Digital solutions: A balm for modern wholesale distribution woes?
The past few years have taught businesses the art of being prepared. Whether it is for an epidemic that culminates in the world coming to a standstill or a global recession that’s contributing towards the rising costs of fuel and disruption across supply chains. Shipping costs rose by over 77% in August 2022 from January 2021 due to increased fuel costs, labor costs, and logistics challenges – although this percentage is bound to decrease in 2023, costs will not return to that of the pre-pandemic days, so the distribution industry needs to gear itself for the turbulence ahead. So where can wholesale distributors start?
Let’s take a deep dive into the issues pertaining to wholesale distribution but first let’s start of with an introduction to the wholesale distribution industry.
What does wholesale distribution entail and how can it be better poised for the future?
Wholesale distributors fall into two categories, those that manufacture products and distribute them on a wholesale basis or those that acquire manufactured products and then distribute it to retailers. Usually, wholesale distributors focus on certain industries and product categories and have established strong partnerships with the manufacturers and retailers they usually work with. If you are a wholesale distributor and are considering how to be better prepared for the challenges and opportunities to come, you may need to start with a thorough assessment of what your customers need, your resources, and where you want to be.
A timely article published by McKinsey points to a few key areas that modern distributors need to consistently assess to stay ahead. Having a deep understanding of customer pain points will help distributors reinvent their systems to ensure customer requirements are prioritized. Nurturing relationships and building partnerships with digital leaders will create an omnichannel experience for customers, while every distributor will need to up-to-date digital tools, including advanced analytics and the cloud, to personalize the customer experience and align with new “hybrid” ways of doing business. Finally, tapping into treasure troves of data will help distributors gain business insights that will improve transparency and contribute towards growth.
It may seem convenient to say digital solutions are the balm for any woe that may crop up in the future. But it’s also important to take a step back, identify the issues, and the unique solutions that can be adopted.
What are the woes plaguing modern wholesale distributors?
Taking stock of stocks
Wholesale distributors need to maintain optimal inventory levels to meet customer demand while avoiding overstocking or understocking. Inaccurate forecasts can lead to excess inventory or stockouts, both of which can impact profitability. Moreover, efficiently processing and fulfilling orders while minimizing errors in a fast-paced environment can be a significant challenge, while coordinating with multiple suppliers, tracking their performance, and managing contracts can be an arduous task.
Traditionally this issue was addressed through point-to-point integrations but at present wholesale distributors have a range of tools that can be utilized to navigate this issue including real-time data on retailers’ stock levels. Read on to learn more about other available solutions to this woe.
Factors such as changing market demands, procurement costs, inventory holding costs, transport expenses etc., result in fluctuations in pricing. This challenge is further complicated because wholesale distributors have a variety of products in stock and their prices need to be reviewed in light of the conditions mentioned above. Moreover, in today’s digital age, customers have access to vast amounts of information, including product prices from multiple suppliers. This increased price transparency makes it more challenging for wholesale distributors to maintain higher margins. Distributors must strike a balance between remaining competitive and protecting their profitability while also addressing customer demands for transparency.
Supply Chain Disruptions
Wholesale distributors are also regularly affected by supply chain disruptions caused by changes in the economic climate and ensuing issues. Moreover, their operations are impacted by the challenges that surround manufacturers as well. If manufacturers have trouble sourcing products and putting them together, they affect the overall operations of a wholesale distributor. Trouble with transport and rising fuel costs also impact the consistent flow of products to the manufacturer and impede their journey to customers as well.
For wholesale distributors who distribute a variety of products, warehouses store a world of worries. From maintaining inventories, packaging, goods picking and bar code printing; the work can be unending. Moreover, with perpetual changes in the market that need to be reflected on the products and the pace of operations – the work in warehouses is challenging.
Different balms for different woes?
If you have a backache, perhaps any potent balm would do – that’s how pain relief solutions usually work. It’s similar for the woes of wholesale distributors. There’s a holistic solution that works in conjunction with other extensions and that’s Infor M3/CloudSuite for distribution. This ERP solution can provide you with an overview of your entire business, creating greater visibility to navigate your supply chain, enhance customer service, reduce costs and increase response times.
Infor M3/CloudSuite enables distributors to efficiently manage their inventory by providing real-time visibility into stock levels, tracking inventory movements, and automating replenishment processes which in turn minimize stockouts.
To ease pricing problems, Infor M3/CloudSuite also enables distributors to manage complex pricing structures, including customer-specific pricing, discounts and promotions. All this while taking into account volume, customer segments, and market conditions. The software also facilitates end-to-end order management processes, including order capture, processing, fulfillment, and tracking. More over, it can quickly integrate with numerous Electronic Data Interchanges (EDI) or B2B platforms for seamless exchange of data and transactions.
Integrations with B2B ecommerce platforms also enables wholesale distributors to access real-time insights on available stocks so all parties across the supply chain are aware of when replenishments need to be made. This can be supported by a demand planning solution that offers a synchronized view of demand and eliminates supply chain inefficiencies.
For the world of worries in warehouses, a Warehouse Management System (WMS) provides real-time visibility into inventory levels, locations, and movements. It enables accurate tracking of stock, including receiving, put away, picking, and shipping. By maintaining accurate inventory data, a WMS also helps reduce stockouts, overstocking, and discrepancies. It also gives customers greater visibility into the movement of their deliveries; thereby improving the level of communication across the supply chain.
Moreover, Infor M3/CloudSuite, paired with a Business Intelligence (BI) solution gives you the ability to gain deep insights into your entire business – comparing available stocks, market prices, supplier stocks and prices etc. on a single platform so that you can gain valuable insights into your operations. It enables you to create customizable dashboards, reports, and analytics tools to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), track sales trends, and identify opportunities for cost savings and process improvement as well.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI also hold great potential for wholesale distributors. The solutions can help distributors analyze their data better and provide customers with consistent and proactive experiences that suit their requirements. Moreover, with RPA, distributors can minimize repetitive tasks like entering customer information, product details etc., that can be time consuming and dedicate this time to focus on ensuring operations are efficient across the supply chain.
Infor M3/CloudSuite along with its band of extensions is the most potent balm for the woes of wholesale distributors but like any ailment, the assessment and the identification of pain points and strengths lies in your hands. Are you ready to ease your distribution woes?
Identify the remedy that would best suit your needs – read our latest brochure on distribution to learn more.