In our last blog exploring the role of an ERP partner in helping you through your ERP selection and implementation journey, we highlighted the importance of communication and needs documentation, noting that this is a critical step not only for getting the right functionality, but in driving excitement for a project.
“Figuring out what you need and telling both end users and executives the path forward go hand in hand. Lack of communication can end up with a mutiny from users who felt the company ignored their concerns. Lack of needs analysis can lead you down the wrong path, and in turn could result in a poorly generated ROI analysis when attempting to secure funding.
But as a distributor, what are these things you need to look for? Well, after touching on these topics in our posts on key ERP functionality being used by distributors, the technologies pushing the market forward, and the steps to completing a technological readiness assessment, we would today like to look at the things you should ask for and prioritize. This can go a long way in laying the groundwork for ongoing advancement.
Assessing Your Current State and Prioritizing Needs
During your initial steps, you first need to look at what you have. Can it be augmented or replaced? Are there better ways to use a software? The detailed assessment identifies required business needs and application features. Below is a list of common feature requirements. Document what features you already have, which ones you do not need, and which ones you expect to need in the future.
Deployment and Pricing
The first thing you should look at is the product delivery. The cloud has become the de facto solution for today’s businesses, but some organizations want to be closer to their data. The second question should be the way that you pay for the product.
Some companies have the risk tolerance for a capital expenditure, ready to invest heavily at the beginning. Others want a bit more freedom in a subscription model.
Most distribution firms are looking exclusively to the cloud, but vendors who can provide flexibility are best.
Key Feature: Inventory Management
Your inventory is your money, and this should be prioritized—nearly on the same level as the financial management functionality.
Make sure your inventory system supports multiple locations (warehouse, aisle, row, rack, shelf, and bin). Review physical inventory processes. Look for advanced features such as first-expired-first-out picking, lot and serial tracking, matrix items, and automated replenishment.
Second Priority: Order Management
After looking at how a product is managing inventory, your next step is to look at how it moves products in and out of your facilities. Most WMS applications provide order management capabilities. But without a connection to ordering, you’re going to end up with hills to climb on both sides of a transaction.
A connected solution presents you with a clear picture of ERP, WMS, and more to give everyone information on the business. Make sure your systems support backorders and item substitutions, inventory allocations, and drop-shipments by line item. Also review sales commissions, pricing and promotions, and electronic data interchange (EDI).
Key to the Future: Warehouse Automation
From here, your product needs to empower your company’s growth in the future. As you move to automate and enhance, your product needs to be an enabler, not a hinderance. Automation is crucial for distributors to capture data quickly and accurately. ERP and WMS technologies expedite data entry using technologies such as barcoding, RFID, and more. Look for systems with simple integration tools to connect to warehouse carousels, conveyor systems, scales, and other automation technologies.
Process to Control: Inventory Transactions
As mentioned above, inventory is money—and how a solution manages it matters. In this phase, set your priorities and ask if anything is a dealbreaker. Whittle down your list by looking at how it works for you—the product can have all the bells and whistles, but if it isn’t meeting your workflow needs, it’s not going to help.
Carefully review all transactions and business processes including vendor receipt of goods, vendor and customer returns, and directed put-away. Compare a solution to your business—do you need expiration dates with first-expired-first-out picking? Do you use advanced wave, batch, or zone picking? Also, look for shipping integration for small parcel or LTL/TL carriers.
Covering Your Backside: Compliance and Reporting
Additionally, it’s important to have all the answers for whomever is asking. Timely and accurate information is crucial for warehouse management. Reporting for quality and compliance is essential for regulated products such as pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, chemicals, and food. Carefully evaluate business intelligence, dashboards, reporting, and inquiry features.
Your Path to a Modern Warehouse Management and ERP Solution
The path to warehouse modernization is complex and often requires you to make some tough decisions to get the most out of the journey. One decision that shouldn’t be hard is who you trust with the project.
But not every company has the skills to get you from knowing what need to reaping the rewards of a new system. At Cloud 9 ERP Solutions, a Gold Certified Acumatica Partner, we have worked with companies like yours to configure and deliver Acumatica Cloud ERP, a product ready and able to handle your challenges.
Get to know more about how we work, who we’ve helped, and why we’ve been a leader in the business for nearly three decades by contacting us for a free consultation or watch our Acumatica Distribution demo.
Additional Resources for Distributors