Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016 - 89


Warehouses can be chaotic environments, with endless orders to fulfill, inventory numbers constantly in
flux and paperwork that always needs to be kept organized. The back office plays a critical role in ensuring smooth operations within the warehouse. In reality, the path from idea to invoice is a long one.
Administrative tasks, sales, marketing,
IT, engineering, product development and
other behind-the-scenes activities are critical pieces of the overall health of a wholesale distribution business.
In fact, 60 to 80 percent of all costs related to completing a customer order are administrative-based. On the flip side, if back
office operations are inefficient and deeply
time consuming, it can negatively affect the
bottom line and inefficiencies can seep into
the warehouse itself and impact the quality
of customer service.
With competitive pressures like Amazon.com and manufacturers hitting wholesale distributors from all sides, staying lean
and taking advantage of the latest advances
in automation technology to streamline
work flows across the organization is now a
decision many wholesalers cannot afford to
delay any longer.
With the latest automation technology,
manual tasks will become a thing of the past
allowing workers to concentrate on meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
With demanding customers who expect
real-time insight into product availability
and rapid order fulfillment, warehouses
need technology that can pull information
sources from all areas of the operation and
answer questions before customers ask.
Here are the key benefits automation can
deliver to your wholesale and distribution
business today:
 Make every customer a happy customer: Creating a lean, automated office primarily improves
customer service, which can help in
both business expansion efforts and
customer loyalty. Efficient and lean
internal operations reduce the risk of

customer irritation when details on
an order are not realized as specified
or deliveries are late. Delivering on
commitments made during the sales
process is much easier with a well-designed system of work flows in place
to ensure that nothing goes missing.
The benefits of automation aren't
solely for customers alone. Streamlined collaboration with vital third
parties like manufacturers also speed
up the path from order to invoice.
 Say goodbye to delayed projects:
Blocked work flows hurt your bottom line. Imagine a project that's
budgeted for 100 days, but in reality, more than 50 of those will
probably cover work in the office.
Without clearly defined operational procedures, it can easily end
up taking a lot longer with people
wasting time looking for information and making poor decisions
when they can't find it. Leaving this
situation unaddressed can easily
wipe out the benefits of an expertly executed lean warehouse. These
delays will take a toll on your customers' satisfaction.
 Uncover shop floor issues that
are hiding in the office: Warehouse
floor issues can take refuge in the
back office. Consider office logistics
- the time spent manually entering
data and inventory without tangible
added value to the end product is bad
for business. This might not sound
relevant for the office, but information is also a material. Unnecessarily
complex approval processes where
information goes back and forth -

with waiting times in between - are
a good example. Inventory concepts
can also be applied to lists of tasks to
be completed and clogged inboxes
acting as stores of work waiting to be
processed. Not managing these tasks
and their information can be a real
anchor on progress. Add the concepts
of re-work (having to re-do invoices
with the correct information) and inefficient resource allocation (effort
without result, as seen in meetings
without firm conclusions), and you'll
see that the administrative force of
the business can probably lose some
weight. Now imagine the effect on
your business if inventory level information and order statuses were freed
from the constraints of filed paperwork or emails to review and process.

GETTING STARTED
The lean approach focuses on two core
principles: eliminating "waste" that does
not add value to the customer, and smoothing the workflow. Given that many aspects
of administration add no intrinsic customer value (order entry, drawing up quotes,
etc.) it follows that there's much potential
for improvement in back office processes.
Without simple, repetitive processes in
place to turn a suspect into a prospect and
then a customer, as well as turn estimates
into quotations and then into cash, people
can easily be investing their effort in the
wrong places.
Once you've pinpointed the processes
and work flows that you want to automate,
you can choose the right enterprise software applications for your business and
make your vision a reality. 
Dan Griffin serves as the director of product
management at Exact Macola. Dan is
responsible for shaping product direction,
driving development and analyzing potential
third-party partner relationships. He holds an
MBA from the University of North Carolina,
is a Certified ScrumMaster, a certified product manager and has received two patents
for his work at IBM. For more information,
visit www.exactmacola.com.

Spring 2016 www.wdimagazine.com

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016

Contents
Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016 - Cover1
Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016 - Cover2
Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016 - 1
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Wholesale & Distribution International - Spring 2016 - Cover3
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