Energize and Innovate Your Business with This Year’s Top Distribution ERP Trends
We’re already months into 2022, and the excitement about a fresh start has ebbed. This is normal. However, because the year itself is anything but normal (the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, labor shortages, supply chain issues, etc.), businesses need to rev up their energy and innovation efforts to remain competitive. There are two ways to accomplish this: by staying on top of (and participating in) distribution ERP trends and by researching distribution ERP systems.
The term “ERP” stands for “enterprise resource planning,” but you don’t have to be an enterprise-sized organization to use it. Distribution ERP systems gather data from every department into one place, making it easily accessible to all team members in real time. A distribution ERP system should supply you and your teams with financial, inventory, customer, commerce, sales order, purchase order, order, requisition, warehouse, and service management capabilities. It should also provide an integrated POS system, business intelligence, and data analytics.
Sounds like a lot of “shoulds” for a single solution, but there’s even more. A distribution ERP system should simplify item management, automate and streamline your warehouse needs, and rest on a future-proof cloud platform with configurable workflows and modern APIs.
Though they have many of the same features and functionalities, don’t confuse distribution ERP systems with manufacturing ERP systems. Because distributors often handle larger orders and a greater volume of total orders (not to mention logistical and marketing requirements), they need an ERP that specifically addresses the fluctuating issues, measurements, patterns, and data points associated with the distribution industry.
To satisfy this need, ERP providers are integrating the top three distribution ERP trends of 2022 into their software offerings.
We’ll discuss these trends in detail below.
1. Synchronizing Your Supply Chain with RFID and IoT
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked supply chain disruptions, including increased delays, rising prices, and frustrating shortages, causing major problems for manufacturers, distributors, and their customers. It’s a complicated situation that won’t be resolved any time soon, which makes it one of 2022’s sad but undeniable distribution trends.
On the upside, this regrettable trend points directly to what distribution ERP systems can do in terms of supply chain management. For example, they can integrate various technologies—such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and the Internet of Things (IoT)—to help individual businesses synchronize their supply chains.
RFID tags aren’t new, but their ability to transmit data from an item to a computerized reader makes them an ideal tool for tracking goods (keeping up with what’s in a package/pallet, where the items came from, whether the contents are correct, if stock levels are accurate, etc.). Data from RFID tags can be synched with the IoT, which can then be synched with an ERP solution.
The information captured in this communication chain will help you manage what you have in stock, what items are coming and when they will arrive, equipment statuses, transportation conditions, and more. This boosts the visibility of the supply chain and improves decision making.
2. Increased Distribution Automation
Distribution ERP systems are also trending toward automating distribution processes. Automation is a major factor in reducing labor costs, improving operational speed, minimizing human error, and increasing accuracy—as the RFID/IoT example clearly shows. Instead of counting and locating inventory manually, employees can pull reports containing that data directly from the distribution ERP solution.
So, time is not wasted on collating and understanding the data. Instead, it is spent on studying potential bottlenecks and pain points and determining ways to get around them. Such clear workflow visibility reveals the health of your distribution processes and of your organization as a whole.
3. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
As with RFID, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are not new. Though they’ve been around for a long time, many distributors have yet to recognize how AI and ML can help them take advantage of industry trends.
First, let’s look at what AI and ML do. AI takes large amounts of data, and, using algorithms, it analyzes that data to provide predictions, forecasts, and calculations that would take mere humans an extraordinary amount of time to determine. ML has been defined by an MIT Management Sloan School article as “a subfield of artificial intelligence that gives computers the ability to learn without explicitly being programmed.” When combined, AI and ML can take distribution data and help distributors:
- Forecast demand and influence decisions.
- Fill orders faster and more efficiently.
- Optimize route planning for quicker deliveries.
- Detect inventory and supply chain issues before they occur.
Altogether, these benefits add up to happier, more satisfied employees and customers—and to a happier, more profitable you.
How Acumatica Can Help
As a distributor, you’ll want to research a few distribution ERP systems before choosing the best one for your business. For Eagle Fence Distributing, Acumatica’s comprehensive cloud ERP solution covered their distribution needs, especially when the pandemic hit.
Says President Keith Ford, “When global supply chain problems caused prices on every widget that we sell to flux, we had to be nimble and quickly get replacement costs into the system overnight. Acumatica was able to handle that.”
Keith and his team are glad they chose Acumatica. “We’ve been very pleased with Acumatica…in getting us to market rapidly. And then also being very secure. Our uptime has been 99.9%. Being in the cloud and being able to be up that much and have secure data and being able to service our customers, that’s invaluable to us.”
To learn more about Acumatica’s award-winning distribution solution and how it can help you stay on top of distribution ERP trends, contact our team today.