How To Find the Best Distribution ERP Software
If you got a nickel every time you heard the phrases “supply chain issues,” “supply chain snafus,” or some variation thereof over the last three years … well, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post; you’d have quit running a distribution company and retired to a private island by now.
Unfortunately, hearing and reading about supply chain problems ad nauseum doesn’t actually solve supply chain problems. But the right distribution ERP software can go a long way toward mitigating the snarls that have plagued supply chains — of which distribution companies are an integral part — for the last few years.
Follow along as we reveal the qualities to look for to find the best distribution ERP software, as well as how two leading platforms in the space — Acumatica Distribution Edition and Microsoft Dynamics 365 — compare.
What Should You Look for in a Distribution ERP Software?
Some of the key qualities to consider when choosing between ERP systems are not necessarily industry-specific. Every company needs an ERP system that:
- Grants easy access to information across departments
- Integrates with a variety of applications and add-ons, allowing you to customize your system to meet the unique needs of your business
- Is easy to use, accessible from anywhere via the cloud, and offers flexibility and scalability
- Has plenty of opportunities to streamline repetitive processes, such as invoicing, fulfillment, and customer service tasks, to help your business run more efficiently
As a distribution company, there are additional, industry-specific features that will benefit your business:
Robust Inventory Management
Inventory is the bread and butter of any distribution company, so it’s not an area to skimp on when choosing the best distribution ERP software for your business. The best distribution ERP software offers multiple methods for tracking and costing inventory, including LIFO, FIFO and even methods that may be specific to your individual company. Inventory information should be available across departments as well as across locations if you have multiple rooftops or warehouses.
Real-Time Inventory Updates
Imagine an agent from your plumbing supply distribution company’s customer service team promises a rush delivery of bathroom faucets to your best client, a major homebuilding enterprise, only to discover that your entire stock is on its way to a competitor’s build site. Your best client may not be your best client for much longer! An ERP system that automatically updates inventory upon order placement will prevent such nightmare scenarios.
The days of being able to predict future demand based on past sales are over. And with a volatile geopolitical climate – not to mention natural disasters caused by the actual climate – hindering supply chains worldwide, recuperating from a stockout could take weeks or even months. On the other hand, overstocking steals valuable warehouse space from items your clients want to buy. Fortunately, recent leaps in AI and machine learning capabilities provide an avenue by which companies can still forecast demand for their products with a great degree of accuracy.
Ecommerce and Fulfillment
Just as important as having the right product on hand at the right time is the ability to get it to your clients without incident. Ecommerce is where you engage with your clients, current and prospective, and alert them to new product offerings or features. Choosing the wrong ecommerce platform could eat up huge amounts of time and capital and even tarnish your company’s image. If the software you’re considering doesn’t come with or integrate with the ecommerce platform that best suits your needs, you may need to reconsider. The same can be said for shipping and logistics. Fortunately, ERP systems like Acumatica and Dynamics 365 support a wide variety of integrations, developed both by the companies themselves and by third parties.
Customer Relationship Management
As a distribution company, you hold a unique position in the supply chain, acting as the go-between for manufacturers that make the goods and retailers whose task is to ultimately put those goods into end users’ hands. If their customer experience is clunky, retailers might find that offering your products to their patrons is more trouble than it’s worth. The best distribution ERP software prioritizes customer relationship management and ensures that information about customers, and your company’s interactions with them, is accessible throughout the organization.
Distribution ERP Software That Will Drive Your Business Forward
Two examples of the best distribution ERP software are Acumatica and Microsoft Dynamics 365. Let’s take a look at how each of these leading systems can serve your business.
Microsoft Dynamics 365
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a collection of business applications designed to be used either piecemeal or all together, as well as to work with enterprises’ existing ERP systems such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. There are several modules relevant to a distribution business, including:
Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management
Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management employs centralized pricing management and AI-assisted demand forecasting along with tools to help you streamline and automate many warehouse management, inventory management and procurement processes.
Dynamics 365 Commerce
Dynamics 365 Commerce empowers clients to engage with and purchase from your business using the devices and methods that they prefer. It also comes with capabilities that can help you promote consumer loyalty and streamline operations.
Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management
Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management employs rule-based fulfillment orchestration, along with AI and real-time inventory, to optimize and automate key aspects of the fulfillment function. Customizable dashboards give your team real-time insights into every order.
Dynamics 365 Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and Customer Insights
These four Dynamics 365 modules all make use of AI, automation and organization-wide visibility to form a comprehensive customer relationship management solution. These modules help your team engage with current and prospective clients wherever they are on the customer journey, while employing robust analytics to ensure your efforts are taking you in the right direction.
Acumatica ERP Distribution Edition
Acumatica ERP Distribution Edition is a comprehensive solution with a bevy of industry-specific features to keep your distribution business running smoothly. One of its key qualities is its ability to automate workflows across departments as well as across multiple entities within the same company. Acumatica Distribution Edition streamlines inter-company transactions, for example, by automatically creating a sales order in one company from a purchase order in another company in the same tenant.
With Acumatica Distribution Edition, you can also:
- View inventory and costs in real time, giving you the most up-to-date information and preventing waste
- Automate key portions of the fulfillment process as well as the purchase order process, creating greater accuracy and efficiency
- Access feature-rich sales order management capabilities
Acumatica also offers equipment, service and warehouse management capabilities, all with a unique pricing structure that charges not by user, but by resources utilized. No need to be stingy as to how many employees access the system – utilize as many people as are needed to get the job done.
Final Step: Choose the Right ERP Partner
Just as important as choosing the best possible ERP solution for your distribution company is choosing the right partner to help you make the most of it. An experienced ERP consultant can assist with implementation, training and customizations that will ensure your ERP system serves your business from go-live until the end of its useful life. And if you’re still not sure which ERP system is the best one for you, the right consultant will provide expert guidance and support during the decision-making process.
Crestwood Associates has assisted in more than 5,000 successful ERP implementations across industries, providing expert insight and practical help with everything from system selection to data migration, integrations, training, cloud hosting and ongoing support provided by a dedicated in-house team. We possess all of the attributes of the right ERP partner, and we have the credentials to prove it: we’re Gold Partners with both Acumatica and Microsoft.
Request a consultation to learn what Crestwood Associates can offer your distribution business.