How True Cloud Technologies Help Distributors Stay Future-Proof

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” One of the many famous Yogi-isms, it’s one of the most fitting phrases in 2020. This year has proven that things can change in an instant, and it’s likely your distribution business has had to change with it. Success is built on adaptability, and adaptability requires action.

Being Future-Proof is All about Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Now, why does it seem that some companies are always in the right place at the right time? How do some distribution firms always seem to know when to place an order for a product that became scarce seemingly overnight?

It’s not luck; fortune favors the prepared. But predicting—and preparing for—the future is easier said than done for many firms, especially those who can’t access information quickly or efficiently.

Knowing this, there are ways to make your own luck, turn data into decisions, and stay ahead of the trends, but without the right tools, it’s probably not happening. Many distributors turn to ERP for the same reason they store products in warehouses and not apartments—ERP delivers room to grow, provides an easier way to organize a business, and ultimately helps companies stay future-proof.

You Can’t Future-Proof Your Business If You’re Constantly Stuck in the Past

The problem with this is this: Some ERP solutions are stuck in the past. Legacy ERP—software introduced before the internet and designed to run on-premises—is just that. Companies move to the cloud for consistent advancement and improved automation, delivering the access, information, integration, and connectivity they need to make decisions.

Fake Cloud: Legacy with a Layer of Cloud Access

But there’s an operator in this statement—one that many companies looking at ERP overlook: the word “true.” True cloud solutions deliver integration. True cloud solutions deliver automation. True cloud solutions are future-proof, and true cloud solutions provide real-time visibility into sales, order management, inventory, purchasing, production and services. But what does that mean?

Put simply? How it was built.

Legacy software is built to work on-premises and deliver the functionality needed by a business in the 2000s. Fake cloud is just a repurposed version of legacy software. If you’re in the market for distribution ERP software, then recognizing the issues of choosing a legacy application is the first step.

These issues include—but are not limited to—needing specialized software to access your legacy ERP system (causing limited availability), requiring the assistance of a trained programmer due to the lack of user interface personalization, and difficulty in integrating with third-party applications because of proprietary integration tools. These, and more, increase your ownership costs and hinder your scalability.

True Cloud: Built in the Cloud, Built for the Future-Ready Business

True cloud was built with the modern business in mind, delivering mobility, automation, and integration needed to make smarter decisions. In fact, it was built with tomorrow’s business in mind, ready to deliver information that can help your business stay ahead of the trends and competition.

But how can you tell the difference? A recent Acumatica whitepaper discussed this exact concern that businesses have, noting that true cloud solutions need to deliver the following for distributors:

  • Full functionality and reporting offered on common mobile devices as well as on the desktop.
  • Full integration of spreadsheets, data services, apps, and equipment.
  • Software that was built using modern, commonly available tools and standards.
  • The ability to pay by resource usage, not by the user.
  • Industry-standard security.
  • Deployment options.
  • Easy upgrades.

If you’re in the market for an ERP product and any of the preceding characteristics are missing, you might want to look at the company’s history and ask whether they made progress into the modern age of business management software. Want to learn even more? The entire whitepaper explores even more business benefits of using the cloud and discusses additional risks of using fake cloud.

Acumatica and CCS: True Cloud Partners for Distribution Firms

If you’re looking for a flexible and powerful solution that doesn’t hinder your initiatives, it’s time to get rolling with Acumatica. Built in the cloud to deliver the adaptable, feature rich, and integrated enterprise resource planning software that streamlines your processes and facilitates your decisions, this solution is ready for the needs of distribution firms.

Get to know more about how this product has helped distributors like you by reading these case studies, reading 7 irresistible qualities of cloud ERP, and contacting leading Acumatica Partner CCS Technology for a consultation.

How Best-in-Class Functionality Helps Distributors Get What They Want (and Need)

As the song goes, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.” Written and released in 1969, these lyrics have become some of the most iconic in rock music. Notably, for the better part of the history of its history, the lyrics also represented the business management software buying process.

Time to Turn off the ERP Oldies

As little as a decade ago, distribution firms were forced into a product that, despite being necessary, wasn’t exactly what users wanted to work with. From the warehouses to the board room, products did what companies needed them to do.

Yes, the occasional hiccup popped up; yes, employees developed a series of workarounds; yes, many end users got no satisfaction from using the product—but it was better than nothing.

Just like the music world is no longer limited to a couple radio stations playing what executives want you to hear, ERP is no longer an inflexible, disparate, and vendor-driven product.

Today’s companies looking at ERP can get what they want—and what they need. Thanks to best-in-class functionality that’s built to integrate, we are quickly pushing towards ERP’s fourth era, according to Gartner. This era, called Enterprise Business Capabilities, coincides with what Gartner is describing as the Future of Applications.

How ERP’s Fourth Era Delivers Satisfaction for Distributors

For distribution firms, this means users get a connected experience no matter what solution or device they need to use. Want to connect your ERP with the CRM, EDI, inventory management, or logistics product of your choice? Simple—thanks to the cloud and modern APIs, integration no longer requires you to jump through hoops or copy and paste data to satisfy the requirements of your product.

Applications are now user-centric, and modern ERP vendors have changed the way they operate to deliver.

But buyer beware: Many companies who specialize in playing the ERP oldies are still around, making promises that they’ve changed. These fake cloud products deliver neither the functionality or flexibility you need to operate, and makes selecting and implementing a new ERP system a challenge—who’s telling the truth?

Integration in Modern ERP: Get What You Want and Need

If you’re in the market for an ERP product at your distribution firm, it pays to be vigilant and inquisitive. How does a vendor deliver integration? How easy is it to configure and set up? Is there an extra layer you need to work with?

Modern businesses function in a landscape where consumers expect fast, efficient service and instant gratification. Competition within every industry is high, and customer loyalty increasingly hard to earn. Modern ERP delivers integration through open APIs—because it needs to adapt to the speed of modern business.

In the past, this change came at a snail’s pace, and any time an update happened, companies were left scrambling to fix broken integrations. But today? It’s all about the open API.

Open APIs use a universal language allowing unparalleled access to multiple software services and data. The data and information silos of both the past and the present no longer exist, and developer workloads are significantly decreased.

In this, users see enhanced efficiency, streamlined data, easy collaboration with customers, partners, and third-party applications and, of course, streamlined integrations.

Modern ERP: It’s Time to Get Rolling

Without the right tools, distribution companies simply can’t compete. If you’re looking for a solution that works for your business, conforms to your processes, and empowers your users, look no further than Acumatica.

Built in the cloud to deliver the adaptable, feature rich, and integrated enterprise resource planning software that streamlines your processes and facilitates your decisions, this solution is ready for the needs of distribution firms. If you’re looking for a flexible and powerful solution that doesn’t hinder you, it’s time to get rolling with Acumatica.

Get to know more about how this product has helped distributors like you by reading these case studies, reading 7 irresistible qualities of cloud ERP, and contacting leading Acumatica Partner CCS Technology for a consultation.

Additional Distribution Resources

Recommendations for Selecting a Distribution ERP Solution

Digital Transform in the Distribution Industry and How Cloud ERP Can Help

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

Acumatica Cloud ERP: Distribution Case Studies

As an Acumatica partner, we have worked with many clients on the implementation of Acumatica Distribution Management Software. It’s a cloud-native ERP solution purpose-built for companies in the distribution business. The software helps companies manage supply chain and logistics activities, including inventory and warehouse management, procurement and order management.

Clients can add modules for Requisition Management, Purchase Order Management and Advanced Financials. They can also integrate fully with Acumatica Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Field Service, Manufacturing, Finance and Accounting and Project Accounting.

International Pipe Gains CRM, Boosts Productivity with Acumatica

Acumatica has racked up an impressive portfolio of customer success stories for its Distribution Management Software. For example, a pipe and supply business found the software’s ability to manage distribution data to be helpful in running the company. As their Chief Strategy Officer put it, “Acumatica allows my focus to be more on the business rather than wondering where I go to find the information I need. Knowledge is power and the quicker you can get to the knowledge, the better off you are.”

Key Results: 

  • Saved hours and greatly increased productivity with easy-to-use software
  • Gained sales lead tracking and CRM
  • Reduced time to close monthly books from 15 days to 3
  • Achieved visibility throughout three companies and 15 pipe yards
  • Built custom dashboards and reporting functionality to make better data-driven decisions
  • Replaced manual Excel spreadsheets, saving time

View the full case study here.

Rapid Field Service Growth Demands Flexible, Affordable ERP

An IT Manager at an oilfield services company echoed this sentiment, saying, “Acumatica allows us to concentrate on the business itself while not worrying about the software. All the data goes into one database, so it’s one version of truth.”

Key Results:

  • Gained a high-value, affordable foundation that can handle rapid growth
  • Gained transparency into operations, finance and inventory
  • Streamlined operations and processes
  • Avoided $175,000 in user-fee costs and about $250,000 in customization charges
  • Acquired foundation to scale operations including field services

View the full case study here.

Superprem Industries Moves to the Cloud to Gain Insights and Empower Employees

Other business managers praised Acumatica Distribution Management Software for its usability. A Chief Business Development Officer at a furniture and fixtures business remarked, “I am constantly amazed with how Acumatica seems to just ‘work.’ Anything we seem to imagine the system could do, we’ve been able to make happen without the assistance of external modifications.”

Key Results: 

  • Gained deeper insight into warehouse distribution operations
  • Improved inventory tracking and invoicing
  • Saved hours by streamlining and automating accounting tasks
  • Provided fast mobile access to financial data
  • Improved and streamlined company-wide communication

View the full case study here.

Indonesia’s OneMed Gains Affordable Foundation for Rapid Growth

Users also value the solution’s efficiency. According to a Co-Owner & Development Manager at a healthcare equipment company, “Acumatica will speed up our business process and make us more efficient, benefiting our business as well as the clients we serve.”

Key Results:

  • Gained an affordable system for rapid growth with unlimited user licenses
  • Eliminated computer crash delays that hindered staff productivity
  • Recouped days wasted waiting for financial reports
  • Collected crucial information previously uncaptured
  • Saved money by not outsourcing report creation
  • Achieved peace of mind by not worrying about system crashes

View the full case study here.

Fast Growing Global Beauty Care Unleashes Growth with Acumatica ERP

Other customers liked Acumatica’s licensing model. A Director of Operations & IT at a beauty supply business commented. “Almost every other ERP software charges monthly per user, which inevitably has executives trying to limit how many people really need simultaneous access. Acumatica’s novel way of charging based on transactions is well-suited for future growth.”

Key Results

  • Process data faster with fewer workarounds and errors
  • Gained a real-time financial view of the entire operation
  • Revolutionized the way they paid factories, eliminated potential invoicing errors
  • Avoided additional headcount needed with increased transactions
  • Saved money and avoided expensive per-user licensing enabling more users to access the system
  • Achieved easier to access data through use of generic inquiries and dashboards
  • Increased productivity so the Director of Operations could grow sales rather than worry about IT

View the full case study here.

Learn More About Distribution Management

These are just a few examples of customers expressing their success stories with Acumatica Distribution Management software. If you think your company could follow this path to operational improvements using Acumatica for distribution, contact us for a free consultation and product demo.

Additional Distribution Resources

Optimize Your Quote-to-Cash Process and Improve Customer Service

Top Reasons for Installing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

5 Reasons Distributors Need ERP Software

Optimize Your Quote-to-Cash Process and Improve Customer Service

Business isn’t that complicated. The customer wants his or her order. You want your money. The fewer complications the better. The sooner the customer gets the order, and the sooner you get the cash, the happier everyone is. Alas, things are not always so simple. More than few things can disrupt the quote-to-cash process. Software innovations, like Acumatica Cloud ERP for distribution, are making it easier to improve cash flow and customer experience, however.

The Quote-to-Cash Process

We all understand the quote-to-cash process intuitively, but it’s worth taking a closer look to see how many people, workflows and software applications it can take to execute. The process starts with a moment of customer contact where a salesperson gets information about what the customer needs. This could occur by phone, email or online quote request form. The salesperson then prepares a price quote, often using a productivity tool like Microsoft Word or a sales order processing application.

If the customer accepts the quote, the salesperson may then have to enter the resulting sales order, manually, into an order management system. From there, the warehouse or manufacturing operation has to fulfill the order. This may involve yet more manual rekeying of order data into a distribution management and logistics system. Once delivered, the order can be invoiced, which usually requires an invoicing system that may or may not be part of the company’s accounting software package. When payment comes from the customer, the cash deposit posts in the general ledger software.

Even when these separate processes and software packages are connected, the overall quote-to-cash process can still be cumbersome. A lot of people/hours get spent keeping on top of orders and their fulfilment through the final receipt of cash. There are also many opportunities for errors and confusing situations that can negatively affect customer service. For example, if one item out of ten quoted is out of stock, that will change the quote amount. This, in turn, may generate back-and-forth communications with the customer, adjustments to invoices, delays in order processing and so forth.

Improving the Quote-to-Cash Process

Modern automated systems like Acumatica Cloud ERP provide you with features, integrations and process orchestrations that streamline the quote-to-cash process. By connecting the various elements of the process and giving the different people involved a unified view of what’s going, the software helps improve cash flow while maintaining a good customer experience.

Now, with a single connected system, your people can take orders accurately, ship promptly and avoid billing errors. You get your cash faster. Reporting and data visualization tools give you insights into potential issues with slow payers, delayed deliveries and inventory control challenges.

Order automation enables order-taking over the phone, via websites and point-of-sale (POS) devices. The cloud ERP is able to display item availability and apply discounts automatically. It can be configured to show a variety of delivery options. The order then gets processed without any rekeying of information. The automation and orchestration continue through invoicing and accounting processes that complete the “to cash” step of the process.

We have worked with many companies on the implementation of cloud ERP to improve order-to-cash and the broader operations of a distribution business. Contact us to learn more or see a demo of Acumatica.

Additional Distribution Resources

Top Reasons for Installing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

Recommendations for Selecting a Distribution ERP Solution

Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind

4 Strategies for Smarter Inventory Control

Inventory control affects a range of business outcomes, including profitability, operational efficiency, product quality and customer satisfaction. Despite its importance, inventory control is often neglected, perhaps due to the traditional difficulty of doing it well. With the advent of cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions with dedicated inventory management features, this is starting to change.

Acumatica recently published a paper on the topic, highlighting four strategies for smarter inventory control: 1) Maintain accurate records; 2) Proactively plan to avoid shortages; 3) Focus on improvement; and 4) Reduce lead times and lot sizes by reducing fixed ordering costs. This article offers an overview of these strategies.

Understanding the Financial Impact of Inventory Control

Before getting into smarter inventory controls, it’s worth taking a moment to review three prominent cost impacts of inventory management.

  • Cash flow and the cost of capital—Inventory tends to use up cash, unless it’s being sold before the vendor’s bill becomes due. Most companies do not have such a fast cash cycle. Instead, inventory is ordered and paid for weeks or even months before it gets sold or incorporated into other products. In addition to diverting cash from operations or investment, inventory carrying costs show up as interest expense on the income statement.
  • Administrative costs of inventory management—Placing an order for products to be held in inventory carries an administrative cost. Someone, or some group of people, must do the work of placing the order, arranging for the purchase order, reconciling vendor invoices with purchase orders, authorizing payments to vendors and so forth. All of this costs money.
  • Storage and transportation costs—Inventory storage and logistics come at a cost, too. The warehouse facility has a cost to operate. Freight and logistics suppliers cost money as well.

Quality is an indirect, often intangible issue associated with inventory management. If a vendor ships defective inventory, that creates an administrative burden for returns and refunds. If customers receive defective merchandise, that magnifies the admin problem and adds customer relationship problems to the mix. Generally, the longer inventory sits on the shelf, the harder it becomes to locate the defective goods.

Strategy #1 – Maintain Accurate Records

Record-keeping is essential to effective inventory control. This is a well-known fact, but it’s still surprising how challenging it can be to implement good inventory records at many companies. The culprit is often systemic in nature, with manual processes and re-keying of inventory data from one system into another, e.g. from a warehouse management solution into ERP. Alternatively, record-keeping falls apart due to physical/digital handoffs. For example, if the warehouse receives a shipment of inventory and then places it on multiple shelves, the storage locations may get lost, or at least not tracked, by any central system. Accidental, unnecessary reorders or unawareness of defective goods may result.

Strategy #2 – Proactive Planning

Proactively planning for replenishment is a wise practice in inventory control. But, when is the right time to replenish? This is a simple but highly challenging question to answer. At stake are issues like the business risks of running out of an item, which can affect production and customer satisfaction. Per-unit costs, which may go up in smaller orders, can be a factor, as well as shipping lead times, shipping costs and so forth. Learn more about measuring warehouse productivity.

Material Requirements Planning (MRP) software offers a solution that enables proactive planning. It calculates replenishment quantities and optimal order timing—in alignment with the master production schedule. Distributors can use comparable Distribution Requirement Planning (DRP) tools. Both types of software work from a sales forecast and work backward in time through the distribution network (DRP) and Bill of Materials (BOM).

Strategy #3 – Focus on Improvement

Innovations in inventory management software also make possible an ongoing focus on improvement. Businesses that are successful at inventory control seldom sit still. They are always looking for ways to get better at the process. Plus, the dynamics of the business are always in flux, so the inventory control approach that worked last month may longer be optimal. Software for inventory control enables users to improve their inventory accuracy. Users can also get better at forecasting replenishment quantities and reducing order lead times.

Strategy #4 – Reduce Lead Times and Lot Sizes

The ideal inventory order lead time is zero. The instant the item is needed, it shows up on the shop floor or in the distribution warehouse. Of course, zero lead time doesn’t happen, though software can get a company pretty close. “Just in time” or same-day delivery of needed inventory are now common. The challenge is to predict variability. One day, a company might need 10 units of a particular SKU. The next day, it will need 12. If it orders 12 every day, it will start to accumulate a backlog, with carrying costs and all the other problems that come with inventory.

Control Your Inventory With Cloud ERP Built for Distribution

As these four strategies suggest, software and data analytics capabilities are at the heart effective inventory control. Making fast, smart decisions about inventory—and leveraging technology to automate inventory management processes across multiple systems, is only possible with the right software tools. Acumatica Distribution Edition embodies these capabilities. We have extensive experience working with companies on the implementation of Acumatica for inventory control. To discuss how this technology could benefit your business, or to see a demonstration of Acumatica’s inventory control features, please reach out to arrange a meeting.

Top Reasons for Installing a Warehouse Management System (WMS)

It seems as if, for years, the warehouse was the site of rusting steel shelves and low expectations. Things have really changed. Today’s warehouse is an operational center, where customer-facing strategies come to life with services like same-day delivery and automatic stock-out notifications. These changes have not arisen out of nowhere. Competition from online businesses and customers’ demand for seamless, omnichannel experiences have transformed the warehouse. So has software. Warehouse Management Software (WMS) makes possible many of the innovations that put warehouse operations into your strategic planning toolkit.

With that in mind, here are some reasons to consider adding a WMS to your business.

  • Streamline processes—A WMS systematizes warehouse workflows like picking and label creation. The results include a reduction in errors and improvements in warehouse worker productivity.
  • Automate warehouse operations—With a WMS, you can automate operational processes and routines packaging, PO receiving, putting away, merchandise transfers and physical counts. The latter is accomplished with integrated barcode scanners. Customized workflows and forms eliminate the risk of people skipping important steps. They can also cut down on employee training costs.
  • EDI integration—Many suppliers still use Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), so it’s a good idea to be compatible with this mode of company-to-company order processing. A WMS should enable full EDI compliance, including the 856 Advance Ship Notice (ASN) standard. This makes it possible to use EDI to electronically communicate order and shipment details.
  • Track lot and serial numbers—The WMS gives you the ability to stay on top of serial numbers and lot numbers. They get scanned and then printed on the pick list and packing slip. This way, there is never a mistake about what was picked and shipped.
  • Operate hands-free—A WMS like Acumatica’s provides a pre-printed smart scan sheet that lets warehouse employees interact with the system using only their scanners. This is useful for people who have to wear gloves on the job. Scan sheets might include commands like “complete shipment,” “next/previous box,” and “remove item.” In addition, the sheet may contain audible and visual indicators as well as warnings that offer instant feedback if the wrong items are picked and so forth.
  • Generate useful operational data—The WMS can create data that’s useful for managing the overall business. For example, a WMS can report on on-time shipments, stock-outs, or “shrinkage” that might reveal a problem with theft. Warehouse managers can use data visualization and reporting to stay on top of the warehouse in real time.

Acumatica WMS is a module of the software’s Distribution Edition. As a part of the Acumatica system, it can easily integrate with your company’s ERP, finance, field service management and other software applications. Such integration helps make the warehouse a core part of business operations. It can also integrate Acumatica Commerce Edition. This helps you manage advanced warehouse functions for wholesale, manufacturing, retail and other businesses.

We have worked with many companies on the implementation of Acumatica WMS. If you would like to see a demo or learn more about how Acumatica WMS can benefit your business, let’s talk.

Additional Distribution Resources

Digital Transform in the Distribution Industry and How Cloud ERP Can Help

Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

Measuring Warehouse Productivity: Top 5 Metrics to Consider

Warehouse management has a lot to do with balancing two competing needs: speed and accuracy. If you manage a warehouse, you typically want your people to work as quickly as possible without injuring themselves or causing damage to products. At the same time, if you achieve speed at the cost of accuracy, your business will experience customer complaints and costly restocking and re-delivery procedures.

Warehouse productivity is a measurement of how well you manage this conflict, together with factors like on-time delivery and warehouse utilization. The industry’s professional association, The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) studies this issue, among many others, that affect distribution companies.

Their DC Measures 2019 annual benchmarking study highlights the importance of warehouse productivity. Here are the top five metrics from the report:

1. Order Picking Accuracy (percent by order)

This metric shows how accurately warehouse employees pick products for orders. Order picking accuracy can drop with multi-part orders, where the employee has to pick products from multiple bins. The metric is also a measure of the quality of order picking instructions. For example, if the order says “Product X,” but the employee finds two bins, each with Product X in a different color, this creates a problem. He or she can take a guess at what color is needed, and then have the company suffer the consequences of a return. Or, the employee can send the order back for confirmation, which creates churn and delay.

2. Average Warehouse Capacity Used

A warehouse is a financial asset. As a result, its rate of capacity utilization is an important number for senior management. If a company is only using 10% of its warehouse capacity, that’s a problem. It means they’re paying for the rent and upkeep of unproductive space. This may seem like an easy-to-spot problem, but with multiple sites and changing seasonal inventories, it can be difficult to measure accurately without the right software and procedures.

3. Peak Warehouse Capacity Used

It’s also helpful to know your peak warehouse capacity utilization. The number itself can be revealing, like if it’s too low. But, unless its 100%, then there’s room for improvement. Peak warehouse capacity used is a target, a basis for doing better. If the number was 70% last year, then maybe this year, it could be 75%.

4. On-time Shipments

Shipments reaching customers on-time is a critical success metric for warehouses. It’s important on its own, because it reflects if the warehouse doing its job right. However, late shipments also create hidden costs and difficulties elsewhere in the business. They cause customer service calls and complaints. They cause package tracking and other wastes of time. Ultimately, late shipments can damage your brand and cause customers to defect.

5. Inventory Count Accuracy by Location

Are the inventory counts accurate in each location? This is another stealth issue that is more important than it looks. If there are fewer items in a bin than the system says there should be, that might indicate theft or unreported damage. The results of miscounted inventory include unforeseen stockouts and fulfillment problems that negatively customer attitudes.

Strong warehouse productivity metrics arise out of good management overall, but also by means of software. This is especially true for business with extensive product catalogs and high rates of inventory turnover. Software and related technologies, like barcode scanners and RFID readers contribute to tight measurement and control of warehouse operations.

We work with many distribution businesses on the implementation of Acumatica Cloud ERP for distribution and warehouse management. This software solution enables you to measure the five key warehouse productivity metrics described above, along with many others. If you want to learn more about how Acumatica can help your distribution business function better, let’s talk.

Additional Distribution Resources

Recommendations for Selecting a Distribution ERP Solution

Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

Recommendations for Selecting a Distribution ERP Solution

What is the right ERP solution for your distribution business? Acumatica Cloud ERP has created an in-depth checklist to help you understand your options. Their hope, of course, is that you choose Acumatica, but the reality is they’ve done everyone a service by publishing the checklist. You could work through it and conclude that a different solution is right for your particular distribution business—especially as the industry undergoes a period of digital transformation.

The checklist is also a good reflection of the way we work with clients in discovering the best solution for their distribution businesses. It’s methodical and allows for the prioritization of needs. With ERP selection, it should never be a simple matter of feature-to-feature comparison. The best practice is to weight features by relevance to your business.

Overview of the Distribution ERP Selection Checklist

The checklist contains five categories of comparison for distribution ERP solutions:

  • Productivity—How a distribution ERP solution can make your employees more productive in their jobs
  • Functionality—The specific features and functions of the solution
  • Technology—The underlying technology that affects user experience, customization and administration along with integration with other systems, e.g. logistics, HR and so forth
  • Value—How the product maximizes features and functions vs. cost for the product’s lifetime
  • Risk—How the product minimizes risk and facilitates security (e.g. network and financial security)

Using the Checklist to Select a Distribution ERP Solution

Depending on your business, you may emphasize some of the five categories more than others. Productivity, for example, is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The checklist forces you to take a hard look at issues like how intuitive the interface is for users. If it’s not easy to learn, people might find ways to work around it, defeating the whole purpose of the solution. Other productivity factors include having a single database, multi-currency capabilities, wikis and so forth.

Functionality is a critical area for evaluation. Even if you totally love a distribution ERP solution, if it doesn’t do what you want, the solution won’t work. Functional check-offs span features like support for multiple entities, financial management and quote-to-cash workflows. Sales order management and cost accounting are on the list, as are purchase order management and inventory management.

In terms of technology, the checklist encourages you to probe whether a cloud-based solution is “True Cloud,” meaning that it was designed natively for the cloud. This can make a difference in how well the solution works and how easy it is to change. Responsive design is also a significant requirement, given today’s mobile workforce and customers. Other technical issues of note include database export capabilities and the presence of a full relational database. This latter technical feature can be important for integration with other systems, audits and more. The value checklist items refer to financial aspects of the solution. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) figures prominently into the value category, but so do non-monetary but value-oriented factors like scalability.

If you’re considering getting a new distribution ERP solution, we encourage you to work with the checklist. We can help you go through it, looking at how your business runs and how it competes to arrive at an informed, wise solution choice.

Additional Distribution Resources

Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

5 Reasons Distributors Need ERP Software

Digital Transform in the Distribution Industry and How Cloud ERP Can Help

Discussions about digital transformation often lead off with the phrase, “Just imagine if…” Just image that you could use Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to build a new kind of relationship with customers. Just imagine that you could track an order from receipt through delivery in real time. For a lot of companies, it’s pie in the sky. In distribution, the pie has already been served. You just have to order a slice. You don’t have to “just imagine” a digital transformation if you have the right tools.

Digital Transformation, the Concept

What is digital transformation? Briefly, digital transformation is a concept that started out in life as marketing hype but is quickly becoming reality. At its core, digital transformation involves using advances in application integration technology, cloud computing, data analytics and “edge computing” IoT devices to transform your relationship with customers, employees and partners. It enables you to venture into new business models and competitive strategies.

Digital Transformation in Distribution

The distribution business was actually an innovator in the practices that now comprise digital transformation. Distributors adopted computer-based order tracking, inventory management and the like years before anyone else. You may not remember, but before about 1990, if you shipped a package, you had a 0% chance of knowing when it was going to be delivered. You could call the carrier and ask, but they didn’t know.

Today, instant online or phone-based order tracking, along with dozens of comparable real-time processes, are simply an expectation of doing business. The problem with this is that once business practices become a given, they are no longer competitive. If every distribution company offers online order tracking, your distribution business is another dime, among dozens. Learn more in Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind.

The challenge—and opportunity—for distribution companies is to use technology to take the business to new levels of efficiency and competitiveness. This is not always easy, but the tooling is definitely available to make it happen if you want it. With cloud ERP solutions like Acumatica, distributors can implement a range of digitally transformative processes and practices in their businesses. These include:

  • Maintaining a real-time view of your customer’s activities across all your operations. This is made possible by integrating field service operations software with back office systems.
  • Tracking customer engagement from first contact through opportunity creation, price quoting order processing, scheduling of installation and follow up field services—connecting mobile devices with ERP and accounting software as well as with data analytics and reporting tools.
  • Using data visualization to spot issues in field service quality—and react in real time with route optimization
  • Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) for predictive maintenance that optimizes field service and keeps customers happy
  • Discovering the optimal marketing processes to identify and convert the best prospects into high-grossing accounts—by analyzing account performance data with marketing campaigns
  • Increasing back office productivity by automating workflows and becoming more efficient at document management, e.g. for contracts and sales orders
  • Integrating with partner firms for better supply chain management and customer service

Acumatica Distribution Edition delivers, giving your business control over their supply chain and logistics activities, including warehouse management, inventory management, and order management. Built in the cloud and customized for your needs, Acumatica helps companies improve customer satisfaction, reduce order times, and control costs across the entire supply and distribution chain.

CCS Technology has considerable experience in the distribution vertical, equipping clients with industry-specific tools that ensure a smooth process, top-notch security, and consistent reliability. We’ll make sure your clients can count on you. Contact us to learn more.

Additional Distribution Resources

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

Making the Most of KPIs in Distribution

5 Reasons Distributors Need ERP Software

Looking at 2020 Distribution Industry Trends with ERP in Mind

Distribution challenges loom as 2020 approaches. Issues include increased costs and unpredictable spending habits by the ever-more influential Millennial generation. Distribution businesses must keep up to meet their goals of continued growth. ERP software specialized for distribution offers a solution. Here is a selection of pressing trends in distribution that can be addressed by ERP.

An Increase in On-Demand Ecommerce

Consumers now expect to have the option to buy and receive goods from anywhere after placing orders from phones, cars and personal digital assistants like Alexa or Siri. Many of them demand same-day delivery. It’s not uncommon for retailers to offer two-day shipping, while Amazon offers next-day delivery to about 75% of the U.S. population. To compete, businesses must invest in logistics infrastructure improvements.

Acumatica cloud ERP facilitates this kind of on-demand experience. It incorporates a Customer Management Suite that enables businesses to respond quickly to requests, from first contact with a customer through the entire sales process. It also helps manage fulfillment, billing and after-sales service requests. Visibility into real-time sales data helps with forecasting while customers can access information via the Acumatica Customer Portal, thereby connecting CRM functionality with distribution operations.

A Shortage of Labor Resources

As logistics operations grow in size and complexity, the need for labor is increasing. But with low unemployment, it is becoming more difficult to find available workers who can fulfill the demand for same-day delivery, especially during peak shipping times like Christmas. Automation technologies are decreasing in cost at the same time. Robotics and software solutions are becoming essential in the logistics industry, just to stay competitive.

Acumatica streamlines logistics operations with accurate cost tracking, manual or automatic allocation of freight costs and management of multiple warehouses. It can factor in location-specific inventory, quantities and costs as well as help redistribute inventory from a central facility to other warehouses. Purchase orders can be automatically generated to replenish stock and sent to vendors with optimal prices and delivery times.

Tariffs on Foreign Goods Are Increasing Costs

Tariffs, particularly those on goods from China, are leading companies to relocate so they can sell products at affordable prices. Businesses are finding the need to rework their distribution models, modify their tracking systems and find new trading partners. At the same time, they must maintain their bottom lines, satisfy customer demand and keep up with their competitors.

With Acumatica, organizations can have full visibility into inventory, prices and cost-saving opportunities from a single data source. Reports can be accessed from anywhere, including on mobile devices, so data and analytics can be viewed in real-time via intuitive custom dashboards. Users can also see sales trends, product movement and market information.

Dashboards also provide useful information such as product and material replenishment, lot/serial numbers and shelf life and expiration dates along with details on the condition of stock, drop shipments and vendor selection and performance analyses. At the same time, the cloud ERP system reduces the risk of errors and avoids requiring data re-entry and reorganization. This improves control as companies rework their distribution processes.

Acumatica Distribution Edition

If you hope to grow your business or even stave off the ongoing threats that exist from competitors, you need an ERP solution designed for you.

Acumatica Distribution Edition delivers, giving your business control over their supply chain and logistics activities, including warehouse management, inventory management, and order management. Built in the cloud and customized for your needs, Acumatica helps companies improve customer satisfaction, reduce order times, and control costs across the entire supply and distribution chain.

Contact us to learn more.

Additional Distribution Resources

Benefits of ERP Software for Distribution Business Management

Making the Most of KPIs in Distribution

5 Reasons Distributors Need ERP Software