NetSuite recently hosted a webinar with two wholesale distribution customers, Lightspeed Technologies and Advantage Sign Supply, that focused on how cloud computing has enabled them to simplify and speed operations, unify customer touchpoints and leverage the web to do business better.

Wholesale distribution has never been an easy business, particularly in the last couple of years. Companies face constant margin pressure and intense competition. Despite these challenges, Advantage and Lightspeed have not only survived—they have thrived by leveraging the cloud for competitive advantage.

The first customer speaking at the webinar was David Jarrell, an IT manager at Advantage Sign Supply. Advantage, which provides supplies and equipment for sign-making, runs a relatively lean operation with approximately 85 employees across nine locations and about $40 million in annual revenue. Like many wholesale distributors, a key challenge for Advantage is to support a distributed workforce and mobile field employees with real-time data access and visibility from anywhere, any time.

From an IT perspective, Advantage had neither the time nor resources to integrate a bunch of disparate systems. The company needed to minimize or even eliminate unproductive IT work to focus on innovation and business execution. Time that IT doesn’t waste “integrating the software hairball” can be invested in preparing for new channels including self-service and ecommerce. Lastly, managing and tracking inventory is absolutely critical for Advantage’s business. A key requirement for Advantage was better demand forecasting so that they could reduce inventory levels and inventory carrying costs.

In discussing the benefits achieved with NetSuite, David focused on how NetSuite dashboards have provided Advantage with real-time business visibility and access to the latest information on inventory, sales and critical issues that need attention. The screenshot below shows that sort of dashboard that Advantage uses.

David also pointed out how Advantage’s IT staff has made itself more relevant since the NetSuite implementation, because it can focus on delivering value to the business and streamlining processes rather than tedious IT maintenance work.

Our second webinar speaker was Carl Cox from Lightspeed Technologies, a leading provider of classroom audio solutions to over 3,500 K-12 customers worldwide. Carl outlined how Lightspeed’s previous software hairball of solutions, including Peachtree and FileMaker applications, presented numerous challenges around maintaining two systems, double data entry, increased costs and disjointed teams.

In considering a new solution, Lightspeed recognized it was critical to move to a single platform to ensure that they didn’t duplicate the problem they had with different sets of technologies. With NetSuite’s integrated suite, Lightspeed has been able to maintain a very small IT department of just three folks while supporting rapid business growth. (Lightspeed has more than tripled since it started looking for a solution, but hasn’t needed to add IT personnel). Several key takeaways for Lightspeed:

  • Leveraging the cloud allows for growth without adding unnecessary headcount
  • The cloud provides flexibility by providing complete, real-time information
  • A single cloud platform delivers real-time business visibility through dashboards and KPIs.

For both Advantage and Lightspeed, moving to the cloud has enabled them to focus on their business rather than IT. As a result, both companies have grown during what has been a challenging period for wholesale distributors. Listen to the on-demand webinar to learn more and explore what the cloud can do for your business.