High-Tech Is in High Demand
Customers' expectations of competent, reliable distributors include offering the latest in business operations efficiencies.
Can distributors be successful without technology? To put things in perspective, consider just one aspect of serving today's marketplace.
John DeAngelis, president of Hauppauge, New York-based Bradley Marketing, recalls when the typical lead time for most standard products was six weeks. "Eventually, the industry migrated to four-week lead times. Now, two weeks—sometimes even five to 10 working days—is the norm," he observed. "Customers' expectations have risen in terms of having artwork and proofing turned around. They just can't wait any longer, which puts pressure on distributors."
To remain competitive, distributors look to technology solutions for quicker, more efficient operations. "We created a graphics department as a service—not a revenue center—to get proofs, typesetting and designs within 24 hours," DeAngelis continued. "We then have the technical capabilities to send a pdf file, or images that can be downloaded from our Web site."
Dave Fechter, vice president of operations for The Shamrock Companies, headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, agreed that satisfying customers means offering the convenience and efficiency that only technology can provide.
The Shamrock Companies offers core services including warehousing, distribution, pick-and-pack, kitting and fulfillment, and a versatile technology platform that delivers complete and seamless project management is critical. Fechter explained that Baan software is currently being used to run four of the comapny's five fulfillment centers, but it has been slated for replacement next year.
"We have approximately 200 customers who log onto the online application @productlink that allows them to obtain print-on-demand, place orders, release products, track orders and proof online. The system also provides detailed reports showing usage, sales figures and cost-center breakdowns. "Some customers are grateful almost to the point of tears that these things are available to them," observed Fechter. "Still, we have other customers who order by phone or fax and require no special reporting at all."