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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is the Global Food Safety Initiative and how does it affect food producers like me and retailers like Wal-mart?

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a collaborative effort by manufacturers and retailers to provide a uniform food safety management system that streamlines the certification process for complying with regulatory requirements while reducing the cost of doing so.

The effort to create a global system of compliance has been underway in Europe for several years. In the US, Wal-mart announced in February, 2008 that all food suppliers will have to have their factories certified against one of the GFSI standards.

With Wal-marts’ high-visibility adoption, it is expected that this standard in the US will be required by other food retailers. This is likely to accelerate the effort of retailers, distributors and suppliers to harmonize food safety standards.

Under the current standards environment there are many certification bodies and thus, many different audit checklists that a supplier must comply with. This is expensive and time-consuming for suppliers to comply with. The GFSI provides for a uniform group of standards that all certifying bodies comply with and thus only a single audit will be needed to achieve the certification.

The Safe Quality Food Institute administers the program in the US and is responsible for managing the many components of this process. They publish the codes, train and license the SQF consultants and auditors, maintain the centralized database of certification and compliance records and provide on-going training.

This initiative has many components to it and companies that participate in the Food Supply Chain need to understand the process so that they can comply with process and reduce their compliance costs. Gary Smith, Technical Director of the SQF Institute will be conducting a free webinar to introduce the GFSI and answer questions on December 3, 2008. To learn more go to

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Activant B2B Seller Version 5.5 is Now Available

Activant Solutions Inc. announces the availability of Activant B2B Seller version 5.5, an integrated Web-based storefront solution.

"The new version of B2B Seller is remarkably stable and reliable," said Shelby Scanlan, IT manager for Cascade Orthopedic Supply, an early adopter of B2B Seller 5.5. "The feedback we have received from customers is extremely positive."

Activant analyzed users’ specific needs and market trends to determine which features to include in B2B Seller 5.5. The result: a product release designed to help distributors further increase sales, improve customer service and reduce operating costs.

B2B Seller offers distributors the tools they need to service customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. B2B Seller allows them to extend their geographic reach and increase market share, without hiring dozens of additional employees or building new warehouses.

New Features Include

* Search Engine Optimization (SEO) -- Customize meta-tags and titles of specific HTML pages to allow the user's desired site page to have a better chance of being returned in Internet searches triggered through Google and other search engines. Available in B2B Advanced and above.

* Admin users may make changes to the site -- When any setting changes are made, the Web site will be immediately updated with the changes. The areas that can now be configured by the user are: e-mail recipients; feature enablement for certain features; screen configuration for category search results, contact us, item detail, item search; and my account report configuration. Available in B2B Advanced and above.

Special Functionality for Activant Prophet 21 Users

Prophet 21, the leading enterprise software solution for distributors, combines the familiarity of Windows with the power of SQL Server to help distributors increase sales, improve customer service, and reduce operating costs. B2B Seller fully integrates with Prophet 21 and acts as an additional customer support representative 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

* Shopping Carts and Shopping Lists -- Automatically recognize Item ID/Item Code changes in the backend system to allow existing data to continue to work without updating when Item ID/Item Code changes are implemented. Also available to Activant Acclaim users; B2B Advanced and above.

* Select contracts at the line-item level -- Shoppers can choose from a list of contracts associated with a given item; the selected contract will then be used to calculate pricing for that item. Available in B2B Advanced and above.

* Open Quotations can be viewed in the My Account Open Quote section -- View and print quotations stored in their system. This feature adds the capability to select those quotes to be converted to orders. When selected, the shopper will go through the typical checkout process and the quote converted to an order in Prophet 21. Available in B2B Premier and above.

* Distributors with multiple Prophet 21 Companies can now share a single B2B Seller site -- B2B Seller will set the proper Prophet 21 Company ID based on Customer associated with the Shopper. Available in B2B Premier and above.

* Shoppers may apply Merchandise Credits to orders -- Customers can cover a part of the order by using a Merchandise Credit and cover the rest of the order by either invoice or using a credit card. Available in B2B and B2C.

About Activant Solutions Inc.

Activant Solutions Inc. ("Activant") is a leading technology provider of business management solutions serving retail and wholesale distribution businesses in three primary vertical markets: hardlines and lumber; wholesale distribution; and the automotive parts aftermarket. Founded in 1972, Activant provides customers with tailored proprietary software, professional services, content, supply chain connectivity, and analytics. More than 30,000 customer locations use an Activant solution to manage their day-to-day operations. Activant has operations throughout the United States and Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

For more information, please visit

Monday, November 3, 2008

ISSA's Guide

We encourage you to take a look at the link below, to view our Endorsing Association's annual distribution software guide.

This guide helps to paint a better picture of the computer systems used in the industry. One of the surprising things found, is that there are still a lot of distributors running their businesses with off-the-shelf programs like QuickBooks and Peachtree. There are a variety of reasons for this.

Most sophisticated enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) systems are still too expensive for many distributors. Profit margins are tight (as always), and new computer systems just keep costing more. In some ways, that seems counterintuitive: You would think that software companies could lower their prices once they’ve recouped the cost of their initial investment. But in reality, software companies need to continually invest in research and development to stay competitive and expand their customer base.

Another important reason a goodly number of distributors still run their businesses with off-the-shelf programs is that these products are becoming quite sophisticated. What started out as a simple accounting program on personal computers has grown into a robust business solution with a full suite of products. These systems now handle functions like payroll, point of sale, EDI, and warehouse management, just to name a few. About the only thing that hasn’t changed is that they still run on personal computers (although QuickBooks recently introduced a version called QuickBooks On-Line that you can use with nothing more than a Web browser).

And, of course, the users are becoming more sophisticated, also. Ten years ago, people were looking for turnkey solutions. They wanted the software company to install the system, do the training, and provide comprehensive ongoing support. Today’s user is often unafraid to install his or her own software or handle his or her own system configuration.

But what about the big ERP systems? As usual, the large software companies are still swallowing the smaller ones. Rarely do these acquisitions result in a better product or better services for the customer.

If you are looking to upgrade your computer systems this year, should you look at the bigger ERP systems? Absolutely—see the guide by clicking on the link below, listing only those systems that have some real experience serving the cleaning industry.

As for the off-the-shelf software like QuickBooks and Peachtree, they can be a great alternative—although they still aren’t powerful enough for a sophisticated warehouse with bar code scanning and lot control. They also require a tremendous time investment to properly configure them to your unique business processes, especially in a multibranch environment.

Download the Sixth Annual ISSA Today Software Guide
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