How to Track Your Supply Chain with ERP


ERP can provide tremendous benefits to distributors both upstream and downstream in managing their supply chains. If implemented correctly, the ability to react instantly due to better supply chain visibility rivals any other benefits of ERP for distribution businesses. But how can supply chain ERP help your distribution business?

Downstream Supply Chain ERP

Your customers have ERP systems of their own whether they are retailers, manufacturers or other types of business. Your ERP can communicate in real time with their ERP. You can have a look at the exact amount of inventory they hold at any moment and where it is. You can see their sales of those products as they occur. You might even see their forecast of sales. That stream of data can help you plan your own inventory and purchases to match their demands. It might also help you with service by suggesting they move a product from one of their own inventory locations to another.

The benefits of supply chain ERP don’t stop there. You will get orders from your customers. You are well prepared for the order because you have incorporated supply chain visibility into your advance demands. Now you can automatically convert those incoming orders directly to picking tickets. If the order needs to ship right now, the picking ticket is ready right now.

Upstream Supply Chain ERP

Turn around and look toward your suppliers. ERP will keep your distribution business competitive. You can see your customer demands in real time. You can use EDI and similar tools to pass forecast demand and real orders to your suppliers in the same real-time mode. The EDI echo from their ERP will allow a view to their inventory position and enable you to place an order that best matches your customer demand.

Your supply chain ERP can read the ASN from your supplier and update the incoming supply plan automatically. The expected delivery date and time are recorded. Your dock door is scheduled. Your cross-dock planning is set. Your crews are scheduled. Even resources such as unloading equipment and freezers are all scheduled based on the rules you have set for your ERP.

As the supplier’s truck is arriving at your gate, your scanner is reading his trailer number and an electronic sign board directs the driver to the scheduled dock with no need for to stop and check into an office. The actual arrival triggers a signal to pull an empty trailer to the cross-dock door for filling. You don’t have an outbound load partially filled and waiting for the inbound loads predicted arrival.

You, your suppliers, and your customers all benefit because your distribution ERP automatically processes transactions and reacts to events in real time to make your inventory flow in the most efficient way possible.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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