The Attivo Blog

Aug 31 2015

What is Tokenization? Taking Payment Security to the Next Level

The need for manufacturers and distributors to be able to process credit cards is growing each and every year.  More than ever companies are moving towards digital payment methods and ecommerce to do business.  But with the need to process credit cards come the need to be PCI compliant. Having a fully PCI compliant payment gateway will protect your customers from data theft and protect you from liability.

What is PCI Compliance?

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. The payment card industry (i.e. Visa and MasterCard) have set forth a number of safety standards that all merchants who process credit cards must follow. It includes minimum standards of anti-virus and firewall protection as well as regulations on how customer financial data is stored. Failure to meet these standards can result in fines and companies can even lose the ability to process credit cards at all.  As data thieves become more sophisticated, PCI compliance standards are getting stricter. As a result, it is getting more and more difficult for small to mid-sized businesses to stay compliant.

Not all PCI Compliant Gateways are Created Equally

There are hundreds of payment gateways out there that claim to be PCI compliant.  And for the most part they are. Very few of them can integrate directly with your ERP system and even if they can be integrated, they don’t eliminate all risk.  Many PCI compliant gateways are still storing your customer’s sensitive financial data. They are just storing it on their servers instead of yours.  So while liability is shifted off of your shoulders, your customers are still vulnerable to data theft. Do you really think your customers are going to care if it was your servers or your processing partner’s servers that were hacked? They’ll still take their business elsewhere.

Why Tokenization is Different

The reason why tokenization offers next level security is because it complete eliminates the storage of any financial data anywhere. When you enter a customer’s credit card into your ERP system, a code is associated with that card.  That code is also known as a token.  Whenever that customer needs to make a payment, the token is what is passed between your ERP system and the payment gateway, meaning that the only information that a data thief can take is a bunch of random numbers and letters. It is only a matter of time before PCI compliance is going to require tokenization in a payment gateway. Now is the time to get ahead of the curve.

With the number of merchant services companies out there it is easy to just assume that they are all the same in one way, shape or form. If you need help navigating a crowded marketplace or if you have any questions about PCI compliance you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 28 2015

Understanding Maintenance Costs of Your Current ERP System is Vital

If you ever watch low brow college comedies, one relatively consistent theme is the long since graduated fraternity brother who still hangs around the frat house looking to relive his “glory” days. These characters are always out of shape and out of date, and while they know all the secret handshakes and codes, its borderline painful to watch them try to fit in with the new, young, hip crowd.

For small to midsized manufacturers running legacy or custom ERP software, their day to day operations are being run by out of date and out of shape systems that weren’t built to manage the pace of today’s business world.  Sound familiar?

The problem is that updating or upgrading those systems comes with a tremendous financial commitment – a commitment that most organizations aren’t willing to make. But when you peel back the onion, sometimes the ROI of a new ERP implementation can be accelerated by eliminating the cost of maintaining a legacy system.

Maintaining a Custom ERP System

There are plenty of organizations out there that have a custom ERP system that was built from scratch. The problems with these types of systems is that when there are any technical issues with the software, or additions need to be made to functionality, the only people who know how to fix those issues are the people who built it in the first place. Internal IT departments are tasked with maintaining the system, and as your business needs change, often times that means that the code needs to be rewritten entirely. The cost of tying up resources in maintaining a custom system coupled with lost productivity and lost growth opportunities due to the restrictive nature of a custom system can add up very quickly. Worse still, what if the individual(s) who created your custom system retire or leave your company? Who will maintain your system then? Worse yet, what happens if the system breaks and you need to transition to a new ERP system? That can add tens of thousands of dollars to your implementation costs.

The Cost of Sticking With a Legacy ERP System

ERP software vendors are constant upgrading their product offerings and coming out with new and improved software packages. But these companies also need to make sure that they aren’t spreading themselves too thin, and as a result older software packages are often times sent to that ERP pasture in the sky. And once a package has been sunsetted, getting support for that software is scarcer. And when a resource becomes scarce, it becomes more expensive. Furthermore, as technology continues to advance, your software very quickly becomes incompatible with newer technology, forcing you to leave your IT infrastructure badly outdated. Again, this results in lost revenue and growth opportunities as technology passes you by.

There are clearly a lot of costs involved when choosing a new ERP system. From software license costs, to implementation to training, it is a major financial commitment. But in order to make a completely informed decision, understanding the costs associated with not upgrading is important as well.

For more information you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 27 2015

How ERP Software Equals Going Green

Have you heard of Corporate Social Responsibility? Abbreviated as CSR, corporate social responsibility is a business model that has been adopted by numerous organizations and enterprises over the past few decades. It is a form of self-regulation, and is based on the premise that if companies do the right and responsible thing by the public and the environment, then the public will support that responsible business model and reward the company by patronizing it. In short, responsible actions should equal profits.

For this reason and others, many organizations are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment by saving valuable and precious resources and engaging in other environmentally responsible practices. Did you know that ERP software can be an important part of CSR and going green? Here are just a few ways that every business can reduce their environmental impact just by investing in ERP software.

How ERP Can Help Eliminate Paper Waste

Paper consumption impacts the environment in multiple ways. Between deforestation and fuel costs to process and transport paper, paper usage is one of the biggest ways a company can impact the environment. While ERP software is not a "paperless office" solution, there are numerous ways that ERP helps reduce the amount of paper consumed by the workplace. This helps the environment, but it also helps your bottom line, because all that paper costs money! ERP digitizes many of the regular processes that generally consume paper, such as generating reports, creating tickets, etc. EDI can automate sales and purchase orders.  Even invoicing can all be automated through your ERP system. When these things are done electronically by the ERP software, the entire workplace uses less paper, saving money and saving the planet.

How ERP Equals Going Green in Manufacturing Facilities

In manufacturing facilities, ERP helps identify areas where processes can be shortened or improved. ERP can also analyze machine use, waste, bottlenecks that slow production or contribute to inefficiencies, and even identify safety issues. With this information, manufacturers can refine their operations to improve productivity while eliminating waste. They can then make the same goods using less power, less water, and producing less contamination and waste. It's an all-around win for the manufacturer, consumer, and the environment.

How ERP Equals Going Green in Warehouses

Just as ERP software can improve processes in manufacturing, it can also track trends to maximize resources and eliminate waste in the warehouse setting. A good warehouse management system (WMS) can find ways to maximize inventory to reduce the amount of product that goes bad on the shelf, while assuring that there is always enough product on hand to fulfill orders.

ERP software can also help maximize the use of space, so that warehouses can store more inventory in smaller warehouses, lessening the amount of power and other resources it takes to run the facility. ERP software can also identify more efficient ways to stock the facility and fulfill orders, lessening the resources used to run equipment, such as pallet jacks or forklifts. This saves power while reducing waste and lessening the pollution produced by warehouses.

For more information on how ERP software can help reduce your company’s environmental impact you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.   


Aug 21 2015

3 Ways to Make ERP Customization Easier

You're sold on ERP. You know it can help control costs, improve efficiency and customer satisfaction, while giving you the power to generate reports quicker and improve visibility across the organization. You want to leverage ERP to its fullest, so that means lots of customization, right?

Well, to a point. Over-customization is the number one reason why ERP implementations go over budget, lead to disappointment, and sometimes even get scrapped before yielding a single benefit to the organization. Make yourERP implementation a success (that stays in budget and is ready on time) with these wise strategies.

Make Sure You're Using the Right ERP Software

ERP software isn't a one size fits all. There is a wide variety of solutions on the market, ranging in forms and features. By selecting an ERP that is already close to what you need, you can significantly reduce the amount of customization necessary. For example, do other businesses in your industry have success with this solution? Do companies of your size use this software? The team working on the selection process needs to be filled with representatives for all your stakeholders, including departments outside of finance and accounting.

Determine the Right Level of Customization for Your Business

While you are doing your business process assessment you need to determine your 'Must Have' and 'Would Like' features, along with 'Probably Not' and 'Definitely Not' features. Not only will this help guide the selection team, it will also keep the customization process in check. It is easier than you think to add millions of lines of custom code, along with way more time, money, labor, and other resources to the project. If you cannot express a real value for adding a feature, don't bother with customizing it. Get a product as close as possible to what you need, determine what customization will produce a measurable ROI, and stop when it's finished.

Don't Budget Too Tightly

Before the ERP selection and implementation process even begin, set a realistic budget. Budgeting the project too closely with little or no room for error is just a way of setting your team up for failure. Give them some wiggle room. The funds can always be redirected if the project comes in under the allotted budget, but it's terribly hard to add more when the annual budgets are already in place.

Whether you are looking to implement your first ERP system or are looking to upgrade from an older legacy system, there are a lot of questions to ask and steps to take in order to get the most bang for your buck.  If you have questions about the software selection process or are looking for help with implementation you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 20 2015

7 Ways Warehouse Management Software Improves Your Efficiency

Not too long ago, warehouse management software was something only the largest, most profitable warehouses invested in. Large grocery chains, department stores, and catalog order fulfillment centers had automation, while the smaller warehouses winged it with paper forms, a couple of forklifts and some dedicated workers.

That's all changed. Now, warehouse management software and automation are as important to staying competitive as is choosing the right real estate and employing experienced managers. Here's how warehouse management software can make your warehouse more efficient and more competitive.

1. Reducing Lag Time Associated with Paper Processes

Paper forms are easy to mess up. Sometimes, these forms are also hard to read, subject to ruin with the slightest coffee spill, and susceptible to easy destruction via a careless flick of a cigarette. Automating and digitizing the paperwork it takes to run your warehouse safeguards your orders, inventory forms, and other important paperwork from these potential disasters and more. Best of all, you can back the data up regularly with just a click.

2. Eliminating Human Errors

Human workers can easily transpose or neglect to enter all of the digits off of a barcode. They misread, misspell, forget, skip lines, and make other very normal human mistakes. While this is totally understandable, it's also bad for business. It leads to waste, incorrect orders, and dissatisfied customers. Warehouse management software can eliminate all of this with systems of checks and balances to keep records accurate and up to date.

3. Instilling Better Visibility into Processes

Can your managers see what your workers are up to? Can your executives see where profits are coming and where expenses are going? Do you understand where the bumps are in your supply chain or what's putting a snag in inventory control? Warehouse management software gives you greater visibility into processes, making the workflow transparent and much easier to manage.

4. Identifying and Eliminating Bottlenecks in the Processes

What are the areas that are causing holdups in your operations? Perhaps it's the layout of the warehouse, or staffing and scheduling issues, or even the order picking process. Whatever the bottlenecks are, warehouse management software can show you where the problems are so that you can streamline processes and increase productivity and efficiency.

5. Identifying and Eliminating Waste in the Processes

Are you running a first in first out (FIFO) system? Can you account for seasonal shifts in demand? Is your production floor synced with your inventory levels? A warehouse management system can help you maximize shelf space based on sales trends, and make sure that older product leaves the warehouse first in order to reduce waste. A fully integrated system can help create more efficient job scheduling as well.

6. Increasing the Accuracy of Order Fulfillment (and Other Processes)

Have human mistakes led to incomplete or incorrect order fulfillment? How much does this cost your warehouse annually? Warehouse management software automates and digitizes processes to eliminate human errors in the picking process and cut the expense of incorrect orders, which in turn leads to greater levels of customer satisfaction.

7. Collecting and Analyzing More Metrics Than You Dreamed Possible

As you can see from this list, the software gives you a means to collect and analyze data about your warehouse operations that were never possible before. There are no limits to the ways you can use these metrics to improve efficiency, cut costs, streamline operations, and improve customer satisfaction at your warehouse.

For more information on how to implement warehouse management software in your business you can download this free ROI Calculator or call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486.


Aug 19 2015

3 Reasons Why Manufacturers Should Adopt Ecommerce Platforms Today

It’s no secret that ecommerce sales have been continuously been trending upwards for several years now, and there is no sign of those numbers plateauing any time soon. Most people associate mega-retailers like Amazon and Alibaba with ecommerce, which is the traditional B2C model that focuses more on retail.  But what many people don’t realize is that B2B ecommerce figures are skyrocketing as well.

Your Customers are shifting to an Ecommerce Mentality

According to a recent study done by Frost & Sullivan, B2B ecommerce transactions are expected to eclipse $12 trillion dollars worldwide by 2020.  That is up from $5.5 trillion in 2012. While those numbers do include EDI transactions, “traditional” ecommerce transactions are still in the billions of dollars. When you think about it, it’s only natural that suppliers and vendors are starting to shift their mentality towards online buying platforms. Once they punch out at the end of the day, your customers are every day consumers, acclimated to ecommerce transactions and the use of mobile technology to make their lives easier. They carry those expectations into their business worlds, and if you aren't providing them with a great user experience, you run the risk of losing them to a competitor.

Your Customers Live Online

That same study by Frost & Sullivan found that B2B customers are relying more and more on the internet to drive their purchasing behavior. According to their survey, 89% of B2B buyers are using the internet to do research, and are conducting an average of 12 searches before engaging a company. Even more telling, 57% of the buying process is already done before a B2B consumer engages your sales team. Having a website that is set up to make it easy for buyers to find what they are looking for, give visibility into availability of items and guide them through your sales pipeline will increase your sales. A B2B ecommerce consumer is 3x more likely to convert into a sale when compared to someone in a traditional sales process.

Integration with Your ERP System

In addition to making the sales process easier for your customer, an ecommerce platform makes your business more efficient on the back end.  Integrated solutions like BirdDog for Macola close all of the loops in your sales process.  Inventory is automatically updated when orders are placed, providing visibility to your purchasing manager. Transactions are conducted online, typically by credit card, meaning accounts receivable isn’t having to chase down invoices and cash flow is far more liquid.

An online order platform isn’t going to replace the traditional sales model.  After all, B2B ecommerce transactions only account for about 10% of all B2B transactions worldwide. But the numbers show that the B2B mentality is mirroring the trends of the B2C market.  For more information on whether or not an ecommerce platform is right for your business you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.


Aug 13 2015

Multi-Site ERP: Standardizing Your System in Multiple Locations

Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or in the service industry, if your business is run from multiple sites standardizing your ERP system can be a major challenge.  If you are undergoing your first ERP implementation, the idea of trying to coordinate across multiple sites can be so daunting that you put off the project completely.  But there are ways to reduce the stress involved and get a system up and running that is uniform across all locations and makes data analysis far more transparent.

Cloud ERP can Link Multiple Locations

A cloud hosted ERP solution might be the easiest way to pull off a uniform implementation.  You can purchase your software licenses and host the software in one centralized location. All customizations are uniform because there is only one software platform being used, and there is a single point of system access for all users.  All data from all sites are entered into the same system, making company-wide reporting far more accurate and providing a very clear picture of how the business is operating. Over the long haul, this would be the most cost-effective way as IT infrastructure and maintenance costs for multiple locations would be greatly reduced if not eliminated altogether.

Multi-Phased Roll Out

There is a possibility that having a single system for multiple locations isn’t entirely practical.  Perhaps one location needs specific customizations that aren’t needed at another location. The only way to understand this is to do a comprehensive business process assessment at each location.  Figure out which processes can be uniform across all sites and which processes might need to be customized depending on location. From there, you need to prioritize your sites.  The most critical sites need to be implemented first, followed by the next important and so on. Trying to implement everything all at once would leave too many opportunities for a weak link in the chain to go unnoticed through and create problems down the road.  Be sure to document your implementations and have a checklist.  A well thought out project plan is critical to achieving desired ROI.  That is exponentially truer when trying to synchronize an implementation across multiple locations over an extended period of time.

ERP implementations aren’t easy.  Trying to sync an implementation over multiple sites is that much more difficult.  If your business currents operates in multiple locations and you are looking for more information on how to synch those sites under one system you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 orcontact us here


Aug 11 2015

3 Resons CRM & ERP are Top-Notch Teammates

There are numerous tools out there to streamline business processes, collect data, and improve customer service. CRM software is generally the property of the sales and marketing departments. It records and manages customer information in a standardized format and stores it in a centralized location. CRM makes it easy to share information between the sales and marketing departments and upper management. CRM also helps these departments better work together and improve the customer experience.

ERP, on the other hand, is usually relegated to accounting and operations departments. This software tracks and manages inventory, schedules jobs and manages the general ledger. ERP improves business processes, betters the workflow, and delivers integration of operational data.

Have you ever stopped to consider how integrating CRM with ERP could improve the functionality of both software solutions? As it turns out, software vendors like Exact Software think these integrations are so powerful that they have included Synergy CRM as a component of their newest ERP offering, Exact Macola 10. The thinking being that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.

1. CRM + ERP Bring Data From Multiple Departments Together

At best, CRM and ERP each benefit just a couple of departments. However, the data and insight that these products deliver when integrated can benefit the entire organization. Every department -- including sales, marketing, accounting, finance, operations/production, research and development, and others -- can contribute data and derive insight from the data.

2. CRM + ERP Standardizes Data for Easy Access & Use

The most valuable commodity a modern company has is not its properties or assets or even its brand name. It's data. Data is powerful when it is standardized and consolidated. Many organizations keep data in silos -- isolated. However, when it is normalized and combined, it delivers far more powerful insight and value than it could when separated. Your organization can get deeper insight, better visibility into customers, and a clearer picture of internal operations. This shows where there is room for improvement, where the bottlenecks are, and where to eliminate waste.

3. CRM + ERP Gives the Organization a More Comprehensive View of the Customer

What do your customers need? What is their history with the organization in terms of orders, customer service, technical support, and payments? Is their account in good standing? What might they need next week, or next month, or even next year? By combining the data from your CRM and ERP software, you can know your customers individually and personally for a more complete customer experience at every touchpoint.

To learn more about the benefits of integrating your CRM and ERP solutions you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.



Aug 07 2015

Understanding Lot Control and Why It May Save Your Business

We recently visited a prospective client who was looking for an ERP software solution and upon walking into their offices we knew we were facing a challenge. They were a manufacturer and distributor in an industry that was highly regulated by the government, yet they had no real systems in place. There were Post-It notes everywhere. Order entry, purchasing, inventory — it was all being done on sticky notes. Naturally one of our first questions to them was what do they do when there is a recall? Their reply — “It’s never happened before.”

This is a relatively common philosophy that we come across when meeting with companies and it’s a recipe for disaster. People don’t wait until their kitchen catches on fire to purchase homeowners insurance.  For the same reasons, manufacturers and distributors shouldn’t be waiting for disaster to strike before investing in an inventory management system.

While most Tier 2 ERP solutions have some sort of inventory control module, for companies in certain industries, a more robust solution is typically desired. Companies that deal in aerospace, food and medical device manufacturing and distribution are often subjected to very strict government regulation. And when a product gets recalled for any reason, there needs to be a system in place that can mitigate damages as well as satisfy government auditors that all risks have been contained.

Why Use Lot Control?

Bar code scanning systems like WiSys for Exact Macola 10 allow these companies to institute lot control on a very granular level. For food manufacturers, a lot can be as specific as a batch of apples processed on a specific day from a specific orchard. The more specific the lot assignment is for a specific product, the less damage that will be done in the event of a recall.

Sticking with food manufacturing, let’s say the FDA tracks a bacteria breakout to one of your products. If you have no lot control, all of those products need to be recalled, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. But let’s say you had a separate lot number assigned for each processing plant you operate.  That will immediately mitigate costs divided by the number of plants you operate.  And in those plants, of you get even more specific with your lot control, assigning lots for specific date ranges and further assigning lot numbers for specific fields or orchards where the food came from, and you can see how quickly damages can be minimized.

Lot control can and has been the difference between companies managing a recall or going out of business completely. Not only can the lost inventory be devastating financially, but government agencies often times won’t let a company resume business until they have implemented some sort of satisfactory lot control system.

Find out how to implement lot control with your ERP software

It simply doesn’t make sense to wait for a disaster to happen before you start to protect yourself.  For more information about lot control and inventory management you can call The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here


Aug 05 2015

3 Legacy Limitations that Might Signal it’s Time for an Upgrade

Whether you are running a completely custom ERP package or you are running an older version of software from a known suite, legacy systems can reach a point where they are causing more harm than good.  As businesses grow and technologies change, older systems sometimes can’t keep up.  Here are 3 signs that it might be time to scrap your old legacy system and slip into something a bit more comfortable.

Your Software is Incompatible with Current Server Software

This isn’t just an issue with completely custom systems.  There are several software products from big name manufacturers that get sunsetted and aren’t updated to stay compatible with the newest server software. This especially becomes a problem when your current in-house infrastructure starts to sputter. A cloud hosted system isn’t an option and eventually you’re conducting voodoo rituals in your server room every morning praying for another day of uninterrupted productivity. While a completely new ERP implementation can be pricy, imagine how expensive it might be to lose all your data because your server died and you can’t move existing software to new machines.

Support Options Are Getting More and More Limited

It’s an inevitability that support organizations tend to move with technology.  Nobody is making their fortunes maintaining first generation iPhones. There might be a niche market for older legacy software, but the individuals supporting that market start to become fewer and further between. Even worse, what if the guy that wrote your custom software retires and moves to Florida? What do you do if your system breaks down and there is nobody able to fix it? Making decisions due to a lack of options is never a strong business position to be in.

Your System Can No Longer Process Demand

Older ERP systems have a tendency to cap data and record counts depending on the module. Your business has grown, some modules have been able to adapt, while others haven’t. This can create several issues. Let’s say that your inventory module had a records cap.  That cap was put in place 10 years ago when the system was initially implemented, but today you are regularly processing orders that exceed that cap.  This can set off a chain reaction that causes inaccurate inventory counts, which can influence purchasing to place orders for product that isn’t needed.  Manufacturing production might end up being delayed because the system is telling them that there aren’t enough raw materials on hand to complete the job, even though there is.  Cash flow is rerouted to departments unnecessarily and reports are out of whack. All of this costs you money and prevents you from providing your customers with the service that they need.

There are many software platforms that can run your business for many years without major issues like these.  But if your current software isn’t scaling up to grow with your business or is preventing you from taking advantage of new technologies, it is definitely time to look into upgrading your software. If you have any questions about what to look for in a new system, or you just need help determining if your current systems need replacing, you can contact The Attivo Group at 877-428-8486 or contact us here.