September 1, 2015
News Release: Blue Link speaks with TechnologyAdvice.com about Blue Link’s Inventory and Accounting ERP software.
The following summary post is from TechnologyAdvice.com, a website that provides reviews and rankings of business software, including customer relationship management tools, the best ERP software, and more.
Recently our very own Samantha Hornby, spoke with Eric Perry of TechnologyAdvice to go over a few features, best practises and what makes Blue Link ERP software unique.
Samantha described how Blue Link ERP is an all-in-one inventory management system and accounting ERP system targeted at small to medium sized businesses with approximately 5-100 people. Check out the full interview video or read below for a transcript of the conversation.
TA: Welcome Technology Advice viewers to this week’s product spotlight. I’m joined today by Samantha Hornby, the marketing manager of Blue Link, an ERP software provider. Samantha, describe Blue Link ERP in one sentence.
Hornby: Blue Link ERP provides inventory management and accounting ERP software for small to medium size businesses, primarily those in the wholesale and distribution industry.
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August 18, 2015
Cycle counting often comes up in discussions surrounding proper inventory management, but what does it mean and how do you incorporate it into your business processes? In this article I’ll attempt to demystify the term and further explain how regular cycle counting is important for small and large companies, for better inventory management.
What is cycle counting?
Cycle counting is used as a tool to monitor variances in inventory. It involves regularly counting a small subset of inventory at a specific location on a specific day, with the intent of cycling through the entire inventory over a period of time, and then repeating. With any wholesale distribution company, there will often be some sort of variance between the inventory items you have on file vs. what you physically have in your warehouse. This is a result of product getting misplaced, extra items being sent out with bulk orders, human error, shrinkage, etc.
Determining this variance only at the end of the year can result in greater discrepancies and therefore shock from management. Regular cycle counts help your business keep a closer eye on this variance and make necessary process changes according to the results. Ultimately, regular cycle counting should result in detailed procedures that yield very low variance levels and a high level of inventory accuracy.
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August 10, 2015
We’ve all read a company’s “about” page on their website, claiming that their competitive advantage is their great customer service, and yet so many of these businesses are not taking advantage of software to better serve their customers. Even with social media and the internet providing consumers with much of the information they need to make an informed purchase decision, a knowledgeable sales team is still a valued resource in many industries. Traditionally, businesses have looked to back-end inventory and accounting software (ERP) with CRM or contact management tools as enough functionality for their sales team, but these tools often lack order taking features and analytics. Whether interacting with customers on location, at tradeshows or in a showroom, equipping your sales team with the tools and information they need in a timely manner can make a positive impact on your bottom line. To understand what functionality you need, first you need to understand your sales team.
Depending on the nature of your business and target market, you may benefit from using a small number of internal sales reps (employed and paid for by you) or an outside sales team (employed on a contract basis). If you employ a small number of internal reps, than it may be worth it to give them full access to your back-end inventory and accounting ERP system. This way they have full autonomy to view available inventory, access customer information and place orders. However keep in mind that many software systems charge based on number of users so this can become expensive. In addition, you may want to restrict your sales team to only seeing certain information, and although this can be achieved with different permission settings, there are other options as well. Consider implementing an online order portal or mobile sales application that is fully integrated with your back-end ERP system, as an alternative means of providing your sales reps the option to view inventory and place orders.
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April 22, 2015
As a general rule, there are differences in software implementation time-frames, dependent on the tier or type of software being implemented. When it comes to inventory and accounting ERP software, Tier 1 or Introductory Systems (such as QuickBooks), usually take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to get set up; Tier 2 ERP systems can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to get set up; and Tier 3 or Blue Chip systems can take the longest – from several months to a year plus. These timeframes correlate with the sophistication of each tier of system and the complexity of business processes. This also means that the work included with software implementations will vary by tier, and also by software vendor within each tier. This makes it very important to read the fine print on all software vendor quotes in order to compare apples to apples when making a purchasing decision. Because of this, it’s important to begin the software search when your current systems are still in good working condition, and the search has not yet become a critical need in order to maintain business operations. It’s unrealistic to expect vendors to complete the implementation process immediately after a signed quote is received, for reasons outlined below.
One of the most time consuming parts of an ERP software implementation is the data migration process. This aspect not only greatly impacts implementation timeframe, but also total costs. Data migration consists of transferring data from your existing software systems or from spreadsheets, and importing it into your new software. This process can be further broken down into 3 parts:
- Extracting data from the existing system
- “Massaging” the data – clean up and structuring
- Moving the data into the new system
Essentially, data is mapped from the old system to the new according to labels, titles and structures, and additional “massaging” or “cleaning up” gets performed to ensure bad data is not brought into the new system. This process usually happens multiple times in order to get the most accurate and up-to-date data before Go-Live. As you can imagine, for software vendors that manage the entire data migration process, this is not a quick and simple task – especially when dealing with companies that have 30+ years’ worth of data to migrate. Certain software vendors will put the onus on the client to extract the data and manually enter it themselves, which can lead to quicker implementation timeframes and lower costs – but this logic works mostly in theory and not reality. Relying on the client to perform the data migration can mean that the massaging process gets ignored, some data gets missed during the process and employees must take time away from their daily work to complete the task. Read the rest of this entry »
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 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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January 20, 2015
True 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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