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Drop shipments in controlled release

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

Earlier I have announced that the Trade development team was working on the new functionality to support drop shipments. This functionality is currently in controlled release, which means that a selective group of customers is piloting this new functionality and will provide us valuable feedback which we will evaluate before making it available for all Exact Online Trade customers.

As explained in my previous blog: drop shipment is the process whereby goods are delivered by your supplier straight to your customer without your intervention. Translated into functionality this means that from the sales order (or group of sales orders) you can initiate purchase orders (back to back ordering). If a sales order line is marked as to be drop shipped (a sales order line will be marked automatically based on business rules) then when generating the purchase order system will mark it as a drop shipment purchase order. The main difference between a drop shipment purchase order with a normal purchase order is the delivery address. Also sales order lines marked as to be drop shipped will not appear in your normal goods delivery screen neither will the drop shipment purchase order lines in the goods receipt screen. Instead a new screen for creating drop shipment deliveries by your supplier will take care of the movement of products from your supplier to the customer.

Some additional features:

  • Quantity in drop shipment is visible on the stock positions overview
  • On the cockpit on your To Do-list you will be notified when drop shipments are late for delivery
  • Financially we will keep track of all in and out transactions on a separate ‘Goods in transit’ general ledger

Stay tuned for some more updates relating to Exact Online. If you have any questions or remarks, do not hesitate to post them!

Manage your prices with the aid of price lists

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

In Exact Online Trade you have many ways to manage your prices. Prices can be set for multiple sales units, can be customer specific and can be updated via a batch update function in our current commercial release. However we do want to give you more functionality and really offer price management functionality that is required in a trading environment.

Therefore we plan to introduce price lists in Exact Online for the next release. A price list is a collection of items (or item groups) with or without volume discount tables that can be linked to customers. To keep a simple model, you can link a single price list to a customer. Within a price list, you can define multiple date ranges that will allow you to define prices for a specific period.

Completely new in price management (which really excites me and is not present in any of our previous product lines) is the possibility to set a type when defining a date range. This allows you to make a distinction between a ‘Basic’ and a ‘Special offer’ period. The advantage of the distinction in types is that you can set up a normal date range for prices, valid for the whole year  (e.g. start date: 01-01-2011 end date: infinite or 31-12-2011) and create a ‘Special offer’ for a promotional period in the summer (e.g. start date: 01-07-2011 end date:  15-08-2011). Each date range can have its own set of items/item groups attached. Effectively you can link a limited set of items/item groups in (volume) discount for the promotional period if you like, while the excluded item prices are taken from the basic date range.

Click on the image for a larger view

To give you really an artist impression, you can have a look at the mockup screen above that is the basis of the new functionality to link an item to a price list. In this screen you can define how the sales unit relates to the standard unit of the item, how to setup the base price for the item in the price list (with the nice feature to take over the actual sales price and how to enter a volume discount able (buy > 100 at once and you will grant 2% discount).

I hope that this new functionality will be of great value in managing prices in Exact Online Trade. The functionality is planned to be available in November 2011.

Exact online logistics: Yes we are live!

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

After careful preparation we can now announce that the logistic functionality for Exact Online is commercially available. This is a solution targeting wholesalers/traders who are eager to work with an online (Saas-) solution for purchasing, stock keeping and selling at item level. No longer will you be tied to a single computer or network, but your (logistics) administration will be with you 24/7 from any place in the world.

I have been involved with the development of the functionality for logistics from the very first moment, so I hope you will understand that I consider this launch as an important milestone. Our goal has been to develop a product that of course fits into the Exact Online product, is fast and simple to use and supports the basic logistics operations. Don’t underestimate the power of this solution though.  The sales process is covered from quotation entry to sales order and from goods delivery to invoice handling. The purchase process is more or less a mirror process from the sales functionality. A clear parallel between purchase and sales is that we have recognized a planning (an order) a flow of goods (goods receipts/deliveries) and a financial flow (sales and purchase invoices). From inventory point of view we have created a clear view on the actual stock positions (with the nice benefit of using hyperlinks for every figure that is displayed) and we do provide support for making physical and/or financial stock corrections. Not bad for a start don’t you think?

Example stock position overview

Also a good thing is that we have used our expertise of previous/other product lines as well and have built a good foundation for future extension. We will work towards the next release (planned for October 2011) and have plans to extend our offering with purchasing (+ drop shipment) based on demand (sales orders), look at extension of sales pricing and of course many other new features. Be aware that many features are also build on customer feedback. This can be both small features (an extra filter or a field on the layout) and bigger features (e.g. integration with a web shop). You are more than welcome to give your response as we will continue to build new functionality in the logistic area.

Photo credits to Rototom Sunsplash

Put your computer at work

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

The Exact Online wholesale solution is in pilot for some months. Our customers (and trial users) can experience to work with the software free of charge for as long as the product remains in pilot. The good thing from our point of view as a solution team is that we get feedback on our product and can already make enhancements or plan desired new functionality. One of these new functionalities is the ability to generate purchase orders by supplier based on the physical stock in the warehouse and the purchase reorder level set per item.

I will give you a quick summary of this new functionality. To get quickly started, you have to set the desired stock reorder level per item. This can be done with a item batch update function. Items with a similar margin and turnover ratio can be grouped together and updated in one go:

If you then navigate to the overview of supplier’s items, you will find all your items listed that you can order at your selected supplier. With smart filtering, you can narrow down the selection to show only items that meet the criteria that current stock level is below the predefined reorder level.

After item selection, you can generate a purchase order advice with quantities up to the maximum stock levels that you can define in the batch update function.

The nice thing about the supplier’s purchase advice is that it also comes with an alert. From the ‘To Do’-list on your cockpit, system will indicate the number of items to be replenished based on the predefined stock levels.

Automatic purchase order advices will limit the risk of lost sales and will make sure you can provide the desired service level to your customers.

Give it a try

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

Over the past months we have shared information related to the development of the logistics solution that we will be offering for Exact Online. Previously we have been talking about eggs, but this is no longer needed. The egg has developed and a real logistic solution has been born in an online environment. Now it is time for you as a customer in wholesale to speak up because it is available for you to try!

What?

We have build a logistic solution keeping in mind wholesale companies with a simple but complete purchasing, stock keeping / correction and sales functionality.

Who?

Anyone can register to give it a try. Whether or not you are already using Exact Online for your company does not matter.  Actually you are even more than welcome to share your opinion on the product as well.

How?

If you are already using Exact Online then you will find the possibility to register for the free trial at the login page of Exact Online. When you are not yet a customer, then you can take a trial license at our website (www.exactonline.nl). After taking a trial license, you can take extension of the license at the login page, similar to customers.

How to handle deliveries that are sent directly from your supplier to the customer?

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

Soon to be available for every Exact Online Trade customer is the functionality to purchase based on existing sales orders (back to back ordering). Once you have created a (number of) sales order(s), you can get a purchase order advice for selected order(s) and generate purchase orders.

As an extension to back to back orders we are now developing functionality to support the drop shipment process. For this purpose we therefore have visited customers from different sectors (varying from trading companies in medical needles, Christmas boxes to plastic waste and fertilizer) with a questionnaire to see whether our thoughts of the functionality match with the business needs of our clients. Overall I can conclude that we hads a pretty good idea of required functionality, but nevertheless the discussion with our customers had significant impact on the development and outline of the functionality.

What we try to achieve with drop shipment functionality is to keep the stock movements visible, but separate it from the normal stock in –and outflow. Also financially the plan is to account in a different way (making use of ‘Goods in transit’-account) and using the actual purchase price (instead of using cost prices) for drop shipments. If we also can create an overview that will give margin insight (difference between sales and purchase price) then I am sure that we will have a very powerful solution for all our trading customers. The functionality is to be expected in H1-2012!

Thanks and a happy 2012!

From stock centric to order controlled purchase process

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

The Exact Online Trade solution is commercially available since April 19th and is attracting more customers every day. Our solution is currently mainly based on trading companies that keep stock levels (reorder level, maximum stock) as a strategy to deliver orders to customers. Main advantage of keeping stock levels in your warehouse is that as a company you are in control of your lead times and correctness of your deliveries. An example of how we support your business, is that you can insert a web part on your cockpit that indicates your service level (% on time deliveries) towards your customers (see below).

Other considerations for keeping stock levels as a strategy:

  • The costs involved of keeping stock (every euro invested in stock cannot be invested elsewhere)
  • Item turnover (item velocity, how often do you sell the product)
  • Purchase lead time (time span between placing a purchase order and goods receipt)
  • Risk of not selling (unsalable stock)

Our current development activities are focused to not only support the stock centric process but also to control purchasing based on demand (back to back orders). What this means in practice is that instead of keeping stock with the help of stock levels, you will purchase based on outstanding sales orders.  This however may apply to some items (with e.g. just in time delivery by the supplier) and for some items (e.g. with a high turnover ratio) you will remain the strategy to keep stock levels. Therefore at first you can set per item whether the item is ‘Order controlled’ (or otherwise is considered ‘Stock controlled’). The distinction between order and stock controlled will be of great help for the purchaser to determine for which sales order lines, purchase orders can be planned /generated.

I think that with this extension we will be even more relevant for our trade customers, supporting multiple logistic strategies.

Let me know what you think!

Get set, Ready…GO!

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

In June 2010 we have announced the availability of logistic functionality in controlled release for Exact Online.  In this period customers can get acquainted with the functionality and provide us useful feedback during visits, round table sessions or via support.

One of the things that we have learned from the feedback is about the ‘Getting started’-process. How to get started once you have extended your license with new functionality? Is new data required to get started? What is the basic process flow of the new functionality? Over the last months we therefore have researched of how we can better facilitate your first experience with the (new) functionality.

The direction of the new Getting started experience has been in the hands of our user experience team. A team dedicated to studying, analyzing, implementing concepts whereby the user takes the central position. Per functional area we have there fore defined a getting started page that will allow you to navigate throught the main steps of a process flow. We are still fine tuning the pages and are currently evaluating the usability of the pages with users, but I would like to show you an example of the purchase process flow that is displayed on the getting started page of logistics:

Click on the image to show full size

As you can see, you can (hopefully) recognize the basic steps in a logistics purchase process. The flow is interactive, when hovering over the flow you will be able to start the selected process or find help documentation related to selected topic.

Next to the process flow and the main settings required to start with basic process of the respective functionality, you also have direct access to other main sources of help (like e.g. our help start page or other related information).

I hope that with this guided start, you will have a great experience working with our software.

How to analyze your product assortment

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

To stay competitive in the market as a wholesaler you realize that it is important to keep the right product assortment (on stock) to fit your strategy to maximize your service level to customers and to minimize loss of sales. The big question in that case: ‘What products to keep in my product assortment and with what product levels’? In the end you want more from assortments with products with high volume and / or high profit margins and you do not want to end up with high, expensive and not running stock levels. 

To make the perfect breakdown of your product assortment in Exact Online, you can categorize every item by linking a category from 5 different assortments.  

Some examples of assortment definitions: 

  1. (Statistical) Sales pattern:  – Seasonal product, Slow moving product, Fashion trend product
  2. Product category: – Food, Cooking equipment, Books
  3. ABC analysis qualification: A, B or C

Product assortment definition

Actually you can define any assortment definition. The information starts to be relevant after linking the correct combination to your item master:

Linking item to assortment combinations

After setting up the correct product assortments and items, you can start making your breakdown analysis. To provide useful information related to your product assortment we have extended every overview in Exact Online Logistics with assortment filters. In this way you will be capable of making analysis on any combination of: 

  1. Inventory turnover
  2. Age of inventory
  3. Stock positions (in time)
  4. Sales margin analysis
  5. Purchase volumes

Assortments as filters on overviews

Using these overviews will allow you to make analysis of your product assortment and making the right decisions. Who wouldn’t want to have this kind of strategic information available 24/7 independent of time and place? 

Bridging financial and logistics

Written by Marco Kastrop on . Posted in Exact Online

Over the past weeks we have been publishing many articles related to upcoming functionality for Exact Online. Among all these new features, functionality related to support of logistic processes has been announced (see related articles below this posting).

The logistic functionality is in controlled release since early June. To validate our offering we have started a controlled release period until September. For this controlled release, pilot customers have approached us to take part in the tryout of the product.  Before a pilot customer will start with the product, a member of the controlled release team and a member of the development department will bring a visit with the goal to  interact with the customer about the expectations and to see whether the functionality will match with business practice. A nice side effect of having this interaction is that early customer comments can be incorporated before the commercial offering of the product. To give you an example: a customer indicated that it is difficult to trace the financial consequences after processing a logistic entry. To be more to the point, when processing a logistic entry (e.g.  a goods receipt), the financial consequence remains unclear to the user. Therefore we have taken action to bridge the link from the logistic transaction to the financial entry.

In the old days, we probably would have provided a report when processing the goods receipt. However this is not a very ‘green solution’. Therefore we have been ‘bridging’ instead. When opening the processed receipt, we have enabled access to the link to the financial entry that resulted from the goods receipt.

Click on the image to show full size

The entry number in the screen above is hyperlinked to the financial entry. When activating the hyperlink, the financial transaction is displayed.

Click on the image to show full size

The link between the logistic and the financial transaction has been implemented for all logistic transactions: stock counts, sales deliveries, returns, purchase receipts.

I consider this a nice example of using customer input to help making a better product.

Picture credit: Conquering nature by kevindooley