Disruptive technologies rev up need for open architecture business management tools

ERP systems remain indispensable for distributors of all sizes and industries. Today’s quandary facing distributors, though, is that technology — and customer expectations — are evolving at such a pace that their ERP can’t keep up. History isn’t repeating; it’s accelerating at break-neck speeds. Disruptive technologies that came along once in a generation now occur yearly, driven by the global adoption of commercial open source technologies.

Those with older ERPs are scrambling today to make their systems ‘open’ enough to meet new and not-so-new demands. xTuple's lead software engineer managed many 90s-era proprietary distribution implementations for other companies. When he learned of xTuple’s dedication to open technology, he joined the team — to be part of the long-term strategy devoted to meeting the distribution industry’s present and future needs.

Business-to-business (B2B) eCommerce is one example of such ‘open’ disruption. Amazon has created a level of service and convenience that we’ve grown to not just expect but demand. A site with an outdated look and inaccurate information limits online sales and also negatively impacts a company’s retail business.

Everywhere access via mobile devices is a major disruptor, and just beginning. Customers, vendors and employees all rely on smartphones and tablets that rarely leaving their hands. “Bring-your-own-device” wasn’t even a consideration previously, nor was device-responsiveness, i.e., technology that understands the context of your usage situation (offsite, phone, tablet, laptop, PC/Mac desktop) and delivers your information accordingly.

What lies ahead?

New technologies with significant impact for distributors lurk on the near horizon:

The Internet of Things (IoT) — allows machines to communicate intelligently with each other via the Web. Imagine equipment or assets notifying your ERP of a malfunction or a warranty milestone. Much of what we will see and use with IoT will provide insights that weren’t previously visible and automate tedious tasks.

Wearable Technologies — while not widely used yet, organizations in manufacturing, logistics, health care and other supply chain segments are finding ways to use them effectively. How long before warehouses are dependent on smart devices incorporated into safety glasses, wristbands and gloves, rather than handhelds?

3-D Printing — the maturing of ‘print on demand’ with any material suggests distributors may no longer need as much warehouse stock on-hand, dramatically cutting inventory costs and time in providing quick delivery rather than disappointing (or losing) customers due to out-of-stock items.

What does this all mean for today’s distributor?

Unfortunately, older ERP systems are proprietary-based and not easily customized by anyone except the original vendor. This, of course, means a lot of time and expense affecting your company’s bottom line. While a business can’t always predict what lies ahead, smart distributors can take steps to equip themselves with a system that liberates them from lock-in and delivers control to quickly adapt and change as new needs are identified.

Distributors of all types need a unique solution for the problems of today — and tomorrow. xTuple’s distribution solution is a fully-integrated end-to-end system for companies with sophisticated inventory control needs. Of critical importance, the open architecture gives distributors the best option to adapt and meet future needs.

Contact me with your wholesale distribution questions and our Web Services Group with your eCommerce questions. Watch xTuple University videos for Distribution tutorials and eCommerce how-tos.