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"Infor Distribution Essentials
includes business-specific solutions with industry experience built in to solve the most pressing challenges of distribution companies—from searching for better ways to strengthen value-added services, extend their inventory,
and grow their business to sustaining profitability in this expanded environment."
Source : Infor
The Five Keys to World-class Distribution
Distribution is also known as :
Channels of Distribution,
Distributions Applications Documentation,
Small Press Distribution,
Online Distribution Center,
Distribution Embedded Power.
What does it mean to be a world-class competitor? It means being successful in your chosen
market against any competition—regardless of size, country of origin or resources. It means
matching or exceeding any competitor on customer service, quality, fexibility and innovation. It
means picking your battles—competing where and when you choose and on terms that you
dictate. It means you are in control and your competitors struggle to emulate your success.
What does it take to be a world-class distributor? It takes focus and hard work. World-class
distributors understand their markets and their customers. They are constantly aware of all of the
factors – internal and external – that afect performance and customer satisfaction. They are on
top of everything over which they do have control and prepared to deal with those things that they
To achieve world-class status, companies must be willing to change procedures and concepts
which means transforming relationships with suppliers, service providers and customers.
Enterprise automation is indispensable to industry innovators who aim to gain market share,
operate at peak efciency and exceed customer expectations.
How can your company become and remain world-class? There are fve keys to becoming a world-
class distributor that distill the broad concepts above into specifc actions that can be addressed
and accomplished in your company. Each is presented with a brief discussion and examples of its
impact on a distribution organization and its competitiveness.
The keys to success, in no particular order, are:
- Exceed customer expectations
- Cut operations costs
- Reduce lead times
- Streamline operations
- Improve business performance visibility
Each of these objectives is important in and of itself; however, taken together, they describe the
focus of the activities and attitudes that defne world-class
Exceed customer expectations
The ultimate goal in any business is pleasing your customers. The most successful companies
don’t just meet customer expectations, they exceed them and beat the competition by setting
the bar at a level that is difcult, if not impossible, for others to surpass. Successful distributors
manage the entire customer relationship—from prospect, to post-sales service and support—
involving the entire organization in a customer focus. Whether or not they have direct contact with
customers, contributors must keep the customers’ needs in mind as they plan and carry out day-
Distributors must truly understand the customers’ goals and objectives. Your products and
services must strive to support the customers’ vision. Communication is very important; neglect
is the number one reason that customers terminate a relationship. The key is to give customers
access to all appropriate information about your relationship and make it readily available
whenever and wherever they might need it—the Web is your ally in achieving this objective.
As most companies have painfully learned in recent years, customers often change their mind.
To be fair, market conditions are such that product cycles and demand patterns are constantly
changing. Agility is extremely important. A solid, collaborative partnership with customers will
provide the most reliable advanced information and therefore the earliest warning of
The best strategy is to make the customer want to do business with you. Strive to be the preferred
supplier through competitive products, high quality, the right price and superior customer service.
Arguably, the most important aspect of customer service is on-time performance. There are
two sides to on-time delivery: promising a realistic date; then delivering on that promise. You
must take that promise seriously, meaning that it is not given lightly—all considerations and
constraints are factored in before committing to a delivery date. Performance measurements are a
must; if you don’t know how you are performing, you cannot improve upon it. It is not unusual for
companies to consistently have 98% - 99% success in meeting agreed-to delivery dates.
Quality of both product and your service must be considered a given. Work with your customers
and suppliers as early as possible in the product development cycle to determine the required
measurements. Measuring and improving all processes through the order and fulfllment cycles,
with an eye toward continuous improvement, will allow you to achieve or even surpass
Cut operations costs
Although recent developments in planning and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) have
focused more on top-line benefts—growing revenue—the bottom line is still greatly dependent on
controlling costs. Companies with a lower operational cost structure enjoy an obvious advantage
in proftability, and the ability to adjust pricing to meet competitive pressures, if necessary, to
maintain or gain market share.
Costs are really just part of the scoreboard. When a company implements world-class operational
processes, it improves multiple measurements simultaneously, including cost, lead times,
inventory and customer service. This approach is superior to a pure cost reduction focus without
the associated business process change, which can negatively impact other operational
measurements like availability and customer service. Localized cost reduction eforts can often
increase costs in other areas. Moving to overseas suppliers with lower unit costs, for example, will
increase costs for procurement, transportation, inventory and reduced fexibility, among others.
The opportunities for cost reduction will vary with the specifc situation and the kind of products
the distributor handles. Since inventory cost is a dominant factor, signifcant opportunities for
reduction lie in analyzing current forecasting and replenishment management, and devising
efective sourcing and positioning strategies to have the right amount of the right inventory in
the right place at the right time. It is important to optimize inventory strategy to be able to lower
inventory costs without harming customer service.
Transportation costs can be minimized through efective route scheduling, and by employing
strategies such as back-hauling and optimized mode selection. Overhead reduction is always a
fertile area for cost reduction, using automation to streamline the procurement, warehousing,
handling, shipment and customer management processes. Since most direct labor costs tend
to be fxed, efective deployment of these resources can reduce unplanned overtime and
unnecessary staf increases.
Reduce lead times
Shorter lead times are always a good thing. In many markets, the ability to deliver sooner will win
business away from competitors with similar products, quality and price. In other markets, quick
delivery can justify a premium price and will certainly enhance customer satisfaction. In all cases,
shorter lead times increase fexibility and agility, reduce the need for inventory bufers and lower
obsolescence risk. Lead times are cumulative and bi-directional—that is, order handling, picking,
packing, transportation, planning, procurement, inspection, handling, the suppliers’ lead time, and
delivery to and between your warehouses all contribute to the lead time; and the time it takes to get
signals down the supply chain to initiate each activity adds to the overall time it takes to get the
Infexible business rules and policies can drive undesired efects. Purchasing rules too focused on
unit cost lead to large quantity buys that result in high inventory and long lead times. Ironically,
this type of buying can also lead to shortages, since longer lead times mean you will be buying
to a less accurate forecast. The best combination of price and lead time often comes from a stable
buyer-supplier collaborative relationship based on long-term contracts with deliveries according
to a forecast that is shared with the supplier and updated frequently. The same is true on the
customer side. Instead of focusing on securing large, one-time, single orders that clog up the
supply chain, companies must focus on creating long-term contracts with customers and inducing
customers to share forecast information so your preparations can reduce their lead times.
Appropriate measurements contribute to high performance. On-time shipment and inventory turns
are good examples of high-level measures that tie to company objectives. Focusing on isolated
measurements like purchase price variance or incoming freight cost creates excess inventory
and longer lead times. Warehouse foor measurements must encourage overall performance—
shipping orders on time at minimal total cost and minimal total cycle times.
Performing manual transactions often slows down the supply chain and adds to lead time.
Reporting transactions at each activity or creating a paper purchase order before suppliers work
on an order are just two examples. In addition, manual transaction reporting often introduces
errors and impacts work productivity. Companies must eliminate non-value added transactions
and automate valuable transactions to speed up the supply chain. For example, electronic pick
systems or wireless scanners can be used in the warehouse to direct picking and report activity,
and supplier purchase orders can be electronically sent or completely eliminated usingSupplier
Relationship Management (SRM) solutions.
Reducing inventory, as mentioned above, is the frst place distributors look for cost savings
and increased efciency. Increase inventory velocity so that it spends less time in your
warehouse(s). This is achieved through smart procurement, proper positioning, and close
coordination with demand. In the extreme, goods can be cross-docked, moving right from the
receiving dock to the shipping dock and never really sitting in your inventory at all. Beyond that,
look for these opportunities:
- Position goods as close as possible to customers, in the most appropriate quantities to serve
their needs. This supports smaller, more frequent (and quicker) deliveries to customers,
reducing their inventory needs. End-of-the-chain positioning is supported by a replenishment
strategy that optimizes inventories and transportation up the chain and the possibility of
ovement across the chain as needs change.
- Collaborative forecasting, working closely with customers to uncover their true needs, is the
driver for all of these eforts. Customers will often order defensively or respond to artifcial
incentives (quantity price breaks, for example, or load minimums or freight rate considerations).
Open dialogues can often uncover alternative strategies that beneft both the customer and the
distributor (and the supplier).
- Be demand driven: forward-thinking customers are becoming more willing to share detail
demand data with distributors who, in turn, share the data with suppliers as part of the
collaborative forecasting process. Point-of-sale data is the clearest measure of actual customer
demand not disguised by local store inventories and shelf stock
Inventory reductions notwithstanding, the need for warehouse space tends to grow to the extent
that many distributors fnd themselves continually expanding yet constantly cramped for space.
The solution is not to add more space, but to more efectively use the space you have, as well
as reducing space requirements by reducing inventory). Automated warehouse systems can
track locations and contents, allowing more efective use of available space. These systems
can also monitor and manage stock rotation, shelf-life, environmental concerns (temperature
requirements, proximity concerns), and optimum location for efcient access. Warehouse
systems can also direct put-away and picking activity to increase labor productivity as well as
making the most productive use of space and equipment.
Top line improvements can also come from product line expansion in the most general sense.
Leading distributors are branching out from traditional product sale and delivery to ofer value-
added services like labeling, light assembly and packaging services.
Improve business performance visibility
Increased visibility improves business performance. Today’s fast-moving, ever-changing business
environment demands faster responsiveness to changes in the market, product innovation and
supply chain events. Ignorance is one of the greatest threats to a distribution company’s health
and success. Executives and senior managers must understand how the enterprise is meeting
strategic objectives. Middle-level managers need visibility into how they are performing against
tactical objectives. Responsible individuals must be notifed immediately when supply chain
issues threaten the completion of objectives, so actions can be taken to ensure customer delivery
and service expectations continue to be met.
A well-implemented and efective business solution delivers overall visibility into the health of the
company and its operations and provides detailed information for performance measurement,
process management, and problem identifcation and remediation. Such a system can help
improve revenue through competitive advantage, helping you understand your business and
manage it better, reduce operational costs, improve performance and improve results for all
stakeholders—owners, executives, managers and employees.
An enterprise business solution will capture literally thousands of pieces of information each day,
as activities are reported throughout the extended enterprise. All of this detailed data is of little use
without placing it in context and seeing each activity in relationship to all the other activities and
the overall plan. To turn data into meaningful information is an up-and-down process. Bits of data,
taken together and summarized, form higher level contextual information that shows status,
accomplishments and importance. From high-level summaries, the observer must be able to drill
down to details to understand exactly what is happening and how to drive those activities toward
the goals and objectives.
Management information and analysis is only as good as the data it is based on. Therefore, data
must be collected as quickly as possible and with the least amount of human intervention, which
tends to introduce delays and errors. It is equally important to collect data from supply chain
partners through automation. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the most commonly used
method today but EDI is rapidly being replaced by XML-based e-commerce communications, SOA
web services and Web-based portal technologies. New technologies allow almost continuous
tracking of goods in containers, containers in trucks and rail cars, and trucks on the highway to
an extent unimaginable only a few years ago using RFID and GPS tracking. The major package
delivery companies have re-branded themselves as logistics service providers to refect the
expanding array of information services now available from labeling-billing devices that can be
integrated with your own systems to web-based tracking and enhanced en-route services to help
you stay aware, and in control, right to the point of delivery.
All systems should be integrated so information can pass freely between them without manual re-
entry. Many distributors are left with “islands of automation” after implementation of specialized
information systems in isolated portions of the business over the years. While each contains
valuable information, absence of integration prevents the efective use of that information for
overall management and coordination of efort toward company objectives.
Unlocking the potential
The keys to becoming a world-class distributor are not a secret—they are not even especially
profound— they are simply a distillation of the experiences of leading companies and how they
have managed to excel in their chosen markets. Any company can take advantage of the wisdom
and the practices developed in more than 100 years of business since the Industrial Revolution
brought modern distribution into existence, but many simply do not have the insight or the will to
recognize what must be done and to accomplish it.
It is a poor workman who blames his tools for shoddy work, but it is also true that professionals
understand the value of good tools and insist on having and using the best whenever possible.
When selecting a business solution, look for one that can handle the tasks you have in mind, but
also one that is fexible enough to adapt to emerging business situations and uses that may arise
in the future. The handling and use of information is changing faster than any other technology on
the planet. And, remember that information management is the fundamental support for each and
every one of the keys to world-class performance.
When looking at extended ERP, supply chain management or CRM solutions some people tend to
get distracted by details of the technology and miss the bigger picture. Keep in mind the reasons
you are looking for a solution in the frst place—to provide tools to manage the information that is
essential to growing business value. And that’s the application software, not the hardware or
operating system. On the technology side, you only have to ensure, as much as you can, that the
operating platform is capable of supporting your business needs today and in the foreseeable
future, and that the supplier(s) will be around when you need them. Of course, no one knows the
future, but you can certainly improve your odds with careful selection.
The keys to world-class distribution dictate a requirement to deploy capabilities to improve
operations and processes. Subsequently, technology-based solutions must then be built around
the functional processes of customer and order management, warehouse and inventory control,
planning, sourcing, transportation and logistics, administration and fnance. Being world-class is all
about being as good as any competitor in the world, and just a little bit better, quicker, smarter, or
more responsive than the rest. World-class distributors can choose their battles and compete on
their own terms. They are in control of their own destiny and are seldom, if ever, blindsided by
something they haven’t anticipated or cannot handle.
Infor delivers business-specifc software to enterprising organizations. With experience built in, Infor’s
solutions enable businesses of all sizes to be more enterprising and adapt to the rapid changes of a
global marketplace. With more than 70,000 customers, Infor is changing what businesses expect
from an enterprise software provider. For additional information, visitwww.infor.com.
This document refects the direction Infor may take with regard to the specifc product(s) described in
this document, all of which is subject to change by Infor in its sole discretion, with or without notice to
you. This document is not a commitment to you in any way and you should not rely on this document
or any of its content in making any decision. Infor is not committing to develop or deliver any specifed
enhancement, upgrade, product or functionality, even if such is described in this document.
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Table of contents
- Executive overview
- Exceed customer expectations
- Cut operations costs
- Reduce lead times
- Streamline operations
- Improve business performance visibility
- Unlocking the potential
- About Infor