At NRA 2014 there was a meeting of the Presidents of all 5 associations. The discussion led directly to an initiative to work together with trust, technology, and innovation to improve the efficiency of the channel. The first step was to create standards for data structures, data distribution, and security. The initiative acquired a name: the FEDA Data Interchange. AutoQuotes was asked to participate in the design and in the startup of the FDI.
AutoQuotes works with FEDA President Brad Pierce and with the FEDA Excomm. We have had numerous discussions with 2014 MAFSI president Joe Ferri, with past NAFEM President (and AQ advisor) Jeff Rhodenbaugh, and with FEDA Board members. We read Michael Whiteley's President's letters and attended his NAFEM speeches. The FDI leadership tells us where the hot buttons are and what efficiencies need to be optimized. The first step is Order Status.
The FDI is not limited to FEDA members only. The standards and the data distribution are available to all channel partners at all levels. Although the initiative is very new, it has participation of most major manufacturers; although the data distribution is not yet complete, it has begun.
To manufacturers, the cost of distribution (independent reps, customer service, sales staff) could easily be 10% of the $9.94 billion revenues estimated by NAFEM in the 2014 Size and Shape study. The FDI targets the labor costs of phone calls and emails: the most exacting, tedious, and unpleasant tasks of customer service. It is estimated that 50% of the calls to manufacturer customer service are for Order Status.
Payroll (after merchandise) is the highest expense in dealer distribution. At the dealerships, purchasing agents and project managers spend a significant percentage of their time expediting orders through phone calls and emails. The FDI will deliver the status of orders directly to the dealer desktop, ERP system, and the mobile devices of the salesforce. This will save payroll time and speed up the response to the end user customers.
For Young People and Jobs
Attracting millennials to jobs in distribution in the foodservice equipment industry has become a challenge. Teaching young people about design, sales, installation, and customer service is complex. Commercial kitchen products are high priced, highly configured, or highly specialized (by size, color, pattern, etc). There are 500,000 SKU's and multi-million possible product configurations that are necessary and available in the foodservice equipment marketplace.
But just as important to young people is their lifestyle in the workplace. They grew up with the internet, social media, desktops, and mobile devices. They don't like phone calls (too inefficient), and therefore jobs that require phone calling. They want to work online, anywhere, at any time. The FDI is an investment in technology to automate the tedious tasks in the entry-level jobs and to appeal to their lifestyle.
The FDI Mission Statement
Introduce innovative new technology to the distribution channel. Keep it simple. Charge nothing. Reduce payroll costs. Attract more young people by creating better jobs in distribution.
Then, if successful, iterate. Tear it apart and rebuild it again. Technology is exponential and the opportunities to improve the channel, from manufacturer to rep to dealer to service agent to operator, are comprehensive and diverse.
For more information about the FDI, go to MyOpenOrders.com