Now that COVID-19 is almost a thing of the past, it’s appropriate to reflect upon the effects of a world flipped upside-down overnight and the on-going recovery efforts for a “new normal”.

The pandemic-driven eCommerce surge in 2020 put many B2C distribution operations in disarray as vendors tried to adjust to a massive consumer market shift toward online shopping. And as new variants and surges continue to pop-up in various parts of the world, the global supply chain and the labor pool are still struggling to keep pace.

For warehouse and distribution centers to survive in this uncertain climate, flexibility is key – we must adapt to consumer trends as they happen. Combining an unpredictable supply chain with fluctuating consumer behavior has some industries experiencing unprecedented demand, while demand in other industries is plummeting.

Now, it’s time to start thinking long term. As we try to navigate our lives in today’s new “normal”, here are some topics that will drive decision-making in distribution as the pandemic eases.


Continued Growth in eCommerce

Forbes reported that COVID-19 accelerated eCommerce growth by 4-6 years and online spending in May 2020 was up 77% year-over-year. Warehouse and distribution centers are not new to eCommerce, but certainly has been a struggle to keep pace with the rapid increase in demand.

While some consumers are looking forward to return to in-store shopping, others have become accustomed to online shopping. Data suggests the eCommerce surge will not diminish when COVID-19 subsides. A recent Bizrate Insights survey found “60% of shoppers reported buying product online instead of in-store due to COVID-19, and 32% expect to continue to shop online”.

The lasting effect of increased eCommerce orders has caused warehouse and distribution centers to pivot from case picking to pallets destined for retail locations to picking individual pieces to be shipped directly to customers. This represents a major impact for material flow, processes and storage technologies as the warehouse makes the shift from full case to split case picking.


Saying Goodbye to Manual Processes

Warehouse and distribution labor shortages have caused many retailers and online sellers to pursue technologies to reinforce and optimize the capabilities of a smaller workforce. For some operations, this included more substantial changes such as an ERP solution.

With a post-modern ERP solution, employees can access real-time business information no matter their geographical location. Decision makers can review key reports and metrics to make quick, but informed business decisions when necessary. While nothing can take the place of face-to-face communication, notification and approval systems built into many ERP systems improves internal communication amongst employees and ensures requests are being reviewed, approved, or denied in a timely manner.


Third-Party Integrations

As warehouse and distribution centers begin to streamline business processes, we’ll see more interest in third-party applications to simplify those processes even more. For example, the ERP might have native functionality to support basic process automation. Let’s say there is a feature that allows you to input orders from Excel or CSV files through saved imports, but the reality is that you receive your orders as PDFs from your customers which do not easily convert to neatly formatted Excel spreadsheets. In this case you might want to consider an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) solution that can be ‘plugged into’ your ERP solution.

Solutions vary from being add-ins, to connectors that have been prebuilt to quickly connect two or more peer systems without the need to spend time and effort on custom integration.


Flexibility to Grow and Change with Business Needs

With the unpredictability of today’s market, it’s essential to have a system which grows or lessens with your business needs. Consider alternate business models for unpredicted times and the next three to five years. Many warehouse and distribution centers are upgrading their current solution to a post-modern ERP for the scalability features.

COVID-19 has altered the business landscape for more than a year, but it has impacted distributors’ technology investment plans even more as the economy enters a post-pandemic phase. The bottom line: With the new normal setting in and customer demands forever changed, technological transformation has never been more critical.


Your Next Steps

When you team up with ACC Software Solution’s premier team of consultants, you’ll receive a team of experts committed to following ERP best practices, from selection to end user training.

Find out why warehouse and distributor centers across the United States have come to us for over 25 years to execute their software projects—contact ACC Software Solutions today!


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