Monday, December 22, 2014

Retail Software – Achieving Effective Integration

New technology available today allows Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) solution providers to more economically provide integrated solutions that actually drive efficiency.  There is only so much overhead costs that can be cut.  Product, personnel and overhead cost inevitably increase over time.  Add business growth to the overhead increase and you end up needing a solution that can grow with your needs.

Companies are typically growing or shrinking and those cycles alternate.  Long term we hope the trend is upward.  If so, then that company will need a solution that meets their current demand and will provide the tools and resources to match and facilitate growth.

Some key features of a capable solution would (should) include:
  • Automatically calculate restocking orders.  Regardless of how your products are ordered, you solution needs to track inventory movement and balance reorder availability and timelines to ensure you have enough stock to meet future demands and not too much that your overhead and handling costs increase.
  • Timely reporting on sales.  Up to the minute, real-time reporting is a necessity for management to make informed decisions.
  • Speed up customer check-out.  No one likes waiting in lines and they expect the prices to ring correctly.
  • Integrated credit card processing.  Not only do retailers need to process credit cards, but they need to do so quickly, accurately, and safely.  Key benefits are when the credit card processing is fully integrated with the order fulfillment system. 
  • Reward your customers.  Loyalty tracking allows you to recognize and cater to the needs of your customers as well as attract new customers that have similar needs.
  • A single solution.  A single integrated solution that links retail stores, Ecommerce, inventory and warehousing will inevitably drive efficiency and fulfill the other objectives listed hear.
  • Timely reporting.  Management needs access to real-time information, but also sales history from all sources and inventory movement for better planning.
  • Procurement tools.  Purchasing needs access to all sales information to gauge trends on ordering and resupply decisions.
  • Easy customer enrollment.  Online solutions need to be customer friendly.  If you make it easy for your customers to business with you, they are likely to return and do more business with you.
  • Integrated marketing tools.  Your business needs integrated and easy to use tools to stay in touch with your customers.  Customer relationships need constant nurturing.
  • Provide tools for your customers.  Customers need access to their information as well including sales history regardless of their point of purchase.  This helps with common questions and reordering. 
  • On account customer service.  Your account customer need the same tools as retail customers.  They also need to review their credit line, reprint invoices and check order status.

Final thoughts:
Customer service is important.  Serve your customers well and they will return.  Remember if you do not service them, someone else will.  A key sign your customer value your relationship is when they refer others to do business with you.

Integration is key.  Every time people have to touch information and manual processing, you are increasing the likelihood of errors and inefficiency.

Information is key.  Real-time and accurate information is critically important to manage and run your operations.

Information and integration help to drive efficiency in your operations, reduce costs and deliver great customer service.  This cycle will repeat itself if you are using the right ERP solution. 

Performance and up-time are critical in Retail operations.  Make sure your solution runs on systems that can ensure you meet your customer’s needs first and foremost.  Kiosks are another customer service tool that generates repeat business.

Whether you have a single location with many terminals or many locations, a few part numbers or many SKU’s, the right solution should be helpful in managing operations.  Faster replenishment and minimized outages that result from new solutions help move you towards a Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory management solution.

Contact Dolvin Consulting to find out how our industry expertise and relationships can help your organization improve the way you deliver to your customers.  We are here to help.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with our readers.  What applications and tools have you implemented that have helped?  What are you looking for in a future update or system?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Inventory Balances

If you are in the food industry you already know that one of the primary challenges is your inventory level.  You need enough supplies to satisfy customer demand, but not too much due to obvious reasons of expiration dates and potential spoilage. 

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are designed to streamline operations and provide a central repository of information to effectively manage inventory processing.

Do you walk around and “look” at inventory to guess and gauge usage and need?

Many food distributors do just that.  They have been in business a long time and there is built in knowledge of customer and seasonal demand.  What moves, what does not and what to do with surpluses or not having sufficient supply and cost expense of expediting replacement inventory?

How does your organization handle recalls and FDA requirements (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act - FSMA)?  Do you have the ability to include all lot numbers on products and paperwork?  How much time and effort does it take you to process a recall?  What about the paperwork and certificates of origin?  Where are these documents found and how are they linked to your inventory?

If you are processing food inventory manually, then your ability to meet the FSMA requirements will be limited and expose your business to great risk and regulatory nightmare.

How efficiently do you process your distribution, truck loading and routing?  What tools does your ERP solution provide to ensure your customer needs are met?  How long does it take to train your workforce?  Is the equipment and process intuitive?  How many times during the day do they have to look up information and how much time does it take?

Handling inventory is a primary focus of food distributors as is financial processing.  You need to service your customers, yet also manage their credit usage on the Accounts Receivable (AR) side and expenditures via Accounts Payable (AP) on the vendor/supplier side.  The General Ledger (GL) ties all the various aspects of the financial reporting and forecasting together.

If these topics strike a nerve with your organization and you are curious if you are doing everything reasonably possible to empower your workforce and drive efficiency in your operations, then it is time to contact Dolvin Consulting.  We work with industry experts to help you look at and evaluate your organization from a fresh perspective.

We look forward to serving your needs.