Monday, November 26, 2012

ERP Efficiencies, Accuracy, Timeliness

VAI Customer Quote:

“VAI’s S2K software allowed us to reach phenomenal efficiencies across the organization. The S2K installation dramatically improved nearly every part of our business – from accounting and logistics to inventory and warehouse management. By automating many of these key functions, our team can focus on critical aspects of our business such as sales and customer service. And we feel confident that we can continue our impressive growth trajectory knowing that our business is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.” Sal Battaglia Director of Operations, Seacore Seafood


All Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution providers claim they can increase efficiencies.  Generally they are correct, if their solution is a good match for a given organization’s challenges.  Finding that match is the hard part.  It takes time to recognize, organize and document your internal processes so that a great fit is made.  Think of this as finding that just-right pair of gloves.   You try on many pairs until you find the one that feels right while also looking to see how that pair will hold up to use and growth.


VAI Key Benefits:

• Rapid implementation.

• More accurate and up-to-the-minute inventory management.

• Real-time consolidated financials.

• Automation of core business functions yielded more time to spend on sales and customer service, allowing for faster growth.

• Timely account receivables management.

• Faster customer delivery rates and reduced order picking time.

• Faster, more accurate order entry.

• Greater inventory accuracy.

• Faster route management processing.

• Full traceability of products.


·         Implementing a solution quickly is a big benefit, but it is the result of careful planning and doing your homework, much like a recipe.  Organize your list, purchase the products, mix carefully, and bake.   

·         In the ERP world, more accurate is a fundamental goal.  Achieving it requires actually using the system as planned.  Have real-time information is a key to staying competitive and providing the customer service your customers are expecting.  This goes for inventory, accounts receivable, order entry, delivery, and all facets of your operations.

·         Automation is the way business stays competitive, fights costs increases, and improves profitability.

VAI Customer Profile:

Seacore Seafood is Canada’s leading importer, distributor and custom processor of fresh and frozen fish, seafood and live lobsters. Since 1987, thousands of wholesale and retail customers have relied on Seacore to provide fresh, high-quality seafood directly from the source – whether its’ Alaskan crab legs, salmon from Ireland, Maine lobster or barramundi sea bass from Australia.

VAI Situation Summary:

• Manual and offline processes used.

• Labor intensive, time consuming processes such as fish cutting, order picking, order entry, and inventory management.

• Accounts Receivables often delayed.

• Complex transportation logistics with perishable items required more efficient route management.

• Active retail, wholesale and consumer businesses required consolidated financial and inventory views to balance needs and requirements of three distinct businesses.


·         Anything manual is prone to errors, increased costs, and loss of customers.

·         Labor intensive processes are costly.  Some are unavoidable, but all should be managed through your system.

·         You do not have to have all of the answers right away, but you do need to know what you do not know and have a plan in place to address the challenges now and in the future.


VAI Customer Objectives:

Fast-growing seafood distributor needed to automate core business processes to drive unmatched growth and improve economies of scale. Seacore also needed to hasten route management, order entry and delivery while improving accounts receivables management and inventory accuracy.

VAI Solution and Modules S2K Enterprise for Food with:

• Distribution Management

• Financial Management

• Manufacturing Management


• Warehouse Management

• Retail Management

• e-Commerce

VAI Third-Party Tools:

CYBRA MarkMagic

VAI Customer Results:

• Immediate financial reports

• 85% Current accounts receivables

• Reduced order picking time by 40%

• Greater inventory accuracy

• Integrated retail and wholesale businesses into one system

• Increased manufacturing by 80%

• Improved customer service and web presence


·         Management needs quick, accurate and high level access to key metrics in any business.  Drill down capabilities allow for the details.

·         Faster access to information means customers do not go over credit limits, are engaged more frequently, with more accurate information and build stronger relationships.

·         Some of the greatest cost savings come from having an accurate inventory.  Ordering is done more accurately, you get and therefore your customers get what they want and need in a reasonable time frame.  

·         You avoid under and overstock situations.


Final thoughts:

Selecting an ERP solution is the culmination of a careful analysis of your organization’s operations, work flow, people, process and history.  What should be included in this analysis and be on top of the list is why your customers do business with you.  What makes you different?  Why should they buy from you?  If you prioritize the results of a survey, the top answer should be quick, efficient, and friendly customer service.

When you look at your customers with mutually vested interests, then you understand why Seacore found a great partner with VAI.  VAI cares as much about Seacore’s business and operations as they do.  Everything they do is in partnership with Seacore.  Seacore has achieved many great results, but their greatest is the untold bond between ERP provider and ERP user. 

Seacore’s people are empowered and use their new tools to deliver great customer service to their customers.  The customers are happier and return over and over again.  In general a happy customer is loyal and tells others how happy they are.  They have their own challenges, just as you do, but your investment in them are seeds planted in fertile soil.

If you do not service your customers, someone else will.

At Dolvin Consulting, we partner with industry experts to first understand your challenges, then second, if the fit is right, bring those solutions to you.  Contact us today to see how we are different.  We believe that we have a mutually vested interest in your success.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Streamlined Food Distribution

Supply and Demand Chain website has an article from May about how VAI’s S2K software has helped J. Polep streamline food distribution and manufacturing operations and increase efficiency and profitability.


Streamline operations to reduce cost and increase profitability is why organizations are willing to undergo a transformation in the first place.  How each provider does that varies and some Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems handle the Food industry needs better than others.

“As a top supplier of a host of products ranging from food and beverages, wine and spirits, tobacco, candy and automotive products, J. Polep needed an advanced solution to successfully meet its business objectives,” said Joe Scioscia, Vice President of Sales, VAI.

“S2K for Food provides a technology solution that's specifically designed to meet their industry requirements for food distribution and manufacturing and provides the flexibility and enhanced capabilities to meet their future needs.”

Here is an example of a good fit.  J Polep has growth plans, knows its current processing is inadequate and makes a decision to invest in a system that meets their current needs and provides a flexible growth path for the future.  Both the organization and software have the mutual need and commitment for growth and investment.

“J. Polep was looking for a strong and experienced enterprise software partner to help support the unique requirements of the food manufacturing and distribution industries.“

Any organization looks for a strong partner.  What is challenging is finding a partner that has a mutually vested interest in your success.  A partner that is known for great customer support.  A partner that is and will remain independent and therefore focuses on their customers.  A partner that invests in their product.

“We selected VAI because of their reputation for outstanding customer support, aggressive product development and experience in the food manufacturing and distribution industries,” said Lori Polep, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, J. Polep Distribution Services.

“VAI S2K will give us a complete ERP package and strong support team, which is critical to ensuring our company's ongoing success.”

Great customer support is what your customers expect and it is what you should expect from your EPR solution provider.  A complete package is why you select an ERP solution.  Often companies have good systems, but grow and their systems do not grow with them.  Their old systems become a patchwork of separate systems tied together with increased overhead. 

A “Solution Provider” is an organization that values its customers and invests in itself so that it can provide the best possible customer service.  Your organization and your ERP provider need to have this same goal.  No upgrade is worth doing, unless better customer service and support are at the foundation of those changes.

Dolvin Consulting has a vested interest in your success.  Contact us today to see how we are different.  We are not here to sell you something you do not need.  We are here to help you navigate the constant flux in technology and find solutions to your challenges.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Mobility, CRM and Productivity

I came across this article recently and while certainly not new, it is just a relevant today as it was in May when it was published.


Read the full article by clicking the link below:


So what is new about this topic?  

There certainly is no shortage of information on mobility, the cloud and what business owners wish their employees would be doing.  If only there was a way to speed the delivery of information into and out of our business?  That express tunnel of information exists now, but finding the right one is the challenge. 


What makes a mobile application, let alone Contact Relationship Management (CRM) software, worthy of investment?


As the article points out the key is finding the right tool for the right job.  When I made the mistake a few years ago of commenting on the number of shoes my wife was collecting, she retorted, they why do you have so many screw drivers.  Not catching her point, I tried explaining that I needed the right tool for the right job.  Time has passed since that day and I do not mention the shoes anymore and she leaves me alone about my collection of tools. 


The reality is no different in mobile applications as it is for in house Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application systems.  An organization needs the right set of applications (or tools) to get the job done.  They do not need overkill and hundred step processing to place an order, if they simply have to pick, pack and ship a box off the shelf. 


Whatever solution works is a good start. 


My biggest point that I stress with the people I consult with is “Integration”.  There may be a lot of good systems out there that track all sorts of metrics, but if that system does not fully integrate with the rest of the systems you are already using, then you are opening the door for errors, cost increases, and problems.  Not that a lot of organizations cannot make separate systems work, it just tends to take a lot of time, effort and resources that could be better utilized in cases where an integrated solution did exist.


To be fair, some ERP systems have integrated CRM applications, but they are an afterthought and are not very functional.  In this case you need to be sure the developer has a solid foundation and commitment to bringing that application up to today’s standards.  If they do not, then look for one that you can integrate.


The article makes more points, like picking an application that is device agnostic.  This is a nice feature as it generally means you do not have to invest a whole lot to get the technology in the hands of those who need to use it.  I would not be too concerned with this as functionality and integration are more important.  A solid and secure platform is going to be less work for the auditors and will help you sleep better at night. 


We would all like to save money, but at what future expense?  Do not be penny wise and dollar foolish.


Easy to use is noteworthy and is in direct proportion to training effort and expense.  As I mentioned earlier, the application needs to fit the culture of your enterprise.  Simple and effective, the right tool for the right job.  Features and benefits are nice, but form and function are better. 


Have a goal and set your direction and budget.  Define your needs and allow for future growth.  Do not limit your future.  A fully integrated system will allow the expansion of a mobile application base which includes CRM to encompass more functions in house. 


Physical inventory for example.  I recently was in a major retailer (big box store) and saw an employee using an Iphone to check and count inventory.  I asked if this was his device or the store’s.  I was not sure initially if he was just using a shopper application to check prices.  He replied that this was the store’s device and that everyone was using them to check inventory.  When it worked, he said it was great, small and compact, easy to use, it was just they had not quite perfected its use. 


The adoption rate is almost a non issue today as most people expect mobility and automation. 


Even the lay person understands the economics of mass production and efficiency of scale.  What is difficult is for the smaller business to invest in development.  The large companies do so out of necessity and have the resources to drive adoption.  For example, look at how Walmart determines how suppliers sell to them.  A buyer tells the seller what they have to do to earn the business.  Who is selling who? 


Smaller organizations need ready to use applications that integrate with their line of business systems.  They need the ability to customize the solution, add user defined fields, for example in many cases.  But, the systems need to be able to be implemented without reinventing the wheel.  


If the incumbent ERP system does not have a fully integrated CRM system or integration to a third party solution, nor plans to build one, then it may be time to invest in a solution that does incorporate CRM. 
The very most important aspect of any new application module or software is its ability to improve customer service.  If you do not make your customers happy, your competition will.

If your organization is planning to implement or is struggling with CRM or other mobile technology solutions, then contact Dolvin Consulting.  We are here to help you navigate the technological seas of change with our industry contacts.  It will not hurt to ask for help, it only hurts if you continue adrift.  Contact us today for help.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Capitol Lighting Improves Sales by Moving to a Modifiable ERP System


“Instead of being bogged down by technology, we’re now much more able to interact with our customers,” says Jason Lebersfeld, Capitol Lighting’s vice president and CTO.


They are using technology as it is meant to be, a tool to enhance what they do, not a self sustaining entity.



As Lebersfeld explains, “I have no doubt that the abilities of this system have made it easier for us to sell our products and give our salespeople more time to deal with our customers than on technology. Of course, we still need technology, but it’s now allowing us to be more nimble and efficient than we had been in the past.”


Customer service is key.  Provide your team with the tools and resources they need to get their job done and service your customers.  As a consumer who would not like to get the information they need in a timely manner.



That’s partly why Capitol Lighting’s sales have increased over the past year despite the still-struggling economy. Getting to this point wasn’t a simple, hit-a-switch-and-you’re-done proposition. Instead, it required finding the right solution for Capitol Lighting’s foundational-change philosophy.


Increased sales are a result of happy, loyal customers who respect the efforts you undertake as a business to better serve them.



Now, with VAI’s S2K ERP suite, the company is looking ahead. As Lebersfeld explains, “Instead of being bogged down by technology, we’re now much more able to interact with our customers, which of course equates to increased sales opportunities—and who doesn’t want that?”

Looking forward is always better than dwelling on the past which cannot be changed.  Hopefully you have learned from your experiences and are using them to grow.  More, personalized, interaction with customers is always a good thing.  Utilizing technology to achieve that goal is a smart move.



Capitol Lighting has since bolstered its Web presence with a related secondary site, 1-800lightingPRO, which caters to professional contractors and designers, allowing them to manage multiple customers under one account, according to Lebersfeld. “They can see their order histories. They can fill shopping carts. They can communicate with their customers,” he says.

Serve your customers and help them generate more business and you will do better.  I shop where I get the best service, not necessarily the lowest price.  I know I am valued where I shop.  My business means something to them.   We all have a need to be valued and I am proud to let others know about my relationship with my suppliers.



Before standardizing on VAI’s S2K, the company’s operations had essentially been split into two, with its New Jersey locations running legacy RPG code and the Florida locations using an earlier version of VAI’s software on an IBM Power Systems* server.  The disconnect between the two systems created some problems for Capitol Lighting. Inventory reporting, for example, was often delayed until overnight batch processing took place.

Anytime there are separate systems, you are inviting problems.  Every time a human is involved you multiply the opportunity for errors to manifest.


“We were in a position where we didn’t have real-time inventory information,” Lebersfeld says. “We would have people checking on computers, but they couldn’t tell if the information was accurate. They would have to call locations to confirm the validity of what they were being told. Because of this disconnect, the merchandise flow wasn’t easily tracked, where you would start an order and go from there to check on a purchase order and then verify the order status. Very little of this was linked,” Lebersfeld says.

How frustrating it must have been to be their customer in the ole’ days.  How frustrating it must have been for the sales people.  How frustrating it must have been for the purchasing department.  Real time inventory across all locations is a necessity, not luxury in today’s world.



“We needed a system that would allow all of our showrooms to run point of sale, see each other’s inventory and integrate with our website. It also had to be reasonably modifiable to allow us to run our business like we wanted, with the ultimate goal being able to get merchandise to our customers as quickly as possible from any location,” Lebersfeld recalls.


Knowledge is key.  The right hand must know what the left hand is doing.  If for no other reason than to allow your customers the comfort of knowing that you have what they want and when they can expect it.  Cross location inventory visibility is key here.



The company also wanted a product flow that was tightly integrated with its general ledger to ensure everything was being properly accounted for.

The finance guys need totals to tie into and generate a comfort level using any system.  If a system is fully integrated, then this is not an additional thought or step.   All the information at your fingertips.  Faster reporting, less errors, less time tracking down information that should be available.  Good idea.



“I have no doubt that the abilities of this system have made it easier for us to sell our products and give our salespeople more time to deal with our customers than on technology.”   —Jason Lebersfeld, vice president and CTO, Capitol Lighting

A good system that is a right fit should enable your staff to do what they already should be doing, just a lot easier and without having to concentrate on the technology.  When we drive to work we usually do not have to think about the car we are driving, just the destination.



As an added bonus, Capitol Lighting gained access to S2K Analytics as part of VAI’s offering. S2K Analytics is also highly modifiable and allows company users to easily find the information they need by themselves, without having to request individualized reports from others within the company, including IT.

“Even laymen are able to go out and author their own reports,” Lebersfeld says. “This has given us the ability to dive into our data from multiple angles.  We can start with a product and get further detailed information, such as sales orders and purchase orders. We can look at items from an order perspective and see items on order and in inventory.  VAI has done a great job of meeting our requirements and allowing us to jump from one view to another with very little effort.”


Any time you can enable your staff to gain access to the information they need to get their jobs done, the better you will operate.  Remove the barriers and let you people do what they know what to do.  They will feel empowered and make your customers happier.  A happier customer returns over and over again and is proud to tell their associates how happy they are working with you.  A referral is the best compliment you can receive.



Whatever the reason for the company’s growth, Capitol Lighting is more customer focused than ever before. By unleashing the power of modifiable and, in some regards, nearly invisible technology, it can now go about business the way it wants to, without IT being an inhibitor.

Any and I mean ANY organization that wants to grow must be customer focused.  If new software enables your team to do that, then make the investment.  Think about yourself and who you like doing business with.  More than not, it is with an organization that has invested in themselves in order to invest in your best service.



Customer service has always been and should remain the top priority for any organization that is interested in growth and the future.  At Dolvin Consulting we pride ourselves in our industry partnerships that bring real world solutions to your challenges.  Contact us today to see how we can help you achieve your goals for the future.  No fancy promises, no hype, just customer service.