Industry-Specific vs Generic ERP : The Right Fit For You

As your business grows and evolves, there comes a time for you to look for software that can streamline and automate your processes to allow you to have more control over your performance. Or you could already be using multiple pieces of software for different areas of your business but want to find an all-in-one solution that bridges any gaps that you may have with existing systems.

This is where an ERP system can make all the difference: ERP (enterprise resource planning) software automates complex business processes and allows companies to focus on growing their business without the growing pains.

There are lots of options in the market to choose from, and it can be difficult to know whether a generic or industry-specific ERP is the right choice for your business. The ERP you choose can have a huge impact on your business, so it’s important to consider the benefits of each one.

The shortcomings of generic ERPs for wholesale & distribution businesses

The right fit ERP solution should allow businesses to focus on thriving and growing, rather than holding them back due to inefficient processes and lack of functionality.

In my experience, I have found a few common problems arise when businesses look to a generic ERP:

  • A clunky ERP that’s missing the right features for a business’s needs

Whilst a generic ERP solution may give businesses a more aesthetic interface or some improvements in reporting and workflows, they often lack the flexibility to make modifications as the business grows and needs change.

This means that businesses run the risk of simply replacing previous work, rather than being able to build new processes to continue growing.

  • An overly complicated sales process with an inexperienced provider

A generic ERP provider usually needs to be taught a whole new language and working with an inexperienced sales or support team runs the risk of things getting lost in translation or a business’s needs not been fully understood. This results in businesses having to spend too much time fighting with the software rather than using it to make a positive impact on the business.

  • A lack of connection or trust between the business and provider

It’s hard to form a connection or build trust with a provider that doesn’t understand what your business does every day and its software needs. This leads to lost opportunities such as the cross-flow of ideas to help streamline processes and find solutions to specific problems faced within a business’s industry.

Additionally, businesses may miss out on that “personal touch” from experienced providers that so often makes interactions and experiences so much easier.

Why you should look for an industry-specific ERP provider

Many of these problems can be mitigated by spending extra time finding the right ERP provider for your industry. When you ensure that things aren’t lost in translation and that you have the right functionality, you’re giving yourself a head start.

Industry-specific ERPs can provide a lot of solutions for your business’s specific needs:

Quicker and easier setup – many industry-specific ERP providers already have custom setups for both wholesalers and retailers, and sometimes even for your specific industry. So whether they’re doing import costing and large warehouse

systems, or just a retail store, the provider can set it up very fast and have it fit 95% of your needs from the start. This leaves you with additional budget and time to make sure the software is customised to your specific business’s needs, and your team is adequately trained prior to deployment – making for a smooth transition.

Minimises the time that it takes to get a good result – when you put the right platform in place, the steppingstones to the next level and to each part of your industry-specific journey are going to be a lot shorter. As your business enjoys growth, a good industry-specific ERP should be able to be modified to suit your new business needs and continue to support your growth.

Increases productivity through automation – many of the processes you will be initially looking to automate are usually manual and complex. These processes are more than likely to be common amongst your industry, and therefore already built into an industry-specific ERP, helping to maximise the efficiency of your team from day 1.

A long-term partner to see you through the highs and lows – the right software will have a 10- to 20-year projected timeline and a roadmap for the product, which shows that the provider is in a good place in terms of maintaining the momentum of clients’ businesses and its own commitment to IT.

Finding the right ERP solutions for warehouse and distribution businesses

Warehousing and distribution-based businesses can often be taking on thousands of transactions, have a complex and large inventory and a customer base to match. You’ll need the right ERP software to manage it all –  Inventory Management, CRM, Financials, Workflows and more. Your business should also work with software that allows for growth as you continue to succeed.

Some of the integrations that warehouse and distribution businesses should consider are:

In distribution, the biggest challenge is getting the warehouse barcode correct: knowing that the product you’re selling is the correct one (and in stock), and the product you’re receiving is the right one. You need real trust in your inventory across the board.

Any growing business will eventually need to look at a WMS integration, because as the transaction count goes from hundreds to thousands, you want to make sure that you’re able to rely on the picking and packing process and the overall inventory management that’s occurring.

  • Integrated business intelligence reporting and workflow

ERPs often provide greater reporting, and you should take advantage of these features to be able to forecast revenue, track your pipelines, and generate insightful reports on all aspects of your business.

  • Journey management

There is a lot of talk now about journey management. Where is the product going? Who is it going to? When does it have to leave? Where is it on the picklist? You’ve got a schedule of orders that must be picked, and every single one of these may need to go on a different truck with a different courier. Journey management will ensure that your business won’t miss on these complicated paths, and it’s a solution that distribution businesses should prioritise.

HARMONiQ is a fully customisable ERP system that offers all these integrations – and more – with over thirty years of experience delivering software solutions to businesses in industries with traditionally complex inventory and management requirements, such as tiling, manufacturing, and automotive parts and more. We’re able to work with you to provide expert solutions to ensure that your business can grow and succeed from the start.

If you’d like to see HARMONiQ in action, click here to organise a free demo, or contact me on  02 9542 2000 or at drew@micronet.com.au.

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome ineffective business systems and processes by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss how to find the right ERP for your business, you can reach out via email here.

What Can You Achieve With An ERP System? How a Unified Solution Can Revolutionise How Your Business Operates

Have you ever thought that there’s something in your business that could maybe work a bit better? Whether it’s finding out when something is about to break, not after. Or your managers and directors are captives of your own business, always putting out fires rather than focusing on business development. Maybe it is something as simple as automating mundane manual processes to free up employee time. For most businesses, the answer is “yes, definitely.” But a lot of the time, it’s not disrupting business enough to warrant doing something about it.

We’ve been pretty lucky in the warehouse and distribution sector – most of the businesses I’ve worked with over the years have seen steady growth. They’ve dealt with this growth and subsequent operational changes by adding in systems when they need them. A CRM here, Business Intelligence Reporting there.

The problem with this approach is that gaps start appearing between these systems and processes. Things get missed, and it’s your people having to pick up the pieces.

This is where an ERP can make all the difference. Throughout this article, I take a deep dive look at what your business can achieve with an industry-specific ERP system in place that is customised to suit your industry and business needs.

The problems growing businesses face

Business systems are a critical asset for any business. Set up correctly, they become a key source of innovation and capability – protecting from workplace inefficiency and operational risk.

But this is only true if you are working with a comprehensive and fit-to-purpose solution.

Those businesses who are relying on disparate systems added “as needed” – or those still relying on original legacy solutions – will find themselves being held back. As they try to achieve growth, or try to manage natural growth, managing large inventories and customer bases becomes increasingly difficult.

Some of the most common problems I see are:

  • Too many systems and poor integration

Businesses often find a great system that provides a specific solution, and then another great system for a different solution, and then on and on, building their digital infrastructure in this granular way. Once a business reaches a certain size, this can be problematic, as these solutions may not integrate with one another resulting in an inefficient and risk-exposed network.

  • Fighting fires, rather than fixing problems

If management teams are rushing around putting out fires — fires that happen repeatedly — this is a major red flag. Businesses need to be able to find genuine, long-lasting solutions, rather than settling for quick fixes to immediate problems.

  • Overreliance on specific competencies

Having a skilled team in place is great – but what about when one (or more) of them leaves and takes with them the skills and knowledge needed to operate the business? This is a serious danger of solely relying upon the specific competencies of key team members.

A little help from automation goes a long way

A lot of these problems can be brought back to the systems you have in place, and their ability to provide you with the right data, capabilities and processes that your business requires to run in the best way, for the longest period of time.

Every business has its weaknesses and the parameters in which it can effectively operate. That’s doesn’t put you at a disadvantage though – as long as you can define those parameters and work within them.

The best way to do that? Workflow automation.

Workflow automation is all about making operations smoother, jobs easier, and stopping risks before they have the chance to turn into serious disruption.

Think about a lot of the average features in today’s cars. Many of them now have sensors that’ll tell you if you’re moving out of your lane. All of them will warn you if you’re running out of fuel. Some will even point you towards the nearest petrol station.

Workflow automation does the same thing for your business. It allows you to:

  • Set rules to automate mundane tasks so people can be engaged in more important tasks. – Just because we do it that way doesn’t mean it’s right or the most efficient way.
  • Mitigate risks and recurring issues by identifying them and introducing prevention measures. – Tell me when it’s about to break, not when it’s broken.
  • Receive notifications and alerts for important tasks or information. – I want to see when it’s up or down, not if everything is fine.
  • Stop relying so heavily on your people. – Poor processes make managers and owners captives to the business, reducing how much time can be spent on business development.

Bring it all together with ERP

The easiest way to achieve workflow automation (and all the benefits it offers) is through implementing an ERP. With the right solution in place, you will experience a shift from a reactive, ‘one-step-behind’ approach and instead, adopt a proactive ‘ahead-of-the-curve’ stance.

A fit for purpose ERP solution can deliver:

  • Automation

With an ERP, you’ll be able to find key opportunities and then deploy automated workflows across as many manual processes as possible.

  • A unified system

A unified ERP solution puts everything in one place, with easy unified integration that minimises missed tasks, data or operational flaws.

  • Optimised ROI

Return on investment underpins everything in business. Each operation needs to be costed and signed off, and then the returns need to be analysed and tracked. This is something that can be achieved thanks to the data-driven tools within ERP.

  • Data-driven approach

In today’s business landscape, understanding and insight are critical in every aspect of business. Data and reports are readily accessible from ERP and intuitive interfaces and user commands make sure that everyone can benefit from the advantages this insight brings.

Selecting the Right ERP for Your Business

An efficient business is an effective business, reducing the costs that come from inefficiencies and meeting the needs of customers with flexibility and agility. With this in mind, adopting an ERP solution becomes a best practice that your business needs to succeed in the market.

Thanks to a range of different automated processes and thanks to the data and insight that the solution puts right at your fingertips, you can transform your business into a well-oiled, highly efficient machine.

Implementing an ERP solution is a positive step for your business, but you need to make sure that you find a solution that matches the unique needs of your organisation. HARMONiQ is a fully-customisable ERP system that is built to grow and learn as your business does. So, you’ll never lose oversight of your business – no matter how large or fast you grow.

If you’d like to see HARMONiQ in action, click here to organise a free demo, or contact me on  02 9542 2000 or at drew@micronet.com.au.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome ineffective business systems and processes by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss ERP automation and improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

B2B eCommerce

Is your wholesale & distribution company ready for B2B eCommerce?

In traditional business-to-consumer environments, the demand for eCommerce is obvious, being almost impossible to be competitive without it. In wholesale & distribution and other B2B environments, its use case has historically not been as clear.

With growing end-user expectations; ease of experience, competitive pricing, and perceived value are crucial to unlocking success in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Digital transformation is now a driving force behind many wholesale and distribution companies’ decision-making – and it should be fueling your short and long-term growth strategies, too.

Digital transformation in the wholesale and distribution space involves retiring outdated, labour-intensive, and time-consuming processes and embracing technology via an eCommerce sales channel. Even manufacturers producing and selling in large volumes or holding complex inventories can benefit from a simplified B2B supply chain.

This article will investigate the short-fallings of traditional order-taking and demonstrate how eCommerce for wholesale and distribution companies can revolutionise how you do business.

Four signs your wholesale or distribution company is ready for eCommerce

Without eCommerce, wholesale and distribution companies may find themselves weighed down by intensive manual processes and convoluted systems vulnerable to human error.

Here are four tell-tale signs your operation has outgrown the old and is ready to embrace a leading-edge eCommerce platform.

  1. Your ordering process is laborious for your staff and customers

If you take orders manually by phone, email, or via a sales representative, your team must enter order details in your ERP or alternative business system by hand. This takes time and often demands back and forth between staff and customers to confirm stock and pricing (including customer-specific discounts).

Even after the order details are confirmed, your staff must deliver invoices and statement requests and manage credit control to ensure invoices are paid on time.

  1. You can’t meet growing demand because you don’t have enough staff

Your business is booming – that’s fantastic. But what happens when you don’t have the human-power to keep up with skyrocketing sales? Your customers lose out – and they don’t come back again.

If you rely on staff numbers to grow, scaling your business on-demand is just about impossible.

  1. Your data is subject to manual error

Where humans are involved, errors are sure to follow. Errors in your data can cause chaos for staff and customers. That’s not all – poor quality data can cost your organisation thousands of dollars every year.

  1. Your customers are asking for more information

Shopping has become more convenient than ever, and your customers expect to access critical information when and where they want it. If your staff is constantly chasing up real-time stock updates, live pricing information, invoices, and order histories, you are losing valuable time.

Three immediate benefits of B2B eCommerce for wholesale and distribution companies

Your eCommerce platform is an investment that repays dividends from day one. Here are three benefits of B2B eCommerce.

  1. Make more sales

The first and likely most attractive benefit of B2B eCommerce is more sales, more revenue, and more business growth. B2B eCommerce drives sales in several ways:

  • Your eCommerce platform operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That means you can receive orders outside of business hours.
  • Your eCommerce platform acts as a secondary sales channel, opening your company to new and broader audiences.
  • Many customers find eCommerce to be more convenient, giving your company an instant advantage over your competitors.
  1. Encourage repeat business

According to Nasdaq, 95 per cent of all purchases worldwide will be executed via eCommerce by 2040. Why? Because eCommerce makes shopping easier for customers.

If you can successfully reduce or eliminate back and forth communications during the ordering process and give your customers real-time access to live and historical data (stock levels and fluctuating prices, for example) you will drive repeat business and boost customer retention.

  1. Free up valuable resources

Automation is not just a buzzword; it’s a vital aspect of digital transformation that will future-proof your company. A sophisticated eCommerce platform streamlines the order capture process, automating resource-intensive activities and minimising human error.

Your staff can spend more time on growth-driving activities, customer experience, and customer service.

Implement a fully-integrated eCommerce platform

Creating and launching a high-performance webshop for your wholesale and distribution customers is not difficult. Through a partnership with Aphix Software, HARMONiQ can deliver a streamlined, tailored B2B eCommerce solution that integrates seamlessly with your ERP system.

Stock levels, pricing, and account information are pulled directly from your ERP in real-time, meaning your customers get access to the data they need without involving your staff. They can make purchases any time of day, and your inventory management is automated off the back of it – from updated stock levels to new inventory order requests.

If you would like to discuss how you can start leveraging B2B eCommerce technology to achieve sales outcomes and business growth, please call me on 02 9542 2000 or email me at drew@micronet.com.au.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss B2B eCommerce and improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

Sales Wins

How to set your Sales Team up for wins

Nearly every business starts off the new year with a new sense of enthusiasm and a new set of business goals. And I’d be willing to bet that for 99% of those companies, those goals include increased sales targets.

It’s great to set a goal. It’s smart to plan for where you want your business to head and how big you want it to grow. But after the goal planning comes the action planning. How will you make this year different from the last? You’ve got the same team and the same number of hours in the day. You’ve got similar customers – maybe less, depending on how 2020 impacted them.

After decades of working with businesses in the warehouse and distribution industry, I can say the most common action plan for growing sales it is looking for external answers. Better sales training, new employees, more customers. But before you start spending time and money on these techniques, I’d suggest taking a look at your own business first.

A lot of the time, there is plenty of changes you can make to internal processes that can have a huge impact on sales efficiency. Making some changes now can make a huge difference to your sales result come the end of the year.

What’s stopping sales progress?

If you’re confident that you’ve got dedicated, talented people in your sales team, spending time and money on sourcing or training new talent probably won’t make much of a difference.

Across the board, there are some pretty common reasons a company could be failing to achieve the sales outcomes they desire – and they’re less to do with skills, and more to do with processes:

Too much to do, too little time

Sales teams are notoriously busy, never finding enough hours in the day to get everything done. This is often because they rely on manual processes – individually punching in the details of quotes, prospects, and sales. This often means having to prioritise tasks and potentially missing out on other sales opportunities.

Poor sales timing

It can be hard to up sales performance if sales are only made when customers approach the business. Teams that have to wait for customers to tell them what they need or want means they have no idea when they should be selling. They’re not selling – they’re just providing. Opportunities for up and cross-selling die, as do re-sell prompts.

Prioritising big sales

It’s petty common practice for sales teams to focus on following up only the larger quotes – making the most of their precious time by chasing the biggest deals. But this means missing the opportunity that smaller quotes can offer (which could be millions of dollars a year), limiting sales numbers and potential profit.

The support tools your sales team needs

Sales teams who experience big wins do so for one reason – they are set up to win. They don’t necessarily work harder or have special skills. They simply work smarter.

Setting up the sales process to be as simple and streamlined as possible allows sales teams to make the most of every opportunity.  Just like removing the clutter from your emails helps you prioritise better, moving the clutter from the sales process help teams sell better.

While there are multiple things you can do to declutter sales, there are three key ones I recommend every single business should incorporate if they want to see a real difference in their sales outcomes:

Automate simple tasks

By automating some of your sales processes, you not only free up time for your team to focus on more important things, but you can set a clear sales process. This process will be what works best for your business and your buyers, ensuring the right steps are taken every time, errors and inconsistencies are minimised, and training new hires is simplified.

Use customers insights

Your sales team don’t have to be mind-readers to be able to make proactive sales. By looking at customer insights, they’ll be able to tell how best to sell to each buyer – it’s like letting your customers tell you how to sell to them! Recording quotes, queries and previous sales make it much easier to know when and what a customer might want. With the right customer insights, sales make themselves.

Adopt free-flowing communication

Free the information. Often in a business, information can get segmented and shut off. Whether that’s between sales team members (like customer communications stuck in personal emails) or between teams (like between the sales team and the warehouse team). With free-flowing communication and data sharing, sales teams are able to know what customers want and what’s available. The benefits of this even go beyond sales – it can assist you to make better decisions about stock, reducing costs.

Want big business results? Think like one.

Each of these steps are driven by effectively using business data. It’s data that Is already sitting in your business, just waiting to be put to work. And with the right ERP system on hand, collecting, interpreting, and utilising your data is quick and easy – and so are making the process changes that lead to sales outcomes.

Utilising technology to simplify tasks and empower your teams is the new norm – especially after the changing events of 2020. ERP’s are fast becoming the differentiating point between companies that are growing and companies that aren’t.

HARMONiQ is the first all-in-one solution built to support sales teams and connect them with the rest of the businesses. Customizable to specific business needs and use, it contains features key to helping sales teams to improve both performance and services, including:

  • Automated quote follow-ups and reminders
  • Outlook plug-in
  • Workflow rules/process set up
  • System integration and simple data sharing
  • Buyer tracking for pipeline visibility

To determine if ERP is the right move for you, download our free ERP Automation eBook.

If you would like to discuss how you can start leveraging great technology to achieve sales outcomes and business growth, please call me on 02 9542 2000 or email me at drew@micronet.com.au.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss automation and improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

Three ways to use business data to boost your profits

Three ways to use data to boost your profits

Most businesses leaders are currently living with a lot of uncertainty. There’s very little clarity around the long term (or even short term) impact that the events of 2020 will have on the warehouse and distribution industry in general, and their business specifically.

It doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve taken a hit, or have mostly continued on as normal. Nearly everyone has their mind on the same thing – how can I build better financial security in my business?

While there are many steps you can (and will) take over the next few months and years to get back on the growth track, one of the easiest ways to boost the financial security of your business right now is by using your data.

Data is a tool that you already have on hand. It can be used to help stop the unnecessary loss of profits, as well as help unlock hidden profit opportunities. When utilised well, data doesn’t just tell you what is – it tells you what you should do.

Don’t look for complex solutions when a simple one will do

In the years I’ve spent working with warehouse and distribution businesses, I’ve seen all sorts of complex strategies and new ideas brought in to try and stimulate profit growth.

But in reality, it doesn’t take complex or intricate plans to boost profits; there are simple, small process changes that can have an even greater effect (for a lot less effort).

Some businesses are hesitant to look at or optimise their current processes, others simply think they don’t have the time. But failing to look at improving internal factors is often costing more money than external factors. For example, billions of dollars of revenue are lost by inventory shrinkage every year in the warehousing, retail and distribution industries. Furthermore, millions of dollars in potential profit are lost from failing to follow up quotes.

The answer? Implementing smart data usage into your existing processes.

Three powerful & profitable uses for your data

There are lots of ways you can use data in your business to improve efficiency, forecasting and profit margins. Here are just three ways that are particularly relevant to the current environment.

Identify Market Trends

If you know what customers want to buy, how much of it and when, you’ll be in a better position to provide them with what they need – and make more sales. Customer buying data (and, if you have eCommerce going, search data) can give you an inside look at market trends and live information about demand.

Knowing exactly what customers want, what they’re buying and what they aren’t as it’s happening puts you in better stead to supply in-demand items without delay. This sort of data can prove priceless; helping you keep customers, win new ones, cross-sell, upsell, or even enter new markets entirely.

Empower Your Sales Team

Sales is a hard job, and it can be made even harder when you don’t have the tools you need to succeed. Data empowers sales teams in multiple ways – improving profit opportunities in the process. The most notable:

  • Providing them with personalised customer information and habits to allow them to start meaningful sales conversations that are highly relevant to the customer
  • Notifying them of older customers who have not purchased for a while that need to be reengaged,
  • Recognising when quotes need to be followed up so you can make the most of every prospect.

Improve Inventory Management

Inventory is likely one of the biggest costs for your business, and therefore presents one of the best opportunities to reclaim lost profits. Not only does stock tie up a lot of cash, but the processes around managing it can take a lot of hours and people-power – and extra expense. By utilising your stock data, you can improve efficiency across the entire ordering and managing process. Keep an eye on what’s moving and what’s not to minimise deadstock and keep in-demand items in stock, set up automatic re-orders for popular stock lines, and keep your staff moving with the information they need to do their jobs more quickly and more accurately.

Make your data work for you with ERP

The power to make more money already exists within your business – you just need to harness it. By now, most businesses know the difference data can make, but not all of them have got to the point where they’re utilising it effectively.

All businesses have data, but it’s the way you use it that makes a difference. To be able to make your data profitable, it needs to be:

  • Accessible –data can be accessed easily and shared across every team member if needed, in an easily interpretable and reportable mode
  • In real-time –access to live data that tells you what’s happening in your business right now, allowing for more relevant and effective decision making
  • Powerful –ability to efficiently generate reports that show you what you need to know in a consumable way, allowing you to make quick data-driven decisions.
  • Accurate Make sure your data is up to date and a single source of the truth for anyone, and track any changes or edits that have been made.

When it comes to collecting, processing and accessing meaningful business data, nothing is more effective than an ERP system. An ERP system can not only allow you access to data, but makes it meaningful – allowing you to get new visibility and control into your business, your inventory and your customers.

ERP software integrates your systems and automates your processes – and records everything along the way, for simple and easy access to business insights. By using these insights, you can make profitable decisions and changes in stock, management, sales and more.

If you’re considering implementing an ERP system into your business, you can discover more about the process in our eBook ERP Automation: Is an ERP system the right move for my business? Or, click here to contact HARMONiQ for any general enquiries.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss getting the most out of your business data or improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

Business growth

Taken a hit? Set your business up to recover – and grow bigger

Last month, I discussed how warehouse and distribution businesses can prepare for the ‘new normal’. A large part of this was about growing customer bases and expanding into new markets.

But if we look further ahead, the goal for many isn’t just getting back to ‘normal’ – it’s continued growth.

This major disruption has (and will) affect many businesses growth plans and trajectories. The momentum they had, or the strategies that had been put in place, now won’t be as effective. Or, they’ll take much longer to come to fruition.

Exploring new customer opportunities is an important step to getting back to where you were at the beginning of the year. But growth will require more than just new business. The road to growth starts with internal changes, ensuring your business processes and operations are set up to support an expanding business.

Businesses are facing big operational changes

This disruption is clearly not over (as our friends in Melbourne are discovering). And the impact on this industry could set to continue, or worsen, over the next 12-18 months.

It’s one thing to be able to roll with the punches for a couple of months or through one lockdown period. But this is no way to approach a long-term change to operating and selling.

I previously discussed that the way businesses sell has likely changed, and there will be a need to adapt. But on top of this, there will also be an internal change to how operations run, and how the customer promise is met. During the next little while, a lot of businesses will experience:

Less staff

Some businesses are facing returning to ‘normal’ or increased operations with fewer staff to carry out jobs. This means not all jobs can be done, and there will be a strong need to prioritise some tasks over others

Changes in stock needs

Fluctuating sales and customer numbers can create inventory management headaches. Continuous changes in ordering trends and customer numbers makes ensuring stock availability without overstocking a fine balancing act.

Interrupted trends

Growth and sales patterns have been thrown off, making it hard to identify trends and forecast business performance. As we’ve seen, things can change dramatically in as little as 24 hours, leaving everyone feeling uncertain. Even those who haven’t felt the crunch are unsure about what the next year or two means for them.

Growth takes more than increasing customers

Up until now, the main objective has been survival. But as we realise this isn’t going away, and the way business operates is likely changed for good, simply keeping a head above eliminates the capacity for bigger and better things.

Growth stems from not just managing what you have, but having the capacity to take on more without it affecting your customer promise.

Attracting more customers and expanding into more markets will definitely help with business growth. But to be successful in the long run, you need the internal processes in place to support an increase in business.

Simply put, you have to be able to do more with less. And to successfully achieve this, you’ll need:

  • Operational efficiency – Automation helps frees up staff time so they can focus on more important tasks, and allows you to function at a higher capacity with a smaller workforce. This means that as your customer base and order demand grow, your team can still deliver.
  • Sales support – Access to market and customer insights not only helps with inventory management, it helps the sales team follow up more leads, serve customers better and improve opportunities to up and cross sell.
  • Data insights – Forecasting is always key to running a business, but becomes even more vital when things are changing rapidly. You need an idea of what’s coming and where you sit to be able to effectively plan your way forward.

Your internal processes will make the difference between surviving and thriving

In terms of how businesses operate more effectively and stay ahead of the competition, change has been coming for a long time. The recent circumstances have just sped the process up.

The next step is not only setting ourselves up for surviving the disruption, but thriving in the new normal. The further you look, the faster you go. Look beyond the next step – growth might not happen straight away, but it needs to be in the plan.

Look at your processes, look at your systems and software and reassess their ability to help you in this new normal.

  • How has your business changed, and what capabilities do you now need to meet goals?
  • Can your existing systems support efficiency and productivity and deliver ROI?
  • Are you in a place to invest in improvements?

Your software and systems play a big role in supporting growth and, if you’re able, it could be time to change things up. If you’re committed to sustaining long-term growth, overhauling your processes with an ERP system could be the best answer for you.

An ERP sets you up now for future growth but also provides flexibility to work with whatever further changes and disruptions come our way. Giving you the power of not only automation, but real-time insights you need to:

  • Supply for the market
  • Prevent inventory shrinkage
  • Forecast revenue
  • Support your customers

If you’re considering implementing an ERP system into your business, you can discover more about the process in our eBook ERP Automation: Is an ERP system the right move for my business?  If you’d like to discuss any of the steps I’ve mentioned further, or get some guidance around market expansion, reach out to me via our website or email me directly at drew@micronet.com.au.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss preparing your business for growth or improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

Future of work warehouse & distribution

What’s next? Preparing for the ‘new normal’ and strengthening your customer base

For the last couple of months, many industries have been grappling with massive and sudden losses and changes. Yet many of the warehouse and distribution businesses I’ve spoken with have been able to adapt well.

While a lot have seen some sort of downturn, they have, for the most part, avoided any extreme shifts in sales or operations (with the exception of more Zoom calls and face masks).

However, there is a general feeling among many in the industry that the storm is yet to come – particularly for those who supply to and rely on the building industry. While the initial hit is subsiding, more change is coming. Things like the number of new building approvals and customer buying habits shifting online may mean that there will be a longer-term effect.

If the real difficulty is truly yet to come, it’s important to take some time to prepare for it, and put your business in a position to not just survive but thrive, even if some customers or markets take a hit.

The approach to buying and selling has changed

Right now, all we can do is speculate on what the new normal will look like. But while it’s hard to know when it’ll arrive or how hard it will hit, there are some obvious factors that we know are likely to occur (or already have).

  • Fewer approvals: There is evidence to believe that building approvals are dropping, meaning the real effects of our current situation won’t be felt by the industry until 2021 or 2022. Fewer building approvals will have a trickle-down effect for businesses supporting and supplying the industry.
  • Change in sales approach: Obviously, the typical nature of an in-person sales approach that many business rely on for winning customers and sales will have changed over the last couple of months. These changes could be here for good. Translating these valuable approaches into a new format could be a struggle for many.
  • Change in what customers want: What consumers want from their suppliers has changed. The lowest price is no longer the driving factor for many purchasers. The convenience of being able to purchase online, with cashless and contactless delivery is fast becoming a big priority. Continuing to focus on price as a key selling point runs the risk of trapping businesses in a hard to win race to the bottom.

Regardless of how, if, when or how severely the industry is hit in the coming months or years, it’s safe to say it’s not viable to continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Going ‘back to normal’ is not the old normal, but a considerably new and different one.

Gaining new customers means connecting in new ways

Ensuring you’re able to adapt to market changes and fluctuating business performance should be a priority right now. Unfortunately, we can’t know what will happen in the future. But by paying attention to the signs and being proactive, you can adequately prepare yourself for what might come.

One of the best ways to prepare at the moment is to look at new customers and markets. To be competitive and win more business, you need to be considered in more opportunities.

However, how you go about gaining new business has likely changed because we can’t interact the same way that we did before. So, you’ve got to try to establish new markets in a different way than what we have in the past. In order to do that, you’ll need:

  1. Systems that support lean processes:

If you’ve had to lean down your processes in the last couple of months, it’s time to start to make that permanent. Simply, this means getting your people doing more effective things, more efficiently. Automation is key, allowing you to remove mundane tasks and ensure staff are more actively engaged in meaningful, productive activities.

  1. Proactive action:

With so many sudden and drastic rule changes, it’s been tempting for many businesses to sit back and wait to be told what to do – or for everything to just return to normal. A smarter way to spend your time is proactively investigating ways to improve. Surveying customers and staff on their changing needs is a smart idea, as is looking at what things in your office or warehouse are going to need to change to match the changing environment.

  1. Support for your customer promise:

Now more than ever, it’s important for business to know their customer promise and be able to articulate it. But on top of this, you will also need the systems that will support you deliver this promise. And so, I’ve seen people, for instance, who they’ll say, “If you get an order in by 4:00 PM on any given day, you’ll receive it the following day”. That’s part of their promises because they’ve got really effective or efficient warehouses, so they can get stuff out quick. And that enables them to form part of that.

Four steps you can take now to flourish in the next phase

We don’t know what the new (or next) normal is going to look like for our industry. It could come sooner, or later, or not at all. The fact is, you’re better off being prepared. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll be in a better selling position with better systems – something that never hurts.

To get started, or to determine areas where you need to invest in improvement, there are four things I’d recommend doing now:

Declutter processes

Declutter and map out your processes. Establish where you can cut unnecessary steps by seeing how long things take and how long they should take. Document each process so everyone knows how it should be done.

Measure your wins

Look at your data, report on what you’re doing and use that to support your business in the eyes of customers. New customers won’t know your value, so show them in a way they can understand – cold hard facts and data.

Articulate your customer promise

It’s a really good time to think about your customer promise and what that looks like. What do you do that the benefits the relationship that you have with the customer? What’s in it for them? It’s simple stuff, but many established distribution businesses don’t do on a regular basis

Prospect, prospect, prospect

Always be prospecting and looking for new markets to sell to, and have a clear understanding of how many new customers you’re getting per day per week, per month, per year. Acquisition statistics are particularly important right now, allowing you to know when you get a new customer, celebrate it, and really make the most of the relationship.

These small changes can set you up to be better prepared for what’s to come. It will also allow you to discover any roadblocks and holes in your processes, giving you time to address them, rather than be caught off guard when it’s too late.

If you’d like to discuss any of the steps I’ve mentioned further, or get some guidance around market expansion, reach out to me via our website or email me directly at drew@micronet.com.au.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss preparing for the future of work or improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.

Controlling cost margins with an ERP system

Comparing costs: Poorly controlled margins vs. ERP systems

The state of the Australian economy is worrying for many. For retailers, warehousing and distribution businesses, it’s particularly concerning. A slow-moving economy and poor sales results across the industry mean that controlling internal business costs is more important than ever.

We don’t have much control over the economy. We also don’t have too much control over the cost of goods or customer purchasing habits. But our own costs are something we can control – if we have the right tools.

Obviously, one of the best ways to better control business processes, including margins and costs, is by implementing an ERP. But they also come with a significant cost themselves.

So, is it really a case of spending money to save money? Or are you better to hold onto your money and hope to ride out the slow economy?

You can’t control costs you can’t see

In my time working with warehouse and distribution businesses, I’ve always seen the same thing: When it comes to business costs and margins, you can only control them if you have full visibility of what they are, and why they’re occurring.

Are some staff selling below margin? Is someone giving away too much discount? Are you ordering too much stock? Can you see which customers, products or projects have the best margin business to go after and which you should consider phasing out (or even stopping altogether)?

Without visibility, costs can easily compound.

You might think these are able to be controlled independently. Some stricter rules for the sales team here, a bit more recording and research there. But a lack of visibility comes at a cost greater than just the direct cost of supplies or sales.

Companies that can’t precisely understand, monitor and manage costs and margins can too easily go on to make the wrong financial decisions. These can include:

  • Choosing small, short-term costs rather than bigger, more impactful costs
  • Using manual, slow systems that are indirectly increasing costs
  • Not reporting on performance
  • Spending too much time on things that don’t add value to your end-user

When you can’t optimise spending and minimise costs internally, the external factors – like the economy and your competition – will be felt far more.

Controlling cost margins with an ERP system

Is your lack of visibility impacting your margins?

Is the cost of control worth it?

So, lack of control can quickly become expensive. But is it as costly as an ERP system?

Implementing an ERP certainly isn’t something you go into blindly, or on a whim. You’ll want to do your research, determine your needs and be knowledgeable about the choices out there and what they can offer you. There’s no denying, ERP’s require significant investment and commitment.

But what do you get for the investment?

The big thing is visibility. You’ll be able to see all the what’s, why’s and how’s of your costs. But also, the wider picture – not just what’s costing you, but how to reduce that in a way that won’t affect how your business operates.

In the same way that low margins and high costs aren’t the only problems caused by poor visibility, an ERP system gives you more than just the ability to lower supply costs and tighten margins.

  • Report on performance and make data-driven decisions towards improvement
  • Understand costs and optimise spending
  • Invest in the right places, and remove unprofitable processes
  • Market and sell better to your customers and improve service offerings

Understanding and controlling your costs and implementing tighter margins are easy enough to understand. But to make them happen, and to make a real impact on your bottom line, you need to get relevant business controls in place and working for you in an automated fashion, via your business software.

ERP systems offer the biggest return on investment

Depending on the size of your operation, the simple act of not following up all quotes can cost a business thousands, if not millions, per year. And that’s just one business process.

Combine that with slow manual processes, low-value procedures, unregulated margins… Suddenly the cost of not putting in an ERP system can outweigh implementation costs in just a couple of months.

ERP systems can go a long way to helping you control your costs, and will continue to bring ROI as you continue to use it.

I’ve covered some of the benefits here, but for a more detailed look at controlling costs through ERP, download the free Controlling Costs and Margins eBook.

I think we’ve all experienced the swings in the economy enough to know that trying to wait it out for a better tomorrow is a risky move, that could start out cheap but end up costing you.

If you’d like to see ERP in action, click here to organise a free demo of HARMONiQ software, the ERP system built specifically for warehousing and distribution businesses.

Business alignment using an ERP System

How to align your sales team using an ERP

‘Alignment’ can be a bit of a buzzword for businesses. But what does it actually mean? And is it something you should be worried about it? At the very least, it’s something you should think about.

Misalignment can happen in multiple areas of business. But in my experience, working with warehouse and distribution companies, I see it most commonly with the Sales teams.

The lack of interaction between operations and sales can often promote a very ‘us and them’ situation. You can forget that one team can’t actually do its job without the other.

Business growth is great, but as you expand you want to make sure your team stays together, not grows apart. After all, you’re all working towards the same goal.

A good ERP system can help you connect your teams, achieve better alignment, keep your sales team in the fold and even see them performing better. Which is good for business, good for team performance and good for customer experience – a win for everyone.

You need more than a salesperson to make a sale

While Sales and Operations are obviously very different, they’re just as important as each other to the overall business. Without inventory and warehousing, you’d have nothing to sell. But without sales, you’d have no business.

While we all know Sales teams are vital, they sometimes get lost behind the huge demand of inventory. It can be tempting to leave them to ‘run things by themselves’, but this approach can lead to some big problems:

  • Sales teams won’t have access to the right customer or inventory information needed to make sales
  • They have more tasks than hours in the day
  • They’re not on board with business goals or strategies
  • They aren’t utilising available data to make better selling decisions
  • They aren’t following up quotes

Sales can’t be made without input and information from the rest of the business.

Trying to do it any other way will lead to confusion, miscommunication, a bad customer experience, and eventually, poor sales results.

Are your tools supporting your team?

Everything in your business fits together and impacts everything else. So, while the sales team might be physically separate from everyone else, they need to be on the same page.

It’s often not a problem with the sales team themselves; it’s the tools provided to them which dictate their ability to integrate with the rest of the business.

Ask yourself, why is sales performance as it is? Are you providing your sales team with the right tools? A good way to tell if this is a problem is to determine whether your current system enables teams to have:

Efficiency – Doing things manually takes time. Your team only has so many hours in the day. If you’re relying on them doing each task individually, they’ll struggle to achieve maximum selling capacity.

Communication – When teams are split up between offices, stores or even states, it’s important that they have an easy way of communicating with each other. This doesn’t even need to be phone calls or emails – it can simply be the sharing of information that both can access, view and edit.

Information – Sales teams rely on accurate and up-to-date stock and customer information to do their job. What’s in stock? When and what do customers usually buy? Their ability to sell (and upsell) relies on having this information at their fingertips.

Align and empower with an ERP system

In business, data is king. And this is no different for Sales teams. They can’t make the magic happen without a bit of input from the rest of the business. They need to have access to business data because it’s relevant to what and how they sell.

The first step to aligning your sales team to your business is recognising these needs and their involvement in the wider business. The second is providing them with the tools to make it happen.

This is where an ERP comes in. The right ERP – integrated in the right way for you – can empower and support Sales teams to improve both sales and customer service.

The right ERP system can offer:

Automation

Automate replies, quote follow-ups, marketing emails and more, to provide maximum efficiency without time constraints.

Customisation

Have a system that is built around the specific needs of your business and your teams to ensure that you’re only getting and paying for what you need, and that staff are fully supported and empowered in their roles.

Integration

Integrated systems and processes assist the team in understanding how their job fits into the overall business and gives them a wider view of what’s going on. Integrating CRM can also help Sales teams stay on top of – and improve – their customer service.

HARMONiQ is the first all-in-one solution that is designed to help Sales teams stay in the loop and improve their performance through access and alignment.

As a truly customisable and scalable software, HARMONiQ ensures that the software will continue to grow alongside your business.

If you would like to discuss how you can start leveraging great technology to achieve business growth and alignment, please call me on 02 9542 2000 or email me at drew@micronet.com.au.

How an ERP system can improve your visibility – and your business

At any given time, a hundred different things are going on in your business that are all vital to its success. Receiving payments, closing sales, ordering, counting, delivering stock… Just thinking about it is enough to give you a headache.

Having a handle on every part of your business can feel impossible. But it’s also necessary for making the best business decision and ensuring success – which puts you in a tight spot.

I’ve worked with many businesses who struggle to make the best proactive decisions for their business, no matter how hard they work or how smart they are.  And a lot of the time, it’s been for the same reason – they have poor visibility.

Download HARMONiQ’s ERP Automation eBook here.

Are you running your business blind?

Poor visibility doesn’t mean you don’t know where your staff or stock are. It means you don’t have the data insights that can help you really see what’s going on in your business, and why.

Data – and the information it gives you – are the key to staying ahead of the competition, making smart business decisions, and growing your business. But many organisations aren’t utilising data as they should be.

This could be for many different reasons:

  • You’re relying on manual processes for some key tasks;
  • You’re using disparate systems that don’t work together;
  • Data is only examined to find an answer when something goes wrong; or
  • Running data reports is too hard and time-consuming.

Some or all of these might be true for you – either way, your systems aren’t set up in a way that supports you to make smarter business decisions.

Business data

Relying on manual processes could be holding your business back

Data is the common thread across all business processes

Data visibility doesn’t just affect one part of your business – it has the power to impact or improve across every single process and department.

That’s why you need something that will help all processes, not just some. An ERP system has the power to improve data visibility across the entire business, meaning you’ll be able to have eyes on everything.

I commonly see wholesale and distribution companies struggle with three key areas of business. Take a look at how data visibility and an integrated ERP can improve them :

Inventory

The lifeline of your business, inventory can be one of the most complex processes you deal with. Having proper visibility over every aspect of inventory – products, suppliers, pricing, quantities, orders, warehousing – will help you achieve your main business objective: to sell.

Visible inventory data can not only help you sell more through insights into buyer behaviour but can also help you save. Understanding the what, when, and who of your inventory means better strategic buying and ordering decisions. More sales and less cost are good news for you and your bottom line.

Customers and Market

While inventory control is important, it means nothing if you don’t have anyone to sell it to. With the right data visibility, you can identify all kinds of risks and opportunities within your customer market that will help you stay competitive and deliver high-level service. This includes:

  • What’s selling well;
  • How often and what each customer orders;
  • Quote follow up; and
  • Competitive pricing.

The most powerful thing data can do is show you where the problems are. Are you losing sales? If so, why? Is it because of follow up, staff or competitive offerings? With an ERP system, you’ll be able to identify issues and apply the resources to fix them.

Processes

Many businesses already use data, but often I see it utilised only when someone’s seeking an answer to a problem. If they’re not proactive and looking at the bigger picture, they miss the opportunity to implement procedural change and stop problems reoccurring. Without complete visibility, they don’t know what they’re doing well and what could be done better.

With easy access to the right data, you’ll have more opportunities to make strategic decisions and better plan for the future through forecasting and performance insights.

ERP System

An ERP system provides data visibility across your entire business

Put your data to use with the help of an ERP system

Data already exists in your business – it’s there, ready and willing to help you. It’s just waiting for you to implement the right tools.

When it comes to collecting, processing and accessing meaningful business data, nothing is more effective than an ERP system. ERP systems organise and interpret data so that it is:

  • Accessible – data can be accessed easily and shared across every team member if needed, in an easily interpretable and reportable mode;
  • Integrated – ERP integrates data across multiple systems, processes and departments, to give a wide and overviewed visibility of your entire business;
  • Efficient – Have clear and easy access to your data when and where you need it; and
  • Accurate Make sure your data is up to date and unchanged, and track any changes or edits that have been made.

HARMONiQ is a fully-customisable ERP system that is built to not only give you the personalised business data you need but grow and learn as your business does. So, you’ll never lose sight over your business – no matter how large or fast you grow.

If you’re considering implementing an ERP system into your business, you can discover more about the process in our eBook ERP Automation: Is an ERP system the right move for my business? Or, click here to contact HARMONiQ for any general enquiries.

 

Author bio:

Drew Arthur is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to improve your business visibility and make data-driven decisions, click here to organise a demo to see how HARMONiQ Business Tuning Software can make a difference to your business.