DDI SystemDDI System serves distributors with the innovative functionality of its products and its first-class support.
By Bianca Herron

When Adam Waller, president and founder of DDI System started the company in 1995, he did so with hands-on experience for distribution needs. Now, over 20 years later, DDI System continues to provide innovative Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for distributors with a laser focus on collaboration and customer engagement. Based in Sandy Hook, Conn., DDI now serves more than 800 distributors in a variety of markets, including HVAC, PHCP, electrical and lighting, paper and packaging, and industrial and safety products with the power of Inform ERP software.

a2b new pic copyGeorgia-based a2b Fulfillment takes the worries of order fulfillment and customer care off its clients’ plates.

By Chris Petersen

Nearly 15 years ago, Ayal Latz decided he needed a change. At the time, the young entrepreneur was running just about every aspect of his family’s successful toy business, Latz Chance Games. The business had spawned from a board game about Dinosaurs that he and his family invented in the late 90’s, titled ‘Survival or Extinction.’ That game quickly grew into an award-winning toy company offering a small line of educational products and garnering 11 awards in the toy industry along the way.

But Latz was finding his passion for selling the products to retail outlets was quickly becoming in danger of being extinct. “I guess it’s no surprise, but I really love the operations and logistics side of the business,” explains Latz. “Plus, we were running out of new product options to introduce to the market.”

Through the company’s warehouse, Latz saw much more opportunity. He had witnessed the pros and cons of owning that much space, and he had made a few relationships with other toy vendors that recognized the value in outsourcing those services rather than take on the risk and hassle of doing it themselves. After reaching out to a few companies he had worked with in the past, Latz formed a2b Fulfillment in 2001. a2b box

Today, a2b Fulfillment is a leading provider of warehousing and order fulfillment services, with more than 100 clients throughout the country. According to Latz, nearly three-quarters of the company’s work is for consumer-direct marketers, with the remaining business taken up by retail distributors. Latz says the value a2b Fulfillment provides to these customers is its ability to handle virtually any and every aspect of the order fulfillment process, from the point of order acquisition to the moment consumers receive their orders.

By taking some of the most complex elements of their operations out of their hands, a2b Fulfillment helps retailers and consumer-direct marketers work more efficiently and better serve their customers, Latz says. By focusing on customizing solutions that meet the individual needs of clients and always seeking out new ways to improve on its services, a2b Fulfillment isfocused on being partnership minded as opposed to simply seeking out new customers..

Specific Solutions

What a2b Fulfillment brings to the table for its clients is a more complete solution to their needs than any of its competitors, according to Latz. “There’s certainly no shortage of fulfillment providers out there, but where we excel is in developing specific solutions for companies that operate in certain verticals,” he says.

The company’s services are concentrated on three categories –  order fulfillment, customer care and value-added services.  a2b Fulfillment’s warehousing and order fulfillment services are built on both speed and accuracy and fit the needs of clients in the ecommerce, direct response and retail spaces

Customer care services were added several years ago to help facilitate the complexities that arise from Direct Response order fulfillment. However, many clients are seeking this aspect of the business due to the increasing need for companies to provide phone and web support to its customers . The company also provides services such as chargeback management and social media management to help its clients interact with their customers. Value-added services provided by a2b Fulfillment include reverse logistics, product refurbishment and kitting and assembly.

In all of these areas, Latz says, the company is focused on meeting the needs of their clients in an ever-changing business landscape. “Whether it’s integration with a new system or technology or taking the time to better understand what the (customers’) goals are for a business, we remain flexible to ensure we can develop a successful pathway for our clients.”

Taking on Challenges

One of the biggest challenges a2b Fulfillment faces is  the complex nature of the very industry it’s in – order fulfillment. “There are no shortages of challenges, as we’re providing so many different services and the environment is constantly changing,” Latz says. “But we like to think we have a very effective approach to meeting the demands of the industry.”

Education is one of the most powerful weapons a2b Fulfillment has in combatting the market demand, and Latz says the company is vigilant about staying on top of the latest developments in the industry. The company is an active member in numerous organizations and associations locally, regionally and nationally, and Latz says he has a rolodex full of trusted advisors to call upon at any given moment to help keep the company educated about the market.

Technology also plays a critical role, and Latz says a2b Fulfillment is dedicated to utilizing the best systems to meet the demand for all of its clients. From their ability to integrate with just about any shopping cart platform to the shipping intelligence system that chooses the optimal carrier based on lowest cost or time-in-transit, a2b seeks to make client setup a snap and the ongoing customer process extremely efficient. a2b maintains a paperless distribution environment where an intelligent system orchestrates all the activity.  

Faster Fulfillment

All of these elements are important because, as Latz explains, a2b Fulfillment’s clients are running up against customers’ increasing expectations every day. He says the rise of ecommerce has shifted the playing field and made it more important than ever for the companies a2b Fulfillment serves to have their fulfillment processes on point. “What was the norm five years ago is no longer the norm today,” Latz says. “People are expecting to receive their orders quicker, and at lower costs.”

In this challenging new environment, Latz says, the importance of the services a2b Fulfillment provides cannot be overstated, and the company looks forward to helping its clients even more in the future. “The whole goal is how fast can we communicate to the customer that their order has shipped,” he says. “But also exceed the expectations of the customer so that our clients shine throughout the entire process.”

Stage StoresStage Stores as developed a strong foundation among its distribution team that will allow the company to continue to grow.

By Janice Hoppe

As the retail industry continues to respond to online shopping and consumer demand for expedited delivery, Stage Stores has prepared its distribution centers to adapt and prepare for further growth. “I have always believed that if I provided the tools people needed to do their jobs, placed them in the ‘right’ jobs to fit their skill set and provided continuing stimulation to improve personally that the results would take care of themselves – and they have,” says Gough Grubbs, the recently retired senior vice president of distribution and logistics.

The Houston-based retailer was founded as a family owned business in the 1920s under the brand names Palais Royal and Bealls. In 1988, Three Bealls Brothers merged with Palais Royal to form Specialty Retailers Inc. The private company in 1992 acquired Fashion Bar of Denver, a 76-store retail chain that featured a juniors’ chain called Stage.

In 1996, the company went public under the name of Stage Stores Inc. It has since acquired a number of brands and grown from 235 stores in 13 states in 1996 to about 850 stores in 40 states today.

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In the world of procurement, success has often been measured by driving down costs from the supplier. Similarly, as a supplier, success is measured by sales, but there are limits to how low costs can be driven, and sales can be hindered without the right tools. What if there were a different way to drive down costs through influencing employee behavior? What if sales could be changed overnight based on the implementation of a new ecommerce platform? That solution has been created.

When Overstock.com first hit the Internet scene in the spring of 1999, the concept of liquidating excess inventory through an e-commerce website was still in its infancy, and Overstock.com was one of the few players in existence. 

While Overstock.com can claim its role as a pioneer for e-commerce, it certainly isn’t alone anymore. There are thousands of online retail sites the Salt Lake City-based company must compete against these days, ranging from cyber extensions of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Bestbuy.com, all-encompassing department store-style websites like Amazon, auction sites like Ebay, or specialty niche online stores like Etsy.

MTC Logistics is positioning itself to become the premier handler of international temperature-controlled cargo by building a state-of-the-art distribution center at its headquarters in Baltimore. 

“We had been looking for quite some time for the right location and with the closure of the former General Motors assembly plant, a brownfield site was made available to us and it was actually tailor-made for what we wanted to do,” President Brooks Royster says. “We selected this location in order to facilitate the movement of temperature-controlled international cargo through the Port of Baltimore for our customers – both import and export.” 

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