As a critical cog in the supply chain, distribution companies face significant pressure from all sides. Upstream members of the supply chain, like manufacturers and suppliers, rely on wholesale distributors to get their products to retailers and end-users. Likewise, retailers need reliable distribution partners to optimize customer satisfaction and avoid stockouts.
Keeping everyone happy requires an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that is purpose-built for distribution industries, but finding the ideal platform for your business processes can be a challenge due to the sheer number of options that are out there.
Fortunately, the following list of the ten best distribution ERP software solutions can help you cut through the noise and find a solid, cloud-based ERP platform for your distribution business.
First and foremost, cloud-based ERP software is an enterprise resource planning solution delivered via the cloud. Instead of investing in on-premise servers and equipment, you can rent server space from a cloud services provider and license the ERP software from a vendor. The cloud-based approach provides better scalability and lower upfront costs, both of which are appealing factors to any business preparing for a massive technology overhaul.
In addition to being more scalable, cloud solutions give you on-demand access to extra storage and computing resources. This way, your distribution ERP software can always evolve with the needs of your business.
Before diving into the list of today’s top distribution ERP software platforms, it’s important to first recap what you can achieve with modern ERP technology at your disposal.
With that said, by adopting a robust new ERP platform, you will enjoy benefits such as those outlined below:
An exceptional ERP platform will bring all of your core distribution processes together under one umbrella. You can reduce your reliance on manual processes and eliminate bottlenecks from your workflows. Distribution ERP software also includes tools for tasks such as:
With the power of a cloud-based ERP solution, distribution businesses can be transformed into finely tuned machines while also allowing sources of waste to be pinpointed, efficiency to be optimized, and the stage to be set for long-term business growth.
Inventory management becomes a recurring nightmare when you rely on a disjointed network of aging applications, as those disconnected solutions don’t provide the visibility you need to manage inventory and prevent stockouts. As a result, you often have to rely on guesswork or engage in overordering, which negatively impacts your liquidity.
Ditching your antiquated technology for an all-in-one ERP system will unify your warehouse operations and sales channels. By merging these integral business processes, you can maintain real-time visibility of your inventory and avoid disappointing your customers.
Warehouse management capabilities are one of the key aspects of cloud-based ERP software. The integrated tools included in today’s leading platforms are designed to provide management with real-time visibility into warehouse performance and efficiency. You can even integrate your line-level technology, such as sensors and equipment, with your ERP platform to obtain granular data and information regarding what happens on the warehouse floor.
Additionally, ERP solutions promote cross-departmental collaboration, which means your warehouse, distribution, and administrative teams will all be able to work together to solve whatever problems come their way. Pooling their collective talents means they will be able to quickly navigate efficiency barriers and push your business closer to achieving its operational goals.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. Nurturing your relationships with them while maximizing retention is key to the continuity of your business.
With a cloud-based ERP solution, your sales team and distribution personnel can collaborate to keep them all happy. From managing recurring orders to processing returns or handling unusually large requests, your ERP platform can handle and help.
The best enterprise resource planning solutions even include built-in customer relationship management (CRM) modules, which your sales and marketing staff can use to follow up with customers, gauge their satisfaction, and encourage repeat business.
Distribution ERP software can be a double-edged sword. It may be tempting to choose the cheapest solution out there, but doing so could leave you with a rigid platform that lacks the features or scalability you need. On the opposite extreme, if you implement a platform that is too complex for your business, you could be paying for functionality that you ultimately don’t need.
Ideally, you want a distribution ERP software that meets your current needs while also offering enough scalability to support the evolution of your business. If you choose the right solution, you’ll enjoy a strong return on investment and gain an edge within your vertical.
With that being said, the list below shines a spotlight on ten of today’s best distribution ERP software platforms, including enterprise-grade solutions and more economical options for small to midsize distributors.
For over two decades, Oracle NetSuite has represented the pinnacle of enterprise resource planning technology. Like many popular solutions, Oracle NetSuite uses a modular-based architecture, allowing you to choose the exact loadout of applications you want to be included in your platform.
Due to the complexity of deploying Oracle NetSuite, it is typically best suited for mid-sized to large organizations. But the platform still includes modules for just about every business process you can think of, including HR, accounting, omnichannel commerce, and inventory management.
Oracle regularly publishes updates and bug fixes as well, ensuring that the platform offers exceptional reliability.
SAP S/4HANA is the latest iteration of SAP’s ERP platform, which, like Oracle, is best suited for enterprise-grade organizations and mid-sized distributors. However, due to its customizability, it can be tailored to meet the needs of virtually any distribution company, and it can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud, or via a hybrid architecture.
The SAP S/4 HANA platform is filled with tools and notable key features, including robust AI and analytics capabilities. You can use these tools to track everything—from department-level performance to your company’s overall efficiency—and obtain detailed insights about the state of your distribution business.
Though SAP Business ByDesign (ByD) is the predecessor of the SAP S/4HANA platform, many businesses still use it today. Whereas SAP S/4HANA is geared toward enterprise-grade distribution companies, SAP ByD is more aligned with the needs of small to mid-market businesses.
If you are familiar with the SAP ecosystem of solutions and fall into that small to mid-market category, SAP ByDesign is certainly worth a look. Like its more robust counterpart, SAP ByD uses a modular framework and scalable pricing, and it features tools for supplier relationship management, inventory management, and analytics.
Acumatica ERP software is a great match for small to mid-sized businesses. It features customizable workflows, plenty of modules to choose from and add as your needs evolve, and an intuitive interface. In addition, as a cloud-based solution, Acumatica offers on-demand access to computing resources and storage.
One of the key differentiators of Acumatica is its unique billing model. Most distribution ERP software platforms use a hybrid billing model that charges you based on three factors: the number of modules you implement, your consumption, and the number of users or “seats” you need.
But Acumatica doesn’t charge by the user, meaning you can enroll as many employees as you like without additional costs. Your costs are determined by your consumption and the modules you implement.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is an all-in-one ERP platform that helps small to mid-sized companies consolidate their business processes. It includes tools that are purpose-built for distributors, as well as finance, HR, and sales modules. Furthermore. If your organization already uses Microsoft solutions like SharePoint and Office, implementing Dynamics 365 can be a seamless process.
Like other top cloud solutions, Microsoft gives you the freedom to deploy Dynamics 365 on your terms. Whether you prefer the oversight of the on-premise approach or the scalability of a cloud-based model, you can choose to pursue whatever works best for your business.
As an added benefit, there are a plethora of third-party providers that offer complementary solutions for Dynamics 365. Cavallo, for instance, provides a robust order management platform designed to streamline and optimize Business Central data to achieve dramatic operational improvements and financial gains for users. Cavallo’s solutions for efficient order entry, flexible workflows, and unmatched visibility into the sales cycle enable you to derive even better value from the Dynamics 365 platform.
Sage X3 is a versatile and customizable distribution ERP software that includes a wide range of modules, including sales and financial management tools. This platform also offers cloud or on-premise deployment options alongside plenty of APIs to integrate with your other software.
In terms of pricing, Sage X3 falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. It’s not the cheapest option out there, but also far from the most expensive. Overall, it delivers adequate value for the money and is scalable enough to meet the needs of small to mid-sized distributors. Large distributors could reap some benefits from Sage X3, but they would be better served by a true enterprise-grade solution.
The Epicor platform is a well-rounded solution for wholesale distributors, best suited for small to mid-market companies.
Whereas many vendors offer multi-industry solutions, Epicor specializes in producing distribution ERP software, which means the company’s tools are capable of tackling some of the greatest pain points for distributors, such as a lack of process visibility and the need for real-time reporting capabilities.
Infor M3 is a cloud-based ERP system known for its intuitive user interface and powerful workflow automation capabilities. It is a true leading-edge solution that provides exceptional functionality and a broad array of tools.
With Infor M3, you will enjoy your choice of deployment options, including hybrid, on-premise, or pure cloud-based, though many businesses opt for the latter approach due to the agility that a cloud-based approach provides.
In any case, with its design for mid-market and enterprise-level businesses, Infor M3 offers the sort of scalability and resources the world’s top distributors are looking for.
SYSPRO is a distributor and manufacturer-centric ERP solution that includes powerful tools for inventory, order, and production management. It also offers advanced reporting capabilities and a scalable architecture. With both on-premise and cloud deployment options, SYSPRO is a good fit for distributors of all sizes.
SYSPRO also has an expansive community of developers, meaning there is no shortage of third-party add-ons available, and the vendor also relies on its global partner network to assist clients with deployments and configurations.
Rootstock Cloud ERP is a bit of a niche option, as it is a piece of enterprise resource planning technology that was initially designed specifically for businesses running Salesforce.
Built for supply chain organizations like manufacturers and distributors, Rootstock Cloud ERP provides the resource management tools that Salesforce lacks while seamlessly integrating with the popular CRM service.
However, if your organization is not already using Salesforce, implementing Rootstock Cloud ERP would be a monumental task, as you would be rolling out two major platforms simultaneously.
When exploring these (and other) distribution ERP software solutions, you should consider factors like the short and long-term costs of your business, the scalability of each platform, their organizational fit, and the quality of their developer communities.
Keep an eye out for options that include robust capabilities when it comes to sales order management, inventory management, and eCommerce integrations. If you prioritize these elements and keep them in mind as you demo various options, you’ll be able to select the one that works best for your needs.