Is Cloud Based Wholesale ERP Software Right for Your Business?

January 27, 2015

is-cloud-erp-software-right-for-your-companyDeciding to make the switch to a fully integrated ERP system as a wholesale distribution company – whether you’re transitioning from existing software or manual processes – requires a lot of time and resources.  It also involves making a choice between implementing a system on-premises or hosted through the cloud.  So which method is better suited for your business? Although there is no single right answer to this question, there are certain elements that could make a strong case in favour of a cloud solution.  Companies are increasingly opting for this method from the get-go, and others are switching from their current on-premises installation. To better understand why and when it would make sense for your company to seriously evaluate hosting software through the cloud, let’s first take a look at exactly what we mean by each implementation method.

On-premises software was historically the only option available to companies looking for wholesale ERP software which made it more feasible for larger companies.  On-premises refers to software applications installed on-location on a client owned server.  This requires up-to-date hardware and either internal or outsourced personnel for IT management.  It also requires a bit of a larger initial investment when it comes to cost as companies buy the software licenses outright.

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How Your Entire Company Can Benefit from Accounting and Inventory Software

January 20, 2015

accounting-inventory-software-for-all-employeesTrue accounting and inventory software is designed to manage all aspects of a company’s operations, and should provide benefits to employees in every department. Frequently described using the term “ERP” or “Enterprise Resource Planning” Software, this level of software streamlines business processes across an entire company.  When specifically applied to wholesale distribution companies, that would include managing processes from order entry through to invoicing the customer and everything in between. For this reason, these types of systems are not comparable to introductory software such as QuickBooks, but in fact are designed to replace those systems once a company reaches a certain level of growth.  Although QuickBooks (and similar systems) are popular and widely used, trying to compare introductory software to Tier 2 or ERP software would be like trying to compare a cell phone with a smart phone.  Sure a cell phone can place calls and send texts and do those things really well, but a smartphone provides added features such as internet access and often replaces the need for having to perform tasks on a separate device (such as sending an email, checking your bank account or taking a picture).  Many features that introductory systems lack – because of the nature of the software and target market – are inherent features of ERP. These include custom reporting capabilities, automation across functions such as sales orders and purchase orders, and robust inventory management. Proper accounting and inventory ERP software allows users to work from within the same system, on the same database, across departments.  Here are some examples of the benefits that can be gained by each department:

The Accounting Department:

  • Report writing tools to create custom reports in order to share visual data with investors/stakeholders
  • Compliance tools to proactively maintain accounting standards and keep balanced books
  • Automatic reminders and notifications that can be emailed (internally or to customers) to notify people of overdue accounts, sales history, etc.
  • Features for managing A/R and A/P

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eCommerce Integration with Inventory & Accounting ERP Software

January 7, 2015

ecommerce-erp-integration-optionsAs eCommerce continues to grow in popularity, online storefronts are now relevant beyond just the large retail companies, and in some industries necessary to remain competitive.  Many companies engaged in industries that historically stayed away from online sales channels, including wholesale distribution companies, are now branching out into distributing their products online, both through B2B sales tools and B2C direct to consumer.  For these wholesale distribution companies, although they have added a new sales channel, their back end processes will remain the same – they must still manage the inventory required to fulfill these orders and process sales into an accounting system.  This is where eCommerce integration between an online storefront and back-end inventory and accounting ERP system comes into play.  But what exactly does this mean, and what options are available for doing so? In order to answer these questions, you must first ask yourself a few others:

  • How many orders to you expect to receive online each day?
  • Do you have dedicated staff for managing orders and picking, packing and shipping?
  • Should anyone be able to purchase from your eCommerce store, or do you want to restrict which customers can?
  • Do you also sell through other eCommerce channels (such as Amazon or eBay)?
  • Do you have different pricing for different customers?

Answering these questions and others is important to determine exactly how sophisticated the ERP and eCommerce integration needs to be, which type of eCommerce store is best suited for your business, and how much it will all cost.  Consider the following options:

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Do You Need to Migrate All that Data?

December 30, 2014

Minimize amount of data migrationData migration is just one part of the entire ERP implementation process, but tends to represent the largest percentage of implementation costs aside from employee training.  Data migration involves mapping information from old software to new, according to labels, titles and structures, and includes additional “massaging” or “cleaning up” to ensure bad data is not brought into the new system. Common examples of data that gets transferred are vendor, customer, and product information, as well as historical sales data, A/P and A/R outstanding, open sales orders, GL account numbers and balances, inventory quantities – essentially any data that is necessary.

The high costs associated with data migration are easily understandable when dealing with older companies who may have 30 plus years’ of information to accurately move over – often from outdated systems.  However, even as a start-up or newer company, there is usually some amount of data migration in the form of inventory items and customer or vendor information that will need to be imported into your new system. Aside from cutting down on costs, there are also other benefits to reducing the amount of information being moved over into a new ERP system.  These include decreasing implementation time-frames, and preventing garbage /outdated information from polluting your database.

One option to cut back on data migration costs is to perform your own “data migration” by manually re-keying information into a new ERP solution.  Although less costly from a software purchase perspective, this method involves a lot of man-hours, meaning time and labor costs.  In addition it can be error prone and very cumbersome.  As a truly start-up company this may be a viable option if the amount of data to migrate is negligible, however the amount of work necessary to manually perform this task generally outweighs the costs.  It also does not account for the expertise needed to update data already migrated prior to Go-Live, in order to have the most up-to-date information.

Instead of trying to entirely eliminate the need for data migration, explore your options for reducing the amount of data to migrate, and determine exactly what information is necessary to keep. Bear in mind that you can continue to maintain your existing database of information on its own computer for the rare cases that you do need to look up very specific historical information.

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Understanding the Differences between Introductory Software and ERP

December 22, 2014

Beginner vs. ExpertThe enterprise software industry is typically divided into 3 different tiers and/or segments: Tier One introductory systems, Tier Two mid-market ERP systems and Tier Three, top-tier or Blue Chip solutions. Each different Tier is geared towards companies of a particular size, with certain business processes and future strategic plans. A high-level understanding of the different Tiers and available systems will help your business plan for future growth and allow you to strategize when and if a move to the next level of software is appropriate.  In this particular article we’ll cover enterprise software solutions designed for small-medium size wholesale and distribution companies. Tier Three solutions will not be discussed, as they are best suited for large multi-national companies with global operations.

Introductory Software

Introductory software is any software solution specifically geared towards small businesses as the first solution implemented in an organization.  This would include systems such as QuickBooks, Simply Accounting and Fishbowl.  These solutions are marketed towards small companies and are most often used at the inception of the company or to replace entirely manual processes.   They provide basic accounting functionality and in some cases basic inventory management features as well.  Training is minimal and the software is designed to be used by employees with limited accounting knowledge and software experience.

Mid-market ERP Software

Mid-market ERP software is geared towards small-medium size wholesale distribution companies that have outgrown their existing introductory systems.  In certain instances – where there is available capital and significant growth plans – mid-market ERP is also a suitable solution for start-up companies. ERP is an acronym for “enterprise resources planning” and is used to describe a system that will manage all aspects of a company’s operations.  To accomplish this, ERP systems include functionality for; inventory management, accounting, order entry and processing, warehouse management and contact management.  In many cases, specialized features are also available that support specific industries, such as landed cost tracking, barcode scanning and eCommerce integration.  Users of these systems will need to have a better understanding of accounting practises and software technology in order to gain the most benefit.

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Blue Link Makes Food Logistics’ FL100 for Food Inventory Software

December 17, 2014

Food Logistics Top 100 Software Vendors

By Matt Picariello

For over a decade, the editors of Food Logistics Magazine have published an annual list of software and technology providers that play a prominent role in the global food and beverage supply chain. With a variety of benefits ranging from reducing food waste to extending shelf life, the technology provided by these companies ensures the safe and efficient distribution of food and beverages to the public. In the 11th annual instalment the 2014 FL100+ list features companies whose products continue to innovate and ensure food and beverage companies can successfully accomplish business goals and objectives.

We are pleased to announce that Blue Link’s Accounting and Inventory Management  ERP software has been included in this year’s edition of the Food Logistics FL100+ list. This marks the second time in the past three years that Blue Link has been recognized by Food Logistics for its contribution to the food and beverage industry. Blue Link is known for providing integrated ERP software geared towards small to medium sized wholesalers and distributors across a wide variety of industries. It is Blue Link’s dynamic components such as lot tracking for traceability, multiple units of measurement and landed cost tracking that make its software so valuable to food distributors across North America and ultimately warranted its inclusion in the FL100+ list.

Lot Tracking (Product Traceability)

Lot tracking is arguably the most prominent feature included in an effective food inventory management software package for food wholesalers and distributors. Lot tracking functionality essentially provides a company with the ability to trace the path of a batch from supplier to end consumer. The magnitude of this specific functionality should not be overlooked by food companies hoping to remain compliant with FDA and CFIA regulations, as each governing body requires proper lot tracking protocols to be in place. With many highly publicized food recalls in the past, such as the Listeriosis outbreak of 2009, the onus falls on the food distribution and wholesale companies to act swiftly and provide tracking information to ensure the safety of the public. In the unfortunate case of a recall, it allows a company to identify specific lots of products to be recalled, eliminating the need to recall every item if only specific groups were affected.

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How Vendors Quote ERP Implementations

December 2, 2014

Implementation Cost StrategiesWhen your company decides to invest in an ERP software system, the term ‘implementation’ will undoubtedly be used on a frequent basis. If you are unfamiliar with ERP systems and are in the initial stages of your software search, you may be unaware of the sheer number of factors present in a typical ERP implementation, and how vendors provide quotes on the process. To help demystify the inherent ambiguity of the word itself, the following list provides an overview of a typical ERP implementation process:

Definition of Scope

The definition of scope, or requirements analysis, is the process associated with analysing and documenting a company’s specific business needs and expectations, and developing a project plan to ensure those needs are met.

Installation

Installation, although self-explanatory, is the actual set-up of the software by the vendor’s product experts on your company’s servers (or the vendor’s servers if it’s a cloud based application) and represents the central component to any implementation of ERP software.

Configuration & Integration

Configuration means setting up the software with your company’s existing information, users, and personal settings. In addition, integration is the configuration of the software to enable communication to existing and external systems.

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