Paul Rogers looks at how wholesale and distribution businesses can fully embrace digital working to keep pace with our ever-changing digital economy.
Worth an impressive £30 billion, the UK wholesale and distribution sector is no stranger to change, with ever-changing customer demands, increasing regulatory requirements and a volatile economic climate shifting the goalposts on a regular basis. The advent of the digital economy in which we all find ourselves has piled on the pressure further still, with wholesale and distribution businesses facing the daily challenge to adapt and innovate, all while increasing profits.
Due in part to the fast-paced nature of doing business in our digitised economy, in combination with increasingly complex supply chains, distribution and wholesale businesses are finding it more difficult, if not impossible, to rely on manual processes to manage operations. For those trying to use legacy IT systems to run their businesses, IT systems which are sometimes a disparate mix of creaking, bolted-together, process-specific solutions, they can be doing more harm than good, stifling potential for business growth.
Forward-looking wholesale and distribution companies are recognising the need to tackle operational digitisation to optimise business efficiency, with investments in their back office technology underpinning improved efficiency, customer service and the bottom line, while laying the foundations for becoming a truly digital player. With the right business management systems in place at the heart of the business, spanning financials, purchasing, sales and CRM, inventory and warehouse management, as well as reporting and Business Intelligence, organisations can get ‘digital-ready’, bringing together seemingly disparate parts of the business to maximise efficiencies and provide clear business visibility across the entire operation.
Manual, disconnected processes, spreadsheets and systems can hinder progress, leading not only to business delays but costly errors too. The best business management and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems automate vital business functions and procedures, limiting labour-intensive activities including inventory control, warehouse management, billing and delivery note scheduling, and preventing the inevitable errors that occur, particularly when manually transferring information or data from one system to the next, or from paper to screen. This eradication of manual processes not only minimises errors but increases productivity and efficiency, with more tasks being completed right first time and giving employees more time to focus on other value adding activities.
When it comes to getting the right information at the right time in the right place, those businesses without modern systems in place are destined to fail or at least lag behind. Without a central repository for all business information, something that’s part and parcel of an integrated business management solution, pulling together business data is time consuming, error-prone and inefficient. With the right solution in place, workers have the power to access accurate, real-time information themselves, at the click of a mouse or at the swipe of a smartphone screen. For wholesale and distribution businesses who want to keep pace with not only the wider markets but larger competitors, this unfettered access to information is a must.
It’s not just this greater access to information that makes such a huge difference, it’s the quality of the information too. The best business management systems turn the comprehensive business data from across the organisation into real, in-depth business insight, which, when delivered in real time direct to your screen, underpins faster, more robust decision-making based on accurate information. For a sector where a business’s ability to respond to rapidly changing circumstances can be the difference between success or failure, this timely access to quality business insight based on data from across the entire business cannot be underestimated, leading to vital business agility and flexibility.
It’s only with this level of agility, in combination with complete visibility across the organisation that wholesale and distribution businesses can expand beyond their traditional boundaries, embracing 24/7 operations on a global scale, achieving seamless supply chain integration while reducing operating costs, increasing customer satisfaction and, most importantly, maintaining healthy profits.
If distribution and wholesale companies are serious about digital transformation, aiming to adopt smart technologies across the business and make the most of connected devices, it’s vital to digitise the crucial business processes and procedures that underpin everyday operations. Without a joined-up, business-wide system in place, with the efficiency savings and productivity increases this brings, efforts to digitise further will be based on rocky foundations and are ultimately doomed to fail. The time to invest is very much now, in order to get your own house in full working digital order to create fully-digitised wholesale and distribution businesses which will grow and prosper in our digitised global economy.
One of our team will be in touch shortly.