Blog June 26, 2020

Original I.T. Solutions for Distribution Operations on a Budget

Author | Carrie Mathias

June 26, 2020 | 3 min read

Original I.T. Solutions for Distribution Operations on a Budget

Affordable Solutions for Small Distribution: Microsoft 365 Business Central

It can be difficult for smaller pick-and-pack operations to improve their efficiency without dealing a crippling blow to their finances. A Warehouse Management System (WMS), for example, will have a tremendous impact on an operation’s throughput capacity, but smaller distribution companies generally do not have the capital, the sales volume, or the operational complexity to justify the hefty investment required for its implementation.

When pen and paper are no longer a viable option for small or medium size distribution companies, LIDD experts typically recommend the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP). An ERP is an affordable and powerful software system capable of managing your financials and streamlining the bulk of a pick-and-pack operation’s activities. As such, it is an accessible solution for distribution companies looking to reduce operational errors and optimize their throughput.

Among the many ERPs out there, our experts regularly recommend the first-in-class Microsoft 365 Business Central. In what follows, we will first explore some of the reasons that make this ERP a good fit for distribution companies on a tighter budget. We will then take a look at how LIDD experts leveraged Business Central’s Web App to develop an original solution that dramatically improved a client’s replenishment tasks.

Microsoft 365 Business Central in a Distribution Environment

One key advantage of Business Central is the wealth of functions it boasts. Its Inventory Management capability and Manufacturing Requirements Planning (MRP) module, to name only those, will do wonders to streamline your manufacturing operations. That wealth, however, comes at a price.

Implementing Business Central in your operations might require larger initial investments than other solutions. However, while cheaper solutions might do for the here and now, Business Central’s many capabilities give it the built-in capacity to meet your needs now and in the future. As your operation grows, other ERPs will require costly third-party add-ons and APIs to adequately support your activities. In the long term, not only will that make other ERPs significantly more expensive than anticipated at first, but these add-ons will also needlessly complexify your IT architecture, presently making it less stable, more likely to crash and to slow down if not halt your operations. Implementing Business Central avoids all these issues; its capabilities and modules are fully integrated into one high performing system that will adapt to your operations as they grow.

Among Business Central’s many assets that distributors appreciate, there is the Web App functionality. This feature, which is can easily be downloaded and installed, affords managers and directors the capacity to access their system from anywhere – a hot commodity these days, with so many people being forced to work from home. What may be more surprising, however, is that Business Central’s Web App can also be leveraged to improve productivity in the distribution centre.

An Original Solution

LIDD was recently hired by a distributor to help optimize their pick-and-pack operation on a limited budget. Having assessed the client’s operation, LIDD’s team identified their replenishment tasks as an opportunity to improve efficiency. In the absence of a WMS to support these activities, the distributor had put in place a method that was slow and prone to error. But with Business Central already implemented, the team had the means to streamline this process and make it more reliable without dealing a crippling blow to the client’s budget.

As is often the case, budget constraints will spur creativity. In this case, the team leveraged its deep knowledge of Business Central’s features and used the client’s ERP to develop an original solution: they would install Business Central’s Web App on handheld devices and make it possible for end-users to tap into Business Central’s inventory management capabilities from the warehouse floor.

The Web App was thus installed on Zebra handheld scanning devices. Procuring the devices and enabling the Web App function required minimal investment. It was also easy and quick to implement, as the application is native to the ERP. The Web App was configured via the Role Center to limit end-users’ access to information that was relevant to their task. Within the application, workers on the floor were then able to create and manage their transfers. Once the tasks were set, they simply had to scan the barcoded item to order and specify the required quantity.

While it is still too early to quantify results, it is undeniable that the new process has drastically reduced the time needed to perform replenishment tasks. And with Business Central’s Inventory Management capacity to directly support the workers’ activities, LIDD’s team expects that the error ratio will have dropped to an acceptable rate.

With the right ERP system, and a bit of creative thinking, smaller distribution operations possess the means to improve their operation’s efficiency and generate better ROI. If your company is considering implementing new I.T. solutions in the near future, it may be worth your while to consult with LIDD experts and find out whether Microsoft 365 Business Central is right for you.

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