End-to-End Process – The Holy Grail of Wholesaler Efficiency
Wholesalers and distributors occupy a unique place in the market, which means they face some distinct and particular problems.
Many other sectors need to deal with inefficiencies around issues like data entry, forecasting, and an array of different pricing structures. It is only when you move into the scale of wholesale distribution that those problems develop from obstacles that can be worked around, into business-blocking barriers. Many wholesalers will try and attack these problems in a variety of different ways. More resources. More staff. More effort. When it comes down to it though, so many of these solutions fall into the category of “working harder” when the reality is “working smarter” is what’s needed. For more and more wholesalers, working smarter to improve wholesaler efficiency means end-to-end solutions.
What is an end-to-end process?
An end-to-end process is every stage of your business sorted and secured by one system; an end-to-end solution (E2ES) . This makes it possible for everything to be condensed into a single visualisation. One vision, shared across dozens of screens, coordinated through one piece of software.
Rather than requiring your accounting department to talk to your purchasing division, who need to communicate with the warehouse, who need to liaise with the courier, end-to-end encapsulates all of this into one single system.
Arrangements of this kind offer a host of efficiency advantages to a wide range of sectors. One of the biggest beneficiaries are wholesalers, and below are four of the biggest efficiencies your business could utilise with an end-to-end process set.
Without an end-to-end process1, much of your employee’s time can end up wasted on re-keying a wide range of information. The reasoning behind this is format variance. Different platforms of various kinds can structure the way information is stored, shared, and sorted in a myriad of specific ways. While this may seem frustrating, there are good reasons behind this. Different platforms approach different audiences which have different needs. Apt for them, but a headache for you, especially given that wholesalers are stocking larger and larger variations of stock in order to remain competitive.
End-to-end processes offer an alternative. With clear and streamlined integrations into the varieties of platforms that exist, a huge amount of time is saved. Information is stored and automatically rearranged to fit the needs and nature of every kind of platform your business will be dealing with, everything from eCommerce sellers through to courier connections. By removing re-keying from the equation, your business can free up worker’s time to refocus on more important aspects of ongoing operations.
End-to-end processes aid accurate forecasting
Being able to predict the products you need to keep in higher stock volumes isn’t a problem you need a crystal ball to solve. There are mathematical and scientific means by which you can have a good idea of what will be selling most at which particular times of the year, times in the month, or even sometimes times of the day. But to get that kind of prediction capacity with manual operations is exceptionally hard.
You’ll need to gather data from all the different departments and staff members responsible. Not only that, but you will then need to reverse engineer the predictions from all this data, and try and work out the patterns. Even if you have a big enough pin-board and enough red string, you will still need to rework this formula every time new products or new circumstances emerge.
End-to-end systems make all this much easier. First, you have all the different data sets talking to each other in a language they can all clearly understand. Second, the prediction models can be built out of that data automatically, rather than something you have to engineer yourself. Third, new products and data can be sorted at the same time as they are introduced to your sales system. With all these systems in place, and human error circumvented, forecasting what you need most of, and when you will need it, will become infinitely easier.
Put aside paper picking
Paper picking systems are an endless source of potential inefficiencies, yet they still remain the method for a substantial segment of the wholesaler sector. To sweep through the problems efficiently, here’s the bullet point cheat sheet you’ll need.
- Somewhere to store the paper picking files
- Someone to sort through the pieces of paper
- Find a way to keep the pickers from making errors as they write and read the paper
- Store the clipboards, pens, and pencils that these systems require
Scanner systems of all kinds have been around for long enough that most wholesalers are familiar with them, but resistance comes from an obvious place. It’s another system. Another set of things to go wrong. Another complexity to layer on top of an already complicated system. It’s easy to understand why you might stick with paper in an environment where you’re already dealing with so many different pieces of software.
An accurate end-to-end process cuts through to the efficiency core. When you are using hand scanners that can talk to your stock tracking system, your accounts, your couriers, and everyone in between, scanners stop being a hassle and start being the kind of system that can save you a lot of time and a lot of money. With an end-to-end software solution that translates a scanner’s output into something your whole business can understand, you’re in a position to reclaim a lot of lost time, and even more, lost effort that’s normally wasted chasing pieces of paper.
Streamline separate pricing structures
Wholesalers have to deal with perhaps the most complex arrangements of pricing structures of any economic sector. Making deals of all kinds based on the amount bought, how often bought, how many varieties bought in a single purchase, how far they are delivered, and many more variables besides. B2C businesses face none of these levels of complexity, simply stating a product and a price. With B2B businesses and especially wholesalers, the issue is entirely different.
While systems like spreadsheets can be put in place to calculate exactly how all these transactions are arranged with each and every sale, the manual effort required to make this work means you need to direct another staff member to solve this issue.
With end-to-end processes, pricing structures can be built-in seamlessly to your overall sales structure. There doesn’t need to be a middle man stage of the process. Instead, you can price items individually, per customer, using quantity breaks, and baking in special offers as a natural part of the system. This allows you to save time and energy to be redirected on more valuable parts of your operation.