Supply chain performance is the linchpin for how successfully manufacturers and wholesale distributors can compete in today’s volatile markets. Rising customer expectations, reduced product lifecycles, tenuous margins, demand variability and global competition are among the factors pressuring organizations to rethink supply chain processes and systems.

Supply chains have matured to become faster and more interconnected, but they’ve also grown more complex. More suppliers mean more points of integration across supply chain infrastructures. Multiple layers of complexity render many supply chains vulnerable to disruption, while adding cost and risk.

The U.S. distribution landscape has changed dramatically in the past several years, with e-commerce growing almost 18 percent each year, according to McKinsey & Co. Industries have made gradual adaptations to keep pace, but having the ability to emanage inventory effectively and meet customer demand is critical for growth.   

Being out-of-stock can snowball into a customer service nightmare and permanent revenue loss. In the new era of online shopping, inventory planning is about much more than simple fulfillment, and inventory flow directly affects profits. Therefore, it’s essential to adopt a process to analyze SKU profitability relative to inventory ownership. 

Vendors know things. They speak a special language, an information technology dialect that most small and midsize manufacturers can’t fathom, but that they respect nonetheless. These manufacturers are turning to experts, after all, since tech is something in which they don’t specialize. They cut the vendor some slack; they reason that IT types aren’t really proficient in their line of work, either.

What inspired this riff is “Complicating the Cloud,” a recent, insightful article by tech industry guru Jeff Kaplan. Kaplan makes a number of trenchant points, many of them coalescing around the idea that the vendor community has a vested interest in complexity.  That meshes with my belief that it really is easy to get into the cloud – if the decision makers don’t allow the vendors to make it difficult. 

Savvy wholesalers and distributors are continuously searching for ways to improve the efficiency of their warehouse operations. Although automated tracking systems have vastly improved inventory management, identifying the best way to move unprofitable stock remains an ongoing challenge. 

When companies discount their products, it eats into profits and devalues their brand. When they liquidate it, it’s even worse. Many managers balk at investing hours of labor to essentially recover pennies on the dollar, which is why too many companies hold on to unwanted inventory far longer than they should.

During the past decade, supply chain management (SCM) has gained strategic importance for middle-market organizations. Recruiting, retaining and developing the right talent is important; however, the right processes and tools to support that talent are essential to achieving the best performance from the supply chain operation as a whole. Without a smoothly functioning supply chain, your organization cannot predictably meet its business goals.

The concept seems simple enough. We are taught early on that mistakes will be made, but that what matters is what we learn from them. Simple enough, right? Well, as the saying goes, “Easier said than done.”

Product recalls in varying levels of severity happen every day, all with important lessons to be learned. Unfortunately, too often, companies overlook these key takeaways to satisfy the CFOs with more financially driven business models that can dictate daily operations and, consequently, place less emphasis on quality management. But in reality, companies that manufacture and distribute products to consumers with an emphasis on customer safety and health are also making operational efficiency and cost management top priorities by preventing expensive consumer-facing issues and rework. 

Beer and wine producers represent a growing segment of the beverage industry today. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the United States is at a 25-year high. This growth is attributed to the popularity of craft beers across every demographic. Craft beers are produced by small and mid-size breweries as well as by large well-known producers that have introduced artisanal beers to meet consumer demand. 

The wine industry is also burgeoning, with national winery association WineAmerica reporting more wineries in the United States today than ever before. The expansion in the number, sizes and types of products has made logistics and distribution increasingly more complex and challenging. 

Using cloud-based technology for material procurement is nothing new in the industrial machinery industry. Manufacturers have been purchasing indirect materials such as office supplies online for years. It’s fast, easy and scalable. Yet a few cutting-edge companies have found a new application for cloud-based procurement – using it to purchase direct materials, as well. Although this idea may not seem revolutionary on the surface, the resulting benefits could make the difference between business success and failure. 

The manufacturing world continues to become more competitive. To stay in business, companies are aggressively examining their existing processes and systems in the hopes of uncovering opportunities to increase output without raising costs or negatively impacting performance. Leveraging cloud-based technology for direct material procurement is one answer some have found for lowering cost of goods sold (COGS) without affecting quality. 

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