Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Why 2020 is All About Employees and Customers

As we start the beginning of a new decade, numerous top 10 lists with 2020 predications can be found all over the internet. Some of these are funny predictions made long in the past that paint a world of living in flying houses and every family owning private helicopters. Other, more serious predictions include emerging partnerships and the convergence of cloud-based applications and the increased adoption of AI across multiple industries and systems. While business predictions, in general, tend to focus on changing technology, one trend that seems to be popping up everywhere is around the customer experience and building employee trust. In a world where customers are more empowered than ever to make decisions, aligning customer services roles with marketing, sales and brand values are key to winning new business and building brand loyalty in the years ahead.

Customer Values

According to Forrester, more than 55% of consumers will consider company values when making a buying decision. Although this is not a new trend, it is a growing one and something that companies cannot ignore. For companies to succeed in the future, they need to create values-driven experiences with both customers and employees. Finding customers and employees who share the same values is important in creating long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. For SMBs, this can mean finding and working with other SMBs, who already understand the needs and business mindset of a smaller organization. However, finding customers, vendors and employees who have similar experiences are not enough. It is also important to align other values – from sustainability to people-values to community service, to processes and more.

Human Experience

As companies look to increase automation, the human experience will become even more important internally and externally. While technology will continue to replace the need for humans to perform mundane tasks, finding employees with creative skills and the ability to easily empathize and connect with other employees and customers will be the competitive difference in the future. Just like automation delivers value throughout a business’ entire operations, the human experience and aligning the right people will also deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle. To succeed going forward, businesses need to consider aligning marketing, sales and customer services roles more closely. Building trust and loyalty to engage employees internally are the first steps to better serve customers. A 2019 survey from the Edelman Trust Barometer says that 75% of people trust their employers more than government, media or business in general to do what is right. Why is this important? Earning employee trust through a genuine commitment to purpose leads to a competitive advantage. According to Deloitte, in addition to an increase in employee and customer satisfaction, purpose-driven businesses grow 3 times faster on average compared to their competitors. When employees believe in your products and processes, they translate this information to customers. Aligning roles across your organization means that employees do not need to scramble to keep up-to-date on customer accounts and communication is seamless and effective.

As you review your plans and budget for the year ahead, consider the importance of investing in the right people and the right technology. Implementing software that automates processes allows your team to focus on building relationships with customers, vendors and each other. Companies that succeed in the future will be able to seamlessly align technology and customer service with other areas of the business. This means providing employees with the proper tools they need to succeed in their jobs, while fostering a more collaborative environment.

Looking to implement changes at your organization for 2020? Learn how to do so properly with Blue Link’s Change Management Guide. 

 

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A Decade in Review

As the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2019, we officially close out a decade and move into a world unknown. 10 years goes by faster than you think, and moments of significance seem to come and go in the blink of an eye, leaving us wondering where all the time went. As a business, it’s always good to reflect on how you’ve done each year to learn from your mistakes, find new opportunities, and continue to grow your business and make customers happy. We’ve decided this year to go even farther and reflect on what has happened in the world as we close out the decade. This is A Decade in Review.
2010s: A Timeline

2010: The start of a new era, and a year that kicked off with the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest man-made structure in the world. This year also included the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in Vancouver, and the launch of Instagram. Though, like every year, it is not always sunshine and rainbows, and there are times of trouble, like the explosion of Deepwater Horizon, or the tragic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand. As we look back, we try to focus on the positives, and the events that brought us together in pride and joy, like the FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by South Africa and won by Spain. We can still hear the vuvuzelas.

2011: Space. The final frontier. NASA announces that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars. The ground trembles and quakes.  A 9.0 magnitude earthquake hits off the coast of Japan, triggering a massive tsunami and the meltdown of Fukushima Power Plant. The world mourns. We do as humans do, and we stand together strong, and we look ahead to the future, where Curiosity lands on Mars and continues to operate to this day, as Neptune makes its first orbit of the Sun since being discovered in 1846.

2012: Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, where she continues to reign happily as we enter 2020. Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island tortoise, dies in Galapagos National Park at over 100 years old, marking the extinction of the species. A skydiver named Felix Baumgartner becomes the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance during a space dive from 128,000 feet. Grumpy Cat, the internet sensation, is born, and will soon enter the lives of meme lovers worldwide. Barack Obama is reelected as the President of the United States.

2013: The most powerful meteor to strike Earth’s atmosphere in over a century explodes over Russia, prompting international concern regarding protecting the planet from subsequent strikes. Pope Benedict resigns, becoming the first pope to do so since 1415, and pope Francis is elected, becoming the first pope from the Americas. The El Reno tornado strikes, lashing out with winds of almost 500 kilometers an hour, and the widest tornado ever recorded on earth. Sony releases the PlayStation 4, becoming one of the most popular game consoles of all time, just a week before the Xbox One. Gamers rejoice.

2014: Mario Goetze receives a cross from the left, he catches it in his chest, perfectly controlling the ball. It drops in front of him, and he volleys it past the goalkeeper, sealing the win for Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final against Argentina. Over one billion people worldwide watch this happen. After 8 years of construction, One World Trade Center is officially completed, standing as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

2015: On a hot summer day in May, Les Femmes d’Alger, a painting by Pablo Picasso sells for nearly 180 million dollars, setting a new world record for a painting. Weeks later, Ireland votes to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the first country to legalize by popular vote. New Horizons, a NASA spacecraft, performs a flyby of Pluto, becoming the first spacecraft in history to visit the formerly 9th planet in the solar system. Following their previous estimates and photographic evidence, NASA now officially confirms that liquid water has been found on Mars, bringing us one step closer to discovering alien life – time to call Mulder and Scully.

2016: For the first time in history, Portugal wins the UEFA Euro Championship, beating France in the final. A young boy falls into an animal enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, where a large gorilla named Harambe lives. Fearing for the boy’s life, a zoo worker shoots and kills Harambe, causing worldwide controversy and sadness. After almost 100 years, The Chicago Cubs strike it out of the park and win the World Series, ending the longest championship drought in baseball history. Do you want to be the very best, like no one ever was? Do you want to catch them all? Then you’re probably of the more than one billion people to download Pokemon GO at its release and join the Pokemon mobile craze.

2017: January 20th 2017, Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Two months later, the March North American blizzard strikes the Northeastern US and Canada, dropping over three feet of snow and ice in many areas. Mickey Mouse strikes again, as The Walt Disney Company announces that it will be acquiring 21st Century Fox, including all their studios and properties, for 66 billion dollars.

2018: Almost two billion people worldwide watch the wedding ceremony of Princess Harry and Megan Markle, where many would say David Beckham was best dressed. Months later, the FIFA World Cup is held in Russia, and France takes the crown for the second time in history. Move aside Dolly the sheep, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are here, the first primates to be cloned using the somatic cell nuclear transfer method. As Apple Inc. becomes the world’s first public company to achieve a market value of 1 trillion dollars, the world’s last male northern white rhino dies in Kenya, leaving the species functionally extinct.

2019: The present. A year of ups and downs, a year of monumental events, events that will change the course of history. 2019 is the year the Avengers finally defeated Thanos, and broke box-office records around the world with the release of Avengers: Endgame. It is the year that gave us The Irishman, a critically renowned film by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. The year that the Toronto Raptors won their first ever NBA Championship.

Looking forward, 2020 and beyond: We are entering a new age. A new age of information and technology. 2020 is already set to give us some massive events – Euro 2020, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the US Presidential Election, and more. How can we make this the best year, and make this the best decade of our lives? By doing what we can to be good. Be good to each other, be kind to the world, set up green initiatives at your workplace, set goals for yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t meet them. Just try, try your best. Try to lend a helpful hand, or a shoulder to lean on. Be there for someone, and be a voice of reason, and have an open mind. Let’s go into the new decade with hope in our hearts, not despair. Look towards a brighter future and do your part to make it happen.

To 2020, and the years to follow.

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Blue Link Food Traceability Software Makes Top 100 List

VAUGHAN, Ontario – December 17, 2019 – Blue Link food traceability software, a leading provider of all-in-one ERP software, is excited to be recognized for the seventh year by Food Logistics’ 2019 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers List.

The annual FL100+ list honors the top software and technology providers in the food and beverage industry. Now in its 16th year, Food Logistics highlights software companies that address challenges in the food and beverage industry and ensure an efficient and reliable global food supply chain.

Compliance with food safety regulations is a critical component of the food and beverage industry. Over the past few years, the amount of food recalls and contamination has grown. From 2013 to 2018 alone, food recalls in the United States increased by 10 percent. With almost 1 in 10 people falling ill and approximately 420,000 deaths every year related to food contamination, food distributors are realizing the demand for agile, all-in-one software that helps improve business processes.
“Blue Link is proud to be recognized by Food Logistics on its FL100+ list. Customers use the tools and best practices that we recommend to efficiently manage their inventory-centric businesses.  We are constantly improving our system and functionality to face new challenges appearing in the food and beverage industry.” – Darren Myher, CTO, Blue Link Associates
Blue Link Food Traceability Software provides an all-in-one solution that helps automate processes and provides functionality for:

Traceability – lot tracking
Fully integrated inventory management
Landed cost tracking – freight costs, duties, brokerage, etc.
Warehouse management – track shipping, container lookup, etc.
Accounting and financials

 Lot Tracking

Blue Link food traceability software allows customers to track items that require a lot number. Lot allocation enables the tracking of expiry and best before dates and the management of recalls. Blue Link’s software also shows lot history, such as current stock levels, storing and selling locations, and more. Lot tracking is a method of following the history of a product, from the receipt of purchase up until its sale. It also allows tracking variances of costs from one purchase to another.

Selling an Item that Requires Lot Tracking

When a user creates a sales order that requires lot tracking, the person must also allocate lots to the product on the order either manually or automatically. Once packed and ready to ship, the user can allocate the items into specific containers. Blue Link food traceability software supports multiple units of measures (UOMs) and barcode scanning. Users can scan or manually pick items to allocate quantities to containers. Once completed, the sales order is ready to be shipped.

Purchasing an Item that Requires Lot Tracking

Users can allocate lot numbers to a purchase order either when it is created or received. They can then assign and allocate internal or external lot numbers. Users will process the order once they have entered the required information.

Blue Link food traceability software offers a variety of flexible tools to efficiently manage inventory, track orders, manage multiple warehouse locations, integrate mobile handheld picking and barcode scanning, and more. Blue Link manages and automates business processes across your entire company and helps achieve and sustain FDA/ISO/CFIA compliance.

As the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes in their article on food safety, “Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety” (2019).

Guest Post by Romane Ng Yung Kiat

 

 

 

 

 

Full Press Release

Media Contact:                                                        
Mackenna Moralez, Web Editor
(920) 542-1300; mmoralez@acbusinessmedia.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Blue Link Food Traceability Software Named to Food Logistics’ 2019 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers 

VAUGHAN, Ontario – December 17, 2019 — Food Logistics, the only publication exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain, has named Blue Link to its 2019 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list.

The annual FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers serves as a resource guide of software and technology providers whose products and services are critical for companies in the global food and beverage supply chain.

“Whether you’re using sensors to monitor critical temperatures for perishables or a WMS to manage inventory flows in your warehouse, software and technology are playing a vital role in the food and beverage industry,” remarks John R. Yuva, editor for Food Logistics and its sister publication, Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “The transparency and safety of the digital global food supply chain would not exist without innovations in software and technology. Our FL100+ recipients help drive supply chain compliance and regulatory changes that benefit ev0eryone from the farmer to the food processor to the consumer.”

Companies on this year’s 2019 FL100+ Top Software and Technology Providers list will be profiled in the November/December 2019 issue of Food Logistics, as well as online at www.foodlogistics.com.

About Food Logistics

Food Logistics is published by AC Business Media, a business-to-business media company that provides targeted content and comprehensive, integrated advertising and promotion opportunities for some of the world’s most recognized B2B brands. Its diverse portfolio serves the construction, logistics, supply chain and other industries with print, digital and custom products, events and social media.

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4 Tasks You Should be Automating with Wholesale Distribution Software

One of the main benefits, if not the main benefit, of wholesale distribution software, is the ability to automate processes, reducing manual work and decreasing costs. Moving from accounting software, Excel spreadsheets or multiple, standalone solutions to an all-in-one system is the first step in increasing efficiencies across your entire business operation. Moving from introductory software to a more robust solution requires a lot of resources, but once you’re familiar and comfortable using the new solution, there are many creative ways in which you can automate processes across all business departments. There are also a couple of obvious areas where you can automate processes from the get-go to immediately see positive results.

Accounts Receivable 

Accounts receivable turnover is the number of times that your company collects its average accounts receivable per year. This is important as it indicates how well you’re able to issue credit to customers and how quickly you can collect funds which directly relates to your cash flow. Automating the process of accounts receivable reduces the amount of admin time it takes to collect from customers and helps to increase cash flow and your turnover ratio. With wholesale distribution software, you can automate the accounts receivable process by setting criteria in the system based on a customer’s account. If a customer meets those criteria, the system will automatically email the customer information about their overdue account, providing details on how to submit payment. This saves your team from hours of manual work reviewing accounts and notifying customers.

eCommerce 

If you’re not automating the process of managing website orders, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to save costs and reach more customers. Website automation starts with integration between your existing websites and back-end wholesale distribution software. For wholesale businesses, this can include integration with a B2B online order portal, integration with a customer-facing B2C store, integration with vendor portals, and/or integration with marketplaces such as Amazon. With real-time bi-directional integration, when a customer places an order online, it automatically creates a sales order in your wholesale distribution solution for picking, packing and shipping. It also automatically updates inventory levels across systems. When you receive new inventory items into your warehouse and wholesale distribution software, the information automatically publishes online so that customers can see available inventory in real-time. eCommerce integration allows you to automate various aspects of the online order process and eliminates the need to hire additional people for data entry when order volume increases.

Shipping

Automating the shipping process with wholesale distribution software gives you the ability to update an account, create an invoice or another report, email a customer, and print documents all with the change of a status or other pre-determined action. This means that once you have finished packing boxes for an order, you can change the status to “shipped” and your wholesale distribution software will automatically print a packing slip as well as any box labels and email the customer with the invoice and tracking information. There are various other ways to automate the shipping process depending on your specific warehouse layout, and method for picking, packing and shipping. 

Reporting

Without a regular review of business metrics, it is impossible to know how your company is performing and even harder to identify new opportunities or threats. Automating the reporting process is a simple task that can have significant impacts. Not only can you automatically email reports to appropriate stakeholders regularly, you can also email exception reports showing anomalies in the system. This means that when something out of the ordinary happens, the right people will be notified immediately to address the situation, instead of waiting to spot issues during quarterly or year-end reviews.

 

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SMART Project Management to Achieve Your Business Goals

The SMART format for goals is one of the most well-known goal setting techniques. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely and provides a format and process for setting goals of any size and type, including personal, professional or business-related. SMART project management takes the format for developing goals and applies it to the project management process. This is a great way for businesses to outline project objectives and plans in a meaningful way that employees and stakeholders can easily understand. Let’s explore this in more detail.

What is SMART Project Management?

The SMART format for goals dictates that the best way to achieve your goals is to design them based on the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Therefore, SMART project management uses the same criteria for designing and implementing successful projects.

Specific

When starting a project, it’s important to be as specific as possible. You want to make sure that the objectives and steps are easy to understand and follow. A simple way to do this is to provide information about the 5 W’s – who, what, where, why and when. 

Who needs to be involved to complete the project? Who are the main players and stakeholders? 
What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
Where does this project take place?
Why is the project important? Why does it matter to the company/employees/customers? 
When do you hope to complete this project? The “Timely” component of SMART project management further outlines timeframes, but it’s a good idea to identify a general timeframe as soon as possible. 

Although it’s important to include a lot of information, the more concise you can be, the better.

Measurable

How will you measure whether the project was successful? Without metrics in place, it’s impossible to track the success of the project. Metrics can include both tangible and intangible results such as money earned, time saved and impact on employee morale. If your project is set to take place over several weeks or months, you can also set milestones to help measure progress along the way. 

Achievable

There is no point in starting a project that is not achievable. It’s important to evaluate what steps and resources are required to complete the project. Do you have the right people onboard? Is there anything you need to prepare in advance? Consider factors such as setting a budget, allocating resources, training employees, researching options and more.  

Relevant 

Make sure that the project is relevant to those involved and the business. Is it realistic? Does it align with future growth strategies and available resources? 

Timely

They say that a goal without a timeline is just a dream. To make sure you accomplish your goals and complete your project, it’s important to set a deadline and restrict the project and activities to within a certain timeframe. Pick a target date and if necessary, also pick check-in points throughout the project. 

Let’s look at an example of using SMART project management in real life.

Example: I want to replace QuickBooks with all-in-one inventory accounting software. 

Specific

Our team of 30 employees relies on QuickBooks to manage our entire wholesale distribution business, but the system lacks advanced functionality and inventory management is a manual process using Excel spreadsheets. We want to start selling product online and need a system that can integrate with online channels. I want to find and implement a new solution before the holiday season next year.

Measurable 

Implementing all-in-one inventory accounting software at our business will require a lot of resources but has the potential to provide major future benefits. A system that integrates with eCommerce channels eliminates the need to hire additional staff to process the expected increase in orders. Right now, we waste a lot of time manually updating data in our accounting system and spreadsheets, fixing mistakes and trying to reconcile inventory information between Excel and our warehouse. In addition to other benefits, our goal with this project is to increase sales 20% through the implementation of eCommerce channels by the end of next year without the need to hire additional employees.

Achievable

I have notified all employees of this project. I have also identified a project manager to keep the project on track, answer any questions employees may have and to help with change management across the organization. We have the right people in place to start selling online and our warehouse is large enough to handle more inventory.

Relevant

Implementing new all-in-one inventory accounting software will free up employee time to focus on more meaningful tasks, eliminate the errors associated with manual data entry, and allow us to start selling through online channels. These objectives align with our business strategy to grow the business and reach new customers. 

Timely 

This project must be completed by the end of Q3 before the holiday season starts. This means that we will need to evaluate vendors, find a solution and make a decision by the middle of Q2 to keep the project on track with typical implementation timeframes. We have created a full breakdown of project milestones to meet this deadline. 

Once you have identified all the criteria for SMART project management, you can consolidate the information into one project description. 

SMART Project Description:  

As part of our company growth strategy, we need to automate more processes, eliminate manual work, and start selling through eCommerce channels to reach more customers. Our existing accounting software cannot handle these requirements and is not able to scale with our company, so we have decided to upgrade to all-in-one inventory accounting software. Our goal with this project is to implement software by the middle of Q2 so that by the end of the year we see an increase in sales by 20% through eCommerce channels.
Ready to start your software upgrade SMART project? Learn more with our Software Buying Guide. 

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Why QuickBooks is Not ERP Software

A massive percentage of small businesses and startups use QuickBooks for accounting processes. However, QuickBooks is not an ERP system and therefore you may be missing out on more advanced functionality only available in ERP that can help run your business. While QuickBooks is great as an introductory piece of software to get your business up and running, it’s primary focus in on accounting and financial processes and lacks functionality for other areas of the business – such as inventory management. Here are some of the reasons why QuickBooks is not ERP.

QuickBooks is primarily an accounting solution. ERP includes functionality across all business operations.

Any reputable ERP software will include all the same accounting functionality found in QuickBooks, plus more. Unlike QuickBooks, ERP software also includes functionality across other business areas such as inventory management, warehouse management, sales, invoicing, order entry and processing, reporting and eCommerce. This is one of the main reasons why QuickBooks is not ERP software – ERP is an all-in-one solution with integrated functionality across departments. For example, when you process a payment from a customer in ERP, it will update their credit status so that the information is immediately available on the order entry screen.

QuickBooks allows you to manage negative inventory, ERP does not.

Negative inventory implies that you can have less than zero of your inventory – however, in reality, this is not possible. While it may seem that allowing inventory to go into a negative position is the only way to perform certain processes, this is likely not the case and it can cause issues within other areas of the business.

For example, some businesses insist on tracking negative inventory for items that they receive and ship to customers before recording the receipt of inventory in the system. This is sometimes done as part of a business practice where shipments are not received in the system until all of the related invoices have been received to get accurate costs. However, with ERP software, landed cost tracking features allow users to properly cost the product and receive it into inventory before receiving all the related invoices.
Learn more about how to manage your business without using negative inventory.
QuickBooks has restrictions on users and features, ERP software is for growing businesses.

If you’re using QuickBooks it is likely that you’re also using manual processes for tracking inventory and duplicating data entry across multiple solutions. Because QuickBooks targets small businesses, it has limitations on the number of users, amount of data that can be maintained, and functionality. ERP however, is specifically designed for companies looking to scale – and provides various features that can be activated from the beginning or as your business and processes change. Instead of purchasing a separate inventory software, tools for order entry and processing, and a CRM system to integrate with QuickBooks, you can purchase all-in-one ERP software. This helps to cut costs, streamline operations and means you’re only dealing with one team of experts for support, training and other requests. Trying to integrate with QuickBooks also means you have to rely on duplicate entry across multiple solutions. Not only is this time-consuming and prone to human error, it also prevents you from accessing advanced functionality only found in ERP – such as better financial reporting, automated email functions, and automated reports.

 

The bottom line: QuickBooks is not ERP. Therefore, when you decide to replace QuickBooks, remember to keep in mind the following:

When setting a budget for new software, do so based on the cost of ERP and not based on the cost of QuickBooks.
Keep an open mind to changing processes instead of trying to do everything you’ve been doing with QuickBooks, but just with ERP instead. Ultimately the right ERP software will save you time and money.
If you’re nervous about making the switch, keep this in mind when speaking to different software vendors. Find a vendor that takes the time to learn about your needs and who will dedicate the time and resources to help you make the change.

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User Acceptance Testing and Quality Assurance

When most people think about quality assurance, they think about manufacturing. Testing finished goods to ensure it adheres to a certain quality, design and regulatory standards. But the quality assurance process applies to many other industries as well, including software design. Quality assurance (QA) testing is an imperative part of finding software bugs, testing usability and designing a product that is intuitive and easy to use. At Blue Link ERP, our QA team works closely with the development team as part of our R&D department to test Blue Link’s ERP software and other systems before release. This process also includes user acceptance testing in which the customer works with our team to jointly test the product. Even with QA testing and user acceptance testing, it’s impossible to test every possible use-case scenario and so the monthly fee for Blue Link’s cloud-based solution includes the cost of maintenance to cover product warranty and upgrades. This means that if a user does find a bug in the system that was not caught during the testing phase, our in-house team of dedicated support reps will fix the issue or provide a workaround free of charge. Below, we take a closer look at the Blue Link QA department.

What does the Blue Link QA team do?

In addition to other tasks, the Blue Link QA team handles:

Testing of all custom projects, upgrades, micro-projects and support issues
Documenting and updating version release notes
Working with the development team to fix any bugs and then documenting test cases for R&D to be used in the future
Working with customers to do user acceptance testing of Blue Link products (more on this below)
Learning new apps and getting familiar with new features and software versions

Essentially, the main purpose of the quality assurance department is to come up with innovative ways to find software bugs.

User Acceptance Testing

User acceptance testing (or UAT), is described as the process of involving the customer and end-user in testing the software to determine if it meets the business’ needs. Also referred to as beta testing, end-user testing or joint testing, user acceptance testing gives the customer the authority to sign-off on the finished product. It’s impossible for any software company to understand the nuances of any given business, which means we would never be able to create all the possible test cases. It is also impossible to navigate through the system in the same way that any given customer or user would – although most pieces of technology today are intuitive to use, what might be intuitive to one person, may not to another. Therefore, UAT is the last test performed on the software after having been internally tested by the quality assurance team. Involving customers directly in the testing process helps to validate the software and functionality against the customer’s business processes and requirements.

Want to learn more about Blue Link’s Quality Assurance Department? Watch this video from the QA Manager, Monique Taza.

 

 

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The Scary Truth about Credit Card Fraud

As the industry moves to accept more and more types of payments – online, instore, mobile, or via wearable device – the risk of data theft and credit card fraud inevitably increases too. Even with provisions in place such as chip protection and two-factor authentication, fraudsters are still able to compromise credit cards at an alarming rate. According to the most recent study from Federal Reserves Payments, “card-not-present” credit, debit and prepaid card fraud has significantly increased over the past couple of years, up 34% in 2016 reaching $4.67 billion from the year prior. Credit card fraud especially is a growing concern among small businesses and the end consumer and can have a devastating impact on its victims.

The Costs of Credit Card Fraud

The true cost of credit card fraud is more than just a dollar figure and it impacts a wide range of victims using cards in-person and online. When card information has been compromised, businesses are left spending money on fraud protection services and software, banks have to replace stolen cards on a regular basis, and consumers and businesses alike must spend the time and energy to report issues, change account details, and get a new card. Not to mention that many legitimate online orders get declined when confused as fraudulent, resulting in unhappy customers and lost sales for retailers.  In addition, many fraudulent interactions are not reported to law enforcement and therefore leave the perpetrator free to strike again. Consumers spend their energy on working with their bank to void illegitimate charges instead of reporting incidents to the police and some businesses decide against reporting to maintain their reputation. To address the concerns around credit card fraud, credit card companies have started to charge fees that help cover the costs of fraud investigations – for example, charging a business a small percentage every time the company does a pre-authorization. As a best practice, most well-known credit card companies flag and investigate any transaction identified as fraud, even if the situation is completely innocent. Many companies don’t realize that they may be performing activities as part of their business processes that raise red flags at credit card companies. For example, trying to pre-authorize a card multiple times from a customer of good standing if the card gets declined.

How to Protect Your Business

To protect your business and customers from credit card fraud, and as a consumer yourself, consider the following.

Be vigilant. Always review credit card transactions in your account on a regular basis for any suspicious charges.
Have the right contact information on hand. As soon as you suspect an issue or fraudulent activity, make sure you know who to contact to cancel the card and void any charges.
Change online passwords and pin information if you suspect your information has been compromised. Never send sensitive data like credit card information through email, encrypt data where possible and make sure you use complex passwords and update them regularly.
Work with a software solution that has provisions in place for meeting PCI compliance and for keeping data safe. When using software to process and store credit card information, make sure it provides an encrypted data vault for doing so. It’s also important to educate your team on proper business practices – managers must implement proper processes for accepting credit card information and employees must be trained on meeting PCI Compliance.
Review all the charges and fees associated with processing credit cards at your business – make sure you know which types of activities can flag cards as fraudulent.
Never access banking or credit card information over an unsecured network – such as free, public WiFi.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your business from other common scams.

The Benefits of Barcode Scanning

A Conversation with Noel McKeon of Barcoding, Inc.

Despite being around for nearly 50 years, there are still some common misconceptions around barcoding systems in warehouse and distribution environments and many companies have yet to take advantage of the many benefits of barcode scanning. There is a lot of power in barcodes – tracking inventory with barcodes helps to reduce human error, improve data collection, validation and management, and eliminate manual tasks, ultimately lowering costs and making your company more profitable and efficient. To discuss some of the benefits of barcode scanning, we spoke with Noel McKeon, Business Development Manager at Barcoding, Inc. Barcoding, Inc. is a certified hardware partner for Blue Link’s Barcode Scanning and Mobile Picking iOS app. As a supply chain automation and innovation company, Barcoding, Inc. helps warehouse operations be more efficient, accurate and connected. Blue Link’s barcode scanning app, combined with hardware from Barcoding, Inc., will allow your warehouse staff to scan and pick barcodes from the warehouse floor, simplifying the receiving, put-away, picking, packing and shipping of inventory.

We spoke with Noel the other day and put together a list of some of the benefits of barcode scanning.

Barcoding systems work with any budget. Although this was not always the case when barcode scanning systems were first introduced into warehouse management, it is definitely the case today. No business is too small for the use of barcodes as part of their inventory control strategy. Where it used to be that barcode scanning meant the purchase of sophisticated WMS software with ruggedized barcode scanning hardware, barcode scanning functionality is now built-into many ERP solutions and can be used with more economical mobile handheld devices such as Android or iOS. “Many of today’s leading business systems (ERP, accounting software, CRM, etc.) offer native support for barcode scanning,” says Noel McKeon. “It’s often simply a matter of selecting the right equipment to support the operating environment and some minor configuration tweaks to existing software and a company can be leveraging barcode scanning.” He further recommends that “investing in barcode equipment should be a thoughtful process and not something done through an eCommerce website. Research what capabilities you might need now versus in the future. It’s often best to walk before running and you may want to structure the implementation of such technology with a phased roll-out that can support your initial needs, as well as future needs”.

Barcoding systems reduce overall costs. Sure, there will be some upfront costs if you don’t have a barcoding system in place, and there are some time and labour costs when it comes to training staff and maintaining barcodes, but in the long run, a barcoding system will save you money.

First, barcode scanning increases your accuracy, reducing manual errors. No longer does your team have to rely on manual counts, and deciphering handwritten notes. Instead, by electronically tracking inventory, you cut down on picking and packing errors, thus reducing the expenses that arise when an order is picked, packed and shipped incorrectly.

Second, when paired with an ERP system, barcoding can help you lower the cost of capital associated with carrying excess inventory. Together, these systems make it possible to track inventory levels precisely. When you track inventory (what’s coming in, what’s going out and what is currently on shelves) you can avoid over-ordering and the costs associated with holding excess stock.

According to Noel, “There are still many companies today who are operating with manual processes throughout their business. They have employees using pen and paper to record data or dedicated to data entry, keying data into systems, and many times duplicating efforts across multiple systems. The business is working and for the most part, operations are getting the job done, so why change? Why explore the impact of incorporating barcodes into their day-to-day business? The benefits gained from leveraging barcode scanning are numerous and should be examined by each company. Barcode data collection is inherently faster and more accurate. Greater accuracy means better data to drive operational decisions. Barcode scanning can reduce the labour involved with data collection saving your company considerable money. When barcode scanning is combined with existing business systems, data validation can occur. Data validation can ensure that the data a barcode represents drives appropriate behaviours – for example, the correct product is shipped to a customer, or suppliers have sent you exactly what you ordered, etc.”.  

Barcoding systems automate processes and increase efficiencies. When you implement wireless barcode scanning as part of an all-in-one ERP system, you simplify and streamline processes in your warehouse. For example, since ERP systems store information in a central database, anyone with proper access can get instant and accurate inventory visibility and availability, making tasks like purchasing or answering customer questions easier and faster. Without barcode scanning, businesses are left with often complicated, multi-step processes that rely on humans to complete each step without error. With a barcoding system and ERP software, scanning a barcode is usually a one-step process that instantly transports information from the scanner to your ERP system. With an automated system, you save time by not re-keying inventory information, searching for items in the warehouse, and correcting errors. This, in turn, can eliminate the need for more warehouse employees to pick, pack and ship orders, thus reducing staff count. If you do need to hire new employees, barcode scanning tools make it easier to onboard staff and increase their productivity.

As Noel added, “as outlined above, barcode scanning offers speed, accuracy, and data validation which helps a warehouse environment to ensure greater control and accuracy over the inventory data that the warehouse is operating against. Warehouse operators can be held to a greater level of accountability and prevented from making certain mistakes. When combined with the right software system, barcode scanning can help ensure that the warehouse is picking orders faster and more accurately, which increases customer satisfaction.”

As you can see, there are many benefits of barcode scanning and every company can take advantage of the functionality offered. No matter how big or small your warehouse operations, barcode scanning is a cost-effective way to become more efficient – with more sophisticated functionality available as your business continues to grow.
Noel McKeon, Barcoding, Inc.
With over 15 years of experience in the AIDC industry, Noel McKeon is an accomplished Business Development professional with extensive experience assisting companies understand, evaluate, and select barcode and RFID focused software solutions that improve and elevate their operations.

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A List of Common Technology Abbreviations

As with many industries, the software industry has its fair share of terminology and acronyms that can sound like gibberish to those outside of the know. To further complicate matters, many software and technology companies use these acronyms in different ways. Therefore, it is always a good idea to get extra clarification when speaking with software vendors about their solutions and the functionality available. It’s important not to make assumptions about what a given system can or cannot do based on previous conversations with other vendors and how they used specific terminology themselves. To help you better understand some of the more common acronyms, we’ve put together a cheat sheet for future reference and you can read more about each below.

Download Technology Abbreviations Cheat Sheet

ERP Software – Enterprise Resource Planning Software

ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a business software solution designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations including; accounting, order entry and processing, inventory, contact management, warehouse management and more. ERP software replaces the need for purchasing and integrating multiple standalone inventory, accounting and CRM systems and works best for growing businesses looking to automate processes, increase efficiencies and reduce manual work. 

API – Application Program Interface

API stands for Application Program Interface and is a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. Essentially, an API dictates how software components should interact and allows two separate systems built on different operating systems to communicate and share information with one another. In the world of ERP software, an API connection is frequently used when you want your ERP system to communicate with your eCommerce store.

Example: An API allows you to pull order information from your eCommerce store into your ERP software and subsequently updates inventory information on the website and in your ERP system.

BI – Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence or BI, is the ability to extract actionable insight from the internal and external data available to an organization, to support decision making and improve corporate performance. The ability to collect, gather and organize data from within your organization can help you identify trends, patterns, threats and opportunities to make strategic business decisions. The same applies to data collected from outside of your organization. Most ERP solutions provide some functionality for BI in the form of reporting features.

BOM – Bill of Materials

A Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of components necessary to assemble a particular item used when manufacturing goods. The BOM helps you determine what you can make from the available components. Sophisticated manufacturing processes require a BOM to track turning raw ingredients into finished goods. Simple manufacturing processes such as putting together a kit also requires a BOM to keep track of the parts of the kit.

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software helps you manage and track your customer and sales lead information. These systems are more advanced than basic contact management features found in many ERP solutions and provide tools to help fully manage relationships with customers, vendors and prospects from initial contact, to close and post-sale. CRM software includes tools for scheduling upcoming actions such as follow-ups and meetings, it allows you to track and move prospects through your sales funnel and enables you to maintain information on the customer or prospect that other departments can access. You can purchase CRM software as a standalone solution, or some ERP solutions include built-in CRM functionality so that you don’t need to purchase and integrate multiple systems.

EDI – Electronic Data Interchange

Electronic Data Interchange represents a set of standards, outlining formats for information that can be electronically exchanged between two parties. Essentially, EDI allows trading partners in the supply chain to exchange documents and provides a format for translating data from one system into a format that is readable by another system. With EDI, your customer can send an order from their software solution, no matter which technology it’s built on, and then your ERP system will be able to translate the information into a readable format.

Example: Your customer (a large retail business) sends you a purchase order via EDI, which gets translated into an EDI file type known as an 850. Next, your ERP solution picks up this EDI 850 file (using one of several methods) and translates the information into a format that is readable in your ERP system. This allows the information to automatically populate into your system for processing.

FIFO – First In, First Out

FIFO which stands for First In, First Out is one of the most commonly used inventory costing methods. As the name suggests, the FIFO costing method is set up so that you sell the oldest inventory items in your warehouse first which corresponds to the actual physical flow of goods in your warehouse and helps to avoid inventory items becoming obsolete. This means that you track and account for the COGS based on the purchase price of each inventory item at the time you receive it into your warehouse.

P&L – Profit & Loss

A P&L is a type of financial statement known as a Profit and Loss statement. You may also have heard the term P&L before with a different name – Income Statement. A P&L statement covers a specific period of time, frequently a month, quarter or year and includes information on a company’s revenues and expenses for that time period. Your revenue is the income earned from the sale of product or delivery of a service and your expenses are the cost to provide that product or service. Once you subtract the expenses from your revenue, you can determine if your business made a profit or loss for that period.

PCI Compliance – Payment Card Industry Compliance

Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance refers to a set of standards designed to protect credit cardholder information. These standards apply to any business that stores, processes, or transmits payment cardholder data both online and offline. It includes manual processes for safely recording, storing and accessing card data and can apply to ERP software with credit card processing functionality.

RMA – Return Merchandise Authorization

Return Merchandise Authorization is the process for dealing with customer returns. Software with RMA functionality allows you to track and manage the RMA process, providing better insight into what products are being returned the most and why, and if the return process is easy and intuitive for customers. Efficient RMA processes improve customer satisfaction and retention by helping businesses pay more attention to faulty goods and repairs of merchandise. RMA software functionality needs to be paired with internal RMA processes for physically accepting and tracking returned merchandise.

RDP – Remote Desktop Protocol

RDP stands for “Remote Desktop Protocol” and is a Microsoft licensed technology available for a large range of computers, tablets and other devices. A device that has an “RDP Client” and a connection to the internet or local area network can be used to run software that physically resides on one or more servers somewhere else – and not on your computer or device.

Example: To access Blue Link’s cloud-based ERP solution, you must do so via an RDP connection. Blue Link is then responsible for maintaining the hardware and servers that the software lives on, as well as managing upgrades and backups. Therefore, using RDP, you can access the software and processing power of the servers and hardware, without having to purchase or maintain any of the equipment yourself.

RDP and the Cloud

SAAS – Software as a Service

Software as a Service describes software that is licensed on a subscription basis. Instead of purchasing software as a one-time upfront license fee, SaaS allows you to pay a monthly fee for access to software that is hosted on the software provider’s servers and not on your own equipment. SaaS is frequently used interchangeably with the term cloud-based or hosted solutions.

WMS – Warehouse Management System

WMS stands for Warehouse Management System which controls the movement and storage of inventory within a warehouse and helps to process the associated transactions, including receiving, put-away, picking, packing and shipping. WMS systems log every single movement of product in your warehouse, show available locations in the warehouse to add product based on empty space, allow you to receive and ship product before putting it away and more. True WMS software is designed for large warehouse operations with a high volume of orders and complex requirements. Many ERP systems provide some built-in WMS features that are perfect for smaller distribution operations.

 

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