The relationship between manufacturers and distributors can be complicated at times. The heavy reliance on each other to move products and the continuous care and feeding in a rapidly changing environment, can create tension and weaken this relationship. Through years of experience working with distributors and manufacturers, some best practices have been identified that may help strengthen partnerships and avoid missteps.
Manufacturers that understand what their distributors need from the relationship may be the most critical piece of information they have and ensuring some common best practices are in place can further enhance this relationship.
- Maintain a plan for distribution – having well-established guidelines from the onset can further develop trust from a distributor. Have a plan for how things should go but also a plan when exceptions arise.
- Consistent, predictable fill rates and lead times – when distributors know what to expect with fill rates and lead times, this enables them to keep customers happy and their reputation intact. When the expectation veers from the norm, proactive and frequent communication is necessary. Providing substitutes or expediting products are ways to show that distributors and customers are valued. Having a strong infrastructure including a labeling solution and integrated technology allow manufacturers to act quickly.
- Support for technology – reliance on technology is needed now more than ever and “provides a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.” The ways in which it can help strengthen the distributor/manufacturer relationship are:
- Notifying distributors quickly of part number changes.
- Keeping inventory and pricing information up to date.
- Highlighting minimum buy requirements clearly and having a tool for PO consolidation.
- Providing clean and consistent product data that can be uploaded to their systems with minimal effort, especially for pricing updates, new items, and new product groups.
Relationship-building takes time, but one bad move can damage a relationship irreparably. Pragmatyxs has built our brand off the close working relationships we have with our customers and the best practices noted above include good communication and adoption of technology. Enterprise labeling solutions should be part of every manufacturer’s plan when looking at ways to engage and strengthen their distributor relationships.