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Managing Change: Critical Success Factors for Paperless Warehouse Management Implementation

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by admin

One of the most common objectives a business has when evaluating distribution software solutions is to find an ERP system with a fully-integrated, RF and barcode-enabled warehouse management system. Many organizations enter the ERP selection process with the goal of implementing an ERP system that will allow them to operate their warehouse in a completely paperless environment.

While the paperless warehouse is an achievable goal through implementation of Enterprise 21 ERP’s warehouse management system, there are three critical success factors for achieving such a goal, all of which revolve around the issue of organizational change management. The process of migrating from a paper-based warehouse environment to one of real-time, paperless inventory tracking requires all parties to be equally vested in the process.

The Three Critical Success Factors for Paperless Warehouse Implementation:

1.    Take a Phased Approach. Too often, organizations try to tackle more than they (and their users) are capable of doing all at once. Particularly in instances in which no barcode scanning exists prior to ERP implementation, it is recommended to have an intermediate step in the process in which users use a paper-assisted method in which barcodes are scanned via an RF device but a paper pick-ticket, work order, and/or packing slip is still generated. If nothing else, the piece of paper can act as a “safety blanket” for the warehouse users as they become more acclimated with the new ERP system on a daily basis. Once the users are more accustomed to interacting with the system and have demonstrated a willingness to record data electronically in real-time, the organization is ready to move to a more paperless environment.

2.    Training, Training, and More Training. Sufficient training on the new ERP system, particularly for inventory and warehouse users, is critical to a successful ERP implementation and reduces the risk of issues occurring upon system go-live. As much training should be dedicated to the warehouse users as possible; the users not only need to learn the functional processing of the system but the business processes and transactions they engage in as well. They also need to be prepared for situations that they may not necessarily see on a daily basis but that arise on occasion nonetheless (a supplier shipped the wrong product, a purchase order was over-shipped or under-shipped, inventory is not in the right location, etc.). The more prepared the warehouse users are prior to system go-live, the faster they will be able to adopt a paperless warehouse environment in the following months using  the ERP Software.

3.    Senior Management Enforcement and Oversight. Senior management enforcement of user data entry for each warehouse transaction is essential to migrating to a paperless warehouse environment. ERP software and warehouse management systems are only as good as the data they are given. Management needs to be willing to adopt the motto, “If you do something, you need to tell the system you did it.” Maintaining complete inventory data accuracy and integrity, and users’ willingness to adopt such methodologies, will prove to be the most critical factor to realizing the benefits and efficiencies provided by a paperless warehouse environment.


Visit TGI at the 2012 NACD Annual Meeting Vendor Expo

Monday, November 26th, 2012 by admin

TGI will be exhibiting at the 2012 NACD Annual Meeting Vendor Expo, held November 27-29, 2012 in San Diego, California. TGI representatives will be on hand at Table #3 while at the event to provide demonstrations of Enterprise 21 ERP to all NACD Annual Meeting attendees.

The NACD Annual Meeting is the National Association of Chemical Distributors’ premier event for chemical distribution industry leaders and provides a wealth of opportunities to its members to engage in industry best practice sessions, learn about changes to industry compliance regulations, interact with other business executives in the industry, and more.

With constantly changing and increasingly more stringent industry regulatory requirements, the Enterprise 21 ERP system has emerged as an ideal chemical distribution software solution in the past several years. Enterprise 21 ERP provides chemical distributors with:

  • Forward and backward lot tracking and traceability
  • A fully-integrated, RF and barcode-enabled warehouse management system
  • Advanced forecasting and MRP/DRP functionality
  • Integrated quality control functionality with Certificate of Analysis (COA) generation and management
  • MSDS generation and management
  • A built-in document management system
  • Value-added service support through advanced manufacturing software functionality
  • Sophisticated customer and product pricing rules including promotions, allowances, and volume discounts
  • Quoting and conversion of quotes to customer sales orders
  • Multiple unit of measure support
  • Multi-company support
  • A complete transportation management system
  • Landed cost, container tracking, and import management functionality
  • Fully-integrated order management, inventory management, procurement, financial management, CRM, and business intelligence functionality in a single ERP software solution.

To learn more about the NACD and the 2012 NACD Annual Meeting, please visit www.nacd.com.


Pet Food Distributors Require Wholesale Distribution Software with Strong Product Recall Management and Lot Traceability Functionality

Saturday, September 18th, 2010 by admin

In recent months and years, we’ve seen substantial issues with product recalls for peanuts, pistachios, and a variety of other food products consumed by humans.  Lately, there has been a lot of activity focused on the recall of pet food due to salmonella.

For those pet food distributors with strong wholesale distribution software like Enterprise 21, they are well positioned to manage this difficult situation as efficiently as possible.  When pet food is received by the distributor, the associated vendor lot numbers are recorded in the system as part of the inventory transactions.  At each step in the process, when the product is moved, picked, packed, and shipped, the given products and associated lot numbers are recorded.  Should the need arise, the complete scope of affected product can be identified through lot traceability – either forward traceability (when a vendor provides data about specific products and lots) or backward traceability (when a customer provides data about specific products and lots).

Likewise, having a comprehensive, well-defined, system-enabled recall management plan enables pet food distributors to manage the process efficiently with customers, vendors, and governmental agencies.  This includes having documented and repeatable processes and procedures and associated data available to define the scope of and execute the product recall.

Beyond strong lot traceability and recall management capabilities, pet food distributors will also appreciate Enterprise 21’s functional strengths in managing:
•    Multiple facilities for territory assignments and intra-company transfers,
•    Customer segmentation for sales analysis and customer pricing methodologies,
•    Pricing and promotions management by various units of measure, including rotation allowances and promotions with complex rule sets,
•    Order management with manual, EDI, and Web-based entry methods, and efficient customer returns processing,
•    Purchasing by managing vendors with multiple ship-from locations, vendor promotions and rebates, and vendor returns processing,
•    Inventory management and warehouse management with shelf life management, stock rotation, and multiple picking methods to support pallets, layers, and eaches,
•    Transportation management supporting route delivery plus common carrier shipping, and
•    Accounts receivable and receipt of payment including processing checks from parent organizations to pay off multiple child invoices concurrently and integrated credit card processing.

Pet food distributors will derive tremendous benefits from strong distribution management systems like Enterprise 21, including efficient management of lot traceability and recall management, while simultaneously improving operational efficiency and customer service.


Demand Forecasting within Enterprise 21 ERP: A Key Input for Successful Wholesale Distribution Inventory Management

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 by admin

When small and mid-market distribution companies start considering that it might be time to evaluate and replace their existing wholesale distribution software systems, they’ll typically calculate a potential return on investment they strive to achieve.  From my experience, the one area of tangible benefits that will dwarf all others comes from an overall reduction in inventory investment and associated carrying costs.  Generally distributors can pay for the entire new distribution software system and associated ERP implementation costs based solely on the reduction in inventory.  Strong ERP systems like TGI’s Enterprise 21 provide the information and processes to enable wholesale distributors to improve overall inventory management.

There are numerous information requirements when it comes to performing time-phased inventory requirements planning (distribution requirements planning, or DRP), including customer demand, inventory statuses, inventory management business rules, and procurement and supply chain management business rules (and production-related data and business rules for manufacturers).  The area of focus for this article is on forecasting – specification of one’s best volume estimates as to the total requirements for finished goods to satisfy customer demand.

Within Enterprise 21, forecasts can be created externally and then imported into the system or can be generated within the system based on historical sales data.  A forecast can be defined as granularly as for a specific product, customer, servicing facility (i.e., warehouse or cost center), ship-to geography, and sales person; or it can be at some higher level of aggregation (i.e., all customers receiving a given product from a specified facility, etc.).

When using the system to generate a forecast, one can specify the number of periods to forecast, whether or not to apply seasonality to the forecast, one or more facilities, products, vendors, and buyers, and a range of dates to use for historical sales demand purposes.  When the forecast generation process is run, Enterprise 21 analyzes the historical sales demand data and a series of algorithms to determine the best fit formula on a product-by-product basis.  Forecast generation can be done separately for subsets of the product mix and then an overall forecast can be created by overlaying these separate sub-forecasts.

Once the system completes the forecast generation process, one can view a graph of historical and forecasted data and the associated best-fit algorithm (i.e., line, curve).  Also, the forecast can be reviewed and adjusted manually as desired.

It is common for distributors to work with a series of forecasts such as ones that depict worst-case, best-case, and most likely-case scenarios respectively.  A forecast can be used as one of the key inputs to a time-phased inventory requirements planning process for the generation of a series of purchase requisitions for the procurement of finished goods in the case of wholesale distributors (and components and/or ingredients to support production plus a tentative production schedule which ultimately becomes the master production schedule for manufacturers).

By using Enterprise 21’s fully-integrated planning process, wholesale distributors can generate forecasts which are an essential input to the time-phased planning process which becomes a key enabler to reducing and optimizing the distributor’s overall inventory position.  Please click here to see a high-level overview demo of Enterprise 21’s forecasting and planning processes from within TGI’s Resources Library.


Using Enterprise 21 ERP’s Integrated Workbenches for USDOT Audits

Monday, April 5th, 2010 by Alex Smith

TGI’s Enterprise 21 ERP software features a built-in Workbench Designer that allows end users to design their own inquiry screens, graphical reports, and productivity gauges without any programming knowledge and without any modification to the application’s source code. These screens can be added to the Enterprise 21 menu structure and shared with other users throughout the organization with appropriate security privileges. Given the fact that virtually any data field in Enterprise 21 can be added to a workbench, the Workbench Designer has literally hundreds of applications for use in sales, marketing, customer service, manufacturing, shipping, receiving, finance and accounting, warehousing, and procurement.

In a recent conversation with a seafood distributor looking to migrate from their existing legacy system to a fully-integrated food distribution software system, the company’s GM informed me that they are subject to U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) audits. The GM told me that each time they are audited by the USDOT, she has to compile data from a variety of systems into a consolidated Excel spreadsheet. From start to finish, her process of retrieving and consolidating the data the USDOT wanted to see would last some two to three weeks, as she had to take the time to find the data in their existing system and a series of unorganized Excel documents. I then asked her what specific information the USDOT auditors wanted to see in her reports. According to the GM, the USDOT wanted to be able to see the country of origin of their products, when they received the product, what entity specifically supplied the product(s), the lot numbers assigned to the products upon their receipt, when the products were shipped to the distributor’s customers, the customers who were shipped the product, the method of shipment that was used for each customer order, and the freight carrier that was used for each customer order over a specific range of dates. She then asked, “Is this something Enterprise 21 can do?” My response – “Let’s build a workbench!”

By building a workbench, the seafood distributor can retrieve the data required by USDOT auditors with relative ease and efficiency. The GM’s formerly tedious process of retrieving information for USDOT audits would be reduced from two to three weeks to a matter of minutes. Furthermore, the GM would be able to export the data retrieved in her workbench directly to an Excel spreadsheet to then pass along to the auditors in their preferred data format.

While using Enterprise 21’s Workbench Designer for USDOT audits is just one example, workbenches have literally hundreds (if not thousands) of applicable uses for system users in any department of an organization.


Wholesale Distribution Software: Leveraging Order Frequency to Increase Sales Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010 by admin

Who is your worst customer?  If you are like most wholesale distributors and were to ask this of your inside sales team, they could probably tell you without blinking an eye.  “It’s ‘Fred’ – he’s always complaining and griping.  He just never seems satisfied.”  However, from a management team perspective, ‘Fred’ is a great customer.  He places consistent orders with you at a strong profit margin.

Does the following scenario sound familiar?  You and your sales team are having a monthly sales meeting.  It’s the middle of the month, and you’re reviewing the sales results for the prior month.

You look at the results and there’s one of your biggest customers – The ABC Company, who typically does $250,000 sales per month – showing last month’s revenue at $30,000.  You wonder what has happened to The ABC Company’s business.  It could be that The ABC Company’s business is slow; however, with this dramatic reduction in order activity, it is quite possible that one of your biggest customers may have gotten sufficiently annoyed with you that they quietly took their business and went elsewhere.

So, is there a way for wholesale distribution software to programmatically help prevent this from happening?  With TGI’s Enterprise 21 ERP software, the answer is absolutely!

Using Enterprise 21’s fully-integrated customer relationship management functionality, a customer order frequency value can be established for each customer.  Let’s say in this example, the order frequency for The ABC Company is set to 10 days.  Should we not receive an order from The ABC Company by the evening of the 10th day from their previous order, the Enterprise 21 system will automatically generate an alert notification to the parties you’ve specified in the system – the sales rep, the CSR, the inside sales rep, etc. – alerting them that this customer has not ordered within normal order frequency and that a follow up call needs to be made to them.

By proactively contacting this customer, you should hear one of three things from The ABC Company:

  1. We have been consuming your product at a slower than usual pace.  We’ll be placing an additional order with you in the next couple of days.
  2. We got busy and forgot to place our order.  You really saved us from getting too low on the stock of your products.  Let’s place an order right now.  We really appreciate you looking out for us.
  3. We were really displeased with how your company handled (fill in the blank) and we have been considering taking our business elsewhere.

In all of these cases, you have the opportunity to positively impact this customer’s satisfaction with your business.  Assuming you have effective problem resolution in place (a topic we’ll address another day – for now, see Service Management), numerous studies have shown that you can achieve higher customer satisfaction levels by resolving customer issues than with those customers who have never experienced any issues with you.

Order frequencies can also be set at a customer-product level, where, for example, some products or classes of products are ordered by a given customer every 10 days while other products or product classes are ordered every 30 days.

So, let’s rewind and go back to the monthly sales meeting.  In this case, The ABC Company has monthly revenue of $240,000 for the month.  When asked why their revenue had fallen off for the previous month, the sales rep can describe the issue that had occurred, how it was resolved, and the customer’s satisfaction with that resolution.  This is a far better scenario than the meeting where The ABC Company’s revenue was $30,000 for the prior month, may be $0 for the following month, and the assigned sales rep is looking for a new job by the next monthly sales meeting.

Nobody likes negative surprises.  And, wholesale distributors running Enterprise 21 will be able to discover and correct customer issues and keep sales revenue high and improve customer satisfaction through the use of Enterprise 21’s CRM software functionality with built-in order frequency features.


Leveraging Manufacturing Software Functionality for Distributors

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by Alex Smith

Virtually every one of the distributors with whom we work has some sort of kitting, assembly, and/or light manufacturing software functionality requirements. With Enterprise 21’s integrated manufacturing capabilities, distributors are able to meet both their manufacturing and material requirements planning requirements with a single ERP solution.

For distributors who sell kitted items, Enterprise 21 allows for a multi-level bill of materials to be defined for each kitted item. The system also allows for substituted items for any component on the BOM. In addition, distributors can associate both labor and burden costs to each bill of material, allowing the organization to gain better visibility to the true cost of each kitted item.

Furthermore, material planning for each item in a given kit can be accomplished through Enterprise 21’s integrated forecasting and planning functionality. This gives distributors the ability to plan appropriately for each product it sells whether the product is sold on an individual basis, in a kit, or both while simultaneously reducing inventory carrying costs and improving order and line item fill rates.

By taking advantage of Enterprise 21’s integrated manufacturing software functionality, distributors can meet their software requirements with a single ERP software solution without having to purchase additional manufacturing and planning modules as add-ons or bolt-ons from third-party software providers.


Wholesale Distribution Operations: Getting Your Warehouse Operations under Control with Barcodes and Scanning

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009 by admin

Many of the wholesale distributors we meet who are engaging in a wholesale distribution software selection process have a common set of issues.  In general, they are printing pick tickets on paper, handing the print ticket to the next available picker, and telling the picker to go forth and pick.  In doing so, the picker takes the paper pick ticket around the warehouse and writes on the paper to show what has or has not been picked.  Some time later, after the picking process is done – most likely a shift or full day later after the picking has been completed – the paper pick ticket with the picker’s hand-written notes ends up in the possession of an administrator who enters the pick data into the distributor’s existing computer system.

Since there most likely is a substantial time delay between the picking and manual data entry processes, coupled with the fact that the picker’s chicken-scratched notes may be highly illegible, there will likely be errors introduced into the inventory data.  In cases in which the administrator can’t understand what the picker was attempting to convey, the administrator may have a discussion with that picker about their notes.  Again, depending on the time delay between the picking and writing on the pick ticket through this conversation with the administrator attempting to enter the data, inventory accuracy issues can get introduced due to time delays and the possibility that the picker may not even remember what their notes meant.

Even if the manual pick, writing on paper, and manual data entry processes were 100% accurate, they would nonetheless be untimely and inefficient, as there would always be some delay between the time picking was completed and the time data was entered into the system.

Alternatively, for companies using strong wholesale distribution software systems that come with fully-integrated warehouse management functionality like Enterprise 21, when barcodes and scanning are introduced into the process, the system would know the disposition of the picking process immediately at the time a picker was performing those operations.  Furthermore, since the scanning process can also confirm that the item that was intended to be picked was in fact picked correctly, inventory accuracy and customer shipment accuracy will increase.  This should lead to a reduction in the number of customer returns due to mis-shipment of items on an order and an increase in customer satisfaction.

Without accurate and timely inventory data, the ability to leverage that information to have the correct product mix while reducing the wholesale distributor’s overall inventory position are an impossibility.  Companies using Enterprise 21 can achieve these benefits through the introduction of barcodes and scanning throughout the warehouse including the picking process without having to acquire any additional application software.


TGI’s ERP Insights Blog Is Now Listed in Technorati

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Alex Smith

We’re pleased to announce that our blog has recently been added to Technorati – the first and best respected blog search engine.

And here’s the verification code to prove it: VSGKCGAKVZAC


Wholesale Distribution Software: Efficient Product Import and Landed Cost Management

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by admin

When evaluating wholesale distribution software solutions, a common functional requirement that wholesale distributors need to fulfill is efficient product import and landed cost management.  To enable import management, purchasing personnel can evaluate purchase requirements via several different methods in Enterprise 21.

First, by establishing accurate inventory and sourcing data including vendor lead times, minimum order quantities and increments by vendor-product, and inventory management methodologies by product-facility, Enterprise 21’s time-phased inventory planning process (distribution requirements planning) can generate a series of requisitions for purchasing to review and include on purchase orders.  As purchasing reviews requisitions for one or more vendors associated with the container being built, Enterprise 21 enables purchasing to review how full a given container is becoming as additional products are added to the container.  Once a full container is built by purchasing, the associated purchase orders are generated to the various suppliers involved.

Second, some wholesale distribution organizations elect not to take advantage of a system’s time-phased inventory planning capabilities.  In this case, purchasing personnel can access all pertinent information needed to evaluate and create containers in Enterprise 21 via one or more workbenches established specifically for this task.  The system can provide easy visibility to all product sourcing-related data from a given vendor or vendors in consideration for a given container including average daily or weekly usage of those products, the number of days or weeks of supply on hand, anticipated purchase receipts, and the number of customer orders and associated item quantities acquired over the past 12+ months.  Based on this information and the purchasing person’s intuition, purchasing can build containers of products and then generate the associated purchase orders in a manner similar to that described above.

As containers are established and information is provided to the purchasing department, Enterprise 21 stores and tracks key information such as estimated shipment, on-board, required, and actual received dates, slip sheet cost, container ID, and vessel ID on a purchase order-by-purchase order basis.  Containers and vessels can be tracked from port of departure, on the water by day to destination port, and vessel arrival at the port of entry.

In addition, Enterprise 21 enables complete landed cost management.  Purchasing can establish of a series of landed cost elements such as import duties, drayage, tariffs, and bonding charges.  The landed costs and their anticipated values are associated with specific products either as a percentage of product value or a specified currency value.  At the time of purchase order generation, these anticipated landed cost charges are associated with the purchase order. As the actual landed cost charges become known, they are entered into Enterprise 21.

Landed costs can be spread to individual line items received in a container based on a preferred methodology selected by the given wholesale distribution organization – either by each line item’s relative volume, relative weight, relative quantity, equally relative to the total number of line items, or fully across all items on the receipt.

Strong wholesale distribution systems like Enterprise 21 enable distributors to manage the procurement of items via import management efficiently to have the right products available for customer requirements while concurrently managing landed costs to show an accurate picture of the associated product costs.