At the height of the pandemic lockdown, it was easy to understand why shelves were empty and manufacturing or shipping the goods to replenish them took weeks or even longer. Now, we are two years out from that point but the problem still persists at many suppliers. Ask any distributor and you’ll hear their stories of frustration as orders they placed in good faith can’t be filled—often at the last minute—leaving them scrambling for another solution.
Here’s the typical scenario: The distributor checks inventory and sees the quantity needed is available so the order is placed. Unbeknownst to the distributor, the factory is short-staffed so it takes 24 hours for someone to enter the order into the supplier’s system. In the meantime, other orders are also placed for those same goods. Because of that time lag, the available inventory is depleted meaning that some of those orders won’t be filled.
Another problem, particularly for apparel orders, is that the inventory is in stock but some products are defective or the wrong color or size, reducing the actual quantity available to fill the order. Lack of efficient processes or having a sufficient number of employees can also mean that the process from purchase order to proof approval to production to shipping takes an unexpected amount of time—often without sufficient communication to the distributor.
“As in all situations, communication is key. Letting a distributor know ASAP about any inventory challenges certainly helps. But we really need to know earlier in the process,” says Dawn Janis, MAS, market vice president at distributor CE Competitive Edge, LLC.
“I have had that issue on more than one occasion. It is very frustrating,” says Nenette Gray, principal at distributor Lemonade Creative Marketing, LLC.
Janis says this scenario is, unfortunately, commonplace now. “Everyone is short staffed, it seems, so how do we get orders into a system faster?”
She adds that losing some quantity due to defects or wrong size or color has happened to her more than once. “The best solution is to check the product on the shelf at the time of receiving an order. But this is inefficient for the supplier,” she says. Or is it?
That critical step is part of PowerStick’s routine order process to ensure the quantity confirmed with the distributor is indeed available.
PowerStick’s Tyler Walls, director of manufacturing, answers these questions to explain why distributors who place orders with the Canadian supplier don’t experience the last-minute let-down that’s so prevalent now among other suppliers.
What is the step-by-step process on PowerStick’s side once a distributor places an order?
- The order is entered into the system where stock is reserved.
- The order is sent to fulfillment to pick and hold the stock.
- The sales rep works on the artwork and shipping details with the distributor.
- Once all the terms have been met and the order is ready to be produced, the order is approved by our rep for full production.
Is there any difference in this process if the order is placed directly by phone, through a multi-line rep, through a sales rep or online?
All incoming orders are processed the same way regardless of the sales channel.
On average, how long does it take for PowerStick to enter an order into the system?
Once a P.O. is received, the order is entered into our system within 10-30 minutes.
How long does it usually take to get from P.O. to shipping out the door?
Generally speaking, between 5-7 days, depending on the size and details of the order. Sooner if it is a rush.
Does someone check inventory when the order is received and what happens next?
Yes. The first step is for the sales rep to check on stock, then reserve it accordingly.
Are holds placed on inventory for received orders?
Yes, 100% of the time. If we have a P.O., the stock is reserved in the system for that specific P.O.
How does PowerStick handle quality control problems on certain products (defective merchandise, etc.)?
We catch any defects on the incoming inspection. However, problems such as this are not a regular occurrence.
Who communicates with the distributor on an order for questions, proofs, shipping and the like?
Our internal rep handles the order from start to finish, including any communication along the way.
How do you manage distributors’ expectations on shipping and delivery? Are specific notifications in place for every order?
When a new order is received and stock is verified, the rep confirms the order to the distributor and provides an estimated shipping date. We rarely miss a ship date but if we do, the rep communicates this to the distributor and formulates a plan to make sure the order is received on time. Once shipped, a tracking notification is sent to the distributor.
What else does PowerStick do differently on inventory management and order fulfillment to ensure that orders placed are delivered in full and on time?
We have many checks built into our inventory/order entry system. For example, if there is not enough stock available to fulfill a particular order, the rep is notified at the time of entry and subsequently alerts the distributor. If the distributor is willing to wait for the stock to be replenished, the system puts those orders in the queue in the order they were received.
PowerStick.com is the only company designing and manufacturing its own portable chargers in North America. See the full product line of personal tech products and premium packaging choices at www.powerstick.com.