NECS, Inc.

Software for Food Distributors

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Updates from NECS

NECS 2017 - 2018 Road Map for entrée

Mar 20 2017


NECS Company Plans and Goals for the Years 2017 - 2018

Many of our loyal base of food distribution customers often inquire about our company goals and the vision for the future of  entrée, our software that so many companies depend on to help run their operation.  With this being the case, I wanted to share our current strategic direction and where things are headed over the next two years.

Internal NECS Programming Department Goals

Currently our programming department has set two important goals for the upcoming quarters.  Although these goals may not seem to directly affect you, they are extremely important to keep our software and programming languages up-to-date with technology standards.   

Title: Unicode / Delphi 10 / Removing all "character" date fields / expand Invoice Number to 8 digits
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version: 4.1.xx

Programming languages are constantly evolving and offering new features.  One of these new features includes something the software design world calls "Unicode".  Unicode is a new idea in setting up binary codes for text or script characters. Officially called the Unicode Worldwide Character Standard, it is a system that interchanges, processes, and displays written text of our world's languages.  This will allow us to easily create and maintain the use of different languages and characters within entrée.  So whether your native language is English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, etc., entrée will be able to properly show your language with the proper characters.  This is also important because there is a lot of interest to use our software by food distributors across the globe.

This is also of prime importance because our programming language, Delphi, requires our software to be updated to Unicode standards to utilize the latest enhancements and features.  Currently we have been unable to upgrade and take advantage of these features because we are not Unicode compliant as yet.

Unfortunately, this requires a mostly manual method for our programming team to go through all 2 million lines of source code to ensure that we meet Unicode compliance.  With all our programmers working on it, we have estimated about 6-8 weeks for us to complete this important phase.  This project has already began and we are expecting it to be completed in early April 2017.  During this time, we will be unable to create custom features or modifications.

For those of you that would like more technical detail, we are specifically upgrading to version XE10 of the Delphi programming language.  Delphi is a world class software development language made by a company named Embarcadero.  You can click here for more information about Delphi.

During this time of upgrading to Unicode, we will also be undertaking a change in the structure of many of our database tables.  This specifically is the changing of date fields to true dates from character dates.  To explain this simply, SQL works fastest when data fields that represent dates (such as Invoice Date, Payment Date) are defined as a true date.  Previous versions of our software (going back to the days of our old DOS system) didn't really care if a date was a true date or character field.  The performance was the same.  However, SQL does not like this (makes processing on the server go very slow) so we therefore are going to update all the date fields in all our data tables.  If you happen to tie into our database tables directly (ex: custom report writing, etc.), please note this as your custom interface will need to be updated if accessing any of these old character date fields.

Another important internal database structure with the 4.1.0 release is the expansion of the invoice number field from 6 to 8 characters.  Currently invoice numbers go to 999,999 before recycling again (usually to 100,000).  When our food distribution software was first developed, this seemed like a large enough value.  However, many of our larger customers are cycling through these numbers in only a few years.  By expanding this value to 99,999,999, we estimate that even our larger customers will not cycle through this value for at least 20+ years at a time.

Title: API (Application Program Interface) into entrée V4 Inventory
Completion:    Q1 / 2018
Version: 4.2.xx

Creating API's into our entrée software is something that we've wanted to do for a while.  This will allow us to more easily open our software to third parties without the need for NECS programmers to be involved.  This is also part of our next generation internal inventory control system, so the main system and all our separate modules (such as EWM - Electronic Warehouse Manager), use the same source code for all inventory control functions.

The first API we will create is an interface into our inventory control system.  As you could imagine, behind the scenes it is very complex with multiple database tables and data fields needing to be updated in a precise way whenever inventory is updated.  This grows more complex because of the many ways that inventory is controlled, including: breaking of cases, lot tracking, catch weights, constant weights, kits, slotting, multiple warehouses, physical adjustments, cycle counts, etc.

This API would allow another developer to pass the item number, quantity and/or weight adjustment, etc., via a command into the API and it would properly update entrée.

New Features Planned for entrée V4, version 4.1 / 4.2

As most of you realize, just about everything we do here at NECS is driven by our customers' evolving needs.  Our regular interactions, training, and other occassion where we receive feedback, keeps us tuned in to important new features which will further enhance our entrée software.  Below are some of the highly-requested features we plan on implementing over the 2017 - 2018 time frame.

When you install version 4.1 (due out Q2 / 2017), the first thing you will notice is that the graphics on the main screen have slightly changed, including:

• There is now a truck graphic in the lower, right corner of the main screen.  If you choose to have your company's logo appear on this screen, it will go into the body of the truck (instead of the red checkmark as shown).  Previously the custom graphic would just display in a rectangular area at the top of the screen, below the ribbon menus.
• All Reports now have their own unique icon for faster identification.  Previously reports shared a common looking document icon (different colors for different report types) that many customers found difficult to identify when using the "Quick Access Toolbar" option of the Ribbon Menus.  All new report icons are food based and include everything from pizza to seafood to produce to meats and more.  So as an example, when you see the red chili pepper icon, you will know that this is the Gross Profit Report from the Customer Reports section.

Title: Enhanced Inventory File Maintenance
Completion:    Q3 / 2017
Version:   4.1.xx

We will be re-writing / updating Inventory File Maintenance and providing requested features such as Perpetual Inventory / Turns, Physical Movements / Ending Daily On Hand for each day (going back into history so closing a month will not make this data unavailable), enhanced Slotting features, pallet configuration per vendor, etc.

Another feature will be a sales breakdown of the last 12 weeks of sales for that item, which will work in conjunction with the future 30 Day Order Breakdown which is currently in IFM.  The below outline of how this will work should help you visualize this new feature.  Note that you can click on any of the numbers in the columns for a grid to appear with more specific information about how that number was derived.  This feature will also be available in our enhanced purchasing system, due out in Q3.

Title: Enhanced PO System
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version:   4.2.xx

Many customers have been patiently waiting for our new purchasing system.  However, because of other internal issues, we have had to delay this for more than a year now.  It is finally expected in Q3 of 2017 and will include:

• New layout of the Create / Change PO screen with a similar look as the Create / Change Invoice screen.
• Buyer Call List for Vendors similar to the concept of the Ordertaker Call List for Customers.
• Potential Future Shortage grid to provide buyers with a tool to foresee future potential shortages and order accordingly.
• Display all Vendor Notes including Comments, Hot Messages, Notes, Special Instructions and AP Notes.
• A "Compare" button for the highlighted item to enable the Buyer to see all Vendors that the item could be purchased from along with cost and minimum ordering requirements.  Buyer can select another Vendor to purchase the item and another PO will be created.
• A "Vendor Item Description" field will be provided to describe the item so that the Vendor easily recognizes what is being purchased.
• Ability to Schedule Deliveries with Vendors.

It will also include all the automated purchasing features and formulas that are currently included in the Order Guide tab of Vendor File Maintenance.  This includes:

• Calculate Order Quantities based on Past Sales, Order Points or Selected Invoices
• Rounding of Order Quantities to the Full Pallet, Pallet Layer or Up/Down to the nearest 5, Vendor Minimum Quantity, etc.
• Defining of Minimum Weeks of Inventory to Order to have On Hand

Title:   Enhancements to Anoto Pen Invoice and Item Returns Sheet
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version:   4.1.xx

Our module integration with the Anoto Digital Pen has been very successful.  Currently we have almost 150 drivers using the technology and expect to sign on another 50+ in the coming months.

There have been two frequently requested items which we are building into version 4.1 of entrée which include:

1. The ability to show Cash Receipts and Item Returns on the Invoice.  This will eliminate the need to print additional paper forms.
2. The ability to produce generic Cash Receipts / Item Returns sheets that the driver can keep and use as needed.  The area at the top of these new sheets will require the driver to write in the Customer Number.

We will soon be offering special pouch holsters that attach to the drivers belt to keep the pen quickly available and safe.  Currently we have a few customers testing these out with their drivers to gather  input.

Title: Enhanced AP Bank Reconciliation
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version: 4.1.xx

A part of our software that hasn't received much attention is our Accounts Payable Bank Reconciliation.  And yes, it is way overdue for an upgrade!  Some of the new features include:

• Completed updated user interface including a section for "Checks/Payments" and "Deposits/Credits" and the ability to move columns around so it suits the needs of your accounting department.
• No longer a need to go to a separate menu option to "Enter Deposits/Charges" for Bank Service Charges and Interest Earned.
• All columns on the new screen.
• Ability to "Undo" the last reconciliation.
• The "Current" and "History" checkboxes are eliminated as the new screen will automatically look at both file sets and include any unreconciled amounts from history.
• The "Ending Balance" will be used to ensure that all checks, payments, etc. are accounted for.
• Buttons to "Mark All Cleared" and "Unmark All Cleared".
• A "Void" option is included to eliminate the need to go into a separate menu option to "Void AP Check".
• and many more!

Title:         ACH / EFT / eCheck integration for customer payments
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version:         4.1.xx

Besides the ability to accept payment by credit card, many of our customers have been requesting that ACH / EFT / eCheck payments be available (at good processing rates) directly while in entrée during the Cash Receipts process. It has also been requested that the customer be able to enter this information themselves via entrée.NET (especially if they are on credit hold).  

This would have the funds moved from your customer's bank account and directly deposited into your account in about 24 hours.  You would need your customers account information from the bottom of one of their checks (bank routing and checking account number).

Title: Merge invoices from NET / EOP / entrée main system
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version: 4.1.xx

Because a customer could place an order through entrée.NET, the DSR place an order through the EOP - Electronic Order Pad and an internal CSR could place an order via the main entrée system... it would be possible that you could have 3 separate invoices for the same customer for the same delivery day.  This new feature will merge the invoice information from these three sources into one invoice with the same invoice number.

This will execute during the import of EOP/NET orders and orders that qualify will be consolidated into the first/original invoice number of that day.

Consolidated orders will be merged into the original customer invoice in their own Revision group. So instead of just showing "Rev D", it will display "Rev D - Merged from EOP ORDER#12345678" on the Loading Sheet, etc.

This consolidation feature will only allow for add-ons or incrementing quantities. No removal or reduction of existing line items will be allowed (at least with this first version, other rules may be added later).

Title:   "Kwikee" item, brand and case (outside) image, ingredients, nutrition facts interface
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version: 4.1.xx

In our efforts to make access to obtaining official item, brand and case (outside) images, ingredients and nutritional facts, we are providing a direct interface into the Kwikee system.  There is no cost to obtain this data and far easier than working with a GS1 data pool (which we have been trying unsuccessfully to do for almost 5 years).

The Kwikee system was created primarily for the retail trade, so it won't have all the bulk items that you may offer (at least not yet).  It uses the items UPC and/or GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) to get this information. 

Kwikee provides an API (Application Program Interface) that we will be utilizing directly from within your entrée software.  We will be supporting the four possible image views of an item and also the outside of the case (as pictured below and important for your warehouse crew via EWM - Electronic Warehouse Manager).

Title:   UniPro Buying Group GS1 Catalog matching item information tool
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version: 4.1.xx

This special tool is being created specifically for our customers who are part of the UniPro Buying Group.  It's purpose is to match each of your items to the correct UniPro corresponding item.  This will allow you to import GS1 inventory information including official images, allergens, nutritional information, GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), etc.  This is provided to UniPro members because of a special arrangement UniPro has to obtain this important GS1 information via a GS1 data pool.


For more information about GS1 and its importance to your operation into the future, click here for a previous blog posting where I provide more details.

Title: GL Inventory Adjustments
Completion:    Q2 / 2017
Version:   4.1.xx

We are enhancing the way inventory adjustments are tracked for accounting and General Ledger purposes.  This includes supporting additional chart of account codes and making them accessible via Physical Adjustments, Cycle Counts, Vendor Item Returns, editing an items quantity or weight via Inventory File Maintenance, etc.  

For example, you could define a specific chart of account code for "Cost of Goods Sold Adjustment - EXPIRED inventory" which could be used when indicating received inventory was past the expiration date and needs to be returned to the vendor.

Note that when an inventory adjustment occurs, the following will happen in General Ledger:
DEBIT:       Cost of Goods Sold Adjustment Account
CREDIT:    Inventory Account

Title: Item Cost / Price Change User Tracking
Completion:    Q3 / 2017
Version:   4.1.xx

The system only allows item cost and pricing to be changed by users who have the proper security options set.  However, it currently does not track the User ID, Date, Time, whether it was a manual or automatic update and the exact changes made to an item's cost or pricing.  This new feature will allow this information to be tracked and easily accessible so that you can determine all the details pertaining to cost and pricing changes throughout entrée.

Title:   Update all user interface Grids throughout system
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version: 4.2.xx

Currently in entrée V4, there are two different grid styles used which are used to display, edit, group and sort your data.  One is a carryover from V3 and the other is a more modern version allowing the user to customize the grid.  An example of this newer style grid is used on the Order Guide tab of Vendor File Maintenance (see the screen shot shown above in the Enhanced PO section).  This new style provides you with the customization, sorting and grouping options that will help you work faster and smarter.

Note that currently the Create / Change Invoice screen uses the older style grid in the section where you add items to a customer's order.  This is one of the grids that will be updated and will allow you to customize the columns, etc. per user when creating or changing an invoice.

Note that you can usually identify one of these new style grids because there will be an asterisk (• ) to the left of the first column.  Clicking on the asterisk will allow you to define what columns should be included on a report, in the same manner that our Reporting system allows you to define the columns on a report, while presenting all the options for you to select from.

Title:   Automated Scheduler Email Alerts
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version:   4.2.xx

This new feature will allow you define specific rules for initially three different types of email alerts related to:

• Low Stock Inventory
• Inactivity for a customer based upon delivery schedule
• Customers over their Credit Limit
• More to be added based upon customer feedback

Title:   ALK / PC Miler Routing Integration
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version: 4.2.xx

The Assign Routes option in entrée V4 has had some important features added over the last year.  This includes "Backhauls" for vendor pickups and integration into Google Maps.  However, Google Maps and most other mapping and routing tools do not include information for trucks.  In many instances, Google Maps could route you to a customer location, but include a low overpass bridge that the truck cannot fit under.

We have spent a lot of time investigating truck mapping and routing features that we could include into the process.  This also would negate your purchase of very expensive truck routing software that costs upwards of $20k.

Currently we have settled on the solution provided by PC Miler, produced by ALK Software.  There latest version includes weather alerts and radar imaging, so you will know if your drivers will be heading into difficult weather which could cause delays.  The PC Miler software also includes an interface to GPS devices (ex: Garmin), iOS and Android smart phones called CoPilot.

More information will be provided on this in the near future.

Title: 2nd generation EWM - Electronic Warehouse Manager
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version:   EWM 2.x.xx

The popularity of our EWM app for managing warehouse picking and receiving, has prompted us to embark on a second generation version with the features requested by those using it.  These features include:

•  Improved performance by making EWM a native Android app which can run offline.  This will allow your warehouse crew to continue scanning even when not being within range of a WIFI access point. It also eliminates the need to place WIFI all weather access points in your walk-in freezers and coolers.
•  Support for more Android devices, including those that can work at below zero temperatures as well as different screen sizes. An example of a new device would be the Zebra TC8000.  
•  Support for Rice Lake Scales via Bluetooth between the scale and app running EWM.
•  Bartender by Seagull Scientific label printing integration for complex labeling needs.
•  Slotting, Cycle Counting, Put Away, Slot Replenishment, Item Returns and Multi-Warehouse support.
•  The ability to use License Plates/Pallet Labels to track pallets throughout your warehouse.
•  Temperature Zone Picking, including multiple pickers on the same Loading Sheet.
•  Expired Lot / Sell by Date notifications.
•  English / Spanish language options.


Title: Mobile Order Entry on a smartphone for your customers
Completion:    Q4 / 2017
Version: 1.0.xx

The ability for you to provide your customers with a super-fast and easy way of ordering from you on their smartphone is one of our most highly requested items.  This would include an offline mode and work for both Android and Apple iOS devices.

We are currently working through options related to this, and hope to have an announcement by the end of Q2 2017 about the direction we are taking.


Title: Enhanced / Updated version of entrée.NET Online Ordering
Completion:    Q1 / 2018
Version:   3.0 of entrée.NET

Our entrée.NET Online Ordering system is extremely reliable as it processes $160M/month in orders or about 150,000 orders/month.  It offers your customers (and DSRs) the convenience of entering their own orders 24/7/365, while providing them with a wealth of information about their purchases from you via reports, view signed invoices, check their open A/R, etc.

We are aware that the user interface, reports and graphics need some updating / modernizing, and so this is another important item on our company roadmap.

Thank you for taking the time to read through our company roadmap!

Of course, there are other features and enhancements that we are discussing, so you should be in for some nice surprises over the next year or so!

If you have any suggestions for features that you did not see here or want to be sure you understood something on our roadmap, please feel free to send me an email with the specifics.  My email address is