Talking to distributors (wholesale and industrial) I am always asked to assist them in improving their productivity.
When I follow up with the next question “what have you done so far?”. The response I get is always limited to operational functionality in the warehouse with WMS and TMS approaches.
This is not wrong and there usually is much productivity improvement using proper tools available from analytics, to mobility, to improved inventory management, transportation management with revised and simplified workflows.
However, this is only a portion of the potential opportunity to increase your productivity.
Before any transaction reaches the operational areas of your business there is as much work required to get it there as there is to pick/pack/ship.
Here are a few areas you should consider:
- Product Catalogue/website
- Is your product catalog up to date with the latest product lines you are carrying?
- An outdated product catalog can cost you sales for additional/companion products on the order since the customer usually prefers not to place multiple orders (especially to different vendors) to fulfill a demand
- Longer order entry process to avoid/correct errors
- More time on the phone to explain changes to the customer
- A worst case scenario is having to procure an item you no longer carry to satisfy a customer. Etc..
- Is your pricing up to date?
- Are all customer and vendor rebates included in your pricing?
- Are all trade agreements and SPAs up to date and considered in your price?
- Is all this current pricing information contained in a system that provides the correct pricing at order entry and no longer requires a team of employees to check orders for pricing to avoid errors and customer dissatisfaction?
- Is your price supporting your margin expectations? Etc..
- Are you automatically collecting all vendor rebates as agreed (dollar amount and timing)?
- Are you invoicing the correct amount the first time?
- Are you paying all customer rebates as agreed (dollar amount and timing)?
- Are you automatically providing the supporting documents to both customers and vendors? Etc..
The list above is limited and there are many more areas you can improve productivity and customer satisfaction.
There are Best Practices available for you to review and implement as they apply to your business processes and add value to both your firm, customers and vendors.
Using the proper digital platform will allow you to quickly improve productivity across your company – not only the operations processes. The right software system will improve time and apply an “absolute” approach to ensuring that the rules you have negotiated are applied and respected – pricing, rebates, product catalog and much more. The correct system will be flexible enough to allow you to improve productivity anywhere in your process, manage margins and improve customer experience (both internal and external) for today as well as the changes required for tomorrow.