Technology is necessary but not sufficient to build a lean supply chain, notes Adam Fein in this issue. That statement strikes a chord as there seems to be a recurring conversation about the application (or not) of technology.
It goes something like this: Executives either understand how to leverage IT tools to position them in a stronger place strategically, or they consider IT expense a necessary evil of the back-office infrastructure to get orders and invoices out and keep cash flowing.
Of course, there are infinite variables on these polarized views. But the technology gap will continue to become an important factor in wholesale distribution. For many smaller and specialized distributors, their technology potential today can help level the playing field or change it. They can extend strong relationships into customers and key vendors, with online order and information tools that make it easier and faster to get information or product.
The technology case study in this issue, one of a series, presents a dramatic argument for how a company was able to support growth while cutting expense in many areas. It went from an entirely manual system to automating processes, not without pain. The benefits yielded a company that is much leaner, more profitable and well-positioned for the future.
Distributors have more choices than ever, from software vendors as well as associations, marketing groups and other coalitions working on standards, pricing formats and other efficiencies. Distributors who make the connections from manufacturer to customer as seamless and friction-free as possible will win. It isn’t about size and scale, but how much visibility you can deliver while getting your processes out of the way of your customers and vendors.