Infor recently announced that its distribution business unit has experienced more than 120 percent license growth since the close of Infor's 2010 fiscal year. By engaging with customers and incorporating feedback, Infor has continued to invest in its distribution products to deliver solutions that address challenges faced in today's shifting landscape. Industrial Distribution had the opportunity to speak with Infor GM Andy Berry about the company’s growth and what the future holds.
ID: To what do you and Infor attribute your success over the last several years in the distribution space?
Berry: I joined the company in June of 2010 to really rebuild the distribution business. Prior to that time it was a series of acquisitions dating back to 2004. The wholesale business got a little lost. When I came on board what was in place was a great set of employees who really knew the space and who had been in the space for over twenty years – the solution itself was aging. During that time, I saw about 1,200 customers in the first year. My goal was to understand what their perception of Infor was and their history with our solution. Most importantly, where did they want Infor to move going forward to maintain that relationship that we had in place? At the time, we covered a number of ERP products. We had to make the decision going forward as to what would be the key products for Infor in the distribution space and how to provide upgrade paths for everyone on all the solutions.
ID: Recently, C.H. Briggs made the move to integrate your Inforce product which links back end ERP data with a front end CRM solution in conjunction with Salesforce.com. How is Inforce helping the company model best practices in their business?
Berry: What we found was that the back office functions of our core ERPs were very strong from a finance, procurement, and inventory standpoint. Where we lack integration was with their sales teams. The economy was tight – and still is in the sectors that we cover – our customers couldn’t squeeze much more out of the inventory side of their business. They really needed a way to drive additional sales. The extension of a CRM product gave us the first real opportunity to interact with the sales part of our customers. How were they interacting with their customers? What were their customers requiring of them? We really tried to drive more productivity per rep and more margin per rep.
ID: On the topic of sales staff, the Infor product Road Warrior is being used by State Electric to keep sales staff up to speed on the go. How is this feature helping them to be as competitive as possible?
Berry: Inforce, from a CRM perspective extends the basics of sales out in the field. Road Warrior actually extends the whole ERP out into the field from an iPad. Not only do you have access to basic CRM data, but you also have the ability to run the entire ERP out in the field. Sales people can use Road Warrior to process orders and it also gives them a full view of open orders and purchase histories. That really is the difference. Some customers wanted a simple CRM in the field – more like Inforce. If you want a very robust ERP in the field, Road Warrior is the option you want.
ID: How is this mobility helping sales get the most out of the system and be as effective as possible?
Berry: It really ties into the functionality that we rolled out at the same time: the opportunity to find products quickly and the ability to be presented with cross sell products immediately. That is what we delivered with this product. Salespeople can see what similar customer are buying, helping them to cross sell or even up sell during the sale. The product gave salespeople far more detailed and relevant information in order to sell better, because that is what they are trying to do.
ID: Another distribution, IDG, is now using Infor’s Storeroom Solution – can you tell us a little bit more about it and what it does?
Berry: The Storeroom Solution product was co-developed between IDG and Infor. A lot of customers were demanding this vendor managed inventory style of sale where IDG can go in and essentially take over the operations from a supply standpoint within their customer operations. What IDG was looking for was a way to organize inventory a couple of different ways, both consigned inventory and inventory on the shelves of their customer, to become more than just a wholesale distributor – they were becoming a solutions provider for their customers. The solution we created is a web based application and is deployed in a manned or unmanned environment in our customer’s customer’s environment and it manages their storeroom, checking products in and out, very much like a vending machine. They have full visibility to the full inventory replenishment of the ERP. The Storeroom application ties into the core ERP and all the purchasing and inventory functions, so that it can automatically trigger replenishments and streamline the whole process. It creates a WMS on a small scale within their customer’s storerooms.
ID: Will other companies be rolling this out in the future?
Berry: Yes. Since the product was co-developed, we wanted other customers to use it to help make the product better over time, as did IDG. It has become an off the shelf product for Infor, and many large wholesalers in the electrical space are now adopting it. It is also applicable in the service vans that companies send out every day. They are full of a lot of inventory and are often not managed in a good way. They are starting to deploy this as an iPad application, where reps check product in and out as they sell it and when they check back into the warehouse at night it gets replenished like any other warehouse.
ID: Is this co-development a goal for Infor going forward?
Berry: Absolutely. One of the downsides to software development is dealing with individual modifications all the time: you end up in development four or five times for the same thing but with different customers. Now, when someone brings us a great idea that would work well for other customers, we will work with these customers to develop a module and then pitch it to other customers and it makes us a better partner overall. It also helps the initial customer because it allow us to test and research with more resources to bring them a better product as well, and ensures that they won’t end up in a dead-end product a decade down the road.