With new technology emerging every day, it is important for businesses to keep up with the changes to ensure that they are best serving their customers and operating in the most efficient way. In the distribution industry, new technology can reduce errors, save time, eliminate the need for manual workarounds and ultimately be the difference between making or losing money. With so many new devices and distribution inventory systems available, companies still wasting resources on manual processes and not operating eCommerce solutions will be unable to compete in the future. This is why it is so important for distributors and their employees to embrace new technology and always be looking for ways to improve their processes. Below is a look at some of the most popular technological advancements for distributors today.
DISTRIBUTION INVENTORY SOFTWAREProper distribution inventory software as part of a fully integrated ERP system is the key to efficient operations across all business processes. With ERP software, employees will have access to real-time information about products and the amount of human error associated with entering data into multiple systems will be eliminated. Lot tracking components will be able to locate and recall products that are potentially dangerous to customers at minimal cost and shipping costs will be reduced through features that determine the cheapest carrier/shipping method on each order. Automatic financial and management reports can be created and automatically emailed to appropriate individuals to provide businesses with timely information that can help them analyze the success and growth of the company on a regular basis. Companies still operating with pen and paper or on multiple systems spend too much time correcting errors and rekeying data - reducing the time spent on finding new customers, and ensuring current customers are satisfied. Bar code scanning is also increasing in popularity because of its ability to reduce picking, packing and shipping and receiving errors (discussed below).
eCOMMERCE FOR BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS (B2B) AND BUSINESS-TO-CONSUMER (B2C)eCommerce channels allow customers to access information about and purchase products from distributors 24/7, 365 days a year without the need for additional staff to process transactions. For many distributors, their eCommerce offering will include a customer portal - with real time inventory and customer-specific pricing information - while others may wish to sell directly to consumers with an Amazon-type interface more common of B2C businesses. With either eCommerce site however, integrating with a strong back end distribution inventory system will automate transactions and processes between the front-end and back-end operations. This means as orders come in from the web store inventory levels are tracked and updated automatically and any changes made in an inventory management system will be automatically reflected online. eCommerce is important as customers expect access to product information available 24/7 and is especially important when dealing with customers from different time zones and with different operating hours. Therefore, eCommerce is becoming a vital strategic play for distribution business growth.
SOPHISTICATED BARCODE SCANNERSBarcode scanners provide distributors with a fast, reliable, and accurate way to manage inventory. Just like the name implies, barcode scanners are able to scan products in order to collect product information more accurately, reconcile inventory faster and they can be used for inventory cycle counts, point-of-sale checkout, purchasing, picking, packing, as well as shipping and receiving. New bar code scanner iterations include direct integration with smartphone and tablets for easy and cheap deployment. Industrial scanners are also available, at higher cost, with ruggedized exteriors for long-term warehouse use.
IPAD APP INTEGRATIONIn today's marketplace it seems as if everyone has a tablet and more and more salespeople are using them as an essential part of their sales process. Tablets provide an advantage in that they are able to imitate the shopping experience by showing customers high definition pictures, real-time catalogue information and interactive presentations on product features and functionality. Distribution sales reps can use tablets to perform all the necessary sales steps on the spot from checking inventory levels in real-time, to processing orders and searching information about customers and products. These app features greatly reduce time wasted by sales reps on administrative tasks and GPS systems included on tablets can reduce wasted time finding customer locations. Using tablets is a more effective and efficient way to serve clients and frees up time for sales reps to focus on customer acquisition and product branding - not to mention being environmentally friendly and allowing access to the full-blown inventory and accounting system if desired.
Not embracing new technology not only means that businesses are not working as efficiently as possible; it also means that they will lose customers to those businesses who are. Distributors should always be looking to improve their processes and can do so by deploying the popular technological advancements listed above.
Samantha Hornby is a member of the Blue Link team, a wholesale and distribution inventory software company that provides all of the new technology mentioned above to help customers increase efficiencies and reduce costs. For more information, visit www.BlueLinkERP.com