Epicor discusses the issues raised in Builders’ Merchants News’ round table debate on ERP systems last September.

The merchant industry—and construction in general—is well known for its reliance on pen and paper. So, it’s perhaps unsurprising that at a recent roundtable discussion on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, hosted by Epicor Software and Builders’ Merchants News, the initial conversation centered around potential implementation challenges.

With some still nervous about moving to digital, one of the first questions raised at the roundtable was how to roll out ERP technology smoothly. This was quickly followed by concern about training branch employees to use these new systems. However, with today’s trade customers now expecting to compile even high value orders in seconds, it’s vital the yard is digitally connected to the trade counter.

Introducing an ERP system requires the adoption of different approaches to day-to-day practices, but these challenges are not insurmountable. As Nick Howarth from Howarth Timber pointed out, when electronic point of sale terminals were first introduced around 20 years ago this represented a big change—now the technology has become commonplace. As he said: “It is just about getting staff used to the change.” He went on say the widespread adoption of smartphones highlights just how competent the majority of workers are when it comes to using new digital technologies.

At Epicor we believe that working with an ERP system provider should be effortless. Indeed, our ‘Ease of Everything’ mantra means our software is designed to be intuitive to use, so that users can simply focus on getting the job done.

Easy to deploy, access and learn, our Epicor BisTrack solution gives users the ability to quickly compare how branches are performing year-on-year, as well as seeing product trends and rebates. Offering accurate, real-time reporting of where stock is, anywhere in the business—across warehouses and different branches—users can compile orders in seconds, track stock movement and margins, and see what replenishment requirements are.

During the roundtable discussion, participants highlighted some of the other benefits they’d gained from implementing ERP software. Like being able to transfer stock between branches, if it sells better at one location over another. Or being able to view stock in all depots on one screen, spotting trends, and undertaking more accurate forecasting.

For others the top gain was the fact that ERP is faster than using a pen and paper, and reduces the risk of human error. Kevin Payne, from Building and Plumbing Supplies, added that better stock management helps merchants to make better use of their counter displays and avoid gaping holes caused by missing stock. Shelves will, instead, be full and well presented.

Resistance to change isn’t unusual, but a digital transformation must happen if a business is to keep up with competitors. As Andy Calise from Arnold Laver so neatly concluded: “You cannot stay on paper forever. If you don’t change, you are going to get left behind.”