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Visit TGI at the 2009 STAFDA Technology and Consultants Fair

October 27th, 2009 by admin

On November 9, 2009, TGI will be attending the 2009 STAFDA Technology and Consultants Fair. TGI representatives will be on hand to showcase TGI’s Enterprise 21 ERP software at Table 6. Conference attendees may arrange for a personalized demonstration of Enterprise 21 while at the STAFDA technology fair. The fair offers a great opportunity for organizations in the specialty tools and fasteners industry to see the latest in business management software technology and gain an understanding of the many benefits a distribution organization can derive from integrated distribution software solutions.

Given such an opportunity, business executives and IT professionals in the tools and fasteners industry should come to the STAFDA Technology and Consultants Fair armed with key questions for software vendors that pertain to their unique industry requirements. Some examples of key questions for software vendors who supply solutions for the tools and fasteners industry include:

  1. What does the software system offer in terms of managing pricing methodologies, promotions, and allowances?
  2. What types of inventory management and replenishment methodologies does the software offer?
  3. Does the system include integrated RF and barcode technology to operate the warehouse in a paperless environment?
  4. Does the software offer integrated procurement functionality that provides RFQ processing, vendor performance management, designation  of a preferred supplier for a given item, accounting for supplier lead times, etc.?
  5. Does the software provide integrated e-Commerce functionality for Internet-based orders?
  6. Does the software interface with EDI translations?
  7. Does the software interface with UPS, FedEx, and LTL shipment manifesting systems concurrently?
  8. Does the software offer both available and capable to promise order management functionality?
  9. Does the software account for landed costs, import duties, drayage charges, etc. for imported items?
  10. Does the software offer MRP/DRP functionality?
  11. Does the software provide functionality for kitting, assembly, light manufacturing, and other value-added services?
  12. Does the software offer integrated financial management?
  13. Does the software feature business intelligence, analytics, and reporting functionality with drill-down capabilities?

While these are just some of the many questions for software vendors, they should provide a good basis for discussion in limited time while at the 2009 STAFDA Technology and Consultants Fair. If you plan on attending the 2009 STAFDA Technology and Consultants fair and would like to schedule a demonstration of TGI’s Enterprise 21 software, please click here to complete TGI’s 2009 STAFDA registration form.

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Wholesale Distribution Software: Big Productivity Gains Await Distributors Who Ship Small Package Deliveries

October 19th, 2009 by admin

Many of the wholesale distributors with whom we work have common characteristics when we first become acquainted with each other.  Many are selling items which can be packed and shipped via small package delivery services.  And, most of these distributors are performing their picking operations via paper-based print tickets on a one-to-one ratio – one sales order equals one pick ticket.

Some of the biggest operational efficiencies these distributors can gain from wholesale distribution software solutions like TGI’s Enterprise 21 come from combining and performing picking for multiple orders concurrently.  Within Enterprise 21, this functionality is called cart picking.

Enterprise 21 collects a series of picks for various sales orders based on the business rules a given organization defines within the system.  Once a pick is generated, Enterprise 21 leads the given warehouse operations person through the facility in an optimized path to minimize transit time between picks.  This can be done with either paper-based or paperless picking.

When cart picking is combined with barcode scanning, the Enterprise 21 system prompts the picker to pick a given quantity of an item from a specified bin location and to place that item in a specific tote or location on their picking cart.  When the first item is being picked, the picker scans the item and an associated tote location on the picking cart.  At this point, the system knows that a given order’s picks are associated with that specific cart location.  When the picker is prompted to pick the next item, if it is associated with this same order, they are prompted to place it in this same tote location.  Should they be picking an item for a second order, however, they would be prompted to scan a second cart location to be associated with the second order.

The system will continue to prompt the picker to place items into an associated tote location or to select a new location for the next order being picked.  Should the picker attempt to scan and place an item associated with one order into a cart location associated with a different order, the system will alert them that this is not the correct location for this order and once again prompt them with the correct cart location.  Once all the associated picks for the given picker-cart combination are finished, the picker would take the cart to the packing location.

Next, Enterprise 21 would prompt the packer as to which specific standard carton sizes should be selected for use for a given sales order shipment and which items should be placed in each given box.  The system would generate a carton label for each box.  As the packer scans the items into the given cartons, the system would confirm that the items were in fact associated with the specific order shipment being created.  As part of the packing process, Enterprise 21 also generates the desired shipping paperwork including packing slips and pro forma invoices.

Once the packing process has been completed and the cartons are sealed, the boxes would then be handed off to the shipping department.  Shipping would then run the boxes through the appropriate shipment manifesting systems (i.e., UPS, FedEx, etc.) and ship the various boxes.  Enterprise 21 is fully-integrated with these shipment manifesting systems, so the order status would be updated immediately upon shipment.  Enterprise 21 also generates all appropriate customer transactions resulting from the shipping process including delivery of an advanced shipping notification (ASN) in the customer’s preferred format and method of delivery (fax, email, or EDI).

The combination of Enterprise 21’s fully-integrated warehouse management system functionality when used in conjunction with RF/barcode-enabled scanning technology, including cart picking and wireless warehouse management capabilities, can lead to substantial improvements in warehouse operational efficiencies while minimizing shipping errors.

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Process Manufacturing: Managing Batch Processing and Fill Lines

October 16th, 2009 by admin

Many process manufacturers have operations where they will produce a common product that is then packaged into a variety of containers for various customers.  These manufacturers will frequently produce this common product via a batch process.  This formulation produced may be an intermediate that then gets combined with other items to produce finished goods, or it may itself be a finished good awaiting packaging operations.

After the batch is produced, the product can either be moved immediately to filling operations or placed in drums and stored in the warehouse for some period of time.  Once the formula is in the filling operation, finished goods are produced in various sized containers with associated product labeling to meet customer demands.

So, how does Enterprise 21’s process manufacturing software functionality enable these batch process manufacturers to perform their jobs efficiently?  First, one can establish a scalable batch formula that consists of the various ingredients needed to produce the intermediate formulation.  The formulation can be setup as a recipe, where the ingredients and associated process instructions are combined in an order of operations to produce the desired output.  Where necessary, the recipe can also have electronic signatures required for individuals to sign off at various checkpoints during the process for compliance and quality assurance purposes.

The formulation may have certain ingredients that are generally over consumed as part of the production process.  Let’s say that a given production process may require a standard of 100 pounds of a given ingredient to produce a given batch size; however, if that process is not 100% efficient, the system can enable the planning of consumption of more than 100 pounds of that ingredient – say 102%, or 102 pounds of that ingredient for the given batch size in consideration.  In this situation, Enterprise 21’s yielding functionality within the formulation is used in the procurement and production staging processes to account for the fact that 102 pounds of the given ingredient are needed to perform the given operation.

Once the intermediate formulation is produced, there may be a period of time necessary for cooling required before the output can be packaged into a drum or moved to the filling operations.  In this case, one can build queue time into the end of the given production routing step so the associated cooling time is accounted for prior to scheduling and ultimate performance of that next operation.  This is done within Enterprise 21’s manufacturing routing functionality.

Finally, the filling operations can be scheduled as a series of work orders to produce the ultimate finished goods.  The bills of material for the various finished goods would, at a minimum, be comprised of the intermediate formulation produced as described above, the appropriate container for the given product, and its associated label.

In addition to the functionality described above, Enterprise 21 also manages product costing – average, standard, LIFO, or FIFO – on a product-by-product basis, all of the associated inventory and warehouse transactions including complete womb-to-tomb lot traceability to support recall management, and all associated financial accounting transactions in a real-time, fully-integrated system.

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Implementing on a Time Crunch

October 1st, 2009 by admin

With the beginning of 2009’s fourth quarter starting today, companies of all sizes find themselves in a hurry to complete their ERP software evaluation process, begin software implementation, and prepare their organizations for initial system go-live on the first Monday of 2010. ERP system implementation is a time consuming task for any organization. Implementation requires a coordinated effort on the part of both the software provider and the manufacturer’s or distributor’s implementation project team leaders. Given the sophisticated, complex nature of ERP systems, there are two relatively easy ways in which an organization can implement a new ERP solution before the end of 2009 and be in a position to go-live January 2010.

Prepare your data. One of the most tedious, time consuming activities that occurs during the ERP implementation process is data migration. Companies need to have their data prepared in a computer-readable file format to import their data into their newly selected ERP system. Data accuracy and integrity is critical to the ERP solution’s performance both before and after production go-live. By having data such as GL accounts, customers, products, parts/ingredients, vendors, etc. prepared in a CSV file or other computer-readable format, companies can gain significant time and cost savings during the data migration process as opposed to manual data entry or other highly-inefficient migration processes.

Use the software as designed. Assuming the organization has made the right software selection as a result of their evaluation process, companies should spend little time worrying about miscellaneous modifications that are not critical to initial production go-live. If the organization has conducted a thorough software evaluation and performed a quantitative analysis of various software suppliers and solutions, its ultimate final software decision should have resulted in a software package that meets the vast majority of their business needs with standard, “out-of-the-box” functionality. If the selected software solution does not meet one of the organization’s critical software requirements, it probably wasn’t the right software solution in the first place. In regards to an expedited software implementation, companies should adopt a 90/10 rule, ensuring that 90% of the organization’s software requirements can be met with standard functionality, with the remaining 10% left to focus on minor, non-critical software requirements and enhancements in the first few months following go-live.

By preparing data for migration and using the software as designed, organizations should be ready for a swift implementation and go-live date in early January 2010.

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Food Processors and Distributors Require their ERP Systems to Enable Management of Items via Catch Weight Processing

September 28th, 2009 by admin

Food processors and distributors that produce and sell various meat-based products like those associated with chickens and turkeys have a unique need for catch weight processing.  Catch weight processing is used in wholesale distribution where the item’s actual weight varies from SKU to SKU.

An example of this would be chicken breasts, which could be processed and packed in four-packs for retail sale which are then shipped ten four-packs to the carton.  Let’s say, for example, the average weight of each chicken breast is 4 pounds.  However, the actual weight of the chicken breasts will vary piece by piece.

Therefore, when the retail four-packs are created, the actual weight of the four chicken breasts contained in that package is captured and recorded.  Then, when a series of ten four-packs is packaged into a carton, the actual weight of the chicken breasts in the carton would also be known and could vary from the average weight of chicken breasts in a carton.

Generally, while food processors’ and distributors’ customers would order and receive cartons of chicken breasts for retail sale or food service distribution, the associated customer pricing would be based on a per pound basis.  Therefore, strong ERP software systems like Enterprise 21 must enable food processors and distributors to record two quantities during key inventory transactions like production recording, packaging, and shipping – both the quantity of product cartons and the associated actual weight of the items contained in those cartons.

While retail and food service customers would place orders for a certain number of cartons of chicken breasts knowing each carton would contain ten four-packs with each chicken breast having an average weight of 4 pounds, the customer would be invoiced and pay a price per pound based on the actual weight of the chicken breasts contained in the cartons that were shipped to them.

Food processors and distributors can easily manage those products in their product mix requiring catch weight processing via Enterprise 21.

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The Top 15 Signs Your Small Business Software Needs a Makeover

September 24th, 2009 by admin

In my experience working with small businesses and assessing their software needs, the problems small businesses encounter with their existing software tend to be quite similar and do not pertain to a particular industry within the manufacturing or distribution marketplace. Below are fifteen signs your small business software is in desperate need of a makeover.

1.    You use one software package for accounting, a different software package for managing inventories and manufacturing, and a third software package for web orders.

2.    You can’t track lot or serial numbers for raw ingredients and materials through production and shipment to customers in your existing software.

3.    You are frequently out of stock of the products your customers order most frequently and have excess inventory supply of the items your customers never order.

4.    Your accounting software limits you to one costing method for all products.

5.    You enter the same data multiple times due to your use of multiple software packages.

6.    Closing an accounting period is a week-long procedure.

7.    You are forced to cease warehouse, shipping, and receiving operations for several days every three to six months to conduct a complete physical inventory count to try to capture accurate inventory information.

8.    Your physical inventory count consists of somebody hand-counting items in inventory, writing recorded values on a piece of paper, and then entering the information into an Excel spreadsheet.

9.    You don’t know what a cycle count is.

10.    Your existing software limits the maximum number of products you can enter into the system.

11.    Your reporting capabilities are limited to the standard reports in the software you purchased.

12.    You do not have an automated Request for Quote process for your suppliers.

13.    You have no means to track the true profitability of your customers and products.

14.    You have no means of tracking potential new customers.

15.    Your existing software is not capable of telling you the products an individual customer orders most frequently.

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Reportable Food Registry – Food and Beverage Processors Must Now Report Issues within 24 Hours via the FDA’s RFR Electronic Portal

September 21st, 2009 by admin

As of September 9, 2009, food and beverage processors are mandated to report all reportable food incidents to the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry when, “there is reasonable probability that an article of food will cause serious adverse health consequences.”  This mandate applies to all food facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food for human or animal consumption in the United States.  Details of this program are available via the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry resource Web page.

The program includes reporting key data during an initial disclosure and via follow-up reports including items such as the date the article of food was determined to be reportable, a description of the food including quantity and amount, the extent or nature of the adulteration, the result of investigation to determine the cause of the adulteration, disposition of the article of food, and product information typically found on packaging sufficient to identify the article of food.

Once the submission is completed, a confirmation page identified via an Individual Case Survey Report ID (ICSR), including all submitted information, is produced.  This report can be saved as a PDF file and associated with key data elements in the food and beverage processor’s Enterprise 21 ERP system, including customer incident reporting, lot traceability data, and associated customer shipments.

Food and beverage processors are strongly encouraged to review their Comprehensive Recall Management plans and make appropriate adjustments based on the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry mandate.  For an overview of the Reportable Food Registry, please review the FDA’s “Reportable Food Registry (RFR): At a Glance” document.

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What’s New in Enterprise 21 7.1 ERP?

September 17th, 2009 by admin

We recently launched the latest release of Enterprise 21 – Enterprise 21 7.1 – and all of us at TGI are really excited about it. Enterprise 21 7.1 has some great new features that can be deployed throughout the organization for enhanced usability for the end user, as well as updates to Enterprise 21’s workbench technology, which allows end users to create their own inquiry screens without any modification to the application’s source code. So, what specifically are some of the new features in Enterprise 21 7.1?

A sample option for reports. Have you ever run a report only to find out it wasn’t the report you wanted in the first place? The “Sample” button helps prevent this problem by allowing users to get a preview of the report they are about to run.

Screen shot 2009-09-16 at 8.33.04 AM

System-wide search functionality. In Enterprise 21 7.1, users can search for programs and screens within the application and be taken directly to that screen from the search results, allowing for quick navigation to a program, screen, workbench, etc.

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Intelligent hot buttons. The hot buttons in Enterprise 21 can be set up on a screen-by-screen basis. Hot buttons can be global in nature across all users, applicable to specific groups of users, or unique by individual user. Users can set up as many hot buttons as they like for any screen. The hot buttons allow users to move from one screen in Enterprise 21 to any other screen in the system with a single click. More importantly, Enterprise 21 knows the information content in common between the two screens – the screen the user is on and the screen the user is going to. From the product master screen, for example, a user could click on an available inventory hot button to view the real-time inventory status for that item at each of the organization’s facilities and inventory that is in transit between facilities.

Screen shot 2009-10-08 at 12.39.07 PM

A complete document management system. Enterprise 21 7.1 allows users to attach an infinite number of documents to individual sales orders, purchase orders, customers, products, etc. These documents can include invoices, certificates of analysis (COA’s), spec sheets, product images, import declaration documents, and pretty much anything else. These “documents” can also be in the form of HTML links to a given web page. A wholesale distributor, for example, may have a supplier who provides product information on its website and set up a link to the web page containing that product information from within Enterprise 21.

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Paperless AP. A great new feature in 7.1 is paperless accounts payable functionality. This functionality can enable a manufacturer’s or distributor’s accounts payable department to operate in a completely paperless environment, allowing for reduced overhead expenses and streamlined payables operations. As long as the organization has a document scanner, adequate electronic storage space, and Enterprise 21, it is ready to adopt Paperless AP.

Updates to the Enterprise 21 Workbench Designer. One of the most positively received new features at TGI’s Annual Users’ Conference in May 2009 was the Enterprise 21 Workbench Designer. The Workbench Designer allows end users to create their own inquiry screens, programs, and graphical reports using a WYSIWYG editor. For a demonstration of Enterprise 21’s Workbench Designer, please click here.

These are just a few of the new features in Enterprise 21 7.1. To request a formal demonstration of Enterprise 21 7.1 that focuses on your organization’s specific business software requirements, please visit TGI’s online request form or call us directly at 800-837-0028.

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Reviewing ERP Vendors’ Pricing Proposals: Does the Proposal Reflect the Demo? Does the Demo Reflect the Proposal?

September 17th, 2009 by admin

When engaging in an ERP selection process, it is important to require ERP vendors to provide pricing for all demonstrated software functionality and the associated implementation and service fees for such functionality in their pricing proposals. An unfortunate tactic frequently deployed by many software vendors is to demonstrate the full scope of their respective software’s functionality and provide pricing estimates for only a fraction of the software functionality that was demonstrated during the sales process. Some vendors, for example, will demonstrate their software’s ability to allow manufacturers or distributors to operate their warehouse in a completely paperless environment through the use of RF and barcode scanning technology. When these same vendors draft a formal proposal for the selection team, however, the price estimate in the proposal does not reflect a warehouse management system that includes RF and barcode technology. The intent of the software vendor, sadly, is to mislead the selection team, make the selection team believe they are purchasing an ERP system that meets all of their business software requirements – both current and future – and then demand the manufacturer or distributor pay for additional software functionality after the fact. The software selection team should view such practices as completely unacceptable.

There are two ways for software selection teams to ensure that the functionality that was demonstrated to them is reflected in the vendors’ proposals. First, the selection team should require vendors to guarantee, in writing, that all demonstrated functionality is included in the proposals. If a vendor is not willing to agree to honesty and straightforwardness, then why would the selection team ultimately choose to select that vendor as their preferred solution provider from the selection process? Secondly, as part of the software evaluation process, selection teams should look for a software vendor who has provided consistent, straightforward answers to questions and pricing throughout the sales process and has a proven track record of providing upfront pricing for all demonstrated software functionality.

Requiring software vendors to submit proposals that reflect all demonstrated software functionality will provide the selection team with the necessary information to select a software solution that is free of hidden or unexpected software costs.

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Inventory Management via Attributed Inventory

September 14th, 2009 by admin

One of the items we frequently run into working with manufacturing and wholesale distribution companies is the concept of attributed inventory.  More specifically, attributed inventory means that a given inventory item has a series of parameters (i.e., attributes), which further describe that item.  A very simple example that people can relate to is an item like a shoe, which would have attributes of size, color, and width.

Generally within legacy systems, manufacturers and distributors have fully described their inventory at a SKU level where every applicable combination and permutation of the product and associated attributes are specified for each given SKU.  Some may have decided to use intelligent part numbers in conjunction with this approach where their product ID might be SHOE-BLACK-12-EE for a black size 12EE shoe.

Alternatively, the manufacturer or distributor may decide to leverage attributed inventory within a strong ERP software solution.  In this case, the same product as above would have attributes defined as Color, Size, and Width.  Therefore, the product noted above would be SHOE with attributes of Color = Black, Size = 12, Width = EE.

While there are numerous ramifications to using attributed inventory rather than merely specifying product numbers for various combinations and permutations of items, one of the main advantages that can be managed easily with attributes is customer pricing.  As a simple example using the product of SHOE, if the standard pricing for a pair of shoes were $79.00 for all widths except EE for which there was an additional charge of $5.00 per pair, then pricing could be setup such that SHOE = $79.00 with the incremental pricing for Width of EE = $5.00.

While the above is a very simple example, when products have dozens of attributes, such as a steel coil, managing the product via any other manner besides inventory attributes would be impossible.  For example, one might specify the inside diameter, outside diameter, width, tolerance, etc. for the coil.

Even in cases where there are relatively simple products with a limited number of attributes, when companies embed the product configuration into intelligent part numbers they rarely are as straight forward as the example above – SHOE-BLACK-12-EE.  Instead, the coding process might be 1254-1C6, where the shoe is product “1254” with the next “1” meaning black, the “C” meaning “12,” and the “6” indicating “EE.”  The challenge is that using this type of part number is only passed along within the given organization via tribal knowledge, where employees only know the methodology through years of exposure.  This type of process makes it nearly impossible to easily train new employees to understand the company’s intelligent part numbering methodology.

Strong inventory management systems, such as TGI’s Enterprise 21 ERP, enable manufacturers and distributors to manage products in their preferred manner including via attributed inventory.  By using attributed inventory, these organizations make it much easier for personnel to perform sales, customer service, inventory management, and warehouse management functions rather than relying on an antiquated intelligent part numbering methodology.

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