Peter Leap, Sharon Schaeffer, Will Quinn
David Broussard 00:07
Today I'm sitting down with three industry professionals, Will Quinn, Peter Leap, and Sharon Schaeffer, to talk about the importance of ERP systems in the distribution industry
Infor Distribution Podcast
Peter Leap, Sharon Schaeffer, Will Quinn
David Broussard 00:07
Today I'm sitting down with three industry professionals, Will Quinn, Peter Leap, and Sharon Schaeffer, to talk about the importance of ERP systems in the distribution industry. So, Will, Peter, Sharon, could you give us some quick introductions and a little bit about yourself?
Will Quinn 00:23
Hi David, thanks for having us. Yeah, I'm Will Quinn, I'm the Distribution Industry Principal at Infor. I've got about 20 years experience in the distribution industry.
Peter Leap 00:32
Hey David, I'm Peter Leap. I'm a Senior Account Executive at Infor. I've been in the ERP space for about a decade and before that, for several decades in other software systems, helping prospective customers go through their selection process and I really enjoy doing that in the distribution industry now.
Sharon Schaeffer 00:51
Hey David, I'm Sharon Schaeffer, and I am a Client Executive for Apex Systems and I really specialize in helping our clients move from their current ERP system to a fully functional and robust Infor cloud suite solution. I've been in the industry over 20 years and I'm looking forward to our chats today.
David Broussard 01:10
Likewise, and thank you all for the introductions, I'm looking forward to this conversation. Will, I understand you were a general manager of several large distributors over the years. Why would someone in your position support a full ERP project?
Will Quinn 01:23
Yeah, that's a great question. You know, an ERP can be disruptive, and disruption can cause lots of issues. But as a GM or a Director of Operations, I just really start with, "What am I responsible for? What are my key performance indicators that an ERP has a direct impact on?" Typically you have an efficiency metric, quality metric, and an inventory control metric. Most in distribution have some sort of continuous improvement plan as well. So assuming that your processes and procedures are sound, they're being followed consistently, an ERP upgrade is a great way to provide better tools to your team to use to increase their results, especially if I was running an older system. In addition, competition in the distribution industry is fierce. As an operations professional, one of your main tasks is to reduce costs. And making your operation more efficient is key. As an example, going from a paper based system to a WMS using a handheld scanner system will help with efficiency and accuracy. If you pair that WMS system with a great ERP, you'll be able to optimize your inventory, allowing you to reduce overall stock levels while maintaining or increasing stock availability. Decreasing inventory levels allow you to free up space in your distribution center, which allows you to free up capital and bring in additional SKUs to support your customers. A DC that has less inventory in it is also more efficient. A solid ERP will also give you the access to the data you need to put it in an actual form to make decisions. Another great reason to upgrade is dealing with cyber risks- malware, ransomware, viruses, and cybercrime. More and more, companies are being shut down temporarily because their systems have been hijacked. Additionally, distributors have a responsibility to their customers to keep their information secure. So for those multitude of reasons, I would fully support an ERP upgrade.
David Broussard 03:35
That's great. Thank you for all that information. I was going to ask you about the security component, but you dove into it before I even had a chance! That's obviously something that's on everyone's mind right now Will. Peter, I noticed that Infor is a Magic Quadrant leader in ERP systems. What is different about the Infor approach in your mind?
Peter Leap 03:56
That's a great question, David. You know, it's really part of even how we name our cloud suite solutions. And so we've created solutions that are specific to particular industries. So in the case of distribution, cloud suite distribution allows us to have a distribution focus in that family of products. And so it gives us the ability to deliver a tier one and a mid-market capability that's pre-configured for a distributor with all the business process maps that they're going to require to do the elements of a distribution business rather than having to implement those every time we set up a new system. In fact, we talk about it as being a 60/30/10, where we spend 60% of the things that are deployed literally come out of the box and 30% of them need some setup and some configuration. And really, for most distributors, it's really 10% of the business processes that require some special implementation assistance. And so by getting customers to focus on the things that are truly unique to their business, it allows them to really create a new ERP system that maps into their very specific business requirements without spending a lot of time, as I jokingly say, creating beautiful invoices.
Sharon Schaeffer 05:20
Hey, Peter, you bring up a good point on that. As that relates to an implementation, in my experience, I've seen where that's really reduced risk. So that allows the implementer, and in this case, Apex Systems, to implement our clients' solutions using those best practices out of the box, which allows us to get them up and running and seeing value very quickly, in a very low risk environment. So the amount of time that it takes to get our customers from their current ERP system to a fully functioning Infor solution is greatly reduced. And the risk is greatly reduced using these best practices out of the box that you're talking about.
Peter Leap 06:05
That's a great point, Sharon. In fact, we challenge customers about why can't you do it this way? And when they take a look at it, we've had a few who have actually implemented the implementation accelerator, as is, out of the box for their business. And it layers on top of our commitment to a multi-tenant cloud platform. And so we give customers the ability to be on a very stable, very scalable platform, that also has the ability to release monthly feature releases. And so we can continue to update, and enhance, and add new features to a platform. For many times, as Will was describing earlier, to a customer that's been version locked for 20 years and because they deployed on premise, they couldn't change what they had deployed. And on top of that, this extensible framework allows you to make that 10% of specialization pieces that you need, without changing your ability to be on a continually supported, maintainable environment. And the flip side of a cloud based system is that it gives you high availability. And so you literally are spread out across multiple data centers in multiple regions. And so you basically are driving toward low to zero downtime. And on top of that, you have the ability to do reporting, and data lakes, and machine learning, and artificial intelligence, and a lot of other things that are that are going to be key. They may not seem super important today, but to future-proof your system you have the ability to add those capabilities in as your business requires them. You know, for example, adding in, like Will was mentioning, advanced WMS capabilities or maybe it's, you know, e-commerce interconnects, or it's providing field service or light manufacturing or kitting, lots of other things we see distributors growing and expanding and making their businesses more competitive by access to these feature capabilities.
David Broussard 08:07
Those are all great points, Peter. So hearing about all those benefits, Will, how does that play into a distributor's decision around something like this?
Will Quinn 08:17
Well, with the fierce competition in distribution, and distributors having to compete with manufacturers and large online retailers, it's extremely important that the modern day distributor differentiate itself. And the way they do that is through offering services. And a robust ERP is going to allow you to do that in an efficient manner. Your vendor-managed inventory, your rental, your kitting, barcoding, assembly, those types of things, those types of services that a manufacturer doesn't want to provide, or an online retailer can't provide. That's how you as the distributor, differentiate yourself and add value to your customer.
David Broussard 09:02
Fantastic. It's been great to hear the perspectives of yourself, Will, as well as Peter. So Sharon, it's your turn on the hot seat. You've been involved in so many of these implementations over the years. What do you feel makes them successful?
Sharon Schaeffer 09:17
So in my opinion, honestly, it comes down to the ability to quickly implement your ERP system and show time to value. What you don't want is for your ERP implementation to last two or three years and cost $10 million, right? So it becomes very simple when you use the best practices out of the box, that Peter was referring to, you have that base configuration. So this allows you to add value very quickly, and allows us to configure as opposed to customize those high value processes, giving our clients the ability to be more efficient and competitive in the market. And the other thing that I'll highlight is it's extremely important to choose your project team wisely and to give them the ability to dedicate the time to work on the project. So we can help you with staff augmentation, and choosing that right team, and balancing their schedules so that they can work on the project and deliver the results that you're looking for. And then lastly, the communication and the support of the C-level is also very important. We like to see a bi-weekly or a monthly C-suite communication meeting with our client, with Infor, and with Apex. This gives us the ability to give the project the exposure that it really needs, and allows us to communicate and avoid any surprises in the future.
David Broussard 10:46
Fantastic. Well, I can't thank the three of you enough for coming on and chatting with me here. It's been great to talk with you all and very much appreciate your time.
Will Quinn 10:55
Thank you, David.
Peter Leap 10:56
Great. Thanks, David.
Sharon Schaeffer 10:57