Distributor's EDGE
In This Issue
Finding Opportunities in the Stimulus
Recap: TUG 2009 U2U
Infor on ZDNet: Think Infor is Only in Maintenance Mode? Think Again.
Tips for Laying Out a New Warehouse
The Electric Connection
Featured Article

Finding Opportunities in the Stimulus

Dr. Adam J. Fein

Hear Wholesale Distribution Industry Expert Dr. Adam J. Fein's take on the "not as bad as you think" Stimulus Bill.

Featured Article

Tips for Laying Out a New Warehouse

Inventory

Learn warehouse Spring Cleaning tips from Inventory Management Specialist Jason Bader about how to improve your warehouse's current layout with minor changes.

Featured Paper

Standing Up in a Down Economy: 6 Strategies for Improving Operations and Profits

Brown Smith and Wallace


Hear from Brown Smith Wallace Consulting Group about surviving before, during, and after a down economy. Click here to read the complete white paper.


Featured Event

"Best Practices" Inventory Management Seminar

Grant Howard

Join Grant Howard in Michigan in June for a two and a half day informative and invaluable seminar on "Best Practices" Inventory Management.

Official Conference Dates:
June 2-4, 2009


Where:
Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel
Novi, Michigan


Who:
If your company wants to achieve maximum results from your inventory and your inventory management team, understand and utilize your inventory system properly, deliver stellar customer service, and achieve fantastic profits and turns on your inventory investment, you will want to attend this session.


Visit the Grant Howard Event Page on the DE site for more information or download and submit the registration page.

Upcoming Events
April 8, 2009 at 2 PM EST:
Jammin' with Grant

June 2-4, 2009:
"Best Practices" Inventory Management Seminar with Grant W. Howard

Section 179 Deduction

Take advantage of Section 179 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Section 179 of the tax code allows businesses to deduct the entire cost of certain types of property on their income taxes as an expense in the year acquired rather than capitalizing and depreciating it over time.

This property, other than real estate, is generally limited to personal property that is used in business and trade.

Call your DE partner to learn more.

Spring Cleaning

As we are just awaiting April Showers, it's the perfect time for Spring Cleaning. Wash the windows, scrub the floors, store your overcoats, and dust the drawers.

Or, utilize Infor's SX.enterprise to streamline your distribution business.

Contact us today to learn about our Spring Cleaning deals for new clients.

Spring Cleaning

***
Spring Cleaning Joke
Employee: "Could I have a day off, Boss, to help my spouse with the spring cleaning?"
Boss: "No, I'm afraid not."
Employee: "Thanks, Boss. I knew I could count on you."
SX.e Users Play Jeopardy

Only now, the questions challenge your true Jeopardy knowledge.

Rules:
1. The first respondent to reply with the proper question for this answer will win a prize and be featured in the next issue of our newsletter.
2. No Googling!

Please e-mail responses to
SXeJeopardy@DistributorsEDGE.com.

Answer:
The first product to have a bar code scanned.

Good Luck!


January 2009 SX.e Jeopardy Winner

Congratulations to last quarter's winner, John Kociuba, from The Gear Centre Group. Since John already received DE's signature "I'm too SX.e for my mug" mug, he received an Insulated Infor Travel Mug.

DE Mug

January 2009 Question and Answer:
Q: If pick tickets are printing on Saturdays, what is the most likely culprit?

A: Possibilty 1: ICSD - With in the other tab, Saturday shipments are checked. 
Possibility 2: SASTT - The Report Schedule is setup incorrectly or the OEEPP job has the wrong report schedule selected.


Check out DE on Twitter

@SXenterprise

DE Team Photo

We've finally joined the Twitter crew, so check us out and come follow us!
The Electric Connection

TEC Building

TEC Lighting

TEC Lighting

Interested in sharing your success story? E-mail us at OntheEDGE@DistributorsEDGE.com.

On the EDGE
April 2009, Volume 2, Issue 2
Welcome to the April 2009 issue of On the EDGE.

We warned you the first quarter of 2009 would zip by-- it's now April! TUG came and went faster than Kate Winslet's Oscar acceptance speech, and March Madness is wrapping up in the next few days. Check out our TUG recap below if you couldn't make it to Colorado Springs.

Next up at DE, we have the final installment of our Jammin' with Grant series, entitled "Thriving or Surviving in Difficult Times: Being a Distributor of Choice." The fourth complimentary session will be held on Wednesday April 8 at a new time-2 PM EDT. Don't worry, we will begin our next Jammin' with Grant series in the summer.

But before we get to summer, it's time for some Spring Cleaning. Take time to learn some warehouse organization tips from Inventory Management Specialist Jason Bader. Plus, hear Wholesale Distribution Industry Expert Dr. Adam J. Fein's take on the "it's-not-as-bad-as-you-think" Stimulus Bill.

Finally, learn how The Electric Connection in Arkansas, who is leading the way for a greener environment, has successfully adapted to and utilized SX.e over the last several years via their strong partnership with DE's West Coast partner, Acumen Group.

Enjoy the spring, and don't miss Jammin' with Grant on April 8!

Cheers,
The DE Team

Distributor's EDGE Logo
Finding Opportunities in the Stimulus

BY DR. ADAM J. FEIN
Wholesale Distribution Industry Expert

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009-- a.k.a. the stimulus bill-- is not as bad as you think.

Seriously.

In preparation for my webcast, The Economic Stimulus Package: Impacts & Opportunities for Distributors*, I have been going over the 407 page bill, section by section. I have identified and classified 279 unique spending or tax items.

Yes, there is way too much money being spent on non-stimulative social programs. Nevertheless, I estimate that about $200 billion in direct and indirect spending-- about one-quarter of the $787 billion total spend from 2009 to 2019-- will impact wholesale distribution companies. Almost three-quarters of this money will be spent by the end of 2011.

For example, $48.1 billion will be transferred to state and local governments for highway construction and transportation infrastructure, spread out by year as follows...

Click here to continue reading.

Note: The above is an excerpt from Dr. Fein's March 9 post. Check out his more recent post, "How to Benefit from the Economic Stimulus" on his blog Distribution Trends.


*Dr. Fein's Economic Stimulus webcast has already aired, but you can order a DVD of the event from the event page.

Recap: TUG 2009 U2U
Grant Howard

Held in Colorado Springs at The Broadmoor, TUG 2009 U2U was this years only User Conference. Even with all that pressure, TUG was an overwhelming success, with many attendees raving it was better than last year's conference in Palm Springs. The one caveat: Most (sane) attendees favored the warm desert weather to Colorado's chill. Fortunately, Colorado Springs' beauty is as breathtaking as the cold air.

Sure, the location deserves 5 stars, but the conference earned its own two thumbs up. Of course, Grant Howard's "Operational Excellence: Driving the Process to Improvement" and "Inventory Management in Challenging Times" were big hits. (If you missed Grant at TUG, check out Jammin' with Grant next week!) Roundtable discussions were also a favorite, especially the Purchasing Roundtable and the Controller's Roundtable.

The sessions were great and very valuable. In fact, many attendees believe this years TUG had some of the best presenters and sessions yet. However, the true value of TUG can be found at the proverbial water cooler, or more weather appropriate, the hot chocolate station-- networking! One DE client agrees, "TUG presents a good opportunity to meet people and make contacts. I think that's the name of the game because you can exchange situations. In some situations, I was able to provide information, and in others cases, they provided information. Hearing about others facing similar situations and how they solved them might help you to correct your own internal problems." TUG provided a prime opportunity for many other DE clients to interact and share stories as well.

After three full days of breakout sessions and keynote speeches, TUG's 2009 U2U Conference was a wonderful success-- all polled attendees considered their investment of both time and money a good one. In this economy, that's a pretty large feat! See you next year!
Infor on ZDNet: Think Infor is Only in Maintenance Mode? Think Again.

BY DENNIS HOWLETT

Infor is one of those vendors I'd pretty much written off as a company that might be interesting. Rolling up a rag bag of distressed software vendors is not my idea of innovation but of financial engineering where you usually have to carefully watch the bang per buck coming out of the maintenance stream. It doesn't help that Infor is owned by private equity interests and so getting behind the financials is not easy. Perhaps that assessment is overly harsh.

The last couple of days, I've been immersed in Infor briefings following the upcoming announcement that Sun Systems, a financial suite that in many ways defined the single ledger approach to accounting is being SOA-enabled. What? Anyone care? Why would you do that?

It turns out that Infor is roughly half way through a six year program to service enable all of its applications at a budgeted cost of some $350 million. That's over and above the 12% of revenues it allocates to R&D. Eighteen teams in nine locations are working their way through the process which will see Infor offering interoperability across old favorites like Baan, System 21, Sun Systems, XPPS, iSeries (Infinium), and MSA.

The idea is that customers should be able to take upgrades and enhancements at their own pace rather than go through a technical forced march. It also means that products like Baan 4.c.4, last sold in 1998 according to Infor will be just as capable of enhancement as later versions 5 and 6. This has to be good news for customers, especially as the SOA components are included as part of the company's maintenance arrangements.

While many of my colleagues see the current environment as one where innovation could make a positive difference, the last thing any CXO wants to do is break or destabilize computing environments that have stood the test of time. Infor's approach breathes new life into older applications while allowing customers a safe way to automate processes that might otherwise languish. Andy Birch of Infor Global Solutions summed it nicely: "CFO's have a new title, Chief Risk Officer and even if they want new functionality, they don't want anything new rocking the boat."

I was curious as to why Infor should have stuck the SOA moniker onto this project. As an industry we've been talking about SOA as a topic for years, yet finding business value that CXO's can understand has been elusive. Bruce Gordon, Infor's CTO agrees: "No-one cares about beautiful technology, they want business value but service enablement is something we can explain," he says.

Infor has taken an 'open' approach that avoids proprietary hub and spoke architectures, instead focusing on peer-to-peer as a way of ensuring that processes can be broken up into sub-processes but still capable of being consumed logically, regardless of the receiving application. "If we're building for the future then we have to recognize that customers need to own their own environment. Lock-in is no longer an option," says Gordon.

The burning question: will it work and will it be accepted? "On average it is taking something like two days to install in test environments and in some cases we can get to production in four days," says Gordon. That sounds impressive, especially in heavily customized environments but in truth the company has yet to roll out the whole set of Open-SOA components. A full SOA-enabled financial suite won't be available until Q1 2010. Similarly, while Infor is developing regression testing scripts, it will be customers who vote.

In the meantime I am impressed with progress so far. This is one of those few occasions where I can see how SOA will deliver business value. After years of brain deadening discussion that has oscillated between technical architectures, componentization and the promise of re-use, it is a refreshing change.

By its own admission, Infor has hardly been a model of outreach to the media the last few years. Given the work it has completed and the fact it seems to have prodded SAP into declaring market share wins, I suspect that might change. Making SOA-enablement optional and included as part of maintenance is certainly noteworthy.

Check it out on ZDNet.

Tips for Laying Out a New Warehouse

BY JASON BADER
Inventory Management Specialist

If you are like many of my distribution clients, you would love to change the layout of your warehouse to make it more efficient. Unfortunately, creating wholesale change in the facility would be too expensive and disruptive to your current business. You tweak what you can and ponder what could be.
 
What if you had the opportunity to start fresh? What would you do differently? Recently, a client sent me a note asking for some advice. He is moving into a new facility and would like to give the warehouse folks the best opportunity for success. Rather than just send him a note with a few suggestions, I thought it would be appropriate to share the information with all my readers. I am sure that you can come up with more ideas, but these should give everyone plenty to consider.

Click here to continue reading.

The Electric Connection: Leading the Way for a Greener Environment

The Electric Connection
As the new Lumecon distributor in Arkansas, The Electric Connection (TEC) is one step closer to pioneering a green future. Distributing electrical and lighting equipment to Arkansas and the surrounding area since the fifties, TEC, known as Home Electric in the early years, has developed consistent and reliable practices via their team's dependable efforts and leading edge systems to insure their clients' success and resulting satisfaction.

With locations in Jonesboro and North Little Rock, TEC is one of Arkansas' premier wholesale and retail electrical and lighting distributors, offering full electrical and lighting lines that include residential, commercial, and industrial items. According to Jonesboro's System Administrator Barry Wright, who has been with TEC for over a decade, TEC's main customer base consists of electrical contractors and builders. Some of their top product lines include offerings from Square D and Leviton electrical products as well as lighting from over 300 lighting manufacturers. And of course, they are now a leading supplier of L.E.D. lighting. Their inventory of lighting products ranges from interior recessed lighting to exterior fixtures. TEC also offers chandeliers, track lighting, ceiling fans, and more.

The Electric Connection Selects SX.enterprise
In 2003, TEC decided it was time to seek a new distribution solution. Before implementing their current system, SX.enterprise, TEC had experimented with other systems, including Distribution One's Vision, but none fit their industry well. They also tried implementing what they thought would be a fiscally conservative solution, but in the end, TEC spent more money in an effort to make the non-distribution system work within the distribution industry.

Ready to find a lasting solution, TEC began to search for a solid software base with which they could grow. Even though they were interested in SX.enterprise, TEC first researched other well known competitive solutions, originally avoiding Infor's SX.enterprise for fear of a far greater expense than they could afford. However, an account executive they had encountered at another company recommended SX.enterprise and suggested the expense would be more manageable than suspected, especially if TEC partnered with an Infor Channel Partner like Acumen Group, a founding partner of Distributor's EDGE.

TEC had admired SX.e but refrained from researching the system earlier because of financial concerns, so once this concern was alleviated, they immediately began to research the system. Ironically, one of the largest deciding factors in the purchasing decision happened to be the very affordable and respectable price for a Windows-based system that, according to Wright, "had most everything we were looking for." By November 2005, TEC had fully implemented SX.enterprise and partnered with Acumen Group.

Great Expectations
At the outset of their search, TEC was looking for a software system with which they could grow; after viewing demos and speaking with Acumen Group's other SX.e users, TEC knew SX.e would provide the option for growth. Once the software met their technical expectations, TEC had a few expectations of their new technology partner, Acumen Group. TEC was looking for a good listener, someone with whom they could easily work and is readily available over the phone, and excellent service from a Channel Partner as related to Infor.

Four years into their relationship, Wright believes Acumen successfully responded to all of their expectations, and he especially appreciates the dedicated service the Channel Partner relationship affords him. Acumen's willingness to listen to TEC, respond to their needs, and work closely with TEC contribute to this good service.

From the beginning, Acumen's Director of Application Integration, who was very involved in the implementation process along with other key Acumen employees, worked closely with TEC executives, including Wright, the General Manger, Charlie Coles, and the owner, Keith Felkins, to initiate the Train the Trainer approach. Once Wright, Coles, and Felkins were comfortable using SX.e, they in turn trained their TEC associates. Additionally, TEC utilized the Computer Managed Instruction CDs, which included a thorough breakdown of each module and section. Through the CMIs, TEC employees took tests to determine their comfort level with SX.e, and the CDs even offered printable certificates, enabling TEC to execute an incentive program.

Noticeable Improvements
With in a week and a half, TEC felt comfortable with the basics, such as order entry, and Wright attributes the ease of use to the detailed training process, their focused team, Acumen's dedication, and the Windows-based system.

As with many organizations, TEC faces a few common challenges, including employee concerns, sales, and aiming to embrace new technology while considering cost. Wright believes Acumen and SX.e immediately helped TEC face many of these challenges.

First, Wright credits the CMIs as a key element in new employee training, especially when it comes to order entry. Of the CMIs, Wright says, "Training was great with the program." He believes new employees are fully ready to start work with SX.e after only a week of training. In addition, TEC now only employs one purchasing agent as opposed to multiple agents, and the agent is very well versed in TEC's inventory.

Second, SX.e's strong forecasting nature has improved TEC's inventory levels. With SX.e, TEC is more aware of the stock they are currently carrying and the items they are about to ship. Wright compares the difference from their previous system's Inventory Management capabilities to that of "night and day." For example, in the past, Jonesboro's inventory levels were between $1.2 and 1.4 million, and now the inventory is around $800,000. Wright adds this is not due to a struggling economy but to SX.e's ability to better manage inventory.

While SX.e has decreased inventory levels, it has also greatly improved TEC's customer service. Now, TEC only carries the stock their customers want to buy. With SX.e, TEC has the ability to find previous sales information dating back many years. In addition, SX.e has helped improve TEC's communication with their clients because they can now fax and email to their clients directly from the system.

While SX.e has not helped TEC to face their third challenge relating to new technology, it has simplified the process of adding new products to the system once they adopt new technology. In addition, SX.e's cross-referencing abilities enable TEC to more easily locate new items in the system.
    
Enhancing Functionality
Aside from seeking a system that has the functionality and a partner who is willing to put in the time, TEC did not have many specific initial goals. Working on the assumption that strong, solid ingredients would result in better numbers, TEC focused on extracting the most out of their new system and partnership, which included co-developing applications with Acumen. Wright recalls quickly recognizing SX.e's deep functionality. In conjunction with Acumen's high level of expertise in SX.e, TEC especially noticed SX.e's programming capabilities within the first six months. Wright believes "everything that we could need is in the system now. Maybe it was missing a few small things, but with Acumen's help, we now have everything we need."

One area in which TEC and Acumen worked together to enhance the software is Document Imaging. Since Wright and one of Acumen's technicians developed the application, TEC can now more easily view an invoice for a particular vendor. The number of steps necessary to view the invoice is significantly less.

More importantly, with Document Imaging and Signature Capture capabilities, TEC has seen a significant decrease in their paper, toner, postage, envelope, and other filing related expenses. Wright notes the large impact this has had on TEC's bottom line. In addition, TEC has decreased their filing cabinets from eight to half of one.

TEC and Acumen
After working with Acumen for many years, Wright defines the relationship as a good partnership, saying "Acumen was a great partner for reaching our goals after the implementation of SX.enterprise, and as a partner going forward, they stay on top of the technology so we can always count on them to get us through to the next level." As TEC continues to work with Acumen and SX.e, their bottom line continues to see improvements due to superior inventory management, decreased paper expenses, and Acumen's dedicated involvement. Moving forward, TEC hopes to implement a Web Commerce system and utilize Event Manager more in an effort to truly reap its benefits and improve company communication. Further, they plan to continue growing as one of Arkansas' leading green companies. When asked whether he would recommend Acumen to a peer, Wright says, "If you can buy SX.e from Acumen, that's what you need to do."


For more information on The Electric Connection, visit www.tecelectric.com.