Category: Best Practices
Can I connect and automate my supply chain? Can I create a digital supply chain?
Today, distributors sit in the middle of a two sided network of many buyers and many suppliers.
Distributed sales reps facilitating orders amidst a number of buyers with unique needs is a challenge in itself.
But add in the management and fulfillment of these orders across an array of suppliers and you get a very congested and disorganized supply chain.
Some companies find themselves in this position after having acquired several businesses. Some have let their sales reps choose suppliers based on geography, and they manage those relationships and orders themselves. Some have simply accumulated relationships with various suppliers for different product categories over the years, and things have finally gotten out of control.
This chaos can make creating a fully connected, digital supply chain seem complicated. But there are a few things you can and should do to get started:
- Understand your numbers: Spend time creating a complete picture of your data. Look at things like order volume, revenue per customer, and the number and types of suppliers that your business is currently utilizing. Access to this data will allow you to make decisions around where to focus resources and what you need to do to continue to grow your business.
- Consolidate & integrate technologies: Whether you’ve acquired several businesses, or allow each department to make their own technology decisions, it is not uncommon for businesses to find themselves with siloed and disconnected technology systems. Spending time doing an audit of the systems you have in place and making sure all orders are being processed in the same way will save you lots of time and money in the long-run.
- Consolidate your suppliers: After you’ve identified the number of suppliers serving your business, you may find room to consolidate across different product categories. Fewer suppliers mean you’re able to aggregate more demand and often times get better pricing as you drive more volume to fewer suppliers. Making sure these suppliers are connected to your technology so you can automate order notification, fulfillment, shipping information, payments and more, is going to save you time and money as well
- Automate manual processes: Consider all of the steps in your customer’s ordering process. Connecting systems and moving steps online eliminates the need for manual processes that steal time away from employees and create lots of run for error. For example, rekeying the same order in multiple systems wastes a lot of time, and often leads to a high number of order errors that cost your business money. The lack of a system for case submission or claims can create a paper trail with no records available at the end of it.
Creating a digital supply chain generates 4 main, game-changing results:
- You’re able to increase your revenue per employee, as employees spend more time on value-adding activities and less time on manual tasks.
- You may even find that you can reduce or repurpose your staff. One of our customers was able to reduce their call center staff from 35 to 12 when they implemented self-service ordering for their retail customers.
- You’ll see your revenue per customer increase as more customers have more access to self-service ordering online.
- You’ll increase your margins as products ordered online have less price sensitivity and higher margins.
So, if you’re asking “Can I create a digital supply chain?”, the answer should be “Yes!” Choosing technology that makes connecting suppliers, integrating back-end systems and automating existing manual workflows will make your move towards automation and game-changing results a reality.
If you need help thinking about automation, digital supply chains and becoming a fully connected distributor, we can help!