Monday, July 30, 2012

Food Distribution Software for Food Distributors

The Food industry is unique in its complexity and highly competitive nature.  Food providers are concerned about product movement from supplier to consumer, food safety, increasing throughput, containing costs and the need to drive efficiency in their operations.  Add to those requirements food service regulations and traceability and you can understand why an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution is a necessity, not just an option.

Common requirements of food manufacturers and distributors include:

·         Streamlining operations.

·         Optimize business operations.

·         Goods tracking.

·         Product Labeling.

·         Product quality testing and control.

·         Truck loading and routing.

·         Time constraints.

·         Allocating inventory.

·         Shorts and substitutions.

·         Document generation.

Automating and integrating business processing with ERP solutions includes not only food specific customer service and inventory control, but are likely to include modules featuring/including the following:

·         Financial management.

·         Rebate processing.

·         Distribution management.

·         Manufacturing management.

·         Route management.

·         Warehouse management.

·         Retail management.

·         Direct Store Delivery (DSD) and Fleet management.

·         Sales force automation.

·         E-Business.

·         Business Intelligence.

At some point in time everyone in the food industry struggles. 

It may be when they have outgrown manual processing or they struggle with warehouse and inventory control issues.  Perhaps they once had a comprehensive solution that they have now outgrown.  Maybe their systems have been patched and included numerous add-ons and now they are frustrated with all the upkeep. 

Outgrowing a solution forces organizations to look at same vendor upgrades, in house modification efforts, or the search for intelligence. 

How much is too much, what is the cost of doing nothing at all?  How much overtime is involved with your current operations?  How accurate is the inventory system in place now?  Are your customers asking for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or E-Business solutions?  Are you losing customers due to poor customer service?  Can you accurately tell a customer when their product is ready for shipment?  Do your customers receive what they order in an acceptable time frame (their time frame, not yours)?

Does your staff tell your customers what they cannot get, what will not work or do they get straight forward answers of what they will get and when?

Dolvin Consulting works.  We work hard to help you find and implement ERP solutions that will streamline your operations, reduce costs and help you to become more profitable.  We are not here to tell you how to run your business.  We are here to help you find new tools that will enable your staff to do what they do better, quicker, and with greater efficiency. 

Contact us today to see how we can help your team.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Keys for a Good WMS Implementation

What are some key factors are for a good Warehouse Management System (WMS) implementation?  This is a great topic and there are many answers to such an open ended question.  Below is a list of some common issues.  What can you add to this list?

Suggestions with some additional thoughts:

1.       Preparation.  Involve everyone, do your planning, and create lots of test cases. 

2.       Needs.  Do you need this or did your boss read a recent press release and now wants what the competition has?

3.       Expectations.  Is what you want to accomplish reasonable?  Is a WMS solution the answer to what is keeping you awake at night?

4.       Focus.  Focus on business processes and requirements first.  This is what you are trying to streamline.  This is not a Technology decision.

5.       People.  Who is or will be involved in the design, planning, testing, implementation, and utilization of this solution?

6.       Testing.  Determine what needs to be tested and actually perform those tests.  Do not just give the system what it is expecting.

7.       Finance.  Make sure there is reasonable Return on Investment (ROI).  Why else would you invest what could be a significant amount?  The solution should address the inventory, labor and equipment utilization.

8.       Project.  Strong project management and resource commitment.  If you do not have a technology road map, how do you know where you are starting from and where you are headed?  How will you know when you get there?

9.       Support.  Commitment from executive team.  Commitment from software and hardware vendors and realistic goals, buy in and managed expectations.  A good job will take time and this is a project that should not be rushed.

10.   Planning.  Take the time to plan up front and include time for problems and pitfalls.

11.   Training.  If you want the change to be successful, you are going to have to invest in training.  The solution may make sense to you, but if the people actually using the system do not understand, then you will have trouble, delays and cost overruns.

12.   Future.  Consider long range goals and plan accordingly for growth.  This does not have to be the final system you use, but if you are not planning at least three to five years down the line, you may be shortsighted and bound for a costly mistake.

13.   ERP.  Tie the WMS solution to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.  These systems can run stand alone, but if efficiency and streamlined operations are included in your goals, then you need and should want a fully integrated solution.

14.   Changes.  Make sure if changes are needed they get done promptly.  Changes can be a twin edge sword and open your system to instability, but also promise a tailored solution.  Just make sure that the people making the changes understand the system and the implications of your change requests.

15.   Complications.  Do not overcomplicate a simple solution.  Implement in stages if that is an option.  Get the basics working first, then turn on the fancy bells and whistles.

16.   Implementation.  Use your project plan, allow for unforeseen and stick to the plan.  Do not get pressured to start if you are not ready.

17.   Workarounds.  What have you planned to do when the system is implemented and it is not working?

18.   Instincts.  Trust your gut instincts.  If it does not feel right, then find out why.  Did you just eat something that disagreed with your insides or is there a problem that will cost you your job?

19.   Ownership.  Who owns the project?  Who will be or is the leader from within?

Contact Dolvin Consulting today.  Dolvin works with manufacturers, distributors and specialty retailers to help them streamline their computer operations with ERP and WMS solutions to reduce their costs and increase profits. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Key Warehouse Management System Indicators

Many organizations struggle with warehouse operations.  Struggle equals frustration and it is a big motivator to stop procrastinating.  Different companies will struggle at different points, but almost everyone has challenges at one point or another.  The differentiator is what those organizations are willing to do to identify and address those challenges.

Here are a few common issues related to warehouse management.

·         Poor warehouse design and layout.  How efficient is the physical layout?  Are your people running back and forth to complete the picking process?  Excessive order pick times?

·         Poor location controls.  Can your people find the products they are supposed to be picking?  How long does it take?  Have you partial shipped orders due to not being able to find products?  Is the only time you are sure what you have is when you are out of stock?

·         Cannot find empty locations.  What about put-aways from receiving?  Are product placements random or system generated?  Can anyone find the products afterwards?

·         Congested isles.  Out of space or out of organization?

·         Incomplete order fulfillment.  Partial picked orders?

·         Cost overhead.  Overtime is common occurrence.

·         Warehouse Management System (WMS).  Lack of or incomplete utilization of application to manage workflow and product movement.

·         Poor personnel productivity.  People sitting around or not knowing what to do or taking too long to complete simple tasks.

·         Inventory costs too high.  Ordering obsolete, lost, or slow moving products, because on hand inventory cannot be found. 

·         No process or poor documentation.  How are you to manage what you do not know?  What type of metrics are you measuring? 

·         Everyday occurrences include stock losses.  How long does this need to go on before it has impact on the bottom line?  Business is competitive enough without having to deal with extra losses that could be prevented.

·         High Cost Inventory items.  Sometimes the cost of fixing the problems are not easily justified, because the individual products are not high value.  What does it matter if I lose inventory, if the unit costs is only pennies?  High value items are an easier justification, but the issue remains efficiency.  Product costs are only a portion of the picture.  You must consider labor and overhead too.

·         People productivity.  What happens to productivity if no one has confidence in the system?  In general people expect computerized systems to be smart and accurate.  When there is a disconnect, some workers will sense that it really does not matter if they do a good job or bad, they get paid the same and if it takes longer, that just means more overtime.

·         Location awareness.  How many locations are in use versus how many are needed?  There are a lot of reasons for a single and multiple locations.  How are you measuring your productivity and efficiency?  Is it costing you more than you make to operate that remote location?

·         People collateral.  Is your system information stored in your workers heads?  What happens with the operations manager goes on vacation, or God forbid, get hits by a bus on the way to work?  Efficient systems guide the work/people process, not the other way around.

·         Inventory clutter.  Is your inventory just sitting around?  Sitting by the loading docks without a destination.  Are your isles cluttered, like the big box retail stores, adding to extra product movements or inefficient picking?  Are there trailers in the lot with inbound products?

Has it just become business as usual or are you fed up struggling with your warehouse operations? 

Dolvin Consulting partners with industry experts to look at, analyze and recommend solutions to increase your operational efficiency.  Are you using a true Warehouse Management System (WMS)?  Is that system fully integrated with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system?  Are you utilizing it fully? 

Maybe you are already doing the best you can with the resources you have access to.  Would it make sense to know that or would you rather keep guessing and wondering if there are any real changes that would not only pay for themselves, but increase your competitive edge, avoid layoffs, and stay in business? 

Contact us today to see how we can help your business.  We are here to serve and help.  There is hope for you company.  You are not alone in your struggles.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology Increases Efficiency

As inventory control technologies continue to evolve, opportunities for distribution and manufacturing companies to streamline warehouse and shipping operations increase.

The evolution of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology comprises a prime example.  RFID is a method used to identify, store and remotely retrieve data using RFID tagging devices.  These RFID tags, which can be attached to materials or merchandise and then scanned, transmit information via radio waves to a database.  The RFID tag may contain information such as product type, quantity or suggested retail price.

Mike Moser, Director of IT for Haier, summarized the problem, “To implement the technology successfully, yet remain cost effective, we needed a software solution that we could integrate seamlessly and securely with our existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) package.”

The knowledge that VAI could design a secure and seamless RFID solution to work as a part of our ERP package—and not function as a mere add-on—was perceived as a tremendous benefit.  The fact that VAI’s ultimate solution had broad applicability, beyond Wal-Mart’s requirements, put us way ahead of the curve in anticipating future demands for RFID tags.”

Since its implementation in January 2007, the completely integrated system has provided increased coordination and a higher level of efficiency between Haier’s distribution operations and Wal-Mart’s warehousing facilities.  Haier is now equipped to handle Wal-Mart’s mandated RFID system as well as the anticipated future requirements of other big-box retailers.  Aside from minor visual changes to Haier’s shipping labels, VAI’s solution has made this changeover a seamless, simple process.

The title of this posting should be “Partnership Makes the Solution Work”. 

There are many RFID solutions available today, more so than back in 2007.  Five years is a long time in technology circles, but the core notes here transcend current buzz words.

·         One- Haier has a partner and that cares about their success and not just in profits.

·         Two- The partner, VAI, took the time to listen and find the right-size fit solution. 

·         Three- Haier did not just implement a slap-on solution.  Their solution lays the foundation to future growth.

·         Four- Increased efficiency. 

Because of their size Walmart is able to trend industry objectives to greater efficiency.  For some organizations the changes can be painful.  The changes never seem to be timed right or easy to implement.  But that is just the point.  Whether you like Walmart or not, they are streamlining an entire industry.  What lessons can be learned by their initiatives? 

A lot of operations would be inefficient when done one at a time. 

How costly would a piece of plywood be if you only made one?  When you scale up to make thousands, the costs are distributed over a greater number of products and what was not feasible becomes possible.

VAI has helped Haier take a step forward in compliance and hence has made their own operations more efficient.

More efficiency generally reduces costs and leads to increased profits.  Dolvin Consulting helps Manufacturers, Distributors and Specialty Retailers streamline their operations so they remain competitive.  Contact us today to see how we can help you achieve your goals.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Companies Require Accurate Inventory Data to Function Effectively

“With our extensive product line, and the sheer volume of orders we receive on a daily basis, we needed a software solution to monitor this process effectively,” said Doug Trisnar, IT Director, Joshen Paper & Packaging. “Yet, we needed something much more comprehensive than a simple inventory solution. We wanted a software package that was capable of monitoring inventory turns, while simultaneously tracking potential shortages.”

Basic requirements:

·         Flexible enough to accommodate the seamless addition of new distribution facilities.

·         Capable of integrating Web-based ordering.

·         Provide consolidated financial reporting.

·         Dissect fiscal information to the distribution facility level with the stroke of a key.

·         Track sales and commissions.

·         Comply with varying state sales tax requirements.

·         Comprehensive, flexible ERP solution.

According to Trisnar, “VAI understood Joshen’s business and our unique requirements. Knowing that VAI could implement an enhanced version of S2K to offer the integrated Web and financial reporting capabilities that we needed to continue growing our business was an enormous advantage from our perspective.”

“Joshen runs a fast-paced, customer-driven business,” said Claudio Gallina, Project Director, VAI. “Tailoring a quick, efficient, scalable ERP solution to meet its expanding needs was a challenge. Yet, our experience in customizing enterprise management software and our commitment to understanding Joshen’s business requirements from the ground up gave us the edge in constructing a solution that met all of Joshen’s current requirements and anticipated many of its future needs.”

VAI’s S2K solution allows Joshen to achieve all of its information technology objectives in one comprehensive package.  What’s more, one simple keystroke is all that is needed to perform to obtain essential management reports and financial information.  Notably, the e-commerce application has already added approximately 100 new customers to the company’s customer base.

Joshen had many challenges common to distributors and manufacturers.  A new version of their software and new Ecommerce modules provided the infrastructure needed to fuel growth. 

Control your inventory and streamline processing (i.e. make it easier for customers to do business with you) and there will be a great Return on Investment (ROI).  The economy is tight and we all have that pressure and constraint.  Inventory or as I like to say “boxes on shelves” has one of the highest returns.  Even small reductions in inventory translate to big savings.  Ship the right product on time to the right customer.  Purchase what you need, when you need it.  Give management dashboard-drilldown inquiries.  These are just some of the goals companies like yours can use to increase profitability.

What is equally great and worth noting is the working relationship between Joshen and VAI.  There is a team approach.  There are detailed question and answers.  Understand your client and help them achieve their goals.  You achieve your goals after you help others achieve theirs.  Both sides have a vested interest in each other and there is trust.

How would you like, how much better would you sleep, if you had faith that the people you work with really cared?

Dolvin Consulting cares.  Period.  We are here to help.  Contact us today to see how we can match your challenges with available solutions.  The ball is in your court.  We do not know who you are, but you know who we are.  Nothing to lose, it is just a phone call.  Pretend you have a bad connection and just hang up, if you do not like what you hear.  Just be prepared that what we discuss may actually benefit you, your company and your workforce.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Complexity in ERP Solutions

John C Maxwell, a well know author and friend to many, recently talked on one of his daily Minute-With-Maxwell video messages about the word Complexity.  In his daily messages he shares his thoughts about a word that someone has sent in.  John does not prepare or plan a response, the responses are candid.

When John talked about Complexity he made the point of how educators tend to make the simple more complex in their efforts to teach about whatever subject was being discussed.  In contrast John feels that people that are communicators make complex topics simpler.

The need for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution tends to start out as a simple thought. 

Something along the lines of “Hey, if we shipped the right product on time, the first time we tried, then we would have happier customers” or “It sure would be nice if our purchasing department really knew what was in the warehouse instead of guessing”, “Heck, it might even be nice if what the computer said was on the shelf was actually correct and we could find it”. 

Problems often occur when those thoughts get translated to other people.  Are we trying to educate others or communicate a simple thought?  When and where does the meaning get lost?  “There is a hole in that canteen, plug it to stop the leak or replace it with something new”.  Our ERP system or lack of one is having a negative impact on our bottom line.  Let us fix it or replace it.

Internally there ought to be a team approach to collect all those “gee-wiz” thoughts in one place.  Are there enough issues that warrant looking for a new solution?  What is the financial impact of these issues? 

This is where a trusted advisor can help. 

While you are concentrating on your business and your challenges, there are others that can look at what you are doing, recognize the obvious and not so obvious areas for improvement. 

Ever notice how doctors look at x-rays?  They toss them up on the light board (they study that move in medical school by the way), mumble to themselves and flip through them quickly.  You sit there thinking about all the time you invested to get the images taken and to get them and yourself to the doctor and what they may tell the doctor, and he does not seem all that impressed.  It is the doctor’s experience and focus about what he/she is looking for that allows that quick analysis.  He does not have to look at the whole image, he can narrow it down to where the pain is located.  He is a professional and does this all the time.  The doctor knows what to look for.  So does your trusted advisor.

There are several other key steps that we will talk about in more detail in future posts, but for now here are a few key steps many organizations take in evaluating new solutions:

1.       Hire a trusted advisor.

2.       Company self discovery mode.

3.       Assemble requirements.

4.       RFQ process to select five candidates.

5.       First pass selection to narrow the field to four candidates.

6.       Executive overviews from four candidates.

7.       Second pass selection to narrow the field to three candidates.

8.       Discovery process with three candidates

9.       Second look demonstrations with three candidates.

10.   Self analysis of solution fit and company culture.

11.   Selection of final solution provider with contracts.

12.   Implementation project plan including installation, conversion, training and testing, etc.

There are a lot of details to fill out your plan.  Not everyone's plan will look the same.  Some companies may need other steps.  The list above is not meant to be everything for everybody.  The point is that having a road map and a tour guide can make the process a little less stressful. 

Dolvin Consulting is a trusted advisor that works with their industry resources to identify and bring solutions to your challenges.   We care, so Contact us Today to see how we can help your business. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ERP Comparison Guides

Just a quick thought here about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) resource guides.  I receive updates from my subscriptions online about various comparison guides.  Below is the link to a recent one.

I find these guides can sometimes be helpful, but not in the traditional way. 

The problem with many guides is not the guide, it is just that they do not address your specific solution or candidate. 

No guide can list every solution, so what exactly are the criteria for inclusion?  Do these solution providers pay a fee, are they from bigger companies?  Are the solutions for your industry?  Distribution, Manufacturing, Retail management, Finance, etc?  ERP solutions exist for most organizations now, so it is important to know what you do, how you do it, and what are the key driving factors in your business.

Problem two:  Do they compare the criteria that matter most to you? 

It is nice to know what equipment the solution runs on, but is that as important as knowing if the software fits your company’s culture?  Contact information is nice, a convenience, but many of us are able to Google the company name.  Pricing information is really important, but most systems are modular and you select the modules you need today and add on as you gain experience and grow.  Why pay for something you are not going to be able to use?  A range is nice so that you can tell if you are at least in the ballpark. 

The list goes on and on. 

What the guides are really good at is getting you to start thinking about questions to ask.  What does our company need in order to operate more efficiently, reduce costs, and become more profitable?  Our staff is already working harder and not producing as much.  We have errors in multiple departments that seem to cascade.  How will this solution address those needs?

Does your organization even know what they do not know? 

You may know that inventory is not accurate.   You may know that you have a lot of returns.  You may know that it takes too long to pick, pack and ship an order. … Does your company have its processes mapped and documented?  Do you know what you would like to accomplish?  Is it worth risking disrupting everything you are doing and implement a system that does not work for your business?

Until you know what you are looking for, guides can actually misdirect you away from what matters most.  The guides are great if they compare the three to five candidates that you have selected to review.  Like a product search on a consumer electronics site.  Find the three televisions that fit your room and compare the features and functions to your needs and wants.  That makes sense.

First step is to find someone that you trust to help you navigate the constant flux in technology.  Then look inside, deep inside.  Solutions are journeys and are taken one step at a time.  Identify the top five issues that are having the biggest impact on your bottom line.  Search for solutions that address those challenges and then you have a starting point for the rest of the evaluation and selection process.

At Dolvin Consulting we are here to help.  Think of us as doctors.  We are here to ask questions, diagnose the pain points in your business operations related to technology, and help you find solutions that solve the problems.  Not just write you a script- here buy this software and call me in two weeks, if the pain does not go away.  Contact us today.  It really is easy to do and this part will not hurt. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

We were looking to enhance the performance levels of our staff

“We were looking to enhance the performance levels of our staff, thereby providing the best service possible to our customers and dealers.  After previewing VAI’s S2K line, we knew that it encompassed the robust features we needed to take our business to the next level.”

Syed H. Abdullah commented, “Access to a comprehensive view of real-time data has greatly enhanced Naghi Group’s operations.  In addition, S2K is so easy to implement and user friendly that the complete cycle from installation to go live was significantly reduced.  Our operations were up and running and reaping the benefits of VAI’s ERP solution in only a few months.”

At the time, an antiquated financial software solution was being used to manage all general accounting activities for Naghi Group, but it lacked the integration capabilities necessary to communicate with the distribution and manufacturing software used by firm. As a result, many hours per month were spent reconciling data to produce essential fiscal management reports.

What they wanted:

·         Provide real-time financial information accounting data, general ledger integration and financial statement reporting.

·         The ability to monitor inventory counts.

·         Manage purchasing activities accurately.

·         Streamline its financial, distribution and warehouse management functions into one integrated ERP package.

·         Streamlined operations.

·         Improve the firm’s customer service.

·         Accurate and timely business decisions.

·         Improve the company’s bottom line.

Access to accurate financial information -- quickly and easily -- was essential to the firms overall fiscal health.

Naghi Group purchased VAI’s S2K Distribution Suite, which includes financial, order entry, inventory, purchasing and sales analysis modules.  The implementation integrated all of these primary business functions so that management could view one set of accessible, current information from which to make decisions.

According to Ed Fowles, VAI Senior Project Leader, “VAI provides 24x7 help desk support to ensure Naghi Group of a smooth and uninterrupted IT environment.”

VAI customized a seamlessly integrated ERP software solution for Naghi Group, providing access to all of the company’s key business operations.

What Naghi needed is what many companies need today to remain competitive.  They knew that they needed complete integration.  The left hand must know what the right hand is doing.  How can you make intelligent decisions in a timely manner without all the information at your fingertips? 

The process to get integrated can take time to achieve.  They knew their current system was not adequate.  They were smart enough to seek help. 

They found a partner that cared as much about them as they care about their customers.

Even companies that have an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution may not be taking full advantage of complete integration.  They may be using an older version of which they have outgrown.  In growing they may have implemented other systems.  Those systems may have different levels of integration. 

One thing is for sure.  Every time you handle data/information with any type of manual process, it is going to get corrupted.  Even automated data manipulation can cause errors.

Three points are evident:

1.       Customer service (giving and receiving) is critical.  Your customers pay for everything every time they choose you and your company over competitors.

2.       To be and remain competitive an organization needs a fully integrated system.  More complete and accurate information delivered on time in a format that makes sense to enable better and quicker decisions.

3.       Organizations need a trusted advisor to help them navigate the constant flux in technology.  There is too much hype and promotion and not enough questions and answers.  The only way to know if a solution will work is to understand your own company’s operations.

Dolvin Consulting works with Manufacturers, Distributors, and Specialty Retailers to help them understand their own operations and to implement ERP solutions that integrate the Enterprise, reduce costs, grow and become more profitable.  Contact us today to see how we can help you.  We care.