Finding Your Distribution System

If your business has a distribution function, either as a part of a production facility or as a contractor for shipping and handling, you probably know that running a distribution business is all about volume. This is simply because you have more items to convey (and therefore more data to capture at a faster pace) but also since you probably have more processes to manage and they are probably becoming more complicated:

  • Order management
  • Shipping and labeling
  • Invoicing
  • Warehouse and Inventory Management
  • Inventory accounting and financial reporting

Since Distribution management and accounting process are tightly connected, and if you already have an ERP up and running in your business, the first thing you should do is to see whether your ERP system has the right functionality to support it.

However, based on my experience as a CIO and after being involved in selecting and implementing several ERP systems, I can say that there are two “tie-breakers” favoring an “independent” distribution system:

  • Barcode/RFID support – this allows to manage and automate bigger volume of items, and have a better understanding of process bottlenecks
  • Distribution Route Planning – the ability to efficiently plan routes and shorten delivery times. This functionality, together with visual geographic capabilities for planning and tracking (aka GIS) is essential if you have a fleet of vehicles.

When selecting a distribution and inventory system, make sure that you have the supply chain managers engaged to the selection process and in addition, have the current and future process requirements documented.

There are some very good, user-friendly systems out there and the following table can help you in choosing the right one for you

FunctionalitySales under 10M$Sales Between
Sales Over 100$
Order Management
Shipping and Labeling
Inventory Management
Invoicing and Inventory Accounting  
Barcode/RFID Support    
Rout Planning and GIS    
SaaS Offering   
Recommended SoftwareSAP Business
PathGuide LatitudeMicrosoft DynamicsFishbowlSAP
Blue Link ERPFishbowlInform ERPSnapFulfilEpicor
 AppraiseContract ERP

For more tips and advice in choosing the right distribution system for your growing business, visit our blog or you may want to check out our Top 20 recommended Distribution software systems.

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