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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Announcing 2011 Mid-Year Supplements

Developed through a partnership with Industrial Distribution, Industrial Supply, Contractor Supply Magazines, and the Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group, these 14 page Supplement Guides provide valuable, independently researched information. Readers will find detailed software company information, which vertical markets the software packages serve, highlights of functions and technology features, new developments to the software packages, graphs of the user range, basic entry price point, sales channel information like how and where the software is sold, along with company contact information. The Supplement Guides address numerous key areas in the software evaluation and selection process.

To learn more about researching, evaluating, analyzing and comparing software request the 2011 Mid-Year Supplement Guides released this month.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Next Wave of Supply Chain Innovation

We have seen in several sources (Modern Materials Handling Blog, Logistics Management, and Venkat Rajaji's (global product manager for Infor) theory of the next big push for technology in the supply chain will probably come about because of government regulation. He is watching the recently passed Food Safety Modernization Act. This bill aims to make food safer by giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased power to inspect food processing facilities and force companies to recall tainted food. As Infor points out, the bill and any new government regulation, for that matter, has been met with its fair share of controversy.

In a press release, Rajaji argued that technology solutions can aid food manufacturers by helping companies better manage their internal processes and, where possible, implement solutions to prevent future outbreaks. “Savvy companies throughout the United States have already implemented technology solutions that provide better visibility into their operating processes and address manufacturing problems before they happen,” he said. “However, with this new regulation in place, more companies will likely invest in technology solutions to compliment their processes to ensure quality and prevent the lofty expense of food recalls.”

As a result of this new bill, Rajaji said, "Food safety will have to be part of your DNA from top to bottom. You will need to design your processes and systems for food safety." So, everything from the R&D process to buying from the right vendors to how a company maintains its machinery may have an impact on food safety.

To comply with the law, to minimize the impact of a recall, and to provide transparency to distributors and retailers, Rajaji believes the food industry will increasingly turn to supply chain software and technology tools, like RFID and sensors that can monitor temperature to insure that food products were stored at an optimal temperature.

“You will need to make sure that you’re accountable and that every touch point across the supply chain is safe until it gets on the shelf,” he said. “To do that, you need tools to help you manage and capture data at every point. The legislation is going to drive the need for technology adoption to stay in compliance with the food safety legislation.”

Taken from interview done by Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor of MMH

Monday, June 27, 2011

Manufacturers Must Brace for Global Supply Chain Uncertainty and Risk

Smart companies build risk management into their day-to-day supply-chain management processes and prepare contingency plans.

By Mark Humphlett, director, Enterprise Resource Planning Product Marketing, Infor

Triggered by Japan's natural disaster, skyrocketing oil prices, tornadoes, floods and other global upheavals, companies are gauging the resilience of their supply chains. They're determining what processes and technologies to employ to mitigate disruptions in the flow of essential supplies when an unplanned event erupts.

This type of risk-management assessment is essential today. Much is at stake, simply in terms of the millions of dollars -- and often much more -- that flows through the supply chain. You then have the impact on long-term competitiveness through a failure to deliver, or the potential damage to brand reputation from if you fail to launch a product on time or if you end up with a product recall from a material defect.

A natural disaster or major geopolitical event can stir up major headaches for supply-chain directors. But, companies should consider other, much more mundane factors and re-examine their game plan for dealing with such disruptions rather than adopting a "We'll deal with it when it happens," mentality.

Looking Beyond a Natural Disaster
Here's a case in point. In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the southeast coast, it proved a disaster for Lagasse Inc., a wholesale distributor, and, specifically, its call center, distribution facilities and employees and their families. In supply-chain terms, however, the hurricane had minimal impact. Lagasse didn't record any system downtime, lost less than three percent of network capacity for a few weeks and, reflecting the cleaning products it distributes, actually recorded some of its highest sales in the weeks that followed.

Lagasse had carefully prepared for a possible hurricane and was ready to take actions that included the rapid rerouting of supply from other U.S. distribution centers, switching to common carriage from owned transport and anticipating spikes in demand for certain product lines with the ability to switch supply sources quickly.

Many companies like Lagasse accept that risks -- both predictable and unpredictable -- are a natural part of operating a business. They build risk management into their day-to-day supply-chain management processes and prepare contingency plans they can employ immediately when necessary.

And what events had a much greater long-term impact on Lagasse's supply chain than the hurricane? They were all entirely predictable and largely within its control, including:

  • Rapid growth, year over year for more than eight years
  • Expanding and opening new facilities
  • Massive increase and churn in product range
  • Adding new, large customers
  • Substantial changes in the supplier base
  • Changing or implementing IT systems

So how do you build a chaos-tolerant supply chain?

Savvy supply-chain chiefs who strengthen the agility and resilience of their supply channels first answer several key questions, which include:

  • Have the key sources of risk been identified and their impact assessed?
  • Have we built a supply chain that can absorb the disruptions?
  • Is risk management viewed as a one-off exercise, initiated after an unexpected event occurs, or are employees actively building risk mitigation into their everyday activities?

They also develop a plan that can be turned into a competitive weapon allowing them to take an unplanned event and turn it into an opportunity. Here are some strategies for doing just that:

  • Develop networks that endure potential upheavals.
  • Software tools and other technologies are available to analyze the sources of risk for your company. In the process, they can help determine where and when to make, buy, store, and move products through your networks. These tools help to evaluate different sourcing, production, transportation and inventory strategies to match changes in the business environment, such as the impact of supply disruption, single sourcing versus dual sourcing and alternate parts, for example. Companies can then make use of their assets most effectively, trim costs, reduce inventory levels, and improve customer service.
  • Employ advanced supply-chain tools to assess all risks.

Companies should construct various what-if situations and test them extensively.
For instance, determine how the company would cope with, say, a three-month disruption in supply of a critical part or product. You can assess where you can obtain supplies from different vendors, and at what cost. You can figure out how much the changes could affect costs and profits and customer deliveries. These and other real-life scenarios can be tested in advance allowing you to make contingency plans.

Establish a companywide business process that takes risk into account.
Ensure the process assesses the risks and the impact to your supply chain. Involving your sales, operations and financial units in this strategic planning process will help identify and flesh out the issues. Using a comprehensive sales and operations planning process involves more than simply demand-supply balancing because it takes into consideration alternative demand-supply situations as well as their effect on profit margins and sales.

Include risk identification into your operations.
Managers should recognize what potential sources of risk could impact their part of the business and identify new ones that emerge. Risk management should be as pervasive as your quality management or your sustainability strategy. Otherwise, the assessment of risk will fail to deal with those sources of risk where the impact may prove the highest.

Developing sound risk-mitigation strategies will help you build an agile supply chain.
These strategies can deliver a huge competitive benefit and greatly diminish your supply chain risk. You should consider all the potential sources of risk to a supply chain and what to do should an unplanned event occur is no easy task. But, it's the only way to mitigate risk proactively rather than after the fact. And today's software tools and other technology make the evaluation and execution process much easier.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Using The Cloud To Weatherproof Your Financials

Good Clouds and Bad Clouds
Recent weather events including flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, tornados from Northern California to Oklahoma, thunderstorms from Illinois to New York, and heat alerts in the Southeast have demonstrated the impact of ‘bad clouds’ on business and data availability.

I’ve often heard the phrase “you have to fight fire with fire.” Today many businesses are fighting clouds with The Cloud. In the case of one Oklahoma manufacturing firm, the solution to business problems involved using the Cloud to centralize data in a secure location that is impervious to the impacts of local disasters. By using the Cloud, DDB Unlimited ( was able to automate financial processes, streamline operations, eliminate accounting costs, and process orders faster.

Building a Cloud Solution
AIM Solutions in Dallas, TX helped DDB Unlimited, a rugged enclosure manufacturer, take advantage of Cloud technology. The solution was designed to automate business processes while simplifying infrastructure requirements.

Prior to moving to the Cloud, DDB Unlimited utilized QuickBooks for accounting and Profit 21 for CRM. Having disparate systems for different purposes created extra work including dual order entry, manual import and export processes, manual accounting, and offline reporting. In addition, the solution was susceptible to local power outages and other issues caused by ‘bad’ clouds. The accounting solution was scheduled to be replaced by a Sage MAS 90 solution, but during implementation, DDB Unlimited noticed that processes became slower and more confusing when using MAS 90.

After some investigation, DDB Unlimited determined that the Cloud could unify several operations in a single system. The Cloud eliminated manual accounting practices, providing an out-of-pocket savings of $80,000/year. In addition, the Cloud ERP solution did not require client software so installation was fast and maintenance does not require touching each computer or mobile device.

The Cloud solution came with import and export tools so existing data – including the chart of accounts, current account balances, customer, active orders, and much more could be easily imported. The solution was up and running in about one month.

Weatherproofing Financials
By replacing papers and forms with electronic orders, businesses such as DDB Unlimited have become much more efficient. However, when installed locally, a computer driven solution is just as susceptible to natural disasters as papers stacked in a filing cabinet. In addition, a faulty hard drive can have the same impact as a tornado when not properly backed-up.

The Cloud enables businesses to store their critical data offsite in a fault-tolerant datacenter with multiple sources of power and bandwidth. Data is replicated in different fault zones so a single disaster does not hinder business operations. DDB Unlimited’s manufacturing plant can still be impacted by local weather conditions, but it’s financials and business operating data are secure in a weatherproof electronic vault.

Documents as well as transactions
In addition to company financials, the Cloud can store critical business documents. Intellectual property, business processes, sales list, and company records can be maintained in a safe location. These documents can be linked to transactions to provide an audit trail and simplify the auditing process.

Don’t wash away the technical experts
The Cloud does not eliminate the need for technical experts. Access to the Internet and application configuration are still required.

The cloud allows technical experts to spend less time managing servers and more time helping solve business problems and analyzing business data. This allows IT employees to shift from being an unwanted expense to become an integral part of company profitability.

Are financials useful if your plant is impacted by a natural disaster?
If a natural disaster destroys your plant, does it really matter if your financials survive? The answer of course is yes. Insurance frequently covers your plant and allows you to rebuild in the event of a disaster. Putting a value on your financials, sales lists, customer orders, and critical business data is difficult, so it is frequently not insured. Often this uninsured data is what adds value to your business (many companies are purchased for only their customer lists and intellectual property). By using the cloud, you can effectively “insure” this part of your business. In the event of a natural disaster, you can still access your information using a computer from any Internet connection.

Contact us if you want a copy of the 2-page DDB Unlimited case study.

By djohnson

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CRM Is Here to Stay: Evaluating Its Use with ERP

by Trevor B. Cain

The debate over whether the recession has ended may continue, but most industry watchers agree that conditions over the past two years have created a new climate in business – a climate where caution reigns, and increased customer service will be a key differentiator between competitors.

I hear almost every day from Activant clients and prospects that they need better tools and access to more accurate, real-time information in order to provide the increased level of service required to keep their current customers and attract new business. Competition is tough: a quote from one rep today could easily turn into an order for a competitor tomorrow.

The businesses I work with are distributors of wholesale durable goods. Wholesale distributors often run lean and mean – many times, without an outside sales force or the ability to be in front of every customer all the time. This does not exempt them from needing to create a competitive edge, however. Their field sales force has to be more proactive than reactive. They need to walk into a customer meeting armed with information: Quotes and invoices based on the last visit. Were there any new quotes? Any outstanding orders? Credit issues? Other problems?

Being aware of what is going on with an account has always been basic to customer relationship management (CRM), but in today’s climate, it’s a critical factor. As a result, wholesale distributors are looking for a better approach to CRM as they evaluate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to run their business. For some, this is their first look at CRM, but others may be seeking to consolidate systems, searching for a more efficient alternative to maintaining two or more databases of information that often don't communicate with each other.

These stand-alone CRM applications can be quite costly to the midsize family-owned distributor. The functionality may be robust, but is it tailored to the specific demands of the distributor? Often, the investment has more function than needed.

When considering ERP systems for distribution, the question to ask in reviewing CRM functionality is: What does CRM mean to my business? Determining what CRM means to a distributor involves evaluating all areas of the business and their needs. CRM isn't just the customer relationship as it pertains to sales, but also accounting and value-added services, if they exist. Outside of sales, distributors also maintain relationships with their vendors. Without inventory and knowledge of availability, distributors would be dead in the water.

One approach to evaluating these areas of the business is to empower key employees from various departments to have a voice in what is important.

  • Does the company have an outside sales staff? If so, enhanced CRM functionality could greatly increase their efficiency. This usually goes to their bottom line, which is what they are always watching.

  • Do these field sales reps have laptops, smartphones, iPads? What tools do they need to have access to and from a system?

  • Can your company automate workflow not only within the business, but also out to those reps in the field?

  • Can the system generate automated tasks based on those important transactions that often require follow-up, such as quotes to the customer?

  • Does your company get involved in larger bids with customers (i.e., it's not just a single quote, but multiple quotes under a larger opportunity that may linger on for months)? Is the company able to track these opportunities in order to generate a pipeline of what is to come in future months?

These small pieces of functionality will make the difference between being proactive or reactive. The bottom line is, to see both immediate and long-term effects of CRM, you should get buy-in from employees. Determining needs, uncovering key functionality and implementing are only half the battle. No matter what CRM system you choose, the ROI will come only if it is put to use.

Trevor B. Cain is an Industry Segment Manager at Activant Solutions Inc. Find out more about Activant at or call 1-800-776-7438.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Companies Switch from NetSuite to Acumatica for Cloud ERP


Jewelry wholesaler J.Goodin joins other companies that switched from NetSuite to Acumatica to gain better performance, eliminate vendor lock-in, and integrate with on-premise systems.

BETHESDA, Md., April 20, 2011 – Acumatica, a provider of Cloud ERP software today announced that more mid-sized business customers have upgraded to modern web-based software without losing control of their data and their costs. Several customers are switching from NetSuite to Acumatica in order to gain deployment flexibility, eliminate vendor lock-in, select upgrade times, integrate with on-premise systems, and control where their data is stored. Customers that switch to Acumatica can choose to deploy the application on-premise or as SaaS, and pay an upfront license or an annual subscription.

J.Goodin, a fashion jewelry manufacturer and distributor, switched from NetSuite to Acumatica to improve transaction processing speed during the busy holiday period without being locked-in to recurring SaaS license payments.

“Acumatica provided a web-based solution that we could install on-premise and integrate with other on-premise systems,” said Jay Cheng, CEO of J.Goodin, Inc. “We gained on-the-go access to data without being locked into recurring payments or losing control of our data.”

J.Goodin implemented Acumatica to centralize global processes using a system that can be accessed by worldwide users without the burden of installing and maintaining client software. The Acumatica software manages multiple distribution processes for J.Goodin including build-to-order, drop-ship, and build-to-stock. Salespeople enter orders directly into Acumatica while Acumatica’s integration tools accept electronic sales from J.Goodin’s network of wholesalers, retailers, and online properties.

J.Goodin purchased Acumatica after unsuccessful attempts to utilize both NetSuite and SAP Business One. NetSuite was selected because it provided access from anywhere, but slow computations, lack of reliability, and ineffective support led J.Goodin to look for an alternative. After purchasing SAP Business One, J.Goodin was unable to get the system implemented for several months so the project was abandoned and Acumatica was selected and implemented.

“Many businesses such as J.Goodin are moving off SaaS-only solutions to implement Acumatica Cloud ERP,” said Ezequiel Steiner, CEO of Acumatica. “After using NetSuite, many customers want to regain control of where they place their data, when they upgrade, and how they pay for their software.”

To learn more visit and register to receive the complete case study.

About Acumatica
Acumatica develops web-based ERP software that delivers the benefits of Cloud and SaaS without sacrificing customization, control, security, or speed. Acumatica can be deployed on premise, hosted at a datacenter, or run on a Cloud computing platform. Learn more about Acumatica’s Cloud ERP solution at

Media Contact:
Douglas Johnson

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inbox-Things to Ask Before You Write That Big Check to a Vendor

Every week articles from various analysts and other ERP research companies arrive in my email inbox. Some of them are worth reading and some of them are clever marketing gimmicks to get your contact information. These blogs posts will direct you to the ones worth reading.

I received "ERP To-Do Checklist: Thing to Ask Before you Write That Big Check to a Vendor" from Inside-ERP. What a great headline! I certainly want to know the answer to that question. The graphic on this email shows a 4 page report with detailed paragraphs of text. That's not what is in the report.

This 1 1/2 page document lists 12 questions with very short, if any, descriptions. 4 questions relate to the organization support and structure of your team, 4 questions relate to your requirements, 3 to basic implementation practices and 1 to Technology.

While the questions are good questions you would never wait until you're about to sign a contract and write a check to the software vendor.

Every selection project has certain phases that you must complete. In our methodology those are:
1. Establish the project charter (executive sponsorship and project ownership)
2. Plan the project
3. Determine your requirements
4. Build your long list of software vendors
5. Evaluate vendors to arrive at a shortlist
6. Conduct in-depth due diligence on the shortlist candidates
7. Finalist Evaluation
8. Implementation Planning
9. Contract Negotiation

Establishing executive support and identifying the participants in the project take place early in the project in steps 1 and 2. Requirements identifications take place in step 3. Technology questions need to be resolved in step 6 as part of your software evaluation. And implementation planning questions, which modules to use at go-live, training will be addressed in steps 8 and 9.

Only then would you be ready to sign a contract. If you need to answer these type of questions when you're thinking about writing a check you have a badly flawed selection process.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ERP Haves & Have Nots

An article published by SandHill, a investment firm specializing in the enterprise software market, analyzes financial results from the last quarter to identify ERP software providers that have increased revenue along with their stock price since the recession has ended.

Click here for the article:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Apple iPad changing how business is done

Tablets have taken the US market by storm. 10 million tablet devices (e-readers like the Kindle and Nook and the Apple iPad and newly announced Google Android platformed called Honeycomb) were sold in 2010 and sales are projected at 24 million units for 2011 and 35 million for 2012.

Tablets are already impacting the way we do business. A slide show at IT Business Edge ( detailed some of the ways this is happening:

Powerpoint Presentations:
Eliminate carrying your laptop if all you're doing is giving a presentation. Load your presentation on your iPad and leave the laptop at home. Buy a VGA adapter plug that allows your iPad to connect to a projector. Or if your client has a flat panel TV that you can use, eliminate the projector too. Buy a HDMI adapter cable and put your presentation on the TV.

Sales Brochure:
Eliminate catalogs and brochures. Load your PDF's or screen shots onto your tablet. The image quality is outstanding. This is now the standard sales method for professional photographers. Almost all wedding photographers have eliminated proofs and CD's and now rely on the iPad. If it's good enough for photo's it's good enough for industrial products.

Productivity Improvements:
The iPad comes with a note taking application. You can use your finger or a inexpensive ($14) stylus to write with. Upload these files to your desktop and eliminate paper.

External Monitor:
Do you wish you had Dual monitors or just more screen space? Use your tablet as an external monitor. Buy DisplayLink for $2 in the App Store and have a wireless external monitor.

E-Mail Reader:
Tired of lugging your laptop with you just so you can read and respond to email? Use your tablet to handle email instead. The instant on feature saves you from having to wait for your laptop to boot up.

Online Meetings:
Run GoToMeeting or Webex on your iPad and attend online meeting where ever you may be.

Remote PC Access:
Use special software to securely access you PC from you tablet (Apple or Android). Stop worrying if you downloaded your files onto your tablet. You can do so on the fly.

The next generation iPad and new Google Honeycomb tablets will be available shortly. Expect to see more software and capabilities developed in the months ahead.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

IT Spending forecasted to increase in 2011

An article published in CIO magazine cites studies by Gartner and Forrester Research that spending on IT in 2011 will increase over 2010 by roughly 7%. Citing strong financial results reported by Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, the article discusses a growing confidence that the technology sector has recovered for the lows experienced during the recession. On the software application front, spending on Business analytics and cloud solutions are leading the way. Reade the article at:
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