Whether they are in route sales, pre-order, delivery or equipment service, many companies want to consolidate their operational route accounting functions and activities into one seamless and efficient integrated software system. They want the data to be collected, shared and accessed across departments. They dream of an operational route accounting ERP software solution that facilitates the streaming and distribution of company-wide information on every desktop and mobile device.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. Companies in food and beverage distribution and equipment service management benefit greatly from a well-designed operational route accounting ERP solution. Food and Beverage companies (both in perishable and non-perishable food ) and equipment service companies require software for both operation and accounting. The software organizes deliveries, manages direct store delivery (DSD) as well as equipment service and repair from beginning to end.
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Yet often a company’s wish for an ERP solution remains a dream. Although the operation may have outgrown the existing software, leadership is often uncertain how to locate a trustworthy vendor, how to find the right software fit, how to budget for it, and ultimately how to successfully implement an ERP solution that integrates the company’s disparate software products into a unified whole.
For sure, a correctly chosen ERP solution solves the problems of disjoined and fragmented software processes by creating a coherent, efficient, and reliable software environment with enormous benefits. It runs the entire business operation from beginning to end: from the making of goods and products, to customer ordering, warehousing, truck loading, routing, servicing, delivering, invoicing, billing, and collecting, encompassing all operational and accounting functions into a coherent whole. Yet despite the numerous benefits, many companies do not overcome the initial challenges that accompany the search and implementation of new software.
The following discussion aims to help companies in the discernment process. It presents three major benefits of ERP software and elaborates on three frequently encountered challenges that companies face when they search and implement an ERP solution.
We begin the discussion with three major benefits of ERP software: (1) it unifies a company’s disparate systems, (2) it automates the entire data flow, and (3) it constantly disseminates all data modifications and updates throughout a company’s operation.
Then the article considers three obstacles that often discourage companies from making their ERP dream a reality: (1) companies must find the right software partner, (2) they need to review their current business processes, and (3) they have to deal with the cost factor. But first, let us look into the considerable benefits of ERP software, ultimately, trumping any challenges.
One Unified Company-Wide Software System
A chief benefit of an ERP solution is the software’s power of integrating every task systematically and comprehensively into one company-wide system. This happens because every daily, weekly or monthly function is programmed within the software, which enables every task to become part of the unified system.
As an end-to-end solution, ERP software eliminates any patch-work software as well as data imports or exports outside of the unifying ERP solution. ERP software brings together all functions and activities into one single system so that every single data entry point flows into a unified chain of events that is communicated across all departments.
The integrated data flow makes it possible that the constantly changing data information is accessible wherever it is needed in the company. Once all data is unified, any previously disparate systems become superfluous. Spreadsheets and piles of papers become a distant memory. The ERP solution makes double entries obsolete because the entire data flow becomes part of one integrated software solution.
In other words, ERP software makes the entire operation streamlined, efficient, and error-free. It reduces staff time and provides superior organization, timeliness, performance, and productivity at all department levels. As one unified solution, ERP software establishes professionalized business routines as well as accountability and accessibility throughout the company.
Automated Data Flow Company-Wide
Another benefit of ERP software relates to the automated data flow that ERP software manages throughout the entire operation. As a result of the automated data flow, a company using ERP software professionalizes its business routines because data across departments is fully reliable and accessible at all times and from all places.
This kind of constantly updated information flow is hard to maintain without ERP software which handles the numerous and constant data updates, modifications, and additions occurring daily in companies of food and beverage distribution and equipment service management. Entry mistakes disappear, as do imports and exports or spreadsheets. Lag time vanishes, and data updates are automatically distributed throughout the system. The automated process guarantees the absolute correctness of the data.
The automated data flow assures that all delivery and service processes occur company-wide. They transpire “behind the scenes” of the ERP software specifically designed to manage the complex and varied transactions without any interruptions of the operational flow.
As such, ERP software secures the latest detailed and constant information on goods delivered, services rendered, trucks loaded, and warehouses replenished. ERP software automates complex operational and accounting processes and brings efficiency and monetary savings on all levels.
Constant Dissemination of All Data Modifications and Updates
Operational route accounting ERP software offers yet another benefit. It ensures the constant dissemination of all data modifications and updates throughout the system so that the data on any aspect of the business operation is always current.
Constant dissemination of all data modifications and updates eliminates manual updates and physical inquiries. It provides improved organization, timeliness, performance, and productivity on all department levels. The always updated data flow enhances tracking and forecasting the ordering, truck loading, warehousing and money collecting tasks. The continuous dissemination of data flow permits professionalized work routines, as well as internal accountability and accessibility at all times.
For instance, the constant dissemination of data flow ensures that the warehouse staff gets accurate predictions about expected demands. Staff is able to plan accordingly even when last-minute changes occur, and they do not need to improvise for last-minute orders.
Similarly, customer service improves because services and products can always be tracked correctly everywhere even when eleventh-hour changes occur in the order or delivery and service process. Customers do not get the run-around from one department to another anymore, as in the days prior to the ERP software implementation. Constant access to the most recent data makes it easy to provide smooth, competent, and knowledgeable customer service.
In short, ERP’s unified software design, the automatized data flow, and the constant data dissemination flow ensure seamless organization, wide-ranging efficiency, and dependable interconnectivity.
Why then do companies hesitate to get operational route accounting ERP software? Often three basic challenges deter them from reaping the benefits of an implemented ERP solution.
Finding the Right Software Partner
Nothing can be as frustrating as finding the right software partner who needs to offer not only the best software but also has to know the particularities of the industry, have outstanding competence in software implementation, and provide a comprehensive support infrastructure. After all, operational accounting ERP software runs the whole business and takes on financial and operational responsibilities for the entire company. Only the right software partner can be entrusted with this enormous task. By necessity and by design, this will be a long-term relationship.
Hence, finding the right software partner is not the moment for a quick move. References must be checked with great care, and much time is needed to review the various software offers. The discernment process demands a thorough understanding of the solution and good rapport with the provider is necessary to ensure that the relationship will not go sour after the installation of the solution.
In other words, the comprehensive capabilities of ERP software make the implementation appear risky and put substantial pressure on a company’s leadership to find a trustworthy software provider.
In other words, the search for ERP software requires a serious commitment of time, effort, and resources, which make the purchase of operational route accounting ERP software a considerable challenge.
Reviewing and Assessing of Present Business Processes
Another challenge is a deterrent to an ERP software installation because of it, too, requires lots of time and effort. ERP software should not be selected without a comprehensive review and assessment of a company’s present business processes.
There is no way to avoid this time-consuming and daunting task. If a company is not clear on the many interrelated tasks and requirements of its current business processes, it will be almost impossible to identify the appropriate ERP solution. It is thus mandatory to review and assess how work patterns are synchronized. Understanding these patterns guarantees that the right ERP solution is chosen that accommodates the established work patterns. A review and assessment process also provides the necessary information where the software may need to be modified and adapted to existing work patterns.
Of course, the task of reviewing and assessing business practices is not immediately appreciated because it takes so much time and effort. It seems to run counter to the often mentioned saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Companies often want to belief that a comprehensive study of business practices is unnecessary as long as current processes are not in complete disarray.
Yet, usually, a review of current work patterns holds enormous benefits even when the decision comes down to rejecting or postponing the purchase of ERP software. A review almost always helps in redefining a company’s vision for the future, and often a company’s future will require the implementation of ERP software. Yet regardless the outcome, the review process encourages a company’s leadership to rethink the company’s direction and, as such, a review is always a worthwhile effort.
Importantly, the review process might also disclose that some staff members resist the implementation of ERP software. This, too, is of enormous value because it is good to know their concerns prior to the implementation phase of the new solution and to constructively deal with the opposition. Every staff member has to come on board and welcome the new solution. The use of the new ERP software requires the team effort and requires everybody’s cooperation.
Ultimately, then, the review process ensures that a company’s staff pulls together, feels energized about the company’s new direction, and becomes an active part of the company’s quest for success.
In One Word: Cost
There is still another obstacle, and it relates to money because a well-designed ERP solution is not and cannot be cheap. Only considerable expertise and in-depth knowledge of the particular industry make it possible to design an operational route accounting ERP solution that integrates the numerous tasks, requirements, and needs of food and beverage distribution and equipment service management. Consequently, ERP software comes with a price tag.
Companies thus often wonder if they cannot save money by going with a smaller and cheaper software solution. This is a short-circuit approach because in the case of operational route accounting ERP software more money gives indeed better quality. It is expensive to ask highly qualified programmers to spend hours and hours, really years, in designing an ERP solution for a complex industry. And so there is no way around it: the overall effort in finding and implementing the selected solution, the purchase of the software, the cost of training the staff, the loss of time during the implementation are expensive.
Yet it also needs to be stated clearly and emphatically: the upfront cost is worthwhile. Increased efficiency and better work flow provide almost instantaneous ROI. Improved tracking of goods, services, and deliveries brings increased accountability on all levels of the operation. In addition, software providers often offer payment plans that help in spreading out the expenses. Without a doubt, the implementation of an operational route accounting ERP solution guarantees the growth and success of delivery and service companies.
In conclusion, when the solution provider and the ERP software are right, cost should never be the sole decision-making factor. The benefits of a well-chosen and implemented ERP solution is simply too good to forego. An operational route accounting ERP solution offers tremendous growth potential for companies in food and beverage distribution and equipment service management.
Thus, for sure, the benefits outweigh the challenges. A unified software system, the automated data flow, and the constant dissemination of all data modifications and additions streamline the entire operation, make it efficient, and eliminate manual errors. Operational route accounting ERP software establishes professionalized business practices and creates accountability on all department levels. It automates complex operational and accounting processes and establishes superior customer care. No company in the business of route sales, pre-order, delivery, and equipment service should be without it.
Lorraine Keating is President and CEO of Prism Visual Software, Inc., a publisher of an ERP operational routing solution for Route Sales, Pre-Order, Delivery, Sales Order, and Equipment Service companies. Prism’s ERP solution is an end-to-end route accounting software that includes Prism’s signature handheld software, MiniMate, and the fully equipped operational routing desktop solution, RoadQuest, and ServQuest. Prism’s ERP solution has many special features, such as electronic route book & scheduling, dispatch & tech planning, route map optimization, mapping & GPS, and call centers.