5 Tech Trends Transforming Wholesale
An exceptional amount of growth is taking place within the wholesale distribution industry. Companies have embraced some technological innovations with open arms, while hesitating on others. AI and automation have certainly gained a lot of attention, as companies seek to find new ways to increase employee safety while making their operations run faster and more smoothly.
Of course, not every new advancement in technology has been easily adopted. Robotics are slowly making their way into the warehouse, continuously increasing its capabilities year after year. Cloud storage technology has made an impact as well, but the reception from industry leaders has been frosty at best.
New technologies are going to rise up in 2018 and beyond, and some changes may seem a bit overwhelming for industry veterans. It’s hard to imagine a workplace filled with autonomous bots, but it’s a imminent reality that many within the industry must accept in order to keep pace with modern business.
As we advance into the new year, here are some of the biggest industry trends to watch out for in 2018:
1. Cloud Computing
It is difficult to break into wholesale distribution, especially with new technologies. Distribution is one of the most critical aspects of the supply chain industry. It runs on increasingly tight margins and there’s often a lack of interest for investing in anything other than their legacy systems. But times are changing, and one of the best places to begin investing is in Software as a Service (SaaS). Though SaaS technology is sometimes viewed with skepticism, Statista research shows an unavoidable trend towards adoption in wholesale: SaaS and the public cloud market generated nearly $140 billion U.S. dollars. There is no more denying the prominance of cloud deployments for a wide variety of technology products.
2. Pricing Analytics and Tools
Pricing technology and the use of predictive algorithms took longer to gain traction due to the high cost of data scientists and analysts, but is now becoming a staple for many companies within the distribution industry. Why? Complex data that is already being captured though every invoice and transaction can now be captured, analyzed, and reported in near real-time and through programmed models, in lieu of investing in an in-house data scientist. Leveraging pricing analytics has proven to be immensely useful for improving distribution prices. This technology isn’t necessarily new but is continuously evolving as new tech enters the market. While advanced inventory management tools continue to change, we’ll be seeing more strategic pricing coming into play.
3. Warehouse Automation & Robotics
Robots working alongside humans is no longer an idea for the distant future. Amazon already uses robots at their Manchester warehouse, where they’ve enhanced their operations to process more orders. Meanwhile, Alibaba runs their own robot-filled warehouse. They employ 60 robots to help pick and move goods for human employees, which is making an impact on warehouse safety and productivity measures.
While these two companies are a model for the future, obtaining a fully automated warehouse isn’t completely out of reach for smaller businesses. It’s going to be a necessary step as companies try to meet increasing consumer demands. After deployment, it will simplify logistics, enhance visibility, reduce costs, reduce errors, and improve efficiency.
4. Business Intelligence Tools
One of the greatest tools at a company’s disposal is their vast store of data - from consumers, suppliers, vendors, labor. Companies have available data right at their fingertips and they’re starting to appreciate the value of facts and numbers. Business intelligence tools give companies the ability to better understand their past data, which, in turn, will help them better prepare for upcoming trends and improve their business model for the future. Instead of simply viewing data, these tools will create actionable insights.
5. Voice Technology
Consumers across North America are enjoying the many uses of the now-popular at-home assistants, Amazon Alexa (or Dot or Echo) and Google Home. But while these voice assistants are proving their ability for hands-free convenience, such as switching of the lights in your home or adjusting your thermostat, they can also be leveraged in supply chain operations.
In recent years, voice technology has been deployed in warehouses and distribution, but it’s gaining popularity and more warehouses are beginning to take advantage of its benefits. When properly integrated with an ERP or WMS, voice technology allows users to perform simple tasks, such as enquiring about stock items or searching for a SKU. Operations Directors and Warehouse Managers can get business critical information and make informed plans without even hunting for the data.
Wholesale distribution is certainly going to experience some growing pains, but these new technology trends are all pointing to a more seamless and productive operations model. In the end, companies will have to adopt their strategies to modern, technologically-savvy clients in order to stay in the game.
At Seldat Technology Services (STS), we are problem solvers, next-generation thinkers, and efficiency aficionados. Operating at both local and global scales, STS offers comprehensive solutions packages developed by in-house industry experts, tested against real-world scenarios, and designed for the changing supply chain. Learn more about Seldat Technology Services’ wholesale supply chain solutions and get in touch with our experts today.