The expert panel at the annual Distribution Executive Forum hosted by Epicor Software Corp. included more than 60 wholesale distribution companies recently discussed enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the technology-enabled distributor of the future.

YARDLEY, PA -- A gathering of more than 60 wholesale distribution companies recently discussed enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the technology-enabled distributor of the future. The expert panel at the annual Distribution Executive Forum hosted by Epicor Software Corp., a provider of business software solutions for manufacturing, distribution, retail and services organizations, and who recently combined with Activant Solutions Inc., included:
  • Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager, ERP Americas for Epicor;
  • Guy Blissett, researcher at IBM and fellow of the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence;
  • Tom Gale, president, Gale Media/Industrial Market Information, and publisher of Modern Distribution Management;
  • Dr. Barry Lawrence, director of Texas A&M’s Industrial Distribution Program;
  • Mike Marks, managing partner of Indian River Consulting Group; and
  • Jon Schreibfeder, president of Effective Inventory Management Inc.
The theme of this year’s Executive Forum, held in Napa, CA, was “Distribution 2.0,” an exploration of the form and format of the next-generation wholesale distributor, focusing on technology, industry trends, business models, and organizational culture.

“Technology is the linchpin of Distribution 2.0,” said Kevin Roach. “Distributors need to have a defined strategy around this key aspect of their business. Technology can and will make a real difference in how you compete in the market.”

During the panel discussion, the experts observed that most distributors are currently using only 20-30 percent of the technical functionality in the ERP systems they have bought and paid for; and today’s consultative selling model requires more than just product knowledge, but a more technically competent and adept sales force, as well.

In looking at the future of wholesale distributing, the panelists also suggested that instead of serving merely as an inventory storage house, companies should focus on becoming the “intellectual controller” of the supply chain, introducing reliability into the processes between supplier and customer as a true value-add. The experts encouraged distributors to “analyze the value dynamic among you, your vendors and your customers, to create meaningful differentiation.” Other topics covered by the group included strategies for directing field sales; the use of customer stratification, predictive analytics and central warehousing; and the role of buying groups and master distributors.