Monday, March 31, 2014

Distribution Success Essentials

Manufacturers and Distributors need to embrace, implement and utilize Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions in order to grow and thrive.   ERP solutions earn their place by primarily streamlining inventory and warehouse management operations.  ERP also incorporates customer service, procurement, sales analytics and forecasting for and from all of the users in an organization.


Yes, these concepts apply to manufacturing too.  Manufacturers have challenges in their manufacturing processing which ERP solutions can help to manage, but they must also distribute their products, they have customers and the same challenges as Distributors.


Inventory handling has to be streamlined. 


Inventory is the core of any organization that distributes products regardless if they are manufactured or purchased.  ERP solutions need to integrate the entire organization, but grew out of MRP systems that were designed to optimize inventory handling.  Technologies are continuously evolving to address new integration and handling challenges. 


The challenges are basically the same as they have always been.  It is the way we interact with inventory that has changed. 


Companies need inventory to process, they need orders to create planning, and they need customers.  Companies need to maintain supplier relationships.  They need to determine the right levels of inventory to meet demand, but not just take up space.  ERP Solutions need to address these challenges and provide observability to management, customer service, sales team, procurement and production departments.


Everyone needs to know their part of the puzzle.


Other areas that today’s ERP solutions must address include compliance regulations.  Your system must have the capability to record transactions and interactions, particularly in industries like food and pharmaceutical.  Business processing must be tracked and traceable.  Who touched it, for how long, what areas processed the inventory, what was the source and where did it go and how did it get there.


Customers, suppliers, and internal representatives are all interacting in different ways with the same goal.  Efficiency drives your organization.  They need real-time information and they need it now and are turning to Social media forums and mobile platforms.  Cloud or hosted solutions should be evaluated for fit and function.  Special caution should be evaluated to ensure that they do not introduce synchronization or compliance issues.  The feature and functions sound promising, but the integration can introduce errors and compliance complications.


When tying into social, mobile and cloud platforms the need for traceability increases, not decreases.  Just because another organization manages a platform, does not resolve your responsibility to meet compliance mandates, security issues increase and do not go away.  Plus you are adding integration challenges. 


This is not to say there is not value in these technologies, it is saying that they have to be approached with caution and due diligence.


Automation is certainly the key to streamlining operations and reducing and controlling costs. 


A good-fit ERP solution will have the tools and feature needed to automate your processes.  The more the better, but critical ones like inventory must come first and foremost.  Automation reduces the labor associated with data collection and analysis, reduces errors by eliminating manual processing, and frees up time for personnel to concentrate more on core business functions.


Ultimately any changes should have the end customer in mind. 


Nothing happens that is worthwhile if it does not increase efficiency both internally and externally, especially for your customers.  The customer is the one who writes the check for you product.   It is generally easier to keep an existing customer happy than to acquire a new one.  However, both are critical and your ERP solution must provide the means to service your customers better.  Whether that is done by implementing and Ecommerce solution for self service needs or better tools for your customer service department to answer their questions and concerns or the procurement department to better use forecasting to meet production and delivery demands.


Business needs change and evolve in the way we handle information even thought the challenges of the supply chain and customer service are fundamentally the same.  The way we collect and deliver the information is constantly changing.  An effective ERP solution must address your current needs and provide the forum to grow with you and your customers.


Organizations must endorse, embrace and incorporate new technologies in order to compete effectively. 


Solutions exist, but the challenge increases in selecting a solution that meets your needs, addresses current challenges, and will enable faster growth and grow with you.  There must be buy-in at all levels of your organization from top C-Level, Board members, and to all departments that comprise your organization.


Dolvin Consulting works with you and industry experts to help you examine your operations so that you find the right solution to address your specific challenges.  Due diligence and some hard work now will pay off in the future with streamlined operations, reduced costs and greater profits.  Contact us today to see how we can help. 


Your comments and suggestions are welcome.  Tell us what you think.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fix and Found

What happens when you find an operational deficiency, you investigate options, implement changes and then find that your challenges were bigger than you originally thought?


One day long ago your organization struggled with manual processing and systems that did not work well together.  A hodge-podge of separate systems, inefficiencies, duplication of effort and accuracy issues. 


Your struggles led you on a path of discovery.  You took a serious look at yourself to see what your business does to generate revenue, how it operates and what changes could be made to drive new efficiencies and profitability.  After a period of elimination you made a selection of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution to address and fix the challenges.


The changes worked their magic and after all the pain of transition everything seemed to work well and then your company started to grow even more.  The old systems were, in fact, a constraint on growth.


What you found was that your focus was on the greatest pain in your operations.  Good place to start.  Fix the pain and move on.  What happens when your remove one bottleneck? 




Great, but what about your ERP solution?  What about the next bottleneck?


Was the solution you took so much time to choose able to address this new growth?  It was designed to address your biggest challenge.  Your business grew and along the way you discovered that your new solution allowed you to fix and address other challenges that you did not realize were actually impacting business. 


Your business grew even more.


Really great, but what about your ERP solution?


A great, not just good, partnership with your ERP solution provider is a key ingredient in success.  A smart solution provider will take the time to ensure that your solution will not only fix your current issues, but will also tap their experience to know where you next struggle threshold will likely occur and ensure the solution provided will grow with your growth. 


A really good find is when the solution that you selected has the ability to address new challenges that will inevitably show up and grow with you. 


The solution enabled you to grow and grew with you.


You have a mutually beneficial relationship with your ERP solution provider.  Both of your futures depend on your success.  If they do not have that commitment then what investment are you really making?


Dolvin Consulting works with industry experts to help you identify your current and future challenges and then helps you select the right solution.  The process starts with a self assessment and evaluation of how you are currently operating.  You then need to picture what life would be like with a new solution.  Your business needs to know where you are today and where you want to end up.  It is how we roadmap a solution for the future.  Contact us today to start the conversation.  We care and are here to help.   Let us show you the roadmap to growth.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Warehouse Management System Best Practices

To ensure the accuracy of information processed at an organization Warehouse Management Solutions (WMS) need to include both hardware and software.  Newer systems are used to manage product services, such as shipping, receiving, inventory management, product or service layout, staff, bins, and purchasing.


Having the right solution in place is an integral component to organizing and managing the supply chain and is crucial to the success of overall business.  Having the appropriate software simplifies inventory processing through automation, thus ensuring tight control and lot tracking at all levels of warehouse management that meets industry-specific regulations and institutional requirements.


Common mistakes can make it challenging to maintain a successful warehouse operation even when WMS tools are being used.  Common problems include failure to put in place an efficient warehouse layout best suited to the products being handled, lack of knowledge of the inventory on hand, and inadequate preparation and training of personnel.


Having a logical warehouse layout is paramount to the success of any warehouse solution.  Location and paths should be organized to facilitate efficient routes.  The most popular and fastest moving items should be easily located and accessed.  The location of all products should be clearly defined and not scattered throughout the facility.  Trouble in finding products can cause delays and errors in product shipment.


Creating a logical naming and sequencing plan along with barcodes for efficient mechanical reading is a foundational steps in organizing a warehouse.  Special attention needs to be taken in the planning phase to ensure products are located where they can be picked efficiently.  It does not mean you have to rearrange your entire warehouse, but small incremental changes add to a cumulative benefit.


Accurate perpetual inventory and knowledgeable staff will help in this planning stage.  For example, by placing higher moving products near picking lanes that are close to shipping areas and placing bulk areas in a location to facilitate bin replenishment.   


A good WMS will show how well a system is performing and product movement.


WMS challenges increase when there are date sensitive products such as found in food or pharma industries.  Compliance regulations make it critical to keep accurate records of date tracking, handling and product movement.  No customer wants to receive an outdated or expired product.


Staff ultimately plays one of the most important roles in increasing operational efficiency.  Providing training is critical, but so is listening to the people that actually walk or ride the floors.  Their input is invaluable in indentifying any unique requirements.  Enlisting the help of a trusted advisor will help to identify your organizations strengths and weaknesses. 


Organizing and managing inventory begins with a detailed look at what you are doing and why you are doing and how you utilize your available resources.  A good match between your organization and a warehouse management system is more than picking up a software box at your local office supply store. 


The WMS system should integrate well with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.  Seamless passing of information between systems is a critical component and this integration.  Consider also the other components of your operations such as bar code scanners, radio frequency equipment, data collection equipment and where or what this equipment connects to or monitors.


There are a lot of components to connect and integrate in any operation.  The key is building a solid foundation to build upon.  A flexible ERP system with expansion modules that include WMS and other key components that match your departmental and functional roles is a great place to start.  But what happens if you already have a system in place and the complexity of adding more components is too great? 


This is where finding and selecting a trusted advisor will help.  A fresh set of eyes to look at your operations in a way no insider can see is helpful.  Accepting new points of view is the hard part. 


At Dolvin Consulting we work with industry experts to give you new perspectives on business-as-usual.  Contact us today to see how we can help. 


What ways do you evaluate trusted advisors and new solutions?  Please share your experiences with our readers.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Streamlining Manufacturing Processes and Improving Inventory Management

Any organization that handles inventory at any significant level will struggle at one point or another with inventory control and warehouse management.  Operations start normally enough and growth is accommodated fairly well until a trigger happens.  That trigger can be any number of changes.  They may include a merger or acquisition, new product line, updated manufacturing, new demand or market penetration.



As business grows the need to address multiple customer and separate industry segments at the same time are examples of growth that many systems cannot handle well.  A given system may have been designed to work with a single industry and its unique needs, but may not scale well to accommodate new industry segments.


What happens when there are new lines of business that have different requirements?


It becomes increasingly critical to streamline and manage the massive amounts of information being transmitted and processed from various locations such as customers, billing departments, technicians, trucks, and more when hundreds of organizations in a variety of industries rely on your systems for its equipment and supplies services,


A common constraint in many older Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems is their limited ability to efficiently and cost-effectively perform critical every day sales and service functions. 


These older systems tend to be very labor intensive and involve too much paperwork.  These constraints are multiplied when there is a mobile sales force that needs to have printed materials before traveling to customer locations.  This information has a tendency to go out of date quickly so that Salesreps would not have a clear snapshot of what products customers were using, what they were already billed for and what they already paid.  Delays in billing amplified the gap.


Recognizing that your current service billing and inventory processes are leading to increased costs is a first step in finding a solution that will reduce costs and streamline operations.  


You first have to recognize you have a problem before you can find a solution. 


Finding a system with real-time visibility of its data that has the ability to present it in a meaningful way is a critical step to moving forward and being more competitive.


To address efficiency issues companies need to find solutions that help to automate and integrate all of its ERP processes and provide an accurate, real-time view and control of the organization’s customer and inventory data.  Adding to the complexity are businesses that have manufacturing processing to integrate as well.  


Any new solution will certainly need easy deployment and real-time data discovery which will result in increased customer satisfaction.  Leveraging mobile technologies is often a key factor especially when a mobile sales force must be supported.  Mobility is important not only in extracting information, but also in updating the backend ERP system automatically.  Tasks such as invoicing can be done directly and automatically through handheld devices to eliminate the expense of time delays, postage and inefficient paper processing.


Implementation any new system can have its challenges.  When change is embraced in an organization the process can be seamless and quick.  Seamless integration of the entire organization will provide a seamless view of all data.


Key benefits and results of a comprehensive and fully integrated solution can include:

Rapid implementation.

Seamless integration.

More efficient and up-to-the-minute inventory management.

Real-time accounts receivable control and inventory updates.

Transition from paper to electronic records/management.

Reduction of human error, manual processes and employee resources.

Automatic printing of needed forms.

Real time updates and adjustments.

Reduction of operational costs.


Working with a responsive ERP solution provider that takes the time to listen and truly understand your challenges is invaluable.  Access to the leadership of that solution provider is equally important.  Having the ability to developing a flexible solution without rewriting the system can transform the way you automate and streamline your organization.   




How have ERP solutions transformed your operations?  How have implementations of new solutions increased efficiencies, reduced costs and increased profitability in your organization?  We would like to know.  Please share your successes and failures with our readers.


Dolvin Consulting works with industry experts to help you find the right solutions that will fit your business and your operational culture.  Contact us today to see how we can help.


With truly automated operations and real-time access to critical data, you will be able to offer your customers outstanding service and support that will truly set you apart from your competition.