Many distributors find that managing their extensive product portfolios can be a difficult task. They often have tons of combinations of unique items that need to be sold and distributed to customers all over the globe, often numbering into the thousands. Because of this, it’s often hard to distinguish products during the time at which order entry takes place, as well as the picking process. Add to that the difficulties associated with managing expenses, pricing, and other details, and the world of distribution administration can become overwhelming pretty quickly.

Fortunately, with today’s technology, distributors can use software tools that are specifically designed to streamline the sales and purchasing processes while simultaneously creating combinations of attributes and values that can be used in simplified matrices. For example, Acumatica’s Distribution Edition enables organizations to better manage kitting, lot and serial control, flexible units of measure, and expiration dates all within the confines of one unified, easy-to-use online platform.

How, you might ask? Great question! Let’s dive into five ways distributors can simplify item management.

1. Managing Items Using Attributes in a Matrix

Distributors who utilize matrix methods often find that they can automate and simplify much of their processes. From item creation to sales to purchasing, everything gets easier when product families are grouped using attributes and values. This process all starts with a master SKU template. Within this template, distributors can define the features of each item that lives within their inventory. These attributes might include the following:

  • Color
  • Dimension
  • Size
  • Style
  • Material
  • Grade
  • Manufacturer
  • Model year
  • Product composition
  • Packaging

By utilizing templates, distributors can accelerate item creation by providing default values for various parts of the fulfillment, purchasing, and distribution phases. It can be a good idea to disguise part numbers using attribute values. This means a fixed number of characters are created for each item segment using separators or dashes. In doing so, “smart part numbers” that are unique and meaningful to each individual product are created, making them easy to locate when the picking or inventory processes are ready.

2. Creating Kits with Advanced Disassembly Features

It’s not uncommon for wholesale distributors to manage kits of components that are already constructed, stocked, and sold together. Kits are frequently preassembled to stock for order fulfillment, but sometimes, the kit-and-pick components are sold during the fulfillment process. Many times, the orders will also come complete with non-stock items in kits to account for labor, instructions, and manuals.

All this shuffling around of parts can cause damage or loss of product. To avoid this pitfall, distributions should opt for the creation of kits that are easy to disassemble and come with advanced disassembly features. Not only will this be helpful during the pick and packaging processes, but it will also help cut losses caused by product breakage and delivery of products that are missing parts when they arrive to customers.

3. Managing Recalls and Quality Control with Traceability

Serial numbers uniquely identify products. When goods enter warehouses, wholesale distributors mark those items with serial numbers before they’re stored. These serial numbers are vital for tracking or tracing a product’s path, from storage to inventory to sale and shipping.

This serialized system is imperative for managing recalls and overseeing product replacements. Lot tracking helps improve compliance with industry benchmarks and customer quality expectations.

4. Using Variable Units of Measurement with User-Defined Conversions

Unit-of-measure conversion is a constant struggle for many distributors because they often buy in bulk then sub-divide the pieces into smaller groups for resale. Items are often purchased in various units of measurement, stocked in another unit of measure, then sold in a completely different measurement format. This means variable units of measurement are required to purchase, pack, and distribute goods most of the time.

For example, a beer distributor might buy beer by the case, stock it by individual units, then sell them in six-packs to consumers. Knowing how the product will end up on the shelf will help distributors know how much product to buy and how to package it appropriately to their own customers.

Unit-of-measure management is helpful for kitting and disassembly; knowing how end-customers will ultimately sell the products distributors are offering can help avoid costly backorders or rush orders.

5. Utilizing FEFO Picking and Stock Rotation to Manage Expiration Dates

Distributors who offer perishable goods should use lots or serial numbers that associate each product with the applicable expiration date. This allows for proper expiration date tracking, which is useful in order fulfillment because it allows pickers to grab the items that are closest to their expiration first—a process known as FEFO (first-expired, first-out). This limits risk and exposure for distributors while improving turn, lowering costs, and increasing profitability. This process also ensures customers are getting non-expired goods, as the inventory process within the distribution center should easily account for any items that have passed their expiration and need to be removed from the fulfillment floor.

Explore the Item Management Software That’s Built for Growing Distributors

Drowning in products? Struggling to distinguish between tiny variations in item attributes? Looking for an easier way to optimize your portfolio? Simplify the task of tracking costs and pricing—and spend more time focusing on customer service with the right item management software.

Acumatica is designed to help you do all of that and more. Learn how to simplify item creation, long-term item maintenance, purchasing, and sales processes. Download 5 Ways Acumatica Simplifies Item Management for Wholesale Distributors to learn how to:

  • Automate and streamline item creation, sales, and purchasing processes.
  • Create kits with advanced disassembly features.
  • Manage recalls and quality control with traceability.
  • Master unit of measure conversion—at last.
  • Limit risk and exposure for perishable inventory—lowering your costs and increasing your profitability.

We also share use cases for 14 different industries—giving you a clear picture of how Acumatica Distribution Edition can transform item management for a company like yours. Don’t miss this chance to learn about your next item management software. Download the solution brief now.

Bottom Line

Product distribution management isn’t easy, but there are things distributors can do to make the process more seamless. One way to enhance operations is to incorporate a cloud-based ERP system that’s built for your organization’s operational success.

If you’re looking for a way to improve productivity, eliminate manual processes, and ensure your end customers are receiving the quality products you’ve promised them, our team at MIBAR is here to help. Contact us today to learn how!

Additional Resources

Compare Distribution ERP Systems: ERP Evaluation Checklist

How To Manage Inventory Levels in Acumatica

Acumatica Demo