In a high-volume, low-margin business, one of the top priorities for distributors is getting products to market quickly. Efficient processes based on the most current information will not only help you harness speed as a competitive advantage but improve customer relationships.

Gaining competitive advantage is not just about accessing information, but in how your company is able to use it to improve profitability. The timeliness and usefulness of the information on hand can make all the difference your ability to stay in front of competitors.
Now that signs of the economic recovery are more prominent, distribution company priorities are shifting. Although cost reduction has been the primary focus over the past several years, it’s now joined by improving customer service and getting products to market faster to make up the top three priorities for supply chain management.

In order to address the priorities driving this “new normal” business environment, operations executives must re-evaluate the projects put on hold during the economic downturn. Investments in process redesign aligned with integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that merge silos of business and financial data will enable your company to access information in more usable ways, improve workflow productivity and produce faster response times that present improved margin opportunities.

The Need for Speed

Distribution is a high-volume, low-margin industry where proactive response to quickly changing prices and customer demands can make or break profitability. This makes the time it takes to access usable information critical—as even the slightest mistake anywhere in the process can be extremely expensive.

Where historical information has traditionally been used to predict future behavior, the fluctuation in economic conditions may mean this information is not as reliable a predictive gauge as it used to be. Add to that the growing amount of information gathered in disparate systems and your time to response is slowed. Basing decisions on data that’s not a reflection of current conditions can mean missed opportunities for more profitable transactions.

Instead, consider the opportunity available when your ERP system has the ability to process orders and customer data within shorter windows and present the information that employees need in dashboards designed to help them better execute their roles in relation to the supply chain. Even better, by automating manual processes, information accuracy is improved—right along with efficiency.

Use Information to Drive Business

An ERP system with comprehensive capabilities that help your company integrate databases and point applications to create one system of truth increases efficiency. This new reality enables you to reap more benefits from the information that your business depends upon. Easy API integration means your unique process configurations can be incorporated, preserving and increasing your competitive advantages. Integrating systems is a necessity, but the same priority should be given to what it takes for your staff to utilize that information productively in the service of customers and order fulfillment.

Shaving time off response to customer inquiries into order and shipping status, enabling a more efficient pick process and the ability to know exactly how much inventory can be promised will go a long way toward increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction. In addition, consider the benefits for your business if you can know at a glance which customers are more profitable in order to optimize how you prioritize service delivery. In fact, enabling quantitative customer insights across the supply chain in the near term can increase your lead in the marketplace well into the future.

Intelligent Efficiency with ERP

The volume of data that your company must process will continue to grow—that’s a given. With the processing power of an integrated ERP system, scale won’t be a problem. Automation of repetitive manual tasks will free time for staff to concentrate on customer service and web-based access for employees across your company based on roles will help speed time to market, keeping you in front of competitors. Ultimately, the improved access to information in a timely manner will enable better business decisions that have real-time impact on the profitability of your company, helping you to quickly master the “new normal” of the business environment.

Find out how we can help your company get products to market faster and extract better insights from the information used to improve efficiency.