We live in an era of instant gratification. Customers are increasingly looking for lightning-fast service. Data shows that 40% shoppers were willing to wait for two days, while 18% were willing to wait one day to receive their products when paying for fast shipping options.
The heavy equipment industry is no exception to this burgeoning trend. As an industrial hardware distributor, you must make sure to adapt to this rapidly changing customer behavior. If not, your most loyal customers will also take their business to your competitors.
On the other hand, keeping your distribution network (also called the supply chain) updated will help you attract new customers. You can also cut down your losses by a mile, improve your productivity, and stay ahead of the curve in this ever-evolving, highly tech-driven marketplace.
Here are five ways you can strengthen your distribution network and become an ace industrial hardware supplier.
1. Live and Breathe Automation
Automation is at the heart of strengthening your distribution network. Many automation technologies have helped improve the productivity and flexibility of distribution networks.
For example, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) can increase accuracy levels up to 99.99%, increase labor productivity up to 85%, and save up to 85% of otherwise wasted floor space.
As an industrial hardware distributor, if you implement automation solutions like ASRS, your network will become more robust and adaptable. But most importantly, automation gives you access to tons of data, which you can use to streamline your network further.
2. Build a Data-Driven Distribution Network
Big data is already making strides in global supply change management. As an industrial hardware wholesaler, you can leverage big data analytics to keep track of your critical business information. It helps you drive transparency and accuracy across your distribution network.
With big data analytics, you can:
- Monitor existing inventory and supplier contracts
- Predict the seasonal change in industrial hardware demand
- Optimize your supply as per the changing market demand
- Minimize human intervention
- Build a robust distribution network
As a supplier, you can also leverage big data analytics to schedule warehouse maintenance, reducing the risk of unplanned downtime considerably. Big data systems can alert you of any irregularities in your distribution network, including your warehouse, allowing you to address an issue before it snowballs and disrupts your network.
3. Involve Your Top Management from the Get-Go
Whether you want to implement new technology or upgrade your existing distribution network, it should be a cohesive decision. As an industrial hardware distributor, your entire organization, from top to bottom, should be involved in upgrading your network.
Unfortunately, the top brass rarely gets involved in network optimization. And if they do, it’s often to sign off the final approval. The truth is all stakeholders in your network need to get involved from day one.
It is recommended to get managers from your supply chain, sales, warehouse management, accounts, and even HR department involved when optimizing your distribution network. This will help you understand the potential implications of optimizing your distribution network. But above all, this will bring different perspectives to the table, allowing you to strengthen your network in the best possible way.
4. Focus On Effective Communication
Effective communication is the bedrock of an excellent distribution network. Unfortunately, it is still one of the most overlooked areas. Many hardware distributors continue to use traditional communication channels, which are less than ideal for today’s fast-paced world.
As an industrial hardware distributor, you must make sure there is no miscommunication or a lack of communication. The first step is to analyze all your current communication channels and processes. Be 100% sure that they are working. If you see even the smallest room for improvement, go for it.
The second step is to train your employees, supply partners, and retail sellers to communicate better. Also, every stakeholder in your distribution network should have access to critical data, and they should communicate with each other in real-time.
Remember, as the communication gap widens, your distribution network will suffer more extensive setbacks. Mend this gap as quickly as possible.
5. Monitor Your Distribution Network 24/7
Strengthening your distribution network is an ongoing process. That’s why you will need to monitor and improve your network continuously. This will help you avoid the same mistakes, stay ahead of your competition, and ensure profitability.
Most distribution networks use multiple channels, whether for communication or shipment tracking. You must analyze all these channels periodically. If anything seems out of order, address it right there and then.
In addition to this, you will need to track all the data, from your finances to the inventory. You can use big data analytics to see if everything is in order.
Moreover, create a reporting system to keep a tab on your revenue, profits, the efficiency of each distribution channel, and your business goals.
If you find any issues, make sure to discuss them with your entire team. Try to get inputs from all the stakeholders. Proactively communicate with your employees to address the problem before in its track.
As an industrial hardware supplier, you must rely on your distribution network. If you don’t keep it updated and optimized, your business will suffer. Fortunately, with automation, effective communication, and performance monitoring, among other things, you can build a robust distribution network. That, in turn, will help your customers procure high-quality industrial equipment on time, at a reasonable cost.
Author Bio: I am Randy Gonzales. I am the President of Elite Sales Inc, a rigging equipment and wire rope distribution company based in Miami, Tampa, Houston, and Dyer. I have more than 30 years of experience in the distribution and supply of industrial hardware industry.