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10 ways a cloud ERP system can drive sustainability in your merchant business

Sustainability must remain at the top of the business agenda. We are facing enormous challenges in our future, with Covid-19 and Brexit dominating many headlines, but climate change needs consistent, sustained effort and we all need to do what we can.

Business practices have moved on a long way in recent years, and the rise of cloud technology has expedited a number of efficiencies which can have significant impact on sustainability. If you are using an industry-specific, cloud based ERP system to control your merchant operations, here are just 10 of the ways your software can drive enhanced sustainability.

1. Use less paper

A cloud system enables the simple transfer and recording of digital documents, even down to delivery notes and PoDs. Add in POs, invoicing, digital product certification and so on, and you can start to see how the quantities of paper being used across the business can quickly rack up.

2. Source responsibly

Your software can help you to actively seek out the most responsible, sustainable sources of materials, whether that be FSC and PEFC certified timber or simple comparisons between steel sources and suitability.

3. Certification documenting

Thanks to digital documentation and simpler filing, it’s never been easier to store, access and filter product certification, helping you to select responsible materials in the first place and ensure the audit trail is intact from supplier to end user.

4. Reduce waste

This is a broad one (and we expand on it further below). But with more efficient stock management comes reduced wastage, as you manage overstocks more effectively and streamline processes. But there is also a reduction of administrative time and wasted resource on the running and documentation of the business, including paperwork, to reduce waste in many ways throughout the business.

5. Logistics efficiency

Your ERP system can help you drive significant efficiencies in your logistics and supply chain. For one thing, having clear and holistic control over the movement of stock and orders can help you combine orders and reduce low-volume or inefficient deliveries, but you can also improve route-mapping efficiency to reduce mileage and time spent on the road. You can also improve turnaround time and avoid waste through enhanced management of orders going directly from supplier to customer, or back-to-back deliveries through your sites.

6. Workforce capability and flex

A cloud ERP system enables more flexible and remote working, requiring fewer staff to be on site, fewer journeys being made for office time or meetings, and can facilitate a much more agile workforce with more efficient working practices. And the simpler it is to use, the more engaged and productive your workforce will be, improving productivity and helping every member of the team to develop faster and further than ever before.

7. Hardware

Legacy systems often require cumbersome servers and hardware, which need regular updating, not to mention on-site servicing. A true cloud-based ERP system allows you to run your business on your smart device and is hosted in the cloud, negating the need for material-hungry specialist hardware and visits to the site for updates.

8. Re-deploy, re-use, re-cycle

Using your ERP system to drive effective and accurate stock management has so many benefits for sustainability it requires more than one point in this list. Using various KPIs, such as stock turn, stock value, order frequency and so on, you can see very easily which products are driving your business forward and which are languishing in the yard, costing you more than they’re making. Identifying these culprits can present great opportunities for repositioning or re-using products in other ways; if you’re selling out of 2m lengths of timber but overflowing with 4m, there seems a simple solution.

9. Agility to reclassify and use “less than perfect” products

Just as supermarkets have been on a drive to reduce waste and sell "wonky" fruit and veg, there are plenty of products that are damaged in transit or production which would normally be written off and wasted, but which retain functional use. Because your ERP system should give you the flexibility to create your own product lines, you can still use these where there is a functional need, perhaps at a lower price point or as an add-on for “behind-the-scenes” materials which don’t need to be beautiful to do their jobs. Split packs or make up your own – whatever you need to and however you want to do it, the flexibility is there at your fingertips to ensure you have the power to reduce waste significantly.

10. Boost profitability to stay in business

As Lord Deben said at the BMF Annual Conference, sustainability is not just about climate change and environmentalism. It is also about educating your staff to help customers make more sustainable choices, and above all, staying in business. Economies need sustaining too and in the construction industry we have a collective responsibility to source responsibly and educate customers in sustainable practices – so the number one concern is staying in business to do those things.

With an intelligent, cloud-based ERP system to help you operate your business more efficiently and use more data-driven decision-making, waste goes down and profits go up. You stay in business, employ good people, educate customers and have the platform to do more good. And that is a win-win if ever we’ve seen one.

“This is a future we know we have to have. Climate change has shown us the path we need to be on. This is not an add-on, or an extra. It’s what you need to do, to be profitable and to safeguard your business. If you don’t, others will, and you will lose out. …To be a successful merchant, that’s where you need to go, and you’ll make the world a better place in the process.” - Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change
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