Technology is becoming more widely accepted in the distribution industry, however, many distributors are still relying on more traditional methods to complete everyday tasks, according to a recent survey by the American Supply Association (ASA) Center for Advancing Technology. The majority of respondents see technology as providing a good return on their investment. Most are currently implementing some form of e-partnering, such as sharing customer, product or operations information electronically with channel partners.

The online survey, conducted in March, was fully completed by 70 distributors and partially completed by 31.

While there is a widespread trend of acceptance toward technology, 67% of respondents reported they manually update most of their products.

According to the survey, distributors that manually update their products spend anywhere from $4,000 extra per year to $47,520 extra per year, depending on the department that is inputting the information and how many hours they spend doing it. For example, a distributor that uses administrative personnel to enter data 24 hours per month spends $4,032 at an average salary rate of $14 per hour. If a company uses more than one information technology employee to input data 220 hours per month, it spends $47,520 at a salary rate of $18 per hour.

The majority of distributors responding expressed interest in using a warehouse management system (WMS), software that may use bar coding to help manage warehouse space or assist warehouse employees in picking and packing more quickly. More than 50% responded that they are using, would like to use or plan to use a customer relationship management system, software that allows salespeople to capture customer information and tailor product and service offerings based on the customers' needs. These respondents say their primary obstacle to using either of these systems is that other priorities take precedence in time or cost. Another major obstacle for WMS implementation is that the cost may be too high to generate a return on investment.

Survey-takers said the technologies that have the most impact on distributors' businesses are: order entry, pricing and billing; purchasing and inventory control; and online product and sales information, in that order.

Visit the technology news section of the SUPPLY HOUSE TIMES Web site ( to access a link to all survey results.