Death of The Salesman: ERP Software edition

October 26, 2010

A salesperson is a masochist who occasionally gets paid for self-inflicting pain. That famous quote holds true particularly in the business software arena. The typical ERP software salesperson may spend dozens of hours, spread over months (or even years), working on a prospective sale that he / she had no chance of winning at any point during the sales process.

So what should we do as purveyors of wholesale distribution software, or any other business software companies? The answer is quite simple: don’t use salespeople.

Sounds completely wrong, doesn’t it? I will explain further in my next post, but for now I pose 2 simple questions – please feel free to suggest answers in the comments section below:

1. What’s the difference between an ERP Salesperson  and a dinosaur?

2. Who coined the quote at the start of this article?


Lot Tracking: Top 3 Excuses

October 19, 2010

Food distributors, and companies distributing pharmaceutical, medical and other consumable supplies that may be subject to regulatory recall all know the importance of lot tracking. So why do so many of them neglect this key aspect of their business?

Implementing a lot tracking system requires an investment in time and money, and perhaps a surgical approach to existing business processes. And that could also mean jettisoning the existing ERP Software in favour of a Wholesale Distribution Software system that supports Lot Tracking. yet none of these make the top 3 list of excuses for delaying or resisting implementation of lot tracking. So what are the top 3 excuses? And what should we say in response?

#3: We don’t need to track lots

“We’ve never had a product recall, and if we do, we’ll go through our paper records to handle it.” Errr – no you won’t, because you didn’t record the Lot Numbers on the way in or out. What you will do if you have a product recall, is you’ll manually search your warehouse for the offending lots that may still be in inventory. As for the products you’ve sold that may be subject to recall: you’ll send a nice letter to all customers to whom you sold any products that may (but may not) have included offending lots, asking them to kindly search their inventory and check their records to see whether you sent them any of those items. Way to look good in front of your customers! (And how many products have you had to throw out because they’d passed their best before date before they’d been picked and shipped? Guess how you could avoid that…)

#2: Our warehouse staff couldn’t handle it

“Our staff back there aren’t sophisticated enough to manage Lot Tracking.” If that were accurate, then you should fire them all and hire better people. But it’s not true – if you put the appropriate tools in place and provide training, any warehouse staff that can pick and pack products can be trained to scan bar codes with lot numbers, and even pick system specified lots so that you can ship out products based on expiry dates.

#1: We have higher priorities right now 

Actually, that’s true. But you also have higher priorities than eating lunch, or drinking coffee, yet you manage to do those things daily. And one product recall would make this much more important than drinking coffee, even if like me you’re a caffeine junkie. I’ll bet you do things at work every day, and make business decisions every week, on issues that are a lower priority than this.

Moral of the story is rather obvious: if you’re in one of the businesses mentioned at the start of this diatribe, and not tracking lots – STOP MAKING EXCUSES!


iLike these iPhone iApps

October 12, 2010

For those iPhone users who are NOT devoted to only ever using free apps, here are two useful business apps I use and recommend. They are NOT free, but they are very good value for (very little) money.

DocsToGo

This app (under $15) extends the functionality of Microsoft Office, allowing the creation and edit of Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. The separate desktop application for your PC or Mac handles synchronization of documents between phone and computer. The user interface is cunningly designed to minimize the disadvantages of the small display area.

This has quickly become my best productivity app. Search for this in the App store.

Signature Pro

For $5 (or technically, just under), add professional signatures to your outbound emails from you iPhone. This app fills a need for just about any business person using an iPhone to send email. Multiple signatures, with logos, photos, social media links, and more – in fact your iPhone signature will probably be an improvement on your existing desktop version.

Search in app store or visit http://www.ideasunplugged.com/signature.

What business apps are other iPhone users very pleased with, and willing to recommend?


2 Warehouse Management Tips: Pick Inventory Efficiently

October 5, 2010

Most small and medium sized wholesalers / distributors use a straightforward approach to picking orders. It goes like this:

In the office: receive an order, enter it into the wholesale distribution software in use, print a picking slip, send picking slip to the warehouse team.

In the warehouse: pick the order, pack it for shipping. and update the actual quantities picked.

Back in the office: using the ERP Software system, print and mail the invoices.

warehouse managementHere are 2 tips that could lead to increased efficiency. These will not apply to all smaller warehouses, but for many these ideas if implemented appropriately will save time, improve efficiency and in the latter case, measurably save money.

Tip 1: Consolidated Picking

Depending on your order volume, the complexity of individual orders, and the degree of products common to different orders, many a warehouse can save time, reduce the number of warehouse staff required, and ease the burden on the front office by using a consolidated picking approach. While there are many variations, a simple idea is to accumulate several orders over a predetermined time period, then print a consolidated picking report, and make one trip through the warehouse picking all the items for the several orders in the “batch”. When packing the orders you’ll separate them into the individual orders (the consolidated picking report and attendant inventory accounting software screens should be optimized to assist with this). I’ve seen consolidated picking (when properly implemented) not only save time and reduce headcount, but also reduce errors and even allow a company to make better use of the warehouse space, thus delaying the need to move to bigger premises.

Tip 2: Do Not Mail Invoices

This one seems obvious, yet most small and medium sized distributors seem to still mail invoices. Instead, one could print the invoice at completion of the packing process, and include it with the shipment. This will work in cases where your customers are themselves smaller companies, in which case the invoice is likely to find its way from the receiving dock to the accounting office. For larger customers, usually an email invoice in PDF format is perfectly acceptable. So email them invoices instead of printing and mailing.

One customer a few years ago switched from mailing to including invoices with shipments. With several hundred invoices per month, the savings in postage alone amounts to thousands of dollars annually.

So why would you still put an invoice in an envelope, and snail-mail it?


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