According to a survey carried out by ‘The Stocklist’ flooring magazine, 65%* of UK flooring companies finished much better than expected in 2020. This was after a concerted effort was made by all to maintain sales and service during the pandemic.
When asked to rank the challenges they face in 2021 however, their readers ranked recession/unemployment, COVID-19 restrictions and Brexit as their main concerns.
Tile companies also found 2020 a challenge and turned their focus to selling online as DIY projects ramped up.
Unforeseen and ever-changing circumstances such as those highlighted above place huge pressures on you and your business. But, more importantly, it emphasises the importance of having the right systems in place to adapt to whatever market conditions come your way.
If you’re currently juggling multiple processes across a number of branches and on disparate systems, then it may be time to review your current ERP/business software.
ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) refers to a centralised, integrated program that facilitates the smooth operation of your business, daily and long-term. Modern ERP platforms are robust, flexible, configurable and easily extend to mobile and online allowing you to quickly adapt to changing market conditions.
- What Benefits Can Flooring and Timber Businesses Expect from ERP Software?
- Which ERP Software Solutions Are Best Suited to Flooring and Timber Businesses?
- Key Considerations for Implementing ERP in the Flooring and Timber Industry
What Benefits Can Tile and Flooring Businesses Expect from ERP Software?
Modern ERP software improves the efficiency and effectiveness of your business in a number of ways. It brings together the key functions of your business across your entire branch and/or warehouse network including financials, stock control, customer management, business intelligence and more. And this applies whether your team are working remotely, on the road or in the office.
It standardises, streamlines and integrates all these business functions into one coherent system and integrates all data into a single database, allowing all departments to work with the same information.
You gain massive strategic and operational value and total control of your operation, long-term. Below we outline just some of the key benefits ERP can bring to the tile and flooring industry
Unified data that provides true business insight and control – A single-source system allows you to unify all your business data into one integrated system, in real-time. Data is available across all functions of your business from one central location giving real-time visibility and control throughout.
Streamlined and Automated Processes and Operations – Through the use of in-built automation tools, you can transform tedious, time-consuming tasks into efficient automated workflows at company, role or user level. You can save countless man-hours whilst boosting productivity, maintaining margins and enforcing business rules. And with personalised workspaces, you can maximise the efficiency of your entire workforce.
Maintain Accurate and Tight stock control – With effective stock management, your staff can access up-to-date and accurate stock levels, company-wide. The quicker your people can search and filter the system, the less time they’ll spend wading through thousands of codes to find the right one. Your system must be able to manage multiple warehouses, different units of measure, slow- and fast-moving stock, kits, assemblies and split packs. Accurate stock enables you to work more efficiently by simplifying processes and helping you make smarter decisions. This real-time stock data can also auto-populate in your ecommerce stores.
Increases Customer Satisfaction Levels – With access to accurate, real-time data, staff can respond quickly to the latest trends, promotions, seasonality or any other changes. And more importantly, answer customer queries on-the-spot.
Future-proof your business – Modern ERP systems will scale as your business grows, keeping up with the latest technologies. The technology framework that supports today’s ERP systems allows tile and flooring businesses to easily expand and extend your business. You can embrace new sales channels like ecommerce, facilitate the addition of new branches, implement seamless remote working or diversify into new business areas.
Mobilise your Workforce – Accessing your system remotely is one thing but accessing your system’s data via mobile is where modern ERP software excels. Your MD can get access to KPI dashboards or financial data. Your sales rep can record and view system CRM interactions when on the road. And your delivery team can capture contactless and photo PODs.
Which ERP Software Solutions Are Best Suited to Tile and Flooring Businesses?
From a basic accounting package to business management software and ERP software, there are many software options available.
For tile and flooring distributors, knowing what is in stock, where it is and in what batch quantities is critical to your business. Modern ERP that includes fully-integrated inventory management is a key component to enabling you to achieve the ultimate goal of balancing customer needs while minimising the cost of carrying excess stock.
This is not something you’ll achieve in a basic accounting package. And while some SMEs in the tile and flooring sector may suit a business management software, most will require the capabilities of a fully-integrated ERP system to provide efficiency, analytics, intelligence, forecasting capabilities and visibility across your business.
Global providers offer a wide range of functionality for companies across various industry sectors, but they often lack the features and capabilities tailored to your business and operational needs. And sometimes they end up costing you more money in the long-run.
ERP solutions created specifically to cater to specific industries, handle all of your business processes with minimal to no customisation required. ‘Out-of-the-box’, your sector-specific requirements will be catered for with consultant’s time focused on optimising processes and accommodating your unique ways of working. Plus, vertical specialist vendors and consultant teams will have a deep understanding of your organizations’ needs, offering expert industry advice to satisfy your individual nuances.
To help you decide on the important features and functionality required in the tile and flooring sector, we’ve compiled the following list of ‘must-haves’.
Key Modules Required
- Fully-integrated stock management system – For tile and flooring distributors, this is crucial. Not only will it consolidate your data into a single database, but it will save you time and avoid data entry errors.
- Trade Counter/POS – Another key requirement is to ensure your trade counter connects with your warehouse and your back office for speed, accuracy, and consistent service.
- eCommerce – Centrally manage your customer and product information for both traditional and online businesses with a fully-integrated web store.
- REST API – From EDI to ecommerce, you require limitless integration capabilities and modern ERP systems that use REST API technology can facilitate this.
- Mobile Warehouse – Mobility in your warehouse can dramatically improve your productivity, resource utilisation, and inventory management.
- Anytime, anywhere access to key metrics – Empower key staff with personalised mobile apps that gives them 24/7 access to view and capture relevant business information in real-time.
- CRM – Effectively manage your customers, suppliers, leads and prospects in a centralised location.
Key Features Required
- Units of measurements – Your system must be able to handle sq. metres, sq. yards, pack sizes. And, if a product is stocked in one unit, your system must enable it to be purchased in alternative units.
- Off-cuts and remnants – Where products are sold by cutting material from rolls, you should be able to easily manage stock remaining on rolls.
- Batch-tracking – Keep track of shades and batches as well as tracking metres remaining on rolls in the warehouse and have ready access to this data post-sale
- Stock Forecasting – Powerful order point calculations and replenishment rules ensure you have the correct stock at the right time in the right place.
- Import costing management –Track containers from overseas suppliers and apply all costs associated with freight, duty and currency fluctuations before applying a margin to get to sales price.
- Multi-branch – With cost centre analysis, you can keep on top of the profitability of individual branches with the ability to do sales analysis per branch or per rep.
- Works Orders – If you manufacture/assemble part or all of a product, then you’ll need works orders.
- Transport Scheduler – Easily manage your delivery schedule and fleet by auto-allocating routes, booking a journey at the point of sale and more.
- Contactless delivery – with located tracked photo capture or e-signature for the new ‘low-touch’ economy we’re living in is essential.
- In-transit stage – When products are neither with the buyer or seller, full multi-branch traceability with special in-transit stage is vital.
- Rich product information/sales quotation process – It is vital you have the ability to easily store or attach image, video and specifications in your product database. Being able to present your customers and prospects with beautifully designed invoices and quotes with product images is also crucial.
“To efficiently run 3 branches, I rely heavily on up-to-date, accurate and timely information; something we weren’t getting from our old system. Knowing that we were missing out on the capabilities to better manage our stock, increase sales and enhance our customer service, it was time to look for an alternative solution.” Sean Haugh, Managing Director
Key Considerations for Implementing ERP in the Flooring and Timber Industry
Implementing new ERP software doesn’t have to be daunting. Not if you plan well in advance and put in the necessary time and resources prior to your implementation.
Don’t underestimate the value in having a strong pre-implementation plan in place. It ensures you and your business are in the driving seat, not the software vendor.
We would advise you include the following elements in your pre-implementation plan.
- Project Objectives – Think about what you are trying to achieve. What are your current limitations? What improvements will help you get on track? Document current pain points and the solutions required to overcome them. Your ‘must-haves’ take priority. Your ‘nice-to-haves’ are still important and should also be included. Based on your project objectives, draw up a list of potential software/vendors that best fit your needs and get a demo of their product/services.
- Scope of Works – You know what works in your business and what doesn’t. Create visual, easy-to-understand workflow charts to map out your current processes. It’s a tedious job, but it will be worth its weight in gold as you move deeper into your project deployment.
- Project Team – Your ERP system forms the backbone of your business. Any migration of systems must be managed by a competent project team that has full support from your senior management.
- Change Management Team – Take some time to review your current situation and consider how the change will impact your business and staff. Creating a change management strategy can limit staff resistance to a new system and identify any potential issues early on.
- Data Cleansing – Ensuring your project starts with clean, accurate and relevant data will save you time and money in the long run. Decide how much historical data you wish to migrate to the new system and how much must be migrated for compliance reasons.
- ERP vendor support – It is very important to find an ERP vendor that has experience working with tile and flooring distributors and will provide all the necessary technical and maintenance support for your system’s entire life cycle. Ensure that your ERP provider offers next-generation software and has an eye to the future. You want them to be around for the long-term!
If you’d like to learn more about the best practice tools and techniques you should employ in your business, our experts tell all in our ‘Effective Stock Management’ ebook. They talk about the benefits of implementing an effective stock control policy and illustrate how it can save time and money, increase efficiency and productivity, improve traceability, cash flow and customer service levels. You can download it here.