The past year has seen a constant struggle for obtaining supply. Manufacturers face numerous challenges, from issues with the supply chain to a lack of factory workers. Meanwhile, demand — at least in the consumer and new-home construction segments — has surged. This creates a challenge for distributors.

Many contractors have responded to the situation by expanding the number of distributors they use. Distributors now need to find ways to keep the business they have and possibly add new clients. The answer, consultants say, comes from adopting new ways of taking and delivering orders.

The biggest change has been a shift to ecommerce, said Manufacturing and Supply Chain Expert Lisa Anderson, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc. Almost every industry that sells anything has seen a boom in ecommerce in the past year. This includes HVAC distributors. “It was always expected to increase, but what we expected to increase in 10 years happened in one,” Anderson said.

Managing Inventory With Technology

That need for speed has created some issues. One is that distributors are shipping smaller orders. Anderson has one client that doubled the number of orders shipped in the past year, but shipped fewer actual projects. This means distributors often have to quickly reconfigure their warehouses. Some are designating areas for ecommerce orders, while others are creating new layouts to more easily access inventory.


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