Roundtable respondents

Better access to customer information. Faster response times. Improved on-time delivery. Better order accuracy. These are just some of the advantages distributors will experience with the implementation of software.

This manufacturer roundtable outlines how technology can help jan/san distributors identify software that fits their specific needs. It also addresses how distributors can track changes and fluctuations in the supply chain, all the while assisting sales.


Kate Fucci
Marketing Director
DDI System
Sandy Hook, Connecticut


Chris Master
Marketing Coordinator
Distribution One
Mount Laurel, New Jersey


Randy Lane
National Sales Manager
PIC Business Systems
San Antonio, Texas


Bob Hestenes
Step1 Software Solutions
Newbury Park, California

What is ERP software and how does it benefit distributors?

Fucci — ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) refers to the business software distributors use to manage their day-to-day operations. As a distributor, ERP software should provide a real-time overview of the business at any given time through detailed analytics and reporting functionality. It offers the ability to manage order fulfillment, inventory management, customer pricing and customer details all from one centralized location. 

Increased productivity occurs when all areas of the business, including in-store and online sales, procurement and warehouse operations, and accounting, are tied together in one system to reduce errors, gain better control and dramatically improve overall customer service. Choosing an ERP software company with a strong history of working with similar businesses and a deep understanding of customers, products, and the workflows that drive continued growth will make for an easy transition. 

Master — To be successful in today’s business climate, distributors and wholesalers must correctly utilize technology to synchronize their departments in order to maximize employee productivity, eliminate costly manual errors, and ensure the accuracy and accessibility of business data. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software fulfills these requirements. ERP software is a unified suite of programs controlling all aspects of business activities like Inventory and Warehouse Management, Financial Management, Sales Orders, CRM, Purchasing, Analytic Dashboards and Reporting, Mobile Apps, and more.

To expand functionality, ERP software should also provide integrations for e-commerce, Amazon, credit card processing, shipping, sales tax compliance, business intelligence analytics, etc. When an order is received into ERP software, users can instantly process the order and payment, review the customer account, check real-time inventory levels and stock locations across multiple warehouses, purchase needed items, and plan shipments. Because the data is unified in one source instead of being scattered across spreadsheets in multiple departments, users can dramatically shorten the time and labor costs associated with order turnaround. And the faster the order ships, the happier the customer will be.

ERP software can be deployed as SaaS via a Cloud service which helps manage the responsibility of backups and maintaining data security against malware and server downtime. Companies can also choose to keep their data On-Premises with the understanding that this approach is more hands-on for the company and requires on-site servers and IT support to keep the system running correctly. ERP software can be sold as a complete turnkey solution or a la carte. While turnkey provides the entire suite of functionality, it may have a higher initial investment. Conversely, the a la carte option can be limiting and require added investment for additional features as the company scales with growth. 

Lane — ERP software is a core software platform that (ideally) allows management of a complete business enterprise. Many ERP software companies deliver a system that, in theory, can do whatever you need it to. The catch is that you then need to work with a Value-Added Reseller (VAR), whose job is to configure the system to meet your needs. The VAR can cost from one to two times the cost of the ERP system itself. At PIC Business Systems, we build ERP platforms for specific vertical markets, and we use a company implementation team to configure the software so that the system is delivered ready to go to work with little refinement needed. Our PIC ERP & WMS is specifically designed for Paper/Chemical/Packaging/OP distributors. 

Hestenes — ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, which is a terrible computer industry acronym for accounting software. Most modern ERP systems are aimed at specific industries, as each industry has its own twists and turns.  For example, in jan/san, almost every customer has special pricing on every item. 

What is CRM software and how is it different from ERP software?

Fucci — CRM (Customer Relationship Management) should be an integral piece of your ERP, rather than a completely separate software. An embedded CRM that includes personalized customer engagement tools, purchase and price history, and a sales opportunity pipeline keeps customers top of mind and puts pertinent information at your fingertips, resulting in fast and personal sales connections. Providing customers with the correct information at the right time strengthens relationships, incites loyalty, and proves your company’s ability to deliver superior service over a competitor. 

Master — CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is typically a component of ERP software. Though standalone programs do exist, it’s better to have CRM built into the ERP. CRM is utilized to manage and update customer accounts. Sales reps rely on CRM to plan and manage their customer outreach and review recent order activity related to a specific customer.

Lane — CRM software is a blanket term that stands for Customer Relationship Management. CRM can mean anything from storing contact names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, historical contact dates, to information such as which products clients have bought and other products they are interested in. CRM focuses on the customer and individual relationships and associated details.

Hestenes — There are two parts to most CRM systems. One helps you plan for and manage activity with existing accounts. For example, you may notice that you are not getting any of the glove business for this health care organization, so you can use your CRM software to put together a plan and follow it. The other helps with managing prospects that are not currently your customers. Most CRM systems are more geared to prospect management than client management. Our belief for the jan/san industry is that the reverse is true — client management is more important, since each client is an annuity stream that goes on and on indefinitely.

Is one more valuable over the other, or should distributors adopt both offerings?  

Fucci — Both ERP (business operations software) and CRM (customer relationship software) are necessary to run successful customer-driven businesses. 

Master — Both are necessary. Distributors and wholesalers are only seeing half the picture if they adopt one system without the other. 

Lane — ERP software is the backbone of any company and (ideally) should manage everything from creating a customer quote to getting an invoice paid and everything in between including a full accounting system. A modern ERP is cloud hosted, accessible using any device through any web browser and offer the ability to trade with customers and suppliers via EDI/XML. Cloud hosting allows for real time integration with e-commerce web stores and any other software platform such as a standalone CRM. Most ERP systems contain basic CRM functionality which suits most users, others prefer to integrate with CRM platforms like SalesForce and others. 

Hestenes — All distributors should be involved in both. 

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Software That Boosts Sales and Manages Inventory