Distribution is a tough business. High levels of competition, shrinking margins, and higher expectations make it easy to feel the pressure. The supply chain is changing and with this, so is the market. And guess what? You’re right in the middle of it.
Remaining competitive in distribution will rely on a variety of tactics and strategies, but if you’re looking to get and stay ahead, you will need to transform your business and find new ways to use data, analytics, and engagement.
For the distribution industry, whose members are already pressured by competition from everyone ranging from traditional competitors to firms including Amazon and Wal-Mart, your ability to use data will rely on your ability to digitize, gaining the speed, reliability, and control you need to take on advancing competition.
What is digital transformation?
One of those phrases that has gotten thrown around a lot in recent years has been the term “digital transformation.” A term that could include anything from going paperless in the office to a complete overhaul of the way your business operates, it all starts with understanding how to apply technology—something we discussed in a recent blog.
In the blog, we used definitions from Technopedia, finding that
“Digital transformation is the changes associated with digital technology application and integration into all aspects of human life and society. […] Digital tools and technology are changing how people interact, and in turn this changes how people do business. […] In a more business-related aspect, digital transformation refers to how a company has or is transforming its core business processes using digital technology in order to gain competitive advantage and gain differentiation in its market segment.”
However, there are also challenges for companies in every industry, as too many leaders think it’s both a standard process and a metamorphosis, and that they will walk into work one day with a ‘transformed’ business. This is not the case. Digital transformation not only differs from industry to industry, it differs from company to company.
Early steps for distributors looking to transform
Knowing this, it is helpful to find a starting point and early steps, including the process of identifying where you stand, what technologies you currently have, where you hope to be, and what actions you will need to take to get to your ideal state.
Knowing where your distribution firm and your supply chain stand
As mentioned above, digital transformations are happening at different levels across all industries. As the company who often connects manufacturers or other suppliers to retailers and in turn end users, you have watched both sides adopt new digital technologies in their own ways. While this has likely changed the way you’re working with them, your competitive advantage will be built on your ability to embrace the changes they have put on you.
Addressing this will require you to take a hard look at your current business practices, technologies, and understand how you will fit into the supply chain.
Looking at your technology stack
From the c-suite to the ground-floor employees, every team member should understand why adopting digital technologies, cloud ERP software and emerging technologies (e.g. IoT, AI, robotics, next gen security), is absolutely necessary for being able to exchange data across the organization. This information can then be used to make strategic, effective decisions, meeting modern expectations from across the supply chain, and innovation.
A solid technology foundation and a clear digital strategy—which includes asking the right questions, setting clear goals and the steps to achieving them, getting input from people throughout the organization, and providing ongoing informational and training sessions—will keep the transformation moving forward.
Understanding what you will need
The digital changes also provide a window for distribution companies to rethink business models. Companies need to consider whether they will become disruptive players or are at risk of being disrupted by upstarts or competitors.
For distribution companies, this starts with being able to understand your products better. How did they get there, where are they, and how do you get them to your customers? What’s profitable? How can we do something faster, cheaper, or better than our competitors?
As we discussed in an earlier blog, there are four key components to making a digital transformation a reality: cloud computing, mobile technologies, the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics.
Making your move: Acumatica Cloud ERP delivers for distribution
Distribution management is Cloud ERP software that helps companies manage their supply chain and logistics activities, including warehouse management, inventory management, and order management (sales and purchase orders), and integrate these activities with the company’s financials and sales. With Acumatica Cloud ERP, distribution companies can leverage technology that empowers them, improving everything from cost control to order times, supplier relationships to customer satisfaction.
As a leading provider of Acumatica for distribution, NexTec can customize, implement, and integrate the solution, training your users and setting you up for success in a digital world. Get to know more about our work and contact us for a free consultation.