharmaceutical and other regulated industries in North America, it was easy for Blue Link ERP to develop specific tools for Health Canada compliance. To help customers comply with Health Canada and other provincial regulations, Blue Link ERP as well as each partner in the Tetaduo ecosystem, includes specific functionality for tracking lot numbers and product batches, managing mandatory recalls and generating reports by automatically compiling relevant information to import to the CTLS and similar provincial reporting portals.

Interested in learning more?

Be sure to visit Blue Link ERP and the other Tetraduo partners at our booth #2239 on June 7th, 8th and 9th, or contact us today.  We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Celebrating Pharmaceutical Distribution in the US | A New HDA Initiative

Pharmaceutical distribution networks in the US are some of the most complex supply chains in the world, and the United States alone holds over 45 percent of the global pharmaceutical market. As with any wholesale distribution company, pharmaceutical distributors are tasked with managing inventory and supplying product to customers in the most efficient way possible – but with the added complexity of strict inventory tracking requirements, a high risk of security breaches and unlawful activity, the management of harmful and perishable items and important reporting requirements from regulatory bodies. However, this has not stopped the market from continuing to grow over the past couple of years, and instead has challenged pharmaceutical distributors with finding the right resources and tools to adequately manage operations. According to the HDA Research Foundation, pharmaceutical distributors in the US handle a total of 5,024 orders per day – that’s almost 2 million orders a year. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that the HDA has recently launched a new initiative to further highlight the vital role of distributors to the healthcare system.

The HDA’s initiative focuses on four key elements of pharmaceutical distribution: safety, reliability, efficiency and pharmacy.

Safety: Pharmaceutical distributors are committed to maintaining a safe and secure pharmaceutical supply chain for all medical and pharmaceutical products.
Reliability:  It is imperative that customers – pharmacies, healthcare facilities, hospitals etc. – can rely on distributors to deliver the right product at the right time.
Efficiency: By implementing the right systems, logistical solutions and technology, and by taking advantage of supply chain experts, distributors are helping to save the healthcare system billions of dollars every year.
Pharmacy: Stable distribution networks allow pharmacies to focus more effort on patient management.

The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (or HDA) is the national organization recognizing primary pharmaceutical distributors, helping to link all members of the supply chain. The HDA has developed a website dedicated specifically to providing information and support to this initiative and other members of the pharmaceutical supply chain.

www.HealthDelivered.org

Blue Link ERP is doing its part to support the pharmaceutical distribution supply chain by providing all-in-one inventory and accounting ERP software with specific functionality for pharmaceutical distribution and managing controlled substances. State-of-the-art healthcare distribution facilities together with robust business management software help to automate processes and streamline operations – all while adhering to stringent DSCSA and other requirements. Blue Link works with a variety of customers across the US and includes functionality for:

Lot tracking (traceability)
Revision control
CSOS
Identification of Product – NDC#, GTIN, Family, Brand etc.
Suspicious Order Monitoring (SOM)
Transaction History Management
Saleable Returns – Verification Router Service
and more!

In keeping up with industry requirements, Blue Link recently announced a signed agreement with LSPediA to become an authorized partner to market and resell LSPediA’s drug tracking and verification software. This announcement provides more functionality for the safe and reliable management of saleable returns.

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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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