Tech Data Eyes Improvements In Inventory Management

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Tech Data strengthened its inventory management services as part of its overall outsourcing package for solution providers.

The distributor has had the capability to manage inventory for a solution provider for quite some time, but solution providers still had to regularly work with Tech Data to manage the process. Today, better processes and specialized systems now enable Tech Data to handle the complete inventory flow itself, Tech Data executives said.

"Where Tech Data really differentiates itself is in the managing-the-process piece," said Mike Seferyn, vice president of business development at Tech Data. "I have not seen that level of service from our competitors."

Tech Data's Reserve Inventory program allows solution providers and vendors to use the space in Tech Data's distribution centers to store products, which can be shipped at a later date or drop-shipped directly to the end user.

For example, if a vendor informs a solution provider that it will stop producing a specific product, then under the Reserve Inventory program that solution provider can purchase a large amount of the product and store it at Tech Data.

Ingram Micro and its IM-Logistics division have offered similar inventory management services for a while in the North America region, said an Ingram Micro spokesperson. The distributor embarked on a national road show with IM-Logistics late last year to promote its outsourcing capabilities to potential customers.

The Tech Data program is aimed at SMB and larger solution providers that want to reduce their operating costs by outsourcing warehouse and logistics functions to the distributor. The fee-based service can accommodate Tech Data and non-Tech Data inventory, offers flexible rollout schedules and a way for solution providers to tackle larger deals without investing in more warehouse space, said Tech Data.

Solution providers often rely on the highly efficient logistics and fulfillment services of the broadline distributors for purchases that need to be delivered quickly. New York-based solution provider and consultant DataVox Technologies turns to Ingram Micro or Tech Data "when we're faced with particular projects and we need the product today," said Norbert Sluzewski, president of DataVox Technologies.

"Distribution services are a tremendous value-add," said Sluzewski.

Tech Data has been building up its formalized outsourcing solutions to its customers for more than three years and is still "really gaining traction" in the outsourcing services market, said Seferyn. "We're really able to give [solution providers a viable option that works," he said.

One of the keys to the success of Tech Data's outsourcing services is having the infrastructure and comprehensive systems in place to manage not only its own inventory, but also that of its solution providers and vendors.

The distributor has significantly beefed up its computer systems and "heavily customized" applications over the years to make this level of service possible, said Seferyn. "The systems are very critical," he said. "The key is we have to be able to manage it to the end-user level."

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