Distribution support is a core type of ERP functionality for many businesses. Any time a company has the burden of getting products out to a customer base, distribution software tools will become critical for handling the business in a modern, sophisticated way. Here are some of the features that distribution software packages bring to a business.
Sales/Purchase Order Management: Essentially, these types of tools “turn information into orders.” There will be some sort of data pipeline for taking input from a customer, and coming up with a formal order for products. When this happens through the sales department, it may be called “sales order management.” These types of tools streamline the process of creating and using the order to deliver the products to customers.
Point of Sale Software: where there is physical distribution, Point of Sale or POS software helps to facilitate payment. Other types of businesses may need signature or acceptance software, e-commerce software, or some other kind of distribution software to support a different distribution model.
CRM: Customer Relationship Management or CRM software features help companies to “know” their customers, with accessible data on customer identifiers, past purchases and past behavior. This type of innovative tool may be a part of a dedicated distribution software system.
Inventory and Forecasting Components: Other features of distribution software suites have to do with the intake and use of inventory. These predictive features can help a company know when to order items through a supply chain, and how fast those stores will be depleted. Some of these tools are specifically called Distribution Requirements Planning (DRP) or are housed under a general Supply Chain Execution or Supply Chain Management system.
Advanced SCM Functionality: Other distribution software tools add to the handling of supply chain elements or product inventories. For example, one of these is an “imports” feature that would consider any supplies or incoming materials coming from foreign nations, to anticipate customs challenges or any other kinds of logistics. Distribution software may include some of these extras.
Multi-Site Tools: For larger businesses with a more expanded footprint, some distribution software features will handle processes from a multi-site standpoint. These features will have visual interface components to help see where things are happening, and how distribution has to occur across the entire chain of business locations.
Cost Center Management: In addition to the logistics for sourcing materials and other inventory handling assistance, distribution software may also help decision makers to evaluate cost centers. Costs will be attached to everything that happens in the course of distribution and surrounding business processes. Users can look at costs from a variety of precise vantage points, to identify which investments are really bringing value, and which may be changed or updated.
Physical Infrastructure Handling Features: Another core aspect of distribution software is the provision of features to control physical technologies for handling products. For example, RFID or radio chip tagging and tracking may be a part of a distribution software system, to help manage transit and delivery. An alternate method is bar code tracking, where distribution software may be resident on bar code reading systems. Many of these types of features will outfit commercial fleets, not only to help assure accurate deliveries, but to also build data assets for a business. In some ways, these are the most common kinds of distribution software features – new cloud and wireless models are perfect for offering these kinds of fleet and cargo tracking, and a logical part of upgrading distribution processes in the new millennium.
Business Intelligence Tools: Business intelligence is also a key part of what distribution software offers to companies. As with the above examples of mass volumes of deliveries, any business doing a substantial amount of wholesale distribution can benefit from having aggregated data about how each of those deliveries happens. A central BI system takes all of that data from various sources, and compiles it in a consolidated repository where it can be read and used.
BI features may be a part of a standalone dedicated distribution software system, or the DRP or distribution software system may be integrated into a larger, more comprehensive BI service through an enterprise architecture. Either way, the data is captured and used in the course of evolving the business.
Ad Hoc Reporting: In conjunction with business intelligence features, distribution software may also have reporting features that help business leaders to get a better idea of what’s going on with distribution at a glance. Reporting features play a role in helping companies to actively use distribution software systems, and in figuring out ROI and how the distribution software system provides value.
Read our best practices guide for selecting the right Distribution ERP software for your unique needs.