BMI Microsoft Dynamics NAV Blog

Kinder and Cheaper Robots Bring Automation To Distributors

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 25, 2017 2:20:59 PM


Robots are all around us. They are delivering room service, vacuuming your floors, and even showing up for work to stock shelves. Restaurants are placing small monitors on tables so customers can re-order drinks and pay their bill. 

When you order a drink from McDonalds, workers place empty cups under drink dispensers and they automatically fill them up to the top while employees do other tasks. In the healthcare industry robots are operating with precision on human beings as physicians instruct them from another room.

You have probably heard about the electronic labor force at Amazon; There are thousands of robots in warehouses across the country. Robots made by Kiva Systems (Amazon bought the company for $775 million in 2012), are being used to better handle the avalanche of orders placed every second. The robots bring shelves of goods from storage and carry them straight to human workers to process.

I read that Amazon employees were complaining about walking 15 miles a day to retrieve goods for orders; they don’t have any problem with robots handling that part of their job. Also, with the introduction of delivery drones into the supply chain, (being tested now), a new level of customer service is possible.

As a small business owner, you may think robotics are too expensive for your organization. But times are changing, and there are inexpensive robots (as low as $20,000) called collaborative robots (cobots) that are working with employees instead of replacing them. These robots have a smaller footprint, are very mobile and are considerably kinder to humans. Armed with safety sensors that keep them from running into bodies, the little bots are able to perform a variety of tasks.

Unlike their ancestors, the giant industrial robots bolted to a single location who work assembly lines, these cobots roam free on warehouse floors. It is interesting that studies show that small businesses who use robots increase productivity, which in turn requires them to hire more humans to handle additional business and complete tasks that robots cannot handle.

For small businesses, keeping margins low is the path to profitability. There is no need to outsource work to foreign lands and cheaper labor if they can work more efficiently in their own warehouses. Delegating repetitive work to cobots on the night shift means when employees come to work in the morning, their work is ready to process.

Warehouse robots may be the least sexy members of the robot family, until you view the bottom line. The market research firm Tractica predicts that companies around the world will spend $22.4 billion on warehouse robots by 2021.

The old adage, make it cheaper, better or faster still stands. Leveraging technology to save costs and reduce errors is a wise path for any size business; however small businesses need to think of innovative ways to compete with big box distributors.

Please share in the comments below how you view robot technology and if it has a place in your small business.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

Five eCommerce Blunders that Online Distributors Can't Afford to Make

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 17, 2017 5:05:52 PM


In the course of my business, I have the opportunity to speak with many online distributors. I found that some of them suffer from common mistakes with their eCommerce platform - mistakes that can be fixed.

 eCommerce is the lifeblood of online distributors. If not attended to, these mistakes can turn off customers and drive them away from your business. I read that over half of online customers have experienced problems with their purchases within the past year.

 Here is a list of some common blunders and how to fix them:

 No. 1: Choosing an ecommerce platform without doing adequate research.

Something as important as connecting with your customers shouldn’t be relegated to the back burner. Just reading a list of functionality in a brochure is not enough to verify if the platform will work for your business. We all know that once you get your hands on the new software, suddenly your “assumptions” about how you thought the software would work may be a big wakeup call and give you a bad case of buyer’s remorse.  

Create a list of the functionality that your business requires like:

  • First-in-search product positioning
  • Credit card processing
  • Online order status
  • Online returns
  • Upsell and accessory options
  • Order history / Easy re-order
  • Integrations to back office accounting/ERP

Consider these questions:

  • Is the cart easy to use?
  • Can you get support when you need it?
  • Are there positive reviews for the product?

No 2: Ignoring Security Concerns

If you want customers to buy from you, don’t scare them away. Studies show that up to 25% of users will stop an online purchase because of security concerns.

Users need to know that their information is safe and protected. Smaller eCommerce sites overlook how important a trust indicator is for the success of online business. A digital certificate communicates to customers that your site is authentic and safe to use.

If you outsource to third party providers, make sure they provide strong security best practices, verified through industry certifications and that they secure their own data with https.

No. 3: Clunky Site Navigation

The quickest way to drive a customer to your competition is to make your site so difficult to navigate that they can’t find what they want quickly.

Make sure your search is optimized. A customer should be able to find the products they are looking for with minimal clicks.

Review your analytics and note where your customers are dropping off. Continually optimize your eCommerce site base on your findings.

No. 4: Eliminate Uncertainty

Since a customer can’t see and inspect their purchases before buying, you can ease their uncertainty in other ways. Failing to give accurate or helpful product descriptions leads a customer to order the wrong product, or they may just give up on ordering altogether.

Include as much information as possible in your description. Placing information such as materials, sizing, colors, and instructions for use, how to care for, will assist your customer in deciding if this is the right product for them. Many master distributors and manufacturers provide enhanced content. Your site should be capable of taking advantage of that advanced content.

If your customer gets all their questions answered, they will order from you. Another benefit: You will reduce returns and customer dissatisfaction for your eCommerce store.

 No. 5: Poor Checkout Design

Don’t ask for information beyond what is needed for the transaction as that will frustrate your customers. Your process should be easy and painless.

If you have multiple checkout pages, you are giving visitors more reasons to click out. I have heard it said, if it is harder to pay for the item then find the item, there is something wrong. Use one page that offers account creation/guest checkout, shipping, billing and credit card information.

What challenges do you have as an eCommerce distributor? Please comment below.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems.


Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

Who Says Independent Distributors Can't Compete with the Big Box Giants?

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 11, 2017 12:49:18 PM



 I talked to an independent distributor the other day, and he let me know what a tough time he had competing with big box etailers and retailers’ huge discounts and wide-ranging product offerings. So he changed his approach.

He makes it easy for consumers to do business with him by automating the ordering and sales process. He offers free shipping, a generous return policy, and as a small, agile business, he can broaden his ecommerce channels through social media and flash sales.

Studies show that the social network quadruples a retailer’s message online. Not only that, but friends who share good deals with their friends have the credibility that no big box company can match.

Here are some action items to take if you want to win against the power channel:

  1. Compete by offering free shipping or free upgrades to shipping. Multiple shipping options are a mighty conversion tool. You can make your customers happy by letting them know they are getting a great deal. Emphasize the pain they feel when they buy an item elsewhere and then end up paying $100 in shipping charges.
  2. Don’t even try to compete on price - you won’t win against the big box retailers. However, you will win if you offer a customer experience that they can’t resist. Be personal, use their names in correspondence. Use buying history to offer more of what they want. “Dear Sue, we noticed last month you ordered some computer paper, and we’d hate to see you run out right before a big presentation. Just fill out the form below, and we will have your order on the way with Bob, our delivery driver, who knows exactly where to deliver it. Big box stores will have a hard time duplicating the level of service you can offer. They are concentrating on a volume play. You can win with your attention to detail. How many times have you walked into a big box store and were ignored by three workers with no more knowledge than you?
  3. A strong online presence is essential to attract new customers. Get the word out and the sales in your carts by creating an easy-to-use eCommerce site. Your goal is to make it easy to buy and easy to return so they will buy again.
  4. Sell value, not price. I once had a dry cleaner who was further away than other local dry cleaners. However, that didn’t stop me from driving across town to bring my business to them. Why? Because they were smart enough to send me weekly tips about how to care for different fabrics. A big snowstorm hit our region, and they sent me an email with a list of fabrics NOT to wear in the snow so they wouldn’t be damaged. Not only did they share their expertise, but I learned to trust that they would know how to handle my clothes.
  5. Define your niche and beat the pants off Amazon. Look at a company like GoPro. Yes, you could order it on Amazon, but if you are a fan of GoPro you want to buy from GoPro where all those geeky experts live. With 3.5 million followers there is a reason they have a loyal base. Their top-notch customer service beats Amazon because they know the answers to your questions.
  6. Be radical. Make a deal with a popular pizza restaurant and offer your office product customers free pizza with every 5th order. Alternatively, send Starbucks cards when they reach a certain dollar value in orders. The folks who place those orders will remember you as they enjoy a pizza lunch or coffee the next day and they’ll come back for more.

What are some of the ways you compete with the big box companies?

Please comment below; we’d love to hear your story.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Business Software, E-Commerce, BMI Software, Customer Service

What to Do with a Hopping Mad Customer?  Listen....

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 4, 2017 9:58:43 AM


Think back to an experience you had with a vendor that frustrated, angered and made you shake your head in dismay. I admit it, unexpected surprises drive me bananas. I don’t mean to pick on the cable company, but this particular experience is top-of-mind.

One of my co-workers recently told me about an infuriating experience she had with an install order at the cable company. She emphasized during the sales process that she was moving and HAD to be connected to the internet on the date scheduled, so remote working was possible. She made an appointment three weeks in advance to be sure the work would get done in time. The cable technician came two hours early, while she was doing a run to the old house. He left a note on the door saying “Sorry I missed you. Call the office to reschedule.” HUH? She had an appointment! The office let her know the next appointment would be two weeks away. Unacceptable!

She was angry and kept calling up the chain, retelling her story, getting rejected until she got a supervisor to listen to her and do something about it. The supervisor empathized with her problem, asked clarifying questions, and determined that she had done everything right to try and get service when she needed it. Then he did something that made her happy. The Supervisor said he would come out HIMSELF the next day on Sunday and install her internet and cable. That kind of demonstration of personal responsibility changed her anger into admiration.

No one likes to deal with unhappy customers. Customers, happy or not, have the power of social media to make or break your business. Here are some tips on handling unhappy customers.

  1. Let them Rant - It is important for customers who perceive that they have been treated unjustly to talk about their issue. Ask clarifying questions to let them know your are listening to them, and want to get details. Say things like; I hear your frustration. Let's find out what we can do to fix this.
  2. Tell them what you can do, not what you can’t do. For example, I can schedule you for the very next available technician. Not, I don’t have any techs available for a week.
  3. Look past the anger - find out what caused the issue. Was it unclear copy? Did we drop the ball? It is common to dismiss customers as unreasonable, or cranky, but you may be dismissing genuine feedback.
  4. Don’t defer blame - Nothing infuriates a customer more than being told what they did wrong when they have a complaint. Your tone, if dismissive can start a firestorm right where you don’t want it - on social media. Just apologize without any caveats. Even if the customer is off-the-wall unreasonable, just say you are sorry and ask how you might help resolve the issue.
  5. How you ask questions either feeds the anger or diffuses it. If you ask a customer a negative question, you’re asking for a negative response.

For example,

Is there anything else wrong? (Negative)

Is there anything else I can help you with? (Positive)

  1. Complaints need a speedy response. Don’t think you can wait a day or two until they “settle down.” They won’t. Don’t let them feel powerless and drive them to feel social media is the only way to get your attention.

No one enjoys dealing with angry customers. Better communication can create opportunities to earn respect and turn them into fans. The key is the customer is not always right, but you have the power to make your response right.

How do you handle angry customers? Please join the conversation and comment below.

Business Management International (BMI) sells, implements and supports Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP solutions for growing businesses. We specialize in keeping customers happy and productive with modern technology.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Business Software, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, microsoft ERP, BMI Software

Don't Let Your Competition Automate You Out Of Business

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jul 27, 2017 3:58:07 PM


Fierce competition for sales and equally as important, efficiency, force business owners to automate as a way to be profitable. Now more than ever before, offering your customers a memorable experience when doing business with you entices them to come back for more.

Today’s instant gratification world means you don’t get a second chance to capture business. A customer who visits your eCommerce site has no patience for sloppy processes that don’t communicate what they want to know: how many, when and where they can expect items on order to be in hand.

Small to medium businesses with budget considerations may make a stab at improving selected areas of their operations. For example, they implement a stand-alone warehouse system so they can pick and ship more efficiently. Lacking integration to their back office software, they leave gaping holes in their operations. The back office does not know that a widget is out of stock, so there is a delay in replenishment. By the time the customer hears about it, not only are their expectations unmet, but a hard-fought-for relationship may go south.

Or, a distributor may implement an eCommerce solution that has to be tediously updated manually by their staff to make sure prices, discounts, and shipping locations are in synch with their ERP system. As the business grows, it becomes a nightmare to keep the data correct, and errors are sure to happen.

I heard the story of a distributor of music CDs who was doing business with Amazon. He was looking at a proposal for a new ERP system to replace his disconnected legacy system and tells how his hand was shaking as he committed to buying the automated solution. Was he going to bring his company down with this investment? Would he be able to see the ROI fast enough to justify the spend?

One month after the company was operating on the new system, Amazon notified all vendors that if they gave Amazon access to their inventory directly, the vendors who did this would be moved up in priority status on Amazon's vendor order fulfillment ranking. Because of the open technology of the solution, the distributor was able to give Amazon direct access to their inventory within three days. They moved from position 8 to position 3, and their orders soared. Within three weeks the additional orders paid for his ERP purchase. This is the kind of ROI that automation can bring.

Business owners with vision recognize they need to do more with less. If you are operating on outdated technology, your competitive edge is waning. Successful businesses prioritize investment in automation because what follows are outstanding customer experiences that lead to revenue growth.

What are the barriers to automation for your company? Please comment below to join the conversation. 

BMI supports Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP and offers end-to-end solutions for organizations who want to automate their operations.

Topics: Dynamics NAV, Accounting Software, Business Software, Microsoft Software, BMI Software

EPIC Business Essentials Announce Record Q1 Results

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jun 29, 2017 12:17:19 PM

EPIC Business Essentials, the national and regional accounts joint venture between Independent Stationers and Trimega, last month announced record results for the first quarter of 2017.

The organization said it saw growth in its key categories-commercial, state-local, governmenta/educational, federal and healthcare-versus the same period last year. Sales were up over 10% with federal sales leading the way, up over 30%, EPIC reported.

"We are very pleased with the turnaround year-over-year for the joint venture," commented IS president and CEO Mike Gentile. "Additional efficiencies through our industry-leading, totally integrated BMI Software ordering platform/ORDERPOINT are enabling EPIC end-users to experience a world-class platform, while enjoying the high touch local service levels that only the independent dealer channel can provide."

Added Trimega president Mike Maggio, "Not only is EPIC growing its business, we have a record number of dealers-over 300-with a record number of end-users-over 90,000 participating, and those numbers continue to grow. We are pleased to see our dealers and customers continue to embrace the model."



Topics: BMI Software, Dynamics NAV, Distribution Software

Supply Chain Automation Interview

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jun 8, 2017 12:43:12 PM


As a distributor, you face unique challenges that generic business solutions do not address well. Recently, Craig Greitzer, VP of Sales for BMI Software, was interviewed by the "Find Accounting Software" organization because of the technology BMI brings to solve distributors unique pains. Craig discusses the issues and offers insights gained from working with top distributors. Click here to read the original interview in its entirety.



Topics: distribution software, Navision, Dynamics NAV, BMI Software, Supply Chain

BMI Client, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Makes News

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 30, 2016 3:43:16 PM

Spherical tokamaks could provide path to limitless fusion energy


Credit: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications

Creating "a star in a jar" – replicating on Earth the way the sun and stars create energy through fusion – requires a "jar" that can contain superhot plasma and is low-cost enough to be built around the world. Such a device would provide humankind with near limitless energy, ending dependence on fossil fuels for generating electricity.

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) say that a model for such a "jar," or fusion device, already exists in experimental form – the compact spherical tokamaks at PPPL and Culham, England. These tokamaks, or fusion reactors, could provide the design for possible next steps in fusion energy – a Fusion Nuclear Science Facility (FNSF) that would develop reactor components and also produce electricity as a pilot plant for a commercial fusion power station. 

New options for future plants

The detailed proposal for such a "jar" is described in a paper published in August 2016 in the journal Nuclear Fusion. "We are opening up new options for future plants," said lead author Jonathan Menard, program director for the recently completed National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U) at PPPL. The $94-million upgrade of the NSTX, financed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, began operating last year.

Spherical tokamaks are compact devices that are shaped like cored apples, compared with the bulkier doughnut-like shape of conventional tokamaks. The increased power of the upgraded PPPL machine and the soon-to-be completed MAST Upgrade device moves them closer to commercial fusion plants that will create safe, clean and virtually limitless energy without contributing greenhouse gases that warm the Earth and with no long-term radioactive waste.

The NSTX-U and MAST facilities "will push the physics frontier, expand our knowledge of high temperature plasmas, and, if successful, lay the scientific foundation for fusion development paths based on more compact designs," said PPPL Director Stewart Prager.

The devices face a number of physics challenges. For example, they must control the turbulence that arises when superhot plasma particles are subjected to powerful electromagnetic fields. They must also carefully control how the plasma particles interact with the surrounding walls to avoid possible disruptions that can halt fusion reactions if the plasma becomes too dense or impure. Researchers at PPPL, Culham, and elsewhere are looking at ways of solving these challenges for the next generation of fusion devices.

The fourth state of matter

The spherical design produces high-pressure plasmas – the superhot charged gas also known as the fourth state of matter that fuels fusion reactions – with relatively low and inexpensive magnetic fields. This unique capability points the way to a possible next generation of fusion experiments to complement ITER, the international tokamak that 35 nations including the United States are building in France to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion power. ITER is a doughnut-shaped tokamak that will be largest in the world when completed within the next decade.

"The main reason we research spherical tokamaks is to find a way to produce fusion at much less cost than conventional tokamaks require," said Ian Chapman, the newly appointed chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and leader of the UK's magnetic confinement fusion research programme at the Culham Science Centre.

The 43-page Nuclear Fusion paper describes how the spherical design can provide the next steps in fusion energy. A key issue is the size of the hole in the center of the tokamak that holds and shapes the plasma. In spherical tokamaks, this hole can be half the size of the hole in conventional tokamaks, enabling control of the plasma with relatively low magnetic fields.

The smaller hole could be compatible with a blanket system for the FNSF that would breed tritium, a rare isotope or form of hydrogen. Tritium will fuse with deuterium, another isotope of hydrogen, to produce fusion reactions in next-step tokamaks.

Superconducting magnets for pilot plants

For pilot plants, the authors call for superconducting magnets to replace the primary copper magnets in the FNSF. Superconducting magnets can be operated far more efficiently than copper magnets but require thicker shielding. However, recent advances in high-temperature superconductors could lead to much thinner superconducting magnets that would require less space and reduce considerably the size and cost of the machine.

Included in the paper is a description of a device called a "neutral beam injector" that will start and sustain plasma current without relying on a heating coil in the center of the tokamak. Such a coil is not suitable for continuous long-term operation. The neutral beam injector will pump fast-moving neutral atoms into the plasma and will help optimize the magnetic field that confines and controls the superhot gas.

Taken together, the paper describes concepts that strongly support a spherical facility to develop fusion components and create on Earth "a star in a jar"; the upgraded NSTX and MAST facilities will provide crucial data for determining the best path for ultimately generating electricity from fusion.


PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. Results of PPPL research have ranged from a portable nuclear materials detector for anti-terrorist use to universally employed computer codes for analyzing and predicting the outcome of fusion experiments. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

PPPL uses a Microsoft Dynamics based ERP software system designed by BMI for their project, accounting and reporting requirements.

For more information, please visit 

Topics: BMI, microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Software, BMI Software

Electronic Document Management In Dynamics NAV 2016

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 23, 2016 9:52:34 AM

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 has been released with many new features in Enterprise Functionality for Wholesale Distribution and Manufacturing companies.  One of the most exciting new functions is Electronic Document Management.

Electronic Documents

This new enterprise feature allows you to capture and store invoices and credit memos as incoming documents in Microsoft Dynamics NAV, use them to create corresponding purchase documents or journal lines, take advantage of new workflow for approvals, and allow auditors direct access to source documents.

As an alternative to e-mailing as file attachments, you can send and receive documents electronically. By electronic document is meant a standard-compliant file representing a business document, such as an invoice from a vendor that you can receive and convert to a purchase invoice in Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The exchange of electronic documents between two trading partners is performed by an external provider of document exchange services.

The generic version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV supports sending and receiving electronic invoices and credit memos in the PEPPOL format, which is supported by the largest providers of document exchange services. A major provider of document exchange services is preconfigured and ready to be set up for your company. To provide support for other electronic document formats, you must create new data exchange definitions using the Data Exchange Framework.

From PDF or image files representing incoming documents, you can have an external OCR service (Optical Character Recognition) create electronic documents that you can then convert to document records in Microsoft Dynamics NAV, like for electronic PEPPOL documents. For example, when you receive an invoice in PDF format from your vendor, you can send it to the OCR service from the Incoming Documents window. After a few seconds, you receive the file back as an electronic invoice that can be converted to a purchase invoice for the vendor. If you send the file to the OCR service by e-mail, then a new incoming document record is automatically created when you receive the electronic document back.

To send, for example, a sales invoice as an electronic PEPPOL document, you select the Electronic Document option in the Post and Send dialog box. From here, you can also set up the customer’s default document sending profile. First, you must set up various master data, such as company information, customers, items, and units of measure. These are used to identify the business partners and items when you convert data in fields in Microsoft Dynamics NAV to elements in the outgoing document file. The data conversion and sending of the PEPPOL sales invoice are performed by dedicated code units and XMLports, represented by the PEPPOL electronic document format.

To receive, for example, an invoice from a vendor as an electronic PEPPOL document, you process the document in the Incoming Documents window to convert it to a purchase invoice in Microsoft Dynamics NAV. You can either set up the Job Queue feature to process such files regularly or you can start the process manually. First, you must set up various master data, such as company information, vendors, items, and units of measure. These are used to identify the business partners and items when you convert data in elements in the incoming document file to fields in Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The receiving and data conversion of PEPPOL invoices are performed by the Data Exchange Framework, represented by the PEPPOL - Invoice data exchange definition.

To receive, for example, an invoice as an electronic OCR document, you process it as when you receive an electronic PEPPOL document. The receiving and conversion of electronic documents from OCR are performed by the Data Exchange Framework, represented by the OCR – Invoice data exchange definition.


Topics: Navision, dynamics nav 2016, Microsoft Dynamcs NAV 2016, microsoft ERP

Source Office & Technology Goes Live With BMI Software

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Jul 12, 2016 12:53:09 PM

We are pleased to announce another successful go-live of BMI Software at Source Office & Technology located in Golden, Colorado. 

Source had 4 different systems, some of which were home grown, to handle their various lines of business along with a full IT department to support it all. Their primary goal with the BMI system was to integrate all of these divisions into a single system which will allow them to better focus on the growth of their company. 

Compared to other BMI Office Product dealer projects, there were relatively few modifications required.  This is a true testament to how much functionality has been added to our solution over the years. 

Our deepest thanks to the Source team for their efforts during this time and, as always, to the BMI implementation team for their tireless efforts over the July 4th holiday.




Topics: BMI, BMI Software, BMI OP Revelation, Office Products