OP MANUFACTURERS REPS 01By Sanford E. Watson

Manufacturers’ representatives often are sued by consumers. Some claims are related to advertising, while others may allege that a product itself is defective or unsafe. In the vast majority of these lawsuits, the manufacturer – not the representative – is the true target. Being sued may be inevitable depending upon the industry, but there are certain precautions manufacturers’ representatives can take to avoid or mitigate the impact of any lawsuit. In my practice defending manufacturers’ representatives, I have identified four common mistakes that can paint a target on the back of any unknowing manufacturer’s representative.

OP NONDURABLE 01By Tony Donofrio, Stephen Francis and Matt Saxton 

In a previous column, we described network optimization as a series of tradeoffs between responsiveness and efficiency. As we explained then, one of the main challenges for the typical supply chain professional is to balance the tradeoffs between speed and cost. In this column, we’ll look at a particular railroad’s efforts to strike that balance as market conditions shifted under its feet.

ECOMMERCE 01Wholesalers need to make the move to user-friendly e-commerce quickly.

By Justin Yopp

There is nothing more frustrating than barriers to spending your money. Let me explain. My wife and I are wrapping up a kitchen renovation project on our midcentury modern home. As anyone who has remodeled a period home and tried to match existing fixtures knows, finding replacements for 50-plus year old fixtures is taxing. So we were ecstatic when we found out that our original lights are still manufactured by the original manufacturer in Detroit, Mich.

OP DURABLE 01By Kim Long

Business is certainly no game, but there is room for creativity and experimentation in the pursuit of a winning bottom line.

Let’s face it, the business challenges within distribution are numerous and painful to manage. The increasing number of customers with widely varying buying behaviors make optimal price setting difficult; negotiations with your suppliers can often be tenuous; frequent product cost changes are common and low visibility into supplier incentive programs is enough to keep all of us up at night. And that’s just for starters.

In an attempt to drive growth, most companies rely on the same tried and true playbook - they pick apart cost. Even mildly successful organizations commonly try various tactics to reduce costs and boost efficiencies. And those efforts are an important component of growing the business, certainly. But there is another even more impactful profit lever – price. Unfortunately though, change in this area often comes hard, and for good reason.

DIGITIZATION 01Digitization matters more to wholesale distribution than you might think.

By Danny Halim

If you ask a wholesale distributor the question of whether digitization matters, you may get different answers based on their interpretation of what digitization means to them. Some may respond in the context of e-commerce, retail or enterprise resource planning. The majority may agree that it matters, but since current processes and systems are working fine, it’s more superfluous than necessary; and others may think that it’s simply a strong buzzword. The truth is, digitization is impacting wholesale distributors even more than it’s impacting retailers or manufacturers.

Digitization is real, and it’s here. First, it allows wholesale distributors to engage with customers and suppliers differently, and react faster and better against supply chain disruptions. It’s not just a retail or manufacturing thing, especially when your suppliers or customers have the means to directly connect and engage, or when Amazon continues to expand and offer wholesale delivery services faster and at lower costs.

CHOOSING 01Which picking system is right for your digital order profile?

By Richard Barnes

As consumer product companies go digital with orders coming from a growing list of omnichannel sources, order profiles are evolving rapidly. These profiles are often reduced to just a few items per order. To meet these changing demands, digital distribution centers are reviewing their picking methodologies to improve efficiency and to quickly get orders on their way to the customer.

Many order picking processes can be deployed in a digital distribution environment. These processes can be divided into four major picking categories: discrete order, cluster, zone and batch picking. Choosing the correct picking strategy for your digital distribution center depends on a variety of factors, including order sizes, warehouse sizes and business needs. By taking into consideration the advantages, disadvantages and best practices for each option, your organization can ensure its picking system meets the demands of your digital order profiles.

 SPEED VS COST 01There’s a lot to keep in mind when optimizing your network.

By Tony Donofrio, Stephen Francis, Shawl Liu

It’s clear from the name alone that “network optimization” is a desirable goal, but how should we pursue it? Most of the time, we’re just trying to make things work, let alone “optimize” them. The fact is, for the typical supply chain professional, day-to-day reality is balancing the tradeoffs between speed and cost, combined with an overwhelming number of options in other areas.

Among the things that we can’t change are the locations of big, “static” assets such as buildings and the heavy equipment built into them. These assets were put where they are for good reasons, but the world changed around them. Perhaps we had a big, important customer in Houston, so we built our plant there. Our customer moved to Oregon, but our plant is stubbornly still very much in Texas; there’s nothing we can do to change that for now.

 A HYBRID SOLUTION 01Warehouse control systems are evolving to include execution.

By Jerry List

Today’s distributors are challenged to streamline processes, accelerate productivity, increase efficiency and reduce costs. Warehouse control systems (WCS) bridge material handling equipment with ERP or warehouse management systems (WMS). Today, many WCS remain limited to this area and do not address operational or process challenges. Consequently, warehouse execution systems (WES) were introduced. A WES synchronizes the resources necessary to complete such tasks as order fulfillment and shipping in the most efficient manner. Furthermore, a WES orchestrates the overall flow of work by selecting the next best order to release from the available pool of orders and current workload in the various work cells.

So what’s the answer: do you need a WCS and a WES? Fortunately, the answer is “no.” Today’s sophisticated warehouse control systems have evolved into a WCS/WES hybrid.

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