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by Daniel Harris,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: October 25, 2016

Electrical distribution software is software for distributors of electrical supplies for contractors. It’s not actually a unified software category, but instead refers to several supply chain management (SCM) applications that are used by all distributors, not just electrical distributors. However, there are certain vendors that offer applications tailored to the needs of electrical distributors. Additionally, the term “electrical distribution software” sometimes refers to special solutions for managing the distribution of power in a grid. We’ll take a look at what electrical distribution software is, how it differs from power management software and whether you need it. We’ll cover a number of important issues, including the following topics:

What Is Electrical Distribution Software?
Electrical Distribution Software vs. Power Management Software
Common Features of Electrical Distribution Software
Evaluating Electrical Distribution Software

What Is Electrical Distribution Software?

As we’ve explained, electrical distribution software is specifically used by distributors of electrical supplies. Electrical distribution software helps electrical distributors manage warehouse operations, accounting, purchasing and customer relationships. Managing these operations involves three separate kinds of supply chain management applications: warehouse management, order management and inventory management.

Warehouse management software is for managing warehouse operations, order management software is for generating invoices and tracking both purchase and sales orders and inventory management software is for tracking inventory movements. Electrical distributors may need just one of these applications, or they may need all three. Additionally, some distributors will need integrated accounting. If you have this requirement, you’ll either have to find an accounting program that integrates with the other applications you’re using or invest in an ERP system that includes an accounting module.

In the warehouse, distributors have to track a variety of supplies as small as fuse switches and as large as 10,000 foot reels of wire. Wholesale electrical distributors also purchase and sell in different units of measure. For instance, wiring is often bought by the reel and sold by the foot. Keeping track of the location, quantity and price of these items is difficult, so electrical distributors need an automated system to track their inventory and multiple pricing schemes. Moreover, they don’t just need an automated system (most distributors these days use automated inventory tracking, after all), but an automated system that can track inventory and warehouse operations such as slotting and picking in the requisite units of measure (e.g., feet) and automatically calculate invoices using these measures.

Electrical Distribution Software vs. Power Management Software

Like many names for B2B software categories, the term “electrical distribution software” is ambiguous. In addition to the meaning we’ve already covered, it also refers to software for analyzing, managing and optimizing the distribution of power within a power grid. Generally, this software category is used to design power networks and control expenses at complex campuses such as industrial plants. It falls into the broader category of energy management software, but offers a host of highly specialized features specifically for analyzing the workings of power grids and optimizing them via management of switching sequences etc.

For instance, the software is capable of complex network analysis and modeling that factors in connections between network components and the modes of operation of these components. Additionally, it has special data ingestion features for collecting data from sources like meters. Energy management goes beyond designing and managing power grids, and not all energy management solutions address the complex issues that power grids present.

If you need to manage the distribution of power within a grid, you can examine our listing of energy management solutions. The solutions on this page are supply chain management solutions for distributors of electrical supplies.

Common Features of Electrical Distribution Software

Electrical distribution software is designed to meet the unique needs of electrical supply distributors, simplifying the task of tracking inventory levels and pricing items using standard warehouse management system functionality, with the following specialty-specific features:

Reel tracking Reel tracking allows distributors to track the number of reels in stock as well as how many feet per real are available at a given moment, minimizing partial reel waste.
Price updating Pricing update features allow the distributor to continually adjust pricing levels according to changes in the market and special contract agreements.
Aggregation Since electrical distributors get involved in value-added services like assembly, kitting and bundling, electrical distribution software should aggregate component parts in a kit or package.
Lot tracking On large projects, contractors often want to order everything up front but receive the materials and pay for them as needed, rather than all at once. Lot tracking and billing features are designed to handle this order/delivery dichotomy, tracking the inventory by lot order as it comes in and goes out.
Front counter Many electrical wholesalers have a storefront where they can fill contractor orders on the spot as the contractors are on their way to a job site. In this instance, your electrical distribution software will need a retail point-of-sale system, as well as wholesale warehousing and invoicing capabilities.

In addition, most of the top systems will include accounting capabilities, including rebates, invoices and payroll, which combines to make a full enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Evaluating Electrical Distribution Software

There are dozens of different electrical distribution software programs, each having slightly different features and strengths. Before purchasing electrical distribution software, buyers should take the following points into consideration:

  • Are you looking for on-premise software or a Web-based system?
  • How many warehouses do you operate? Will you need to implement the software in more than one location?
  • Do you need front of counter capabilities to handle walk-in transactions from electrical contractors?
  • Do you need a stand alone warehouse management system, or are you looking for an integrated ERP system with accounting, inventory management, transportation management and customer management?

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