3 trends set to change distribution ERP in 2016

In a recent survey of wholesale distributors, 81% felt that investment in new sales technology would be important in the coming years. With that in mind, I thought I would put some thoughts down on where we might see the focus of this investment in the distribution ERP market in 2016.

1. Location data

Facebook, Google, and many other consumer applications use location data to enrich data delivery (alongside, some would say, less savory purposes). Do you often have customers leave phone messages about a product to be delivered the same day? You know that a particular customer has several locations, so you try to call back and find out which one to deliver to; with luck, you get a reply. What if your ERP customer portal could pick up the location of the customer’s smartphone, automatically accept the order, and route it to the right location?

seven steps to finding your ideal distribution ERP.

Location data can also be used for fleet management. There are GPS systems that do that now and some users have integrated those systems with ERP but I am not aware of any ERP today with native location data. Say that the last item you need for a rush order just arrived at the airport terminal. You could route the closest truck there automatically.

2. Client-side integration

Distribution ERP will become more connected in response to continued pressure from users who currently rely on third-party applications; 31% of users in the case of order writing. Many of us will have used portals and EDI for years. Imagine that one of your catering customers just booked a large event for this evening. If your ERP were connected to that caterer’s system, the additional food they need in the quantities matching their recipes will already be in the picking queue with no human intervention. Can you say “satisfied customer”?

Distribution ERP will become more connected in response to continued pressure from users who currently rely on third-party applications

Maybe you are a chemical distributor and your distribution ERP just “saw” that your customer issued the last pallet of a certain product into its process line. You know how much that client needs to replenish inventory, and the forklift is already moving to that stock location before your customer realizes the company needed more.

3. Wearable technology

Large distributors have used wearable technology, such as pick-to-light and voice picking, for quite a few years. However, wearable technology is expanding its consumer presence with Google Glasses and Apple Watches hitting the shelves. Your driver might simply touch their watch and you’ll know an order was just delivered. Financial Force and many other systems already support this functionality.

Your route manager only has to look at a display case to see what items need to be replenished, and your ERP registers the new demand. Your pickers need to get a product from an environmentally sensitive location. Do they have the proper personal protective equipment for that area, and are they wearing it? If they are, the ERP will document that the equipment was used, and if not, the area is secured by Bluetooth connection to ERP and the door won’t open and the security breach will be noted in ERP.

There are many more practical implications of the popularization of these technology trends. How might they impact your distribution business and ERP in 2016?

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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 customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller

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