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Distribution Management System
It is generally regarded as poor practice for a company to pour money into an inefficient system and to frustrate entire departments of employees. But that's just the sort of thing that often goes on in inefficient warehouse management systems. Live tests of distribution systems, including those that use bar-coding, can reveal the ugly truth that inefficiencies cause shipping personnel to work extra hours and induce a high level of frustration. The demoralizing effect spills over to salespeople and customers when inadequate systems fail to reserve or allocate product properly, despite advance notice.

Companies need effective, efficient distribution management systems, but selecting the right one can be extremely difficult. To cut through the confusion, the first step should be the establishment of a selection process to sort through the vast range of software, assess vendor's capability, and make sure that the software the company selects meets the company's needs. A key element of the selection process should be the surveying of each employee, asking them what they most like and most dislike about the current distribution management system and what they feel they need in a future system.

As far as selection goes, the software has to suit the company. For instance, if the proposed software requires a dedicated IT team to support it full-time and a company doesn't have a large IT department, that software may not be feasible. Such a company may want to consider web-based software instead. Actual requirements will differ from company to company, but one of the common elements is the ability to perform speedy searches for information on customers, invoices, orders, inventory, vendors, and to do it by many different means. Such means can include searching by purchase order, serial number, vendor invoice numbers, or by universal product codes.

Selection of new software should also include consideration of how much is involved in transitioning from the current system to the new one. Files may need maintenance and new data fields may require entries, all of which may temporarily overwhelm key IT personnel. One feature to look for in new distribution software is the ability to audit non-quality events such as backorders, vendor shipping errors, damages and shortages. Another key component is tracking use of security keys involving inventory management, credit and pricing. The software should also be upgradeable and flexible enough to grow as the company does.

Therefore, there are several key practices for successful selection and implementation of distribution management software. One of these is the selection of turnkey software that frees the IT department from writing software. Another is to select software that provides a powerful, real-time system that has the capability to meet future needs. One more selection criteria should be the ability to allow maintenance of inventory while providing better service to customers in real-time. In addition, web-based software can be a lot more preferable than client based software.

In summary, a company should involve all employees in the selection process, understand the implications of change, rank priorities for a new distribution management system, and then ask vendors to demonstrate how their product meets those requirements. By following this process, the organization is more likely to obtain distribution software that more readily meets its needs.

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