For wholesale distributors, careful spending is a top priority. It’s essential that businesses balance the expenses produced by their warehousing operations in order to make sure that they’re offset by monthly revenue. This is no easy task, but wholesale distribution software can simplify the process. It helps to track and optimize key details about inventory and its movements.
The best way for distributors to stay competitive is to have a clear window on stock (numbers in, quantities out, surplus, etc.). In order to compete with the rest of the market, your business needs to keep prices low enough to draw in customers. This is tricky, and requires a rigorous record of all products and their histories.
It’s all about walking that fine line between too much and just enough. If you have too few products, you’ll struggle to deal with surges in demand. If you have too many, you’ll waste money at a rapid pace. With wholesale distribution software, you can use data from consumers, competitors, local markets and more to be one step ahead at all times.
The Different Types of Distribution Software
The term “warehouse distribution software” is a kind of catch-all for software systems designed with wholesale distributors in mind. It actually refers to a variety of programs and solutions. They include product lifecycle management (PLM), supplier relationship management (SRM), customer relationship management (CRM) and warehouse management (WMS) software.
Today, however, we’re going to talk about enterprise resource planning software. ERP systems bring together PLM, CRM, SRM, WMS and other applications, all in one product. So, instead of buying a standalone product for each business function, you can invest in a larger, integrated program. This is beneficial when you need your ERP applications to go further than one division. For instance, instead of going with an MRP II for your manufacturing needs and an entirely different software for your distribution needs, a good ERP incorporates all abilities and functions of both software. Later generations of ERP software such as ERP II and ERP III even allow for collaborative spaces that go beyond simple resource planning. This allows employees to work together in the same spaces that careful resource planning occurs, enabling greater synchronization.
With ERP systems, businesses get a combined picture of every aspect of the warehouse. Where standalone systems provide individual puzzle pieces, ERP gives you the complete picture, readymade and easy to use. This has a big impact on decision making, as teams get all the information about inventory movements, not just data produced by their department. This ability to share information with ease provides stronger solutions as everyone is on the same page.
What You Need from Your ERP
Of course, every distribution business is different. They don’t all have the same goals and priorities. Therefore, a software system that works perfectly for one company might leave gaps and weaknesses for another. It’s really important to identify the features that matter to your operation so that you can pick a product designed around them.
In order to get the most out of warehouse distribution software, you need to integrate it with as many departments and processes as possible. Opting for an ERP system, rather than a standalone application, is a big help in this regard. It should create strong, smooth links between financials, warehousing, inventory, marketing, sales and more.
When departments are connected like this, all points of customer contact get recorded and captured in a single database. It makes it easier to determine what each customer typically buys, when they buy it, in what quantities, through which platforms and whether any of these are likely to change. As opposed to legacy solutions, the real-time data of today’s ERP software gives you the most up-to-date info, allowing you to remain ultra-competitive.
Inventory management is an extremely complex process. However, to the customer, it couldn’t be simpler. They want a product, so they expect the business to have it in stock. If it’s not, they’ll likely search for it with a different business. Consequently, inventory systems must be capable of providing real-time insights into stock levels and making feasible predictions about future demand.
The point is, you can’t just guess stock. Distributors rely on fast moving software for accurate calculations regarding what comes in and what goes out. These systems are the best way to prevent wasteful practices and surplus materials. They also make sure you don’t run out of resources by creating detailed reports about demand trends throughout the year.
Insight and Reporting Tools
One of the big benefits of enterprise resource planning is that it pulls together information from a variety of sources. Unlike standalone software, it takes data from all of the core business processes. The result is a series of reports that lay bare the inner workings of not just the warehouse, but every aspect of the company — from manufacturing to delivery.
As modern distributors are complex, intricate machines, this is the only effective way to improve the business on a broader scale. However, you must make sure your wholesale distribution software is integrated across every core process and that it provides instant, real-time access to actionable insights.
Seven of the Best ERP Wholesale Distribution Systems
At this point, it’s easy to see why it’s important to pay close attention to the needs of your company when choosing a software. What’s not so easy is the choosing itself. To help simplify this process, we gathered the benefits and drawbacks of a few top systems and weighed them against each other.
Many consider SAP to be the leading provider of ERP products. It’s certainly the most popular choice, as it accounts for 23% of market share. It also boasts more installs than any other company. When it comes to inventory management and reporting, SAP performs exceptionally well.
However, its customer relationship management tools are less robust. This is something to think about if you’re looking at an integrated system. If the platform doesn’t fulfill your CRM requirements, you may need to supplement it with a standalone application.
If there’s a number two on the leaderboard, it’s occupied by Oracle. After acquiring CRM platform Siebel, the vendor has only gone from strong to stronger. It takes around 16% of market share and excels in many of the areas where SAP struggles.
On the other hand, its inventory management features are no match for its rival. So, SAP and Oracle are essentially opposites in resource planning. As long as customer service is a bigger priority than stock control, you’ll get a lot out of this product.
This INFOR application is a cloud-based product. It’s been designed specifically for wholesale distributors. In that way it’s great for targeting and optimizing individual business processes. Furthermore, it leaves behind much of the fuss and complexity of specialized ERP systems.
It comes just below SAP and Oracle, with the third largest share of the market. With INFOR ERP for Distribution, you get the tools you need to shrink costs, increase operational efficiency and make faster, wiser decisions.
The ERP offering from Microsoft is another popular product. Around 9% of the market uses it for their primary wholesale distribution software. One big strength of working with this vendor is that its systems come in several specialized tiers.
The Dynamics AX application has been shaped to fit major enterprise companies. The NAV and GP products are designed to suit midsize and smaller distributors. Microsoft Dynamics is a truly superb option for data tracking, reporting and multicurrency functions.
EPICOR is a highly respected vendor that offers distribution-centric ERP software as part of its Eclipse and Prophet21 lines. These platforms have been shaped to fit wholesale distributors operating in vertical markets.
Therefore, its strengths lie with core financials, inventory control, warehouse management and customer relationships. In fact, EPICOR is a good all-arounder. Some might argue that it lacks the punch of SAP or Oracle, but it performs more consistently across the board.
This is another cloud ERP with a keen focus on fast-moving, upward-facing enterprises. It stands out from the crowd for its ability to provide a lot of complex technology in a relatively simple, user-friendly form.
NetSuite Distribution is a full-suite ERP system, so it makes light work of inventory control, digital commerce, accounting, CRM functions and order fulfillment. On the other hand, some claim the operational speeds are degraded because it relies so heavily on cloud transmissions.
The ERP X3 platform is wholesale distribution software for midsize and small businesses. It’s ideal for companies looking for a very affordable ERP setup. Despite its competitive pricing, this offering from Sage is a full-suite product with a complete range of capabilities.
These include inventory sourcing, warehouse management, stock allocations, pricing, promotions control and after-sales services. It’s important to know that ERP X3 doesn’t include a full customer relationship management (CRM) module. You’ll still need to buy a standalone application.
Picking the Right Wholesale Distribution Software
The best way to ensure a good fit is to pick a software system that’s reasonably flexible and can be tailored to the needs of your business, where necessary. This is much easier than altering operational processes to suit the technology. Think about where there may be weaknesses in your distribution cycle, and find a product that offers extra support in these areas.
Top rated ERP systems allow for the addition of other specialized software packages. This helps companies grow and develop as their needs and the market changes. For a fully optimized setup, make sure specific functions feed into and come together under one umbrella-type interface.