ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software has traditionally been used by large corporations to integrate and automate diverse departments across the enterprise.
For a long time, smaller companies purchased individual accounting and payroll packages and then migrated to expensive ERP solutions as they grew. They did not have many options as ERP solutions were costlier and required magnitude and many employees to justify their use.
Now, with many Open Source software coming out, it is possible for SMEs to go in for ERPs at an earlier stage. There are several in the market including Compiere, ERP5 and Fisterra. Companies have to carefully study individual requirements and test out these softwares to determine suitability.
In this article, I would like to review CK-ERP, an Open Source ERP/CRM system, ideally suited for use by SMEs. It has a total of 19 modules including accounting ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivables, Purchase Order, Sales Order, Quotation, Point of Sale, Human Resource, Payroll and contact management. It operates as modules running atop phpGroupWare. This makes it possible for the software to be easily installed on Internet if employees are in various locations or on the Intranet for more secure transactions.
Here is a overview of its excellent features.
Customer Billing process
Any company with more than 10 recurring customers should seriously consider using an ERP (such as ck-ERP) to keep track of payments, work orders and related accounting. ck-erp has ck-Quote (a Quotation module), ck-so (Sales order module) and ck-ar (Accounts Receivable module) to keep
* Sales reps can key in Work Quotations for customers. The CK-Quote module allows for easily configurable Quotation templates which can be printed or emailed to customers.
* Sales reps can easily convert the Quotations to Sales Orders when work commences. A Sales order serves as a formal record of a work order and the terms and condition under which the work is executed sent to a customer. This direct conversion from Quotation to Sales Order eliminates a lot of extra work typing out docs. However, it is possible also to manually enter Sales Orders.
* At the time of billing, Sales Orders can again be converted to Invoices. It is possible to create Invoices with or without Tax. Here again, print and email friendly Official invoices can be generated. It is also possible to Bulk-Dispatch several invoices at the same time.
* Want to check out how promptly a customer pays? Simply check the Billing history which says when a customer was invoiced and how quickly he has paid you. You can also check Billing histories of each Sales order.
* Once a customer has been invoiced, it is a easy matter to record payment receipts. A single invoice can have several payments. For instance if a customer is invoiced for $1000, he can pay in parts. It is an easy matter to enter part payments against any invoice. You can also check out the pending payments - invoice wise, customer wise and even company wise. An aging report shows you how much dues you have to get.
* All invoice and payments get automatically integrated with the General Ledger, making accounting very easy. It is possible to view related Journal/Ledger entries for each invoice
You can easily enter customer records and configure various types of tax. The accounts receivables include Accounts Receivable Aging reports, Customer Invoice Aging reports and Detailed list of Tax collected.
If you are a Manufacturing company with thousands of customers, you can consider middle agents like Distributors or C&F agencies as customers and keep track of their payments using the same software.
The system is multi-currency and multi-user, allowing each module multiple access levels.
Inventory and Purchase process
Many companies, especially trading and manufacturing companies are generally swamped with purchase inventory and vendor information. Keeping track of vendor payments and paying bills in time before credit collection agencies call is a major source of tension. Here is what you can do with ck-erp's purchase modules - ck-po(Purchase Order module), ck-ap(Accounts Payable module) and ck-inv(Inventory module) . Lets see how a purchase process works.
* Enter purchase orders to keep track of the service contracts and products you have purchased.
* The moment you receive the purchased products or service, you can add it to your inventory using ck-inventory module. Marking goods receipt, automatically updates the inventory. You can view your Inventory Balance and In/Out History for each product that you have in the Inventory. This feature is very useful for Traders and manufacturers. The inventory is integrated with the General Ledger, so that increases in the inventory also update the Asset value of your company.
* When you receive an invoice from the vendor, you can convert the Purchase Order into a Vendor Invoice. Maintaining vendor invoices on the system, reduces your dependency on the email or paper invoices your vendors keep sending you. You can easily manage vendor payments and due dates with this system.
* When you make payments, Record full or part payments made against Vendor invoices.
* You can view at any time, reports on unpaid invoices and aging reports on the total amounts due per vendor or per purchase order. The ERP gives you an amazing degree of clarity on outgoing dues.
* You can maintain Vendor database and configure various kinds of taxes.
* The Inventory lets you maintain product names and numbers, Bin/Location information, photos, reorder levels, unit and weight information, and 3 different price information.
* Inventory adjustments, Assembly information and Alternate Part/Service information are some other features of ck-inventory.
The accounts section has practically everything one would want.
The core General Ledger module has the basic Double Entry accounting system with Ledger and Journal. The interesting aspect of the General Ledger is that it is the base for the Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Inventory, Bank and the Payroll modules. The entries from all these modules ultimately reflect in the General Ledger.
The accounting system has multi-currency support. The admin can set Standard Remarks for the invoice, purchase orders, Quotations and so on. The admin can even setup Multiple Ledgers for various divisions.
A Bank Reconciliation module allows you to reconcile bank statements with ledger entries.
On the flip side of the Accounts module is the fact that it does not have the yearly Opening and Closing balances. This makes it difficult to reconcile yearly accounts. A major flaw, which one can hope will be corrected in the near future.
Point of Sale (POS)
If you are a supermarket with multiple cashier desks and high cash transactions, you could use this module. Again the Point of Sale module is integrated with the General Ledger.
The ck-pos module lets cashiers enter Cash Sales, with or without tax. A good feature of the POS system is that it allows Credit Sales as well. Useful when customers insist on Purchase on Credit, for example in high value goods. Any Credit Sales entered by the cashiers have to be approved by Manager.
The Manager interface to the POS, ck-pos-m allows a manager to remotely control all the cashier operations from his office.
* Cashboxes can be setup for each POS counter and each shift. The manager can setup staff to work at each counter.
* The Manager can for instance view Shift End cash balance per Counter per shift. . The Manager can for instance view the Shift End cash balance at Counter 2 at the end of yesterday's morning shift.
* Managers can setup special price plans
* Managers can add Reduction Charges such as special student discounts, senior citizen discount or Add-On Charge such as Sunday Surcharges or service charges.
* Managers can configure various payment options for non-cash options such as Cash Coupons, Exchange Coupon, Cheques and Credit cards.
* Taxes such as VAT, GST, and PST can be setup.
* Sales reports
Human Resource Management
HR management software of some sort is required if you have more than 10 employees, and better still if payroll is integrated with the General Ledger. CK-ERP has excellent HR management features.
* Manage employee database including name, staff grades and roles, photo, address, email, phone and emergency contacts. A good feature in the HR software is that you are not limited by the number of phone fields. You can enter unlimited records per employee.
* Employees have their own Staff Self Service, something like a ``My Account'', which lets them Apply for Leave, enter Time sheet and attendance details and even request for Expense reimbursement. As soon as someone applies for leave or for expense reimbursement, their supervisor gets an email notification for approval.
* Timesheet and attendance management. Timesheet can be linked to achievements. For example if you are a PC assembling unit, employees can record the number of PCs they have assembled per day or per hour. Sales staff can enter the sales targets they have achieved.
* Multiple department support
* Record Performance Evaluations per employee
* Expense reimbursement management
* Leave application and leave management.
* Payroll management. Automatic/manual payslips via email. Bank statement for payroll.
CRM and Contact Management
CK-ERP's latest addition is the CRM package.
* CK-CRM offers Helpdesk management and Sales contact management (for pre-sales) in a neat package all integrated with the central Customer database. Sales reps can track the sales calls and the sales contacts made. Customer relation executives can check the help calls and the helpdesk contacts made with each customer.
* The Helpdesk system is especially beautiful. Customer relation executives can view the entire Call case History Log per Helpdesk call, record the customer's state of mind(furious, angry, pleased, excited), media(email, phone call, meeting) and the status of contact(research, resolution, follow-up, closed) Monitoring officers can be set for each ticket. Priorities (high, neutral low) and case categories (complaint, suggestion, and bug report) can be setup for each call.
* The CRM is integrated with Quotation, Sales Order and the Invoice modules as well. This makes it very powerful. Customer Relation executives and Sales reps can check for instance the credit rating of the customer, the number of times he has been quoted, billing histories and payment made.
* Customer Contracts can be recorded
* Credit Limits can be set per customer
CK-CRM also includes a Contact module for organisational contacts and individual contacts.