Aust & NZ
26th Jul 2016

Operating in multiple continents gives the team at Pentana Solutions a great sense of perspective. Stand out players in the retail and distribution parts market know success is borne of many things, however today we want to discuss three concepts that are constant across the globe.

Great parts distributors and retailers know that their operations are more than just efficiency engines. These stand out players make decisions that are people focused that enhance the business and make it more attractive from a financial as well as employee point of view.

Top three Concepts for Business Improvement in the Parts Market

1. Take the Technology Out of the Office – Converged Technology

The old adage is true, ‘what gets measured gets done’ and what better way to motivate a full team than by presenting their daily goals, alerts and workflow in wide screen. The publication of this work-based information of course creates a shared sense of ownership and motivation but taking the technology out of the office in 2016 is certainly much more evolved. In today’s day and age stand out players call this new phenomenon ‘converged technology’.

It’s not just about visuals, a great parts operator invests in ruggedized scanners, mobile tablets and a strong communications network. A good set of ruggedized scanners will work over multiple sites or warehouse segments. This flexibility of course requires a strong communications network but once this is set up, it’s flexibility that supports a parts operation’s success. The embrace of mobile technology enables employees to remain focused on the job at hand, cutting down time spent and thus, allowing parts organisations to redeploy the assets or people based on needs. When a parts operation embraces ‘converged technology’ an adhoc stocktake or complete relocation is that much easier.

2. Some Give and Take – Reverse Mentoring

Within our customer base, parts specialists be they inventory controllers or general managers have on average worked in the industry for more than 20 years. These people are passionate specialists and certainly are the experts in their space, however when you throw a younger or less experienced perspective amongst the team wonderful things do happen. Traditionally taking on an intern or someone with limited experience is a one way process with information and knowledge flowing from the organisation’s experienced employees. However, the idea of reverse mentoring offers a platform of open idea sharing with a common goal in mind and can often provide parts retailers or distributors with a technical edge or perspective they hadn’t had before. Not only is a new idea provided for the organisation but it’s likely both participants will feel a sense of ownership that will result in cultural, competitive and financial advantages.
With so many experienced people in your own team this new trend called reverse mentoring could be the answer to some long standing problems or even an idea that could help you leap frog your competitor.

3. Footprints – Efficiency and Redeployment

In the last few decades the number of models across the globe have increased exponentially, and with each model up to 30,000 new parts need to be distributed, warehoused, transported and potentially stored once more. As warehouses grow up and out to cater for the volume of SKUs that grow every year, so do two problems.
First of all, people are naturally generous when selecting a zone or location for a part. Over the thousands of parts that need to fit into bins and shelves one can imagine the amount of wasted space across each warehouse or storage location. Any business can reduce their footprint by simply giving this job to a software solution. Not only does it select the appropriate storage facility the first time but when the inventory holding reduces or increases a dynamic warehousing solution will make the decision to move stock location at the right time.
As warehouses grow so does travel time between racks, shelves, levels and bin location. Whilst a forklift or two will help with this scenario the real smarts lie in small parts binning. A conveying network paired with an order induction system is really what can help drive efficiency here. Imagine small parts binning where no employee needs to take more than eight steps to find a part and place it in a bin for dispatch to then have the bin take itself directly to the person packing the vehicle. It’s design based changes like these that are helping organisations re-deploy headcount into new growth areas, keep trade and retail customers happy all the while leap frogging the competition.

Achieving competitive advantage is certainly a mesh of many elements. In our travels we’re certain that adopting just a few changes each year can provide enough incremental improvement to place your retail or distribution business ahead of the competition.