What happens when a self-described mad scientist tinkers around with vendor-managed inventory software? He creates an automated supply chain solution tailored to the needs and budgets of small-to-medium-sized industrial distributors. Andrew Johnson, CEO of ShelfAware VMI, returns to chat with Jason about the practical, transformative power of the company’s RFID-based tracking system. The pair also discuss ShelfAware’s latest foray into blockchain automation of physical financial documentation, creating a more transparent and cost-efficient transaction “paper trail.”
“We’re that inventory supply chain company that’s on the bleeding edge,” Andrew says by way of introducing his thoughtful, innovative approach to inventory management. Unlike other platforms, ShelfAware boasts the pedigree to address its customer’s pain points. “In the beginning,” he recalls, “we were just a bunch of brothers operating a small family distribution business.” The expense and complicated integration of traditional inventory systems didn’t make sense to them, so in 2015, the brothers began building a more agile, economical solution.
ShelfAware employs RFID (radio frequency identification) smart labels to track physical inventory. The company’s YouTube channel provides a great introduction to the tech. Then there’s a proprietary collaborative structure which helps companies level up like the big guys. CloudSourcing™ is the ability of ShelfAware-equipped suppliers to “work with each other and collectively supply large consumers with a variety of products across multiple product verticals––all with one set of rules,” explains Andrew. “We see ourselves as this third party, visible and transparent between suppliers and consumers.”
ShelfAware’s innovative streak now extends beyond the supply bin. “We’ve come up with new features based on the demands of supplier and consumer,” says Andrew. “We feel like we can replace existing [financial] infrastructure with an auditable secure piece of technology.” By leveraging blockchain to track packing lists, sales orders, and delivery vouchers ShelfAware aims to provide A/R and A/P departments with 100% accurate intel in real-time.
While some iconic brands already rely on ShelfAware, Andrew acknowledges the challenges inherent to being a new kid on the block. “We’re a new way of doing old practices,” he says, but well-positioned to lead the industry’s digital inventory revolution. “If you’re ever gonna consider trying something new, now’s the time.”
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
“With the Shelfware platform, you get this incredible collaboration between supplier and consumer.”
“We’re looking to equip, educate, and inspire industrial independent specialized suppliers to operate on a more automated supply network.”
“That’s ultimately our goal is to make the relationship between industrial suppliers and industrial consumers more efficient, more valuable so that, competitively, the United States can reassure a lot of this American manufacturing and do it gracefully, do it well.”
“There’s nobody else in the industrial marketplace that’s offering an inventory management solution that leverages a magical, user-friendly technology like RFID and doing it in a platform way that would include anybody, and that’s building this collaborative network of suppliers.”
“We are in this unique position ’cause we weren’t technology folks; we were distributors. We went out seeking a technological solution to existing problems, so that background is our advantage.”
“We were just trying to make our own little world better, so it was built by tiny folks for tiny folks.”
“It is built for the little guy, and it’s built to impact this market in a big way.”
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Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth, and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.