Times continue to change....which is an on-going process. I happen to study both international as well as US economics and find myself amazed every week because of some change that is disrupting a market or industry. Look how our "new" oil industry both emerged and disappeared in not too many years. See how Amazon is impacting the retail industry. And who would have thought that they would ever see ZERO interest rates for as long as we have. In the end, today's business world is a tough place to be.
So if constant change is upon us, what exactly are the issues for material handling dealers? I will list four that I believe are important.
1. Technology adoption = success
2. Equipment improvements
3. Data management
All of these are important and warrant some management time to draft a plan to address these issues, along with other industry matters, with a goal to keep your company on the LEADING EDGE of the material handling distribution cycle.
Here's how I would attack this program.
Deal with #4 first
You have to know the industry....how it works....how it is financed.....and how it generates positive cash flow. And there are many sources to help you learn about the industry, where it has been and where it is going. You can get information from OEM's, industry associations, industry publications (like this one), 20 Group participation, industry system providers, conventions, on-line courses and other experts with knowledge to fill in the gaps where you need guidance. To summarize, you can cut to the chase and get input and answers from industry people with minimum effort.
Once you get up to speed it will be easier to plan out where you want to be five years out and what you need to do to get there.
Technology is next
The use of technology in the material handling business is gaining momentum, but I must confess that employees under 30 are probably the best source of expertise when it comes to adopting new technology and making use of what you have already. Your business system should be industry specific and the provider should be pestered to make your staff aware of ALL the features you need to provide above average customer service.
Not only do you need to know your system, but also those apps on the tablets, phones and laptops. And probably the most important thing is to have an under 30 team charged with keeping systems updated and ALL employees trained to use the equipment at least at an 85% efficiency rate.
There are many technology experts out there. Maybe there is one living in your basement because their college degree has not produced a job. Part-time or full-time they can be had for not a lot of money. In addition, they may like what they see and you can spend some of your education money on them and wind up with a tax-paying member of society on your payroll.
One thing is for certain re technology.....every employee has to remain current regarding the use of the company's technology. No excuses allowed.
The equipment keeps getting better. Technology applied to equipment use is getting more available. It is getting better....requires less maintenance......lower cost to own and operate. If the new Tesla battery technology makes it to the lift truck circuit ....we have a new major disruption on our hands.
Data management goes along with technology. We have tracking data. We have telematics. We have training data to make repairs easier to complete. Our problem of course is how to receive and decipher the data we get. My solution to this is to work with your OEM or dealer to help you monitor and review data so that you can prioritize work that needs to be done to keep customers close to 100% up-time.
In the end, I believe a dealer can deal with these four issues with a modest investment in education, using an industry specific system, using the OEM to keep up to date with equipment changes and using our under 30 group to implement and monitor digital issues. Prepare the plan, set the goals, assign responsibility and inspect to ensure you are getting what you expect.
Mastering these four issues= success and future profitability.
Garry Bartecki is a CPA MBA with GB Financial Services LLC. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to contact Garry.