Are you ready to take the first step toward the world’s most successful ERP implementation in wholesale distribution? Good! Stand up; put one foot in front of the other; repeat. All kidding aside, your first step should be necessities gathering. Distribution ERP is a tool designed to make your company more ready for action and profitable by helping you satisfy your customers and improve process efficiency.
Get your team in the same room and begin. Your team must include people from every discipline. Be sure to have sales and customer service, your warehouse and logistics people, engineering and investment and, of course, your IT person. The E stands for enterprise so you want all of the enterprise contributing to the requirements gathering process. This is not an information systems initiative; they are only one member of the ERP team.
Distribution is a service business so why don’t we start with customer service. What works for us at the moment? What future requirements are known already? What have your customers told you they need? Are there new services you want to offer that you could not support without a distribution ERP system? How about your suppliers? Have they suggested improvements for you? There are no wrong answers at this point. You are looking for how to improve your business first and ERP should only be seen as a tool to enable those improvements. Stay away from the trap of reading ERP advertising and working toward that during the requirements gathering stage. Focus on how you can be a better distributor.
Pay attention to compliance needs. If you distribute food, pharmaceuticals or chemicals, you have many specific compliance requirements. No matter what your business, your customers have compliance requirements and so does your government, from the city sales tax to the national tax authorities.
Now, as a group, prioritize your obligation list. There are some that are compulsory. There is another level that all consider an important need but you could manage without for a time or could acquire outside of the distribution ERP. Then, there are those requirements that would be nice to have. Remember, requirements gathering is a group consensus but if a requirement is mandatory to any of you it is fixed for all of you. An ERP that automatically delivers product while you sleep but cannot pay the bills won’t be good enough.
Congratulations! You have taken that first step and are now on your way to that successful distribution ERP implementation. Any systems you look at must be able to meet all your mandatory requirements. Then, you want it to meet as many of the others as possible.