A 95 Year Old Wholesale Distributor Harnesses Big Data To Better Serve Customers

What if your buyers and sellers could share inventory availability, location, cost and demand data in near real-time for the first time?

This wholesale distributor fundamentally transforms its approach to buying and selling its product lines and increases profitability by sharing purchasing and sales data across the enterprise.


In the wholesale distribution business, inventory is everything. A distributor needs current and complete visibility into inventory - its composition, its cost and the price and velocity at which it sells. At this wholesale distributor, siloed purchasing and sales applications robbed executives of such essential visibility, a perilous situation, given that the inventory at the company’s 9 distribution centers consists mainly of electronics and IT-related product lines that must, by nature, turn quickly or be sold at a discount. Information sharing was manual and spreadsheet-driven. Salespeople had no actionable insight into what products the buyers purchased, quantities purchased and prices paid. Likewise, buyers lacked real-time sales information, and executives had virtually no insight into profitability. The company sought to build a foundation for intelligent decision-making by consolidating and centralizing purchasing, sales and inventory data reporting and analysis.

Business Analytics and Intelligence

There are no more fundamental metrics in business than gross margin and profitability; knowing the cost of the product you sell and the amount your customers pay. Recognizing the danger of operating blind to such basic insight in a high volume, low margin competitive environment this distributor significantly elevated the role data and analytics play in managing its product lines and its buying and selling functions. The company uses unprecedented inventory visibility and collaborative capabilities to connect its buyers to its sellers. Real-time inventory location, availability, demand, cost, and pricing data is stored in a data warehouse and analyzed centrally, with the resulting intelligence then being integrated across the organization. Graphical dashboard views of critical data, such as product returns, rebates, order cancellations, inventory age and turnover, overstock and back orders, provide executives, buyers and sellers with at-a-glance insights that reveal buying patterns and that drive more informed warehousing, purchasing and sales decisions-making; decisions that ultimately maximize margins and profitability.

Real Business Results

• Enables real-time information-sharing between buying and selling functions
• Consolidates and Centralizes all inventory, purchasing and selling data, creating a single-source-of-truth
• Drives more informed inventory-related decision-making
• Provides intelligence necessary to accurately measure gross margin and profitability

Solution Components

• Software: IBM Cognos Business Intelligence software, IBM Information Server, IBM PureData (Netezza)
• Services: Micro Strategies Architect, Design and Development services