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

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.

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It’s 3:00 in the afternoon. Do you know where your ERP software support team is?

December 11th, 2009 by admin

Over the past 6+ years, we’ve heard a lot of questions asked by a lot of different manufacturing and distribution organizations evaluating ERP software systems.  While the great majority of the questions are predictable and heard over and over, there have been a new set of questions that have surfaced recently that are now being asked consistently from prospect-to-prospect.

Do you outsource your customer support services?  Where does your customer support team reside?

These questions have largely arisen in the past six months or so.  Companies can’t afford to spend a substantial amount of time and money to select their preferred ERP software solution followed by another 3-9 months for implementation (depending upon the size of the business) only to realize their new software vendor’s support has been outsourced to a third-party organization who can hold the customer hostage for the long-term use of the new solution.

In many cases when support has been outsourced, those third-party organizations may have elected to move those services offshore to reduce the expense of providing such support.  In these cases, there can be language barriers to effective support, and the offshore support may be unfamiliar with commonly-used manufacturing and distribution industry terminology in the United States and Canada which further compounds the issues.

In TGI’s case, 100% of our implementation and support services for our Enterprise 21 software suite are delivered by full-time TGI employees who work out of our corporate headquarters in Toledo, Ohio.  Enterprise 21 is developed, sold, implemented, and supported exclusively by TGI, and we intend to keep it that way.  That’s what our customers can expect from TGI.

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ERP Software Upgrades: Don’t Turn the Upgrade Process into Another ERP Implementation

December 8th, 2009 by admin

To continue to achieve a return on investment in the years following ERP implementation, manufacturers and distributors should be sure to take advantage of future software enhancements and upgrades to their ERP application. All too often, the organization becomes bogged down in the company’s daily operations and puts software upgrades on the backburner. When this occurs year after year, the software that serves as the information and transactional backbone of the enterprise becomes outdated and puts the organization at a competitive disadvantage, as technology and the mechanisms in which businesses interact with customers is constantly evolving.

When beginning the software upgrade process, TGI customers’ existing production environment of Enterprise 21 is compared to the latest software release, and all prior customer-specific enhancements and configurations are migrated into the newest release of Enterprise 21. From there, the new version of Enterprise 21 is installed on the customer’s hardware, and the customer begins to enact a thorough test plan. This test plan consists of completing a number sample transactions (in a test environment) to ensure that the customer’s requirements are met before beginning to conduct business with the most recent release of Enterprise 21.

Unlike many annual maintenance agreements that charge organizations additional software license fees for future software upgrades, TGI’s annual maintenance plan includes all future updates and upgrades to Enterprise 21 at no additional cost. This philosophy enables TGI customers to continue to realize a return on investment long after their implementation of Enterprise 21 and allows TGI customers to take advantage of the latest software technology for their business without hidden fees or complex financing offers.

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TGI’s ERP Insights Blog Is Now Listed in Technorati

December 3rd, 2009 by admin

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

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ERP Software Selection: Evaluating Software Functionality and the ERP Vendor

November 26th, 2009 by admin

When evaluating various ERP software solutions, scope of software functionality is an obvious priority for selecting the best functional fit for the manufacturing or distribution organization. Software selection teams should evaluate demonstrated software packages in a quantitative manner to determine the ERP system that best meets the organization’s specific software requirements. That being said, evaluating the software vendor, in addition to software functionality, is often overlooked in the ERP selection process.

It is important to analyze the ERP vendor as a company, not just the software the vendor is selling, as choosing an ERP software solution and vendor is a long-term commitment for the organization; in fact, the typical usage for an ERP software package (including future upgrades) can be anywhere between 10 and 15 years. Software selection teams should analyze the vendor’s approach to ERP implementation (Are implementation services delivered by the software vendor directly, or are they outsourced?), customer support (Are support calls answered by the software vendor directly, or are support calls outsourced to a third-party support provider?), ongoing maintenance, software upgrades, etc.  Please note that if you are acquiring an ERP software solution through a vendor’s value-added reseller (VAR) rather than directly from the ERP software vendor themselves, you should be asking these same questions of the VAR.

On a broader level, ERP selection teams should assess the software vendor’s long-term viability as an organization. A good question to ask potential software vendors is if their proposed software solution was developed by the vendor or if it was developed by a different company that the vendor acquired. In addition, selection teams should ask the vendor to provide the company’s revenue-per-employee ratio. In the ERP industry, once a software vendor’s revenue-per-employee ratio drops below a certain level, the vendor is likely to be acquired, resulting in potentially higher maintenance fees for existing customers. For more information on revenue-per-employee ratios and what they mean in terms of software supplier longevity, please click here. Furthermore, selection teams should ask software vendors if they provide a software acceptance period to validate that the selected solution meets the organization’s requirements that were set forth during the ERP selection process.

While these are just a few of the questions to ask potential software vendors, they are critical to selecting an ERP vendor who can deliver superior software functionality and serve as a technology partner for the organization in the many years following software selection and implementation. For additional information, please visit The TGI Difference.

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Wholesale Distribution Software: Efficient Product Import and Landed Cost Management

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.

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Enterprise 21’s Process Manufacturing Software Functionality Enables Process Manufacturers to Establish Procedures and Controls Necessary to Meet GMP Compliance

November 19th, 2009 by admin

Process Manufacturers continue to strive to remain compliant with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).  At the core of cGMP are documented, repeatable procedures and strong controls.  So, what is the role of an ERP system like Enterprise 21 in cGMP?  It becomes a key enabler of the control aspects for process manufacturing enterprises including food, chemical, and life sciences manufacturers.

First, there needs to be control in the ingredients being acquired for use in the manufacturing processes.  Suppliers need to be qualified and held to high standards.  Good ERP systems like Enterprise 21 enable companies’ purchasing organizations to establish criteria for the qualification of vendors and suppliers.  Once given vendors become approved, they can be enabled in Enterprise 21 as valid suppliers for the manufacturer to do business with while monitoring supplier performance over time.

As ingredients go through various processes, Enterprise 21 documents and time stamps each of these transactions and their associated operators for complete traceability of those parties involved at every step in the chain.  These processes include:

  • Receiving,
  • Movement to a quality control holding area,
  • Quality control evaluation, approval, and release for use,
  • Product putaway,
  • Manufacturing picking and staging,
  • Consumption in manufacturing, and
  • Putaway of any excess inventory not consumed in manufacturing.

Before manufacturing occurs, authorized personnel can establish one or more manufacturing processes by which to produce a given product and the product’s associated formulation and recipe.  The identities of the personnel who establish the production routings and associated formulations are documented in the system, as are the identities of all personnel involved in the workflow process to review and approve these items prior to their release for production.

When a product is being produced, the manufacturing personnel involved in the processes associated with that production are recorded in Enterprise 21.  Also, electronic signatures can be used for supervisory personnel and management to sign off at key points during the manufacturing processes acknowledging the product has been made in accordance with documented procedures and associated safety standards.

As the product is produced, it too will undergo a series of quality assurance tests in order to gain approval for shipment to customers.  The individuals who perform the QA tests are documented in the system, as are the warehouse personnel who move and put away the finished goods inventory.  Finally, as sales orders are entered for given items, the personnel who pick, pack, and ship the finished goods to fulfill those customer orders are also documented in the system.

In addition to the documented controls of all individuals involved in the complete process from ingredients to customer shipments, all associated lots are recorded in Enterprise 21 to enable complete womb-to-tomb lot traceability.  Ingredient lots from suppliers flow into manufactured lots of produced products, which are ultimately shipped to customers.

Strong ERP systems like Enterprise 21 enable process manufacturers to meet cGMP guidelines through the complete product and process flow throughout the manufacturing enterprise.

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ERP System ROI – How Small Businesses Can Achieve ROI from the Purchase of an ERP Software Solution

November 17th, 2009 by admin

While there are some similarities between the ways in which larger corporations and small businesses achieve a return on investment from the purchase of an ERP solution, the benefits to be realized from an ERP system implementation for small businesses tend to be more intangible in nature and, at least initially, less measurable. That being said, small businesses who have grown to the point where their existing small business software’s functionality no longer meets their business needs can gain several benefits from a fully-integrated ERP system that will lay the groundwork for future business growth and more efficient, streamlined business operations. Some of the benefits a small business can realize from an ERP solution include:

  • Time savings due to the elimination of duplicate data entry. A small business ERP solution can allow the organization to operate on a single software platform. Unlike many small businesses who use one software solution for accounting and financial management, Microsoft Excel to maintain inventory levels, and a separate software package to manage customer orders and purchasing, the small business who utilizes an ERP system can manage all business transactions in a single software package that maintains accurate data for all of the company’s departments. Rather than entering an order in one software package, updating the inventory data for the ordered item in Excel, and then making the necessary accounting entries in a third software package, an ERP system can automate such processes and eliminate the need to maintain products, customers, vendors, customer orders, inventory data, and financial accounts in separate software solutions. In addition to reducing employee time spent on maintaining such data across a multitude of software applications, an ERP system can help small businesses improve data accuracy and integrity, as the likelihood of entering incorrect data is significantly reduced due to the simple fact that data does not need to be entered multiple times.
  • Faster order entry and processing. By having the company’s customer service, warehousing, and accounting departments integrated in a single ERP system, small businesses can gain significant improvements in customer service. In TGI’s Enterprise 21 ERP software, the system tracks customer order history and buying habits to show customer service personnel the items a given customer orders most frequently during the order entry process. Such a feature can allow the customer service representative to enter orders quickly and easily. In addition, the customer service representative has immediate visibility to real-time order status to communicate to the customer when their order is being picked, packed, and shipped. Furthermore, should the small business choose to integrate the ERP system’s back-end e-Commerce functionality into the company’s website, customers can place Internet orders while still having access to their customer-specific product pricing, promotions, and volume discount opportunities, allowing for more automated order processing and giving the small business the opportunity to process a larger volume of orders on a daily basis.
  • Flexibility and scalability. When a small business makes an investment in an ERP software solution, it is making a decision for the future benefit of the company that will ultimately result in significant cost savings in the years following software implementation. An ERP system that offers a flexible, configurable architecture can deliver the software functionality the small business needs today and the scalability to take advantage of additional functionality as the business continues to grow without having to invest in a new software package, higher implementation costs, and additional services fees for employee training.

Purchasing an ERP system is an investment in every sense of the word for organizations of any size; however, small businesses can take advantage of the benefits to be realized from a fully-integrated software platform today and additional functionality in the years following implementation as the business continues to grow.

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Visit the New TGI Resources Library for Enterprise 21 Demonstrations, Software Selection Tools, and more

November 9th, 2009 by admin

We recently released the TGI Resources Library. Aside from being able to access Enterprise 21 ERP software demonstrations and view past TGI webinars, one of the most useful aspects of the TGI Resources Library is that it gives site visitors immediate access to all of TGI’s ERP selection resources, including the complete version of TGI’s Software Selection Tool Kit. The tool kit is designed to provide software selection teams with the necessary resources for conducting a thorough, well-structured ERP selection process with a comprehensive and quantitative analysis of various ERP vendors and solutions. From the SSTK Downloads page, site visitors can download any of TGI’s software selection resources individually or download the complete Software Selection Tool Kit as a single executable file. With the conclusion of 2009 rapidly approaching, manufacturing and distribution organizations who plan to select a new ERP system for implementation to begin in early 2010 can leverage TGI’s Software Selection Tool Kit as a guide for their software evaluation projects.

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Enterprise 21 ERP Software with Integrated Business Intelligence Functionality Makes Decision Support Available to Executives, Management, and Individual Contributors

November 4th, 2009 by admin

There was a time when business intelligence solutions were reserved for very few business leaders.  Only those executives who really understood technology were willing to spend the money necessary to have a business intelligence system put in place that would take data out of their ERP software to populate a completely separate data warehouse for analytics purposes.

The time and cost to implement and make this functionality available made it cost prohibitive to nearly all small and mid-market businesses.  And for those few enterprises that were willing to invest in this technology, only a small core set of executives (read one to two players per company) would have access.

However, fully-integrated ERP software solutions, like TGI’s Enterprise 21, offer complete business intelligence functionality out of the box as part of the application’s core product offerings.  With Enterprise 21, each user can have his or her own unique series of dashboards.  Each dashboard tab can consist of up to four panes.  The data content and manner in which one views the data can vary from pane to pane.

Some users, for instance, may like to see raw data in a spreadsheet-like grid format.  Others may be more visual in nature and want to see the same data in a graphical format.  For those who want to view data in graphs, there are a variety of formats that one can choose from including line charts, bar charts, pie charts, area charts, and scatter charts.

In addition to displaying graphical and tabular data, Enterprise 21’s dashboards can also display gas gauges for rapid review of key performance indicators for the organization.  Maps can also be displayed including ones consisting of prospects and customers which are color coded based on odds or size of the given business enterprise.  Finally, for those users with security permissions to do so, financial reports which are produced from within Enterprise 21 can be displayed in dashboards.

One of the key advantages of the dashboards is that users can open the underlying data for analytical purposes.  In doing so, one can perform analytical drill down of data being shown across a series of dimensions.  For example, one might be looking at a graph of sales revenue over time.  This data can be sliced-and-diced across dimensions including drilling down by customer groups to as granular a level as a specific customer and product groups as deep as a specific product.  One might also want to review specific geographic regions or states, specific facilities, and specific sales regions, branches, and territories.  Through this simple description, it should be clear that application users can analyze core business data at any level of detail necessary to make well-informed business decisions.

In addition to sales-related data, all functional areas of the business can have their own series of dashboards including inventory management, warehouse management, customer service and sales order management, manufacturing, purchasing, and accounting, including financial reporting, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.  Furthermore, key external data such as new building starts and commodity market futures prices can be pulled into the system and trended for analysis purposes.

Because business intelligence functionality is built directly into the fully-integrated Enterprise 21 ERP software, TGI’s customers don’t need to invest in totally separate software solutions which it then has to implement and manage to gain these analytical capabilities;  rather, TGI customers can take advantage of complete business intelligence functionality as part of their investment in Enterprise 21.

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