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20 November 2020 | in Optimise your Merchant Software

ERP Software in the Electrical Wholesale Industry What is it? Why you need it? Who offers it? How you know you need it?

Written by Intact Software
ERP Software in the Electrical Wholesale Industry What is it? Why you need it? Who offers it? How you know you need it?

ERP is an acronym for Enterprise Resource Planning and this is the term used to describe an integrated business management software system. These systems are used to consolidate all the functions of an organisation into a uniform platform, designed to manage your entire electrical wholesale business. Modern ERP systems establish one source of the truth to provide you with real-time insights into the health of your wholesale business. With all departments connected in real-time, it encourages more informed decision-making and increases efficiency at all levels.

In the past, ERP solutions were confined to large enterprise level, often global, entities, however this is no longer the case. The increase in the number of ERP vertical specialists, such as Intact iQ, has opened up the ERP marketplace to businesses of all sizes making these solutions a) more relevant for businesses like electrical wholesalers and b) more affordable. These vertical ERP specialists essentially focus on specific industries, like electrical wholesale. Their software, product roadmap, consultancy expertise etc. are honed for that sector.

In this blog we provide more detail regarding the benefits electrical wholesalers can expect from ERP software, which ERP solutions are best suited to your sector and some key considerations to bear in mind when implementing electrical wholesale business management software.

What Benefits Can Electrical Wholesalers Expect from ERP Software?

In a recent survey by the EDA, it highlighted that the biggest concerns for wholesalers related to product availability, quality, price, cash flow, margins and costs. These issues were deemed to be correlated to the impact of digitalisation, ecommerce, Brexit and globalisation. Whilst ERP for electrical wholesale isn’t a magic wand, it will arm your team with the best means possible to effectively manage these areas of concern and outpace the competition. It will provide you with the level of automation, real-time insights, and advanced levels of control and autonomy to boost productivity, remove barriers to growth and ultimately enhance your bottom line.

To further illustrate this point, let’s look at each of these elements in isolation.

Product availability, quality & price

  • Electrical wholesalers are managing thousands of lines of stock for delivery, click and collect, back order, consignment stock etc. Regardless of the product and quantity required, electrical wholesalers need to have 100% confidence in the information being provided to their customers. Answers such as ‘I think we have…’ or ‘let me just double-check the warehouse…’ simply won’t cut it anymore. Customers expect more. Given the ecommerce threat impacting this industry, the provision of timely, accurate information is a must if you are to retain and grow your customer base. With modern electrical wholesale ERP systems, you can finetune each stage of your supply chain process to ensure it is fully optimised, visible and customer-focused. Features supporting automation, exception reporting, triggered alerts, replenishment rules, pricing checkers, integrated business intelligence and advanced Trimble Luckins integration can ensure that when any customer gets in contact you know your team can get them the right product, at the right price, at the right time.

Cash flow, margins, sales & costs

  • Dealing with vast ranges including commodity SKUs, SKUs with detailed specs, all sourced from numerous different manufacturers is a nightmare to manage manually. PIM facilities, such as those provided by Trimble Luckins, help address a number of these issues, but it’s when your ERP solution links directly with that data at a granular level and brings that data into your system in accordance with your business rules; that’s the game-changer.
  • You need to negotiate. You have multiple rebates and/or discount agreements with your customers and suppliers. You want to split manufacturer sell units and so on. It’s a complex business and often your business logic is locked up across the heads of a few team members or managed outside your system or via manual processes. If that’s the case, you are putting margin at risk. Modern business software for electrical wholesalers is highly flexible. Those margin, cost and negotiation rules that set you apart from the competition can and should be facilitated in your system. Then it’s your system working 24/7, 365 days a year ensuring your margin is protected, you still offer value to your customers and you are empowered to negotiate better terms with your suppliers.

Digital Transformation Drivers & Opportunities

  • Ecommerce, Brexit, globalisation, there are a myriad of external factors impacting the electrical wholesale sector. There are opportunities to be found in all of them. For example, if everyone is selling online and losing out on that personal customer contact, why not amplify the service you provide to your customers? OK, but how does that relate to ERP we hear you say? While your ERP solution provider can support you on your ecommerce journey etc. ultimately the biggest gift it will provide you with is time. Time to pursue opportunities, nurture customer relationships, negotiate better terms. Through the use of ERP solutions designed for electrical wholesalers, you can free up your time to focus on valued adding activities. It will provide you with a solid digital platform to support your future growth. That’s where the foundations of any strong digital transformation journey must start.

Which ERP Software Solutions Are Best Suited to Electrical Wholesalers?

As noted above, ERP systems are advanced forms of business software. Modern, flexible ERP is built using the latest technology frameworks. This means;

  1. It offers seamless 3rd party integration with other software solutions you currently use or may wish to use in the future.
  2. It can expand and scale with ease.
  3. It offers a host of modern automation, analytic, alert and workflow tools not available in legacy software solutions.
  4. And finally, solutions like Intact iQ, offer advanced levels of ‘code-free’ customisation. Whilst this ensures ERP consultants implementing the software can deliver a customer-centred and cost-effective solution, it also provides the electrical wholesaler with the autonomy and control to flex the solution in the future should business processes change, diversify or expand. All without impacting your ability to upgrade.

In general, we would recommend businesses with 10+ users at least review the ERP solutions available to them.

For electrical wholesalers who wish to take the next step and review their ERP options they can consider two broad types of ERP providers: vertical specialists or global providers.

  1. We talked earlier about vertical ERP software, such as Intact iQ. The benefit of working with vertical ERP specialists is that the software and expertise they are providing has been developed with your business in mind. Industry-specific functionality, such as PIM database integration, batch tracking, management of specials, back orders, tenders etc., has already been taken care of and you just need to then tweak it to your business operations. Please note that Intact iQ is just one example of this type of solution. There are numerous others out there. Engage with trusted trade associations like the EDA to view the software solution affiliate members they recommend to help create your review shortlist.
  2. In addition to vertical ERP software specialists, you also have global ERP providers: SAP, Infor, NetSuite, Microsoft etc. Again, there are a lot of them out there. They are implemented by resellers who deploy their own consultants to install, configure and support your software. With such providers, you may decide to forego the niche functionality offered by vertical specialists because of other features offered by these global entities.

Key Considerations for Implementing ERP in Electrical Wholesale

Multiple ERP providers exist for a reason. All offer different capabilities and expertise. What we would advise, if you are seeking a new ERP solution for your business, is to bring a shortlist of 4-6 ERP vendors to the table. Have your requirements set out and let your requirements be the driver, not the flashy sales presentation that may present features that look attractive but could have limited value for your business. Keep your current pain points, future ambitions, budget and resource capabilities front of mind throughout the selection process.

Here are some additional factors to consider

  1. Your ERP vendor is not a supplier to your business; they are a partner. Your ERP solution should last at least 10 years. Over that period your business will change. You need to ensure you are working with an ERP partner who will support your business adequately not just during the project but also long after the software has been implemented.
  2. Partnership works both ways. For an ERP implementation project to be successful, the three legs of the stool are required; great software, engaged business and expert services. The best software implemented poorly will yield limited benefits. The consultant employed to implement your software needs to be an expert themselves but they aren’t an expert in your business so ensure you dedicate appropriate internal resources, as advised by your ERP vendor, to ensure your ERP implementation project is a success.
  3. Develop a pre-implementation plan that sets out the following:
    1. Project Objectives
    2. Scope of Works
    3. Project Team
    4. Change Management
    5. Data Cleansing

For more details on this click, here to read ERP Implementation – A Preparatory Guide 

We hope you found this blog useful. If you are still wondering whether your current business software is fit-for-purpose you can click here to take our quick ERP needs analysis test and find out if your current ERP or business software system leaves you open to failure or destined for growth.

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