For businesses involved in retail and distribution, it's essential to have solutions that can trace products across the entire value chain, guarantee accurate data collection and analysis, and adapt to sudden changes from suppliers and manufacturers. Read how Infor CloudSuite provides complete control across the value chain.
We might not always consider the extensive requirements necessary for stores to be well-stocked with all kinds of goods, whether it's groceries, clothing and sports equipment, or other specialized items.
Distributors often operate behind the scenes in the retail industry. This applies not only to trade, but most industries will suffer if logistics aren’t in place. Construction projects come to a halt if tools, machinery, and materials aren’t available. Restaurants cannot serve their customers if ingredients and kitchenware are out of stock.
The agreed-upon goods must arrive at the right place at the right time without waste, errors, or deficiencies. It may seem simple, but in a value chain with several stakeholders in multiple countries around the globe, it’s like solving a puzzle with many complex pieces. That’s why having an ERP system specifically designed for retail and distribution offers significant advantages.
At the same time, it’s important to have a partner specialized in retail and distribution such as Columbus. But first, more about the trends.
Four important trends in retail & distribution
The pandemic has shown us that significant and unexpected changes can occur at any moment, impacting logistics and commerce worldwide across all borders. While such extensive crises are fortunately rare, more often, new requirements emerge from regulatory authorities or consumer demands. Additionally, trade boycotts or the necessity to sever ties with suppliers can arise for various reasons.
Changes can also result from competitive situations or market shifts. "These significant and rapid changes place high demands on business systems, specifically Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems," - says Per Christian Øen, Business Solution Director at Columbus.
Large, unpredictable, and rapid changes in the value chain are just one of the trends in distribution and logistics. Other trends include:
- Increasing automation
- Data capture and analysis using Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Increased use of sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Below, we’ll elaborate on how these three trends affect retail, distribution, and logistics.
The ongoing trend of automating previously manual processes offers several benefits:
- Lower costs
- Faster processes and administration
- Fewer errors
- Increased accuracy
- Improved control
IoT and RFID
After the pandemic, the use of various types of sensors throughout entire or parts of the value chains accelerated. This includes both RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification) and sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT). While both technologies have been in use for several years, they’re becoming increasingly affordable to leverage year by year.
RFID is an ideal solution for quickly gaining insight into the contents of items such as pallets or boxes, as well as monitoring conditions during transportation. When this data is synchronized with the ERP system, users gain real-time insight into what’s happening in the value chain.
Here are some examples:
- Using RFID, you can receive alerts related to the status of the inventory before the situation escalates, such as high or low temperatures
- Inventory and supply status are automatically updated in the ERP system, reducing manual work and minimizing errors. The time saved on stocktaking can be used by employees to further improve the flow of goods and optimize the value chain
- RFID technology enhances the tracking and control of goods flow and helps mitigate shrinkage. This information can be used to provide better customer service and predict demand.
Data capture and data analysis
RFID and IoT play crucial roles in data collection. Just like RFID/IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have now established themselves as technologies that more and more businesses are adopting.
With larger amounts of data and more opportunities to gather data from different parts of the value chain, tools for analyzing and transforming the data into valuable insights are becoming increasingly important. AI and ML are powerful tools that are essential when dealing with large amounts of data.
"In an increasingly volatile world, it becomes more important to make decisions based on facts, not gut feelings or assumptions. Steering based on data-driven decisions is key if a business is to operate profitably and ultimately survive in an industry with tough, global competition," - emphasizes Per Christian Øen at Columbus.
How can AI and ML be useful?
With the help of AI, your business can analyze large amounts of data and lay the foundation for forecasts, predictions, and calculations that would otherwise take employees a significant amount of time to put together. ML, a subset of AI, further enhances these capabilities.
Together, AI and ML can help companies in commerce and distribution with:
- Predicting demand and laying the groundwork for more accurate decisions
- Speeding up order placement and increasing efficiency
- Optimizing routes for faster deliveries
- Uncovering supply problems and potential inventory issues before they arise
By leveraging these opportunities, your business can have satisfied and productive employees and happy customers.
Listen to our podcast if you would like to learn more about the transformation of the distribution industry. We share a wealth of actionable business tips.
Four main reasons to choose Infor CloudSuite and Columbus
In order to optimize the flow of goods and products and deliver the agreed-upon customer service, a company must have a modern and agile business system. The ERP system needs to cater to the unique needs of different players in various value chains while also handling current and future technologies.
This is only possible with a cloud-based business system. Infor CloudSuite provides four significant competitive advantages:
- Industry-specific solutions for retail and distribution with deep functionality for each industry: Infor CloudSuite offers specialized solutions tailored to the needs of retail and distribution businesses, providing comprehensive functionality designed for specific industry requirements
- Short implementation time based on functionality and APIs to key third-party solutions in retail and distribution: Infor CloudSuite offers a streamlined implementation process, leveraging its pre-built functionality and APIs that seamlessly integrate with essential third-party solutions commonly used in retail and distribution industries
- Multi-tenant cloud solution with continuous updates and a significantly lower total cost compared to many competitors: Infor CloudSuite is a multi-tenant cloud-based solution that ensures continuous updates, allowing businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest features and functionalities. Additionally, it offers a cost-effective approach, minimizing total costs of ownership compared to many competitors in the market
- Columbus specializes in selected industries, and retail and distribution is one of them: Columbus’ expertise and deep understanding of the unique challenges and requirements of these industries make them an ideal choice for businesses in need of an ERP system
These points are interconnected and demonstrate why Infor CloudSuite should be a top consideration for players in retail, distribution, and logistics seeking a new ERP system.
Specialized industry solutions
Infor has chosen several industries where they deliver market-leading business systems. In these selected industries, Infor has developed solutions tailored to specific micro-verticals.
"For example, in retail and distribution, there are specific adaptations for sales, omnichannel planning, inventory management, wholesalers, and component distribution," - says Per Christian Øen.
Infor allocates $3million annually to the research and development of systems targeting these micro-verticals. As a result, the industry solutions come with comprehensive deep functionality tailored to each specific vertical.
For wholesalers, features such as currency management, adaptations to different countries' regulations, and customs documentation are crucial functionalities in the ERP system. These functionalities are built into Infor CloudSuite. Therefore, during implementation, it becomes a configuration task rather than ERP system development.
Shorter implementation time
At some competitors, it’s the partner network that handles such functionality. This can lead to varying levels of customization tailored to each industry. Additionally, these feature-rich industry solutions contribute to significantly shorter implementation times compared to most competitors.
Infor has developed a 60-30-10 methodology, where 60% of the solution is delivered "out of the box," 30% of the delivery consists of configurations tailored to the industry and vertical, while the remaining 10% of the ERP implementation focuses on development and integrations specific to each company.
"One of the major advantages of Infor's cloud platform is Infor OS. It supports development and customizations with minimal need for coding," - says Per Christian Øen at Columbus.
The ready-made APIs also contribute to simplifying the implementation process. Integrating solutions from other vendors is often a significant and challenging task in many ERP projects. However, with Infor CloudSuite, most integrations become simpler with the ready-made APIs.
Lower implementation and operational costs
An increasing number of businesses across industries are concerned about avoiding long, resource-intensive, and often risky IT projects.
It has become more important for IT projects to start quickly and for companies to reap the benefits of the chosen systems early on. By opting for a multi-tenant cloud solution, these needs can be met.
The trend of moving heavy systems to the cloud has not only persisted but also intensified. In recent years, the cloud trend has also encompassed the mission-critical ERP systems that manage finance, production, logistics, and most other parts of the value chain.
However, there are significant differences among ERP systems in terms of how far they’ve progressed in becoming a true, fully-fledged multi-tenant cloud platform. Multi-tenant means that a single software solution and its surrounding infrastructure serve multiple customers. This means that customers share the software and database, but each customer's data is isolated and invisible to other customers using the same software and database.
The major advantage is that integration with other systems becomes easier, and the overall operating cost is low compared to single-tenant setups.
"Infor CloudSuite is somewhat of a hidden gem. Right now, Infor is several years ahead of competitors when it comes to multi-tenant cloud solutions. On the path to developing a true cloud platform, Infor has focused on developing integration interfaces and APIs with the best and most widely used IT solutions in retail, distribution, and logistics," - says Per Christian Øen at Columbus.
Infor's cloud platform also offers the flexibility to easily adopt various solutions and add-ons, such as integration with apps and mobile devices. The system is specifically designed to harness advanced analytics (a form of AI) for streamlining the value chain, enabling predictive maintenance, and making forecasts related to market developments and demand within selected market segments.
Infor CloudSuite is updated every month, providing a range of benefits compared to traditional on-premises ERP systems. The system is continuously updated, eliminating the need for large and costly update projects. This increases flexibility and scalability, allowing quick adaptation to changes from the manufacturer, the market, or the industry.
The monthly updates of Infor CloudSuite encompass everything from solution optimization to the development of new functionality that supports best practices in the industry and addresses emerging market trends.
With a modern, cloud-based ERP platform specifically designed for the needs of retail, distribution, and logistics, your business has the opportunity to make significant advancements in automation, better data utilization, and gain valuable insights throughout the supply chain. The result is increased innovation, higher revenue, improved profitability, and enhanced competitiveness.
A remarkable cloud transformation at Jernia
Now, let's take a closer look at our customer, Jernia, which has not only embraced the cloud but also established itself as one of the leaders in the industry. This Norwegian distributor offers an extensive product range, including household goods, kitchen equipment, hardware, tools, paint, grills, and interior furnishings.
Recognizing the need to stay ahead of the competition in the retail industry, Jernia took a bold step. In partnership with Columbus, they decided to replace their outdated ERP system with an industry-specific cloud platform - Infor CloudSuite. This project wasn't just a software switch; it was a significant transformation, and Jernia executed it with remarkable efficiency.
Now, let's explore the impressive advantages that Jernia gained from this cloud journey:
1. Efficiency and punctuality: Jernia not only met their project's timeline and budget but also maintained top-notch quality standards.
2. Prepared for tomorrow: Jernia now has a modern ERP platform, perfectly prepared to adapt to the new requirements of the retail industry.
3. Beyond expectations: Infor CloudSuite went beyond meeting Jernia's tough requirements for uptime, scalability, and security. This strong foundation allowed for further refinement of their omnichannel strategy, ensuring excellent customer service.
4. Minimal downtime: Jernia's strategic decision to reduce operational risks and ensure stability with minimal downtime became a reality thanks to Infor CloudSuite's technology.
5. Alignment with commercial ambitions: The project seamlessly synchronized with Jernia's business aspirations, strengthening their ability to innovate and revamp operations.
"Our goal was to create a solution where most processes relied on standard functionality. We achieved this with less than 5% requiring customizations. Columbus provided valuable input on how to address and implement these changes in our system,"- says Stian Nybro, Business Systems and Project Manager at Jernia.
Jernia's success story is a powerful illustration of how Infor CloudSuite becomes a valuable resource for businesses seeking to adapt to market changes, streamline operations, and maximize cloud capabilities.
For more information, please feel free to contact us.