The answers to your toughest business challenges may be hidden in your own data

Man holding tablet and evaluating data

The heavy-duty truck parts aftermarket has always been tough and competitive, but in the past few years the challenges for distributors in this industry have been compounded by rising inflation, supply chain disruptions and encroachment by large non-traditional competitors such as Amazon and Google.

Today’s most urgent problems expressed by distributors include:

  • Keeping product pricing ahead of inflation to preserve margins.
  • Product availability and timely delivery
  • Maximizing employee productivity
  • Maintaining customer loyalty
  • Cash flow/collections

Fortunately, some of these issues can be mitigated to a large extent by leveraging the large volume of data that resides in your distribution management system (DMS). Recognizing this and factoring it into your strategic thinking is the first step in establishing a data-based approach to business operations and decision making. 

In a recent study of the distribution market at large, 69 percent of organizations stated that they have already implemented or planned to implement data analytics in their business. It is clear that the ability to turn data into insight (and action) in real time is essential to future viability in this competitive and rapidly evolving market. 

Your DMS is your data resource

If you’re using a DMS that is well-engineered and properly deployed, you already have a solid head start in this transition, because it should have the ability to capture, process, and store every customer order, every inventory entry, and every other discrete bit of business information in real time across all your business departments and applications from sales, to warehouse management, to accounting — and connect all the dots.

[RELATED: AutoPower publishes white paper providing strategies for surviving inflation and the supply chain crisis]

Chances are the DMS you use for routine functions has valuable capabilities you’ve yet to discover. If it offers the ability to access and correlate this mountain of data, you can automate certain business functions and, most importantly, you can see a larger strategic picture and context that will guide you toward smarter, more timely decisions. To provide maximum business agility, use your system to leverage the greatest possible value and utility from everyday transactional data.

Turning data into advantage

It is likely that a variety of tactical solutions are already built into your DMS as standard features. For instance, AutoPower’s DMS platform provides a price management module that enables you to adjust pricing to keep pace with rising costs and assures that up-to-date pricing is automatically reflected in promotions, quotes, sales, and contracts â€” giving you the power to maintain and/or enhance profit margins. 

It is also likely your DMS incorporates features that can help you avert problems by automatically alerting you to specific business events and conditions that demand an urgent response. Again, in the case of the AutoPower DMS, these features are found in what we call the Active Real-time Intelligence Alert (ARIA) suite, which provides dozens of real-time pre-programmed notifications, ranging from credit-hold alerts and low-inventory alerts, to DOT certification notifications.

These kinds of automated responses are powered by the wealth of data residing in your DMS. They can save time and enable you to avert the costly consequences of a variety of conditions that would otherwise go undetected.

Integrating comprehensive data analytics 

At a strategic level, your business data can be transformed into greater insight, planning and action with the application of data analytics software and services.

At AutoPower, we established our own analytics services for this purpose. Built on Microsoft’s PowerBI business intelligence platform, this business analytics, data extraction, authoring, and publishing solution empowers personnel to visualize data and share insights across the organization. Users are armed with deep insights into customers, sales reps, vendors, and even hidden aspects of their business.

Such comprehensive data analytics can transform the huge volume of data accumulated within a DMS into business insights that normally would take your staff days or weeks to put together.

In the arena of sales alone, well-applied analytics can enable you to:

  • Know how every sales rep and counter person is performing, anytime.
  • Monitor sales and profitability performance using any combination of sales rep, customer, vendor, part number and time period.
  • Track total sales vs a rolling average to spot emerging sale performance trends
  • Instantly see your total extended credit limit exposure vs customer sales totals and the last purchase date for all customers
  • Track sales trends by customer, vendor and individual parts with visualizations of profit margin patterns that contrast declining and improving sales performance.
  • Quickly spot warning signs and opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed for weeks, or longer.

The bottom line: to make your business more data-driven and competitive in this digital age, learn how to better utilize the capabilities within your DMS to unleash the power of the data it holds.

Mike Mallory is the founder and president of AutoPower.

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