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Thriving, Not Just Surviving, In Post-Pandemic Wholesale Distribution

Thriving, Not Just Surviving, in Post-Pandemic Wholesale Distribution

By Tammy Mangan, HuLoop Industry Advisor

In the last few years, businesses have faced unprecedented hurdles and challenges—and the wholesale distribution industry has faced more than most. From rising food and fuel prices, to sporadic inventory shortages and delays, to the approaching recession and slowed consumer spending, wholesale distributors are encountering constant pressures on their gross margin.

As a result, organizations need to create efficiencies that will help improve both productivity and cost savings—while optimizing human capital. Intelligent automation platforms help distributors to automate repetitive, mundane tasks and processes so that employees can be freed up to focus on things that add value. AI-based, no-code platforms help deliver wholesale distributors relief across dozens of tasks and processes such as on-the-fly cost changes and price changes, equipping the business to better manage post-pandemic operations.

The “Wish List”

Wholesale distributors usually have a solid enterprise software platform that addresses most of their core business operations. Many of the most feature-rich, tried-and-true platforms have been in the industry for more than 10+ years. While they provide the integrity, performance and reliability needed to transact thousands of lines of business in very tight time windows, they can also lack the agility and ability to lift the mundane, data entry-heavy, and redundant tasks that require extra labor—and result in data that can be riddled with human error.

Wholesale distributors typically have complex technology ecosystems developed over years of connecting and customizing their enterprise software platforms to best-of-breed applications, such as Warehouse Management Systems, Transportation Planning and Execution Systems, Customer Service Systems, Advanced Purchasing Systems, Analytics and Reporting Systems and third-party accounting systems. With vendors often becoming acquired, it has become increasingly harder to do business with them.

Most distributors have lengthy wish lists of initiatives that…

  1. There is not enough time to get to
  2. Would be “clunky” and not well-suited to work with the enterprise software platform
  3. Didn’t get funding in lieu of higher priorities
  4. Require redundant data exchange and validation, such as third-party point solutions that target a specific area of the business

Few organizations have the interest, appetite, time, or money to replace these proven systems. Therefore, the challenges become: How do you find new efficiencies and cost savings while keeping these current systems in place?

Introducing Intelligent Automation

Most wholesale distribution companies are not taking advantage of next-generation automation. But at this point, they can’t afford not to.

HuLoop’s AI-powered intelligent automation is a no-code software platform that enables enterprise-wide digital transformation. While keeping humans in the loop to provide the necessary governance and control, HuLoop offers capabilities such as:

Data-Driven Process Discovery – Generates understanding of people, processes, and technologies are being used and what happens in between them.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – building, deploying, and managing software robots aka bots or digital assistants that emulate what humans would otherwise need to do.

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) – loading, digitizing, classifying, extracting, redacting, validating, and exporting intelligence from documents and files.

Business Process Automation (BPA) – orchestration and automation of complex processes across disparate systems, data sources and organizational functions.

Intelligent Data Automation (IDA) – collecting, validating, and publishing data automatically.
Software Test Automation (STA) – creating, executing, and analyzing an array of tests comparing actual expected outcomes.

Software Test Automation (STA) – creating, executing, and analyzing an array of tests comparing actual expected outcomes.

This emerging software category helps wholesale distributors find the untapped savings within their businesses. Additionally, HuLoop is built to be used by both technical and non-technical business professionals. The no-code platform enables businesses to do things that have been previously difficult to achieve.

The Case for Automation

“Don’t just tell me I have a problem. Tell me how to fix it or better yet, fix it for me.”

This thought has undoubtedly gone through everyone’s mind at some point. But what if there was a platform that could make an impact in key areas of a wholesale distributor’s business, including:

  • Item Maintenance (Purchasing)
  • Allowances/Off Invoice/Billback (Vendor Income & Receivables)
  • Manual Vendor Billing (Vendor Income & Receivables)
  • Three-Way Match: AP-PO-Receiving (Invoice Reconciliation)
  • Order in Use (Picking)
  • Out of Stocks (Shipping)
  • Routing/Route Planning (Delivery Planning)
  • Customer Maintenance (Customer Service)
  • Orders/Order Guide Maintenance (Customer Service)
  • Order Cutoff (Customer Service)
  • Promotions/Allowances/Deviations (Customer Pricing)
  • Journal Entries/Recurring Entries (Accounting)
  • Period End Processing (Accounting)
  • Financial Reporting (Accounting)
  • Cash Application (Accounts Receivable)

What do these business areas have in common? They require immense amounts of data entry and validation, and are often at the crux of daily “fire drills.” Let’s dive into a specific process example and think about all the areas of impact:

Ready to Route Customer Orders – when a dispatcher is ready to drop orders to the routing system and warehouse, what are all the items that have to be checked, balanced, reconciled, fixed and chased? The dispatcher’s job is to manage expectations. In this example, the dispatcher interacts with:

  • Customer Service – are all orders in by the cutoff? Did the sales reps and customers transmit their orders? Have all EDI orders been received?
  • Buyer – managing out of stocks, tracking what’s available vs demand, manipulating data to make necessary decisions
  • Orders in Use – view individual routes for order indicator and see who has locked orders
  • Credit Hold – viewing each route for credit hold indicator to mitigate cash liability

These tasks are time- and data-intensive, and make up just one component of the business. With an automation platform like HuLoop, wholesale distribution companies can have a system running behind the scenes that is checking and monitoring that things are running as they should be, based on scripts and rules.

Instead of chasing down a multitude of people and systems to find out if all orders are in, HuLoop could be triggered to perform the following:

  • Understand that there are five orders that aren’t in, for example
  • Identify the key customers involved based on rules and identification
  • Trigger the enterprise system to run a process to generate a recommended order for these customers based on historical information it’s been provided rules for

As a result, HuLoop has eliminated the fire drill of tracking down sales reps or customers and identifying whether they are trying to send orders or if the systems aren’t talking to each other. And this is just one process. One. Wholesale distribution organizations have hundreds of processes like this. In fact, automating simple data entry scripts, for example, can reduce and most likely eliminate human errors that can be worth millions to a business.

Meeting of the Minds

While each wholesale distribution business is unique and complex, there are many commonalities and shared experiences. To help distributors through the automation process, HuLoop has created a consortium to introduce intelligent automation to the wholesale distribution user community. This share group will work together to identify, create and deploy impactful automations that save money, increase productivity and optimize what people do.

Consortium members will receive cost-sharing benefits. Automations that historically have been created for one client company and resold repeatedly to other similar client organizations, will now become part of a catalog of automations available to all members of the user community.


The economic, supply chain and labor challenges facing wholesale distributors aren’t getting better. To continue competing in today’s business climate, organizations need to find new ways to achieve cost savings and improved productivity, while better utilizing their human capital. AI-based, no-code automation platforms provide wholesale distributors with relief from repetitive data entry tasks—and the human error that can accompany them—to put the right data at people’s fingertips more quickly and keep them focused on business activities that add more value.

If you are interested in learning more about the HuLoop automation platform, or becoming a member of our Wholesale Distribution Consortium, please click here.

About the Author: Tammy Mangan

Tammy ManganTammy Mangan is a long-time Wholesale Distribution and Supply Chain technology executive. She has held senior positions in product, engineering, and professional services teams for H&S Computer Systems, IDS LLC, Retalix USA Inc., and NCR Corporation. Mangan currently serves as an industry advisor for HuLoop Automation.

About HuLoop Automation

Based in the Sacramento, California area, HuLoop Automation offers an AI-powered, no-code intelligent automation platform. This platform brings next generation hyperautomation innovation across several key solution areas like 1.) process and task discovery, 2.) business process automation (BPA), 3.) robotic process automation (RPA), 4.) intelligent document processing (IDP), 5.) software test automation (TA) and 6.) intelligent data automation (IDA). HuLoop is used across the enterprise by both businesspeople and technology experts. The platform delivers significant revenue growth, cost savings, and productivity gains across it’s prestigious customer base. Learn more at and follow HuLoop on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

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