Associate Member Viewpoint: Optimize Your Distribution Business by Busting Out of Comfort Zones | NBWA: America's Beer Distributors

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Blog| Jan 11, 2018

By: Paul Rutherford, President, Rutherford and Associates

Comfort zones are called comfort zones for a reason: they’re comforting. But for a distribution business, certain comfort zones can have discomforting results.

Consider the mission-critical applications and company-wide software relied upon by distributors. They’re the backbones of their businesses, ideally giving employees at every level of the organization the insights and data needed to do their jobs.

In many cases, these critical systems are in place due to sheer familiarity. They’re simply up and running and well-understood by the staff. The leadership team, inventory and distribution centers, delivery drivers, and sales teams probably know the ins and outs of the software they use every day. For better or worse, these systems represent a digital comfort zone.

However, the beer market has morphed and evolved significantly in recent years: Craft beers and independent breweries have grown steadily, massive breweries have merged in multi-billion-dollar deals, and a rapidly expanding range of SKUs – from limited runs to seasonal brews to newly available imports – has introduced new challenges. It’s a different world than it was just a few years ago. As such, legacy systems rarely address every need of modern distribution businesses.

What’s more, legacy systems and applications may influence the biggest gripes across the industry. The most commonly reported pain points among distributors are communication issues, inventory management and streamlining complex systems. Think about how consumer technology has advanced in ease-of-use, power and mobile capabilities over the past five to ten years. We simply have new expectations for technology, and legacy systems can represent workflow challenges in the modern world.

With that in mind, a modern beer distributor requires a modern platform to serve as a mission control for its operations. The software needs to be just as flexible and adaptable as the organization running it. Your applications must address the needs of your sales team, your front office, your drivers, and your warehouse team. All these roles must have seamless access to real-time data, and the core technology must improve communication across all those teams. It must be scalable and versatile, providing on-the-road access via mobile devices and tools built for every position in your workforce.

Of course, “new” does not always mean “better” -- it’s one good reason why so many dated systems remain in place. After all, if a distribution business intends to make an investment in technology and go through the heavy lifting in updating its platform and training its staff, it better be the right solution. A modern platform that doesn’t address the full scope of your needs is just as problematic as a dated system that isn’t built for today’s workforce.

At Rutherford and Associates, we like to say that your business doesn’t just need new technology. Instead, it needs the right technology in order to survive and thrive. We’ve put together a downloadable guide that will help you modernize your business, and we think it’s a great first step for ensuring your success in the future. To learn more, download the eoStar eGuide here.