April 10, 2015
In this brief post I want to share a quick thought. We’re frequently asked which deployment method is better for ERP Software – hosted or on-premise. Personally, I’m agnostic on this, as it really depends on a number of factors, and you can read up on some of these in this analysis of Hosted (Cloud) & On-Premises (In-House) pros and cons.
As our company approaches a move to new premises in a few weeks, I’ve begun to realize how significant a benefit having your ERP Software (and other key business software) in the cloud can be. I know that businesses do not move frequently, but when you do move it’s a massively disruptive undertaking. And having to move your own servers, meaning you’re essentially down for at least several hours (or need to spend large sums on redundant servers at new and old locations, or temporary on-line solutions), adds to the stress and cost of a move.
For those of us fortunate to have our key applications in the cloud, life’s a lot simpler on moving day: anyone not needed to participate in the actual move will simply work from anywhere there’s an internet connection – including from home. Meaning no down time at all, and no interruption of software-dependant business activities.
An increasing number of businesses are considering switching to hosted software as their existing servers approach replacement age. For such companies, if a move is also on the horizon, it makes the decision almost obvious.
April 7, 2015
ERP software is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations, and includes tools for inventory management, order entry and processing, accounting, warehouse management and more. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is typically categorized as a Tier 2 software system. This means that a true ERP system is best for companies who have outgrown their existing introductory systems, and are looking for a solution that can scale with their company growth. It also means that the price tag associated with an ERP solution can sometimes cause a bit of sticker shock. However, once you compare the benefits and opportunities of using a fully-integrated solution, the value of such a system becomes very clear. Below we have further outlined 5 benefits of ERP.
Improved Customer Service
One of the inherent benefits of ERP software is that all information is stored in a single database, which helps streamline operations across multiple departments. This makes it easy for any given employee with the right user permissions to quickly look up inventory, customer, or sales information in order to make informed decisions. This data is especially useful when speaking directly with customers and for those who work in customer service. When clients phone in with questions surrounding what available credit they have on their account, how much they owe, their purchase history or a need to update their contact details, this information is all readily available at the click of a couple of buttons. This eliminates the need for searching through multiple systems and in some cases, the need to search through hard copy files. To further simplify processes, reports with the above information can be automatically generated and sent out to customers on a regular basis – for example a report that outlines overdue accounts. Other features such as the ability to track communication, set next action dates, assign sales reps, and create notes, means that information about your customers and potential customers is easily accessible within one system. In many businesses, this leads directly to increased sales.
Properly implemented ERP should result in cost reductions across multiple areas of your business. This is especially apparent in businesses with many manual processes and those moving off of introductory and disparate systems. On the inventory side of the business, proper inventory management increases the accuracy of shipping processes which reduces the costs of dealing with returned merchandise, lost inventory and customer service costs. It also provides tools for accurately predicting your customers’ buying patterns, which reduces the costs of holding inventory and decreases dead stock. On the accounting side, automating processes such as accounts receivable collection (by sending out reports to customers) reduces the amount of time and costs associated with manual approaches. An all-in-one solution means data only has to be entered into the system once, by one employee. This eliminates the costs of manually entering data into multiple systems and the associated keying errors. Another area of cost savings can be gained from choosing to implement the software as a cloud solution, which results in lower IT maintenance costs and eliminates the need for expensive server hardware.
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March 27, 2015
In theory, developing a custom ERP solution in-house to manage your wholesale and distribution business may sound like the perfect solution. However in practise it rarely is. Even though the system would be designed with your specific business processes in mind, the benefits gained from a completely customized solution are often outweighed by the resources necessary to maintain such a “perfect fit” system. It’s preferable to work with an industry specific software company, who can meet most of your software needs out of the box, and provides the option to customize as well. Working with an ERP software vendor who becomes a trusted business partner ensures you get the best of all worlds – a solution that is designed for your specific business type, maintained by a team that provides expertise is the areas of software development and management, and provides guidance and insight into industry process improvements. It’s often the smaller vendors who look to build these types of relationships, as it benefits them in the long run as well – working closely with customers means they get first-hand insight into industry specific requirements, and that enables them to continuously enhance the software to better meet the needs of their target market. Below we take a closer look at the dangers associated with developing a custom in-house system:
First and foremost, as a wholesale distribution company, your core competency is not in creating ERP solutions, nor should it be. One of the problems with developing a system in-house is that it eats up a lot of resources and requires a large investment into the technology and skills needed to keep the ERP application up and running. Even if this task is assigned to an IT department, it still takes time and other resources away from the activities that contribute to the businesses core competency.
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March 18, 2015
The way in which a wholesale/distribution business manages its inventory has a direct and critical impact on its overall success and long term viability. Although this may seem rather obvious, the number of businesses who remain tied to outdated means for inventory management suggest that it’s a more foreign notion than one would imagine. Successful business owners understand that inventory represents their livelihood and its importance should never be underestimated or undervalued. Traditional methods for managing inventory, such as pen/paper or spreadsheets, can still be viable options for smaller start-up businesses, or businesses who hold very small amounts of inventory. However, as those businesses begin to grow and expand their offerings, the redundancies and manual processes involved can become too cumbersome to manage efficiently.
For many growing businesses, the next logical step is implementing an ERP system that encompasses the appropriate inventory management tools to support that growth. By implementing an inventory management system into your business you are adding a new dimension: the ability to track inventory throughout the entire distribution chain, from receipt to invoice.
Receiving Inventory – Inventory management software allows users to scan products at the receiving dock using verification scanners to immediately identify and record the product on arrival. This will record what items were received followed by what bin and shelf number the product was allocated to. Once a product is scanned at the warehouse, the quantity received gets recorded in the back end accounting system for comparison against a given purchase order, thus ensuring accuracy and identifying any discrepancies immediately.
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March 10, 2015
Introductory software systems, such as QuickBooks, are great tools for small and start-up businesses. They require minimal training and set-up, are intuitive and easy to use and come with a relatively low price tag. However, as your business grows and order volume increases, there may come a time where more robust accounting ERP software is required. ERP systems provide functionality across a variety of departments and are designed to handle large amounts of data, increase automation and reduce the need for duplicate entry. As a result, the implementation process is much more complex and requires significant planning, the benefit being a system that will continue to grow with your company for years to come. ERP software is a good solution for businesses who have outgrown their existing systems, but what happens when a company outgrows its staff?
Implementing an appropriate mid-market accounting ERP solution can reduce or delay the need to hire additional employees by providing opportunities for automation. There is less need for manual entry as the system integrates data across all departments including inventory, accounting, contact management, and order entry and processing. However, there are two instances where employees with a more advanced skill set may be needed; (1) when IT management is required, (2) when no one at the company has advanced knowledge of accounting practices.
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February 25, 2015
As you can imagine, the pharmaceutical industry is characterized by many regulations and an abundance of meticulous standards that must be met by suppliers and distributors. As an increasing number of products enter the marketplace, the need for tight control measures becomes more prevalent in order to ensure public health and safety. The onus now lies with the suppliers and distributors to meet (perhaps exceed) the standards in place. However, despite these standards certain circumstances have arisen where products have needed to be recalled in the interest of public health. Some of the most prominent drug recalls in terms of scale and magnitude include:
(1) Fenfluramine/Phentermine (Fen-Phen) – developed by Wyeth-Ayerest Labs was recalled in 1997 after 24 years on the market. Fen-Phen was a popular weight loss drug taken by approximately 6.5 million people to help combat obesity. After many users began experiencing heart disease and other related illnesses, the FDA set a recall in motion. The result was roughly $14 billion in damages paid to victims.
(2) Cerivastatin (Baycol) – developed by Bayer and was prescribed to patients as a treatment for high cholesterol and was later linked to a severe muscle disorder. It was recalled in 2001, after roughly 4 years in the market. Damages paid to victims totaled roughly $1.2 billion. Read the rest of this entry »
February 10, 2015
Guest Post by Samantha Hornby
As a sales person, I speak with prospective customers every day to try and understand their wholesale inventory software needs to determine whether or not our solution would be a good fit. Based on the industry they are in, features they are looking for, budget and business processes, it is easy to determine fit after only a 10-15 minute discussion. As a software vendor however, I am also looking for certain characteristics of the companies I speak with that would also make them great to work with. Just like companies evaluate vendors, vendors also evaluate companies and there are certain traits that make for the “perfect ERP sales lead”. These traits usually imply that a company is looking to build a long-term relationship with their ERP vendor, are open to improving processes and believe in the power of software to help them do so. They see implementing software as a strategic investment and not a necessary evil. Below I have compiled a list of the most important traits that I watch out for, and based on my experience, having these traits plays a significant role in the benefits gleaned from implementing new software.
The best ERP sales leads…
Are not limited by budgets and timeframes that are set in stone. I know what you’re thinking – of course an ERP software vendor would love for all customers to have open wallets, and that sales people all have dollar signs in their eyes, but this is not always the case. When it comes to a project as significant as finding new ERP software, it is important to have a budget in place and to understand what your company can afford. But even more important is making sure that you’re finding the best solution for your company and not missing out on opportunities because of budget. Smart and innovative companies recognize that there are a lot of unknowns when first establishing project plans, budgets and speaking with vendors. Having some flexibility when it comes to ERP software costs is important to significantly improve business processes and find the right software for your company. This is why costs should only be one of several factors that affect your decision, and not the end-all, be-all. In addition, having a hard timeframe, could lead to a rushed implementation in which case you don’t spend the time properly evaluating software fit and function.
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