The pressure to fill orders better than ever before might be high, but the distributors who are ready to put in the work can thrive. A straightforward way for jan/san distributors to rebound from waning customer trust is to invest in an ERP software that will enable them to service their clients in all the ways Amazon can, and more.

To project future trends, one sometimes must look to the past. Lane thinks back to the mid 1980s when he estimates there were only about 100 jan/san distributors. Today he figures there are well over a thousand distributors — obviously a massive uptick.

Despite this fantastic growth, one can't help but think about all of the acquisitions that are taking place and what that symbolizes. A select group of distributors are buying up a large amount of their smaller peers that don't want to play in a changing business landscape that necessitates an upgrade to technology.

To Lane and others with both distribution and software experience, giving up because times are changing isn't necessary. Positive improvements can be made through the help of ERP software and they're actually quite easy.

"Bigger distributors are improving their software and ERP software is what you need to compete with Amazon," says Lane.

One significant benefit to using ERP software is that it allows distributors to deliver what they stock at a clip that mirrors Amazon. The distributors who have fallen behind tend to spend a great deal of time micromanaging their business. They're manually keeping tabs on what they have in stock and taking their own notes on what the order history has been. The issue with trusting people to manually monitor these orders is that humans are much slower at compiling data that is riddled with mistakes.

By relying on software, distributors can get Amazon-like accuracy at Amazon-type speeds.

"First thing a distributor needs to do is to ask themselves at what percent Amazon delivers something when they have it in stock," says Lane. "A sophisticated software system will allow you to fill an order, like Amazon, 99.9 percent of the time — in cases where the customer was told the item was in stock."

Experts say that the overall fill rate percentage, regardless of other variables, should always be at 96 percent or above.

Some ERP platforms also feature an automated purchasing system that is able to tee up orders for the buyers every single morning so that they know what orders need to be placed with the manufacturers.

Good software should possess some predictive capabilities, too. For example, building service contractors and facility managers in the upper Midwest are surely going to need products that help deal with ice and snow. A good ERP software is going to make sure that a North Dakota distributor has deicer on hand before the orders start. In places like Florida where people flock to its beaches beginning every spring, facilities such as hotels should be expected to have more of certain products to counteract the influx of tourism.

Another great benefit of ERP distribution software is that some possess cloud technology that can improve how distributors track their stock, order new products and manage the business they do with various suppliers.

"Cloud allows distributors to thoughtfully differentiate their business with specialty services that fit their customer base," says Kaminstein. "And because cloud technology can be easily updated, distributors can adeptly respond to the ever-changing market with best-in-cloud technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and intuitive analytics."

By shifting their focus away from administrative work now taken on by their software, Kaminstein says distributors can spend more time on the customer experience, which is the other key to them successfully competing with Amazon.

previous page of this article:
How Amazon Has Set The Bar High On Distribution
next page of this article:
Customer Service Jan/San’s Final Response To Amazon