Inventory is Every Distributor’s ‘Reason for Being’: Grant Howard

Photo: Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski/wikimedia commons
Photo: Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski/wikimedia commons

At TUG Connects! 2016 last month, anyone who attended one of the three sessions delivered by Grant Howard, CEO of Grant W. Howard Co., came away with a new sense of their business mission.

For years, Howard has been urging distributors to focus on three key objectives: Customer experience, profitability, and growth. At his much-anticipated best practices inventory management spring workshop, he’ll be hammering away at the message he delivered at TUG Connects!: We know what to do, and it’s time to deliver.

Vision to Results

The connection from vision to results is where the best strategies often go off the rails. “What matters here is helping distributorships develop their mission, their strategy, and their strategic objectives, but then ensuring that what we do at the tactical, action level lines back up with that,” Howard says. “It’s basic, but it’s an area where companies struggle so much.”

From the executive level on down, that means a standard formula for success: set objectives, establish ownership, then measure performance.

Metrics and Measurement

Measurement “is the huge missing piece in most companies,” Howard notes. “We geared a lot of the discussion at TUG Connects! around how to set objectives you can measure, then how to measure to drive results. Because measurement is what connects the strategy with the tactics and results.”

The key takeaway: While software enables solid measurement, it can’t do the whole job on its own. “They call it business intelligence and business analytics, but unless you know what to do with the tools, it isn’t very intelligent or analytical,” he says. “The real question is whether your data search is well enough aligned to take you on a guided fishing trip, rather than an unguided voyage where you hope to find something.”


All 10 of Howard’s inventory management best practices are embedded in all of Infor’s current distribution ERPs, but the right tools can’t deliver against poor strategy or weak implementation. The first step in getting strategy right is to understand distribution’s unique, indispensible role in modern supply chains.

“Inventory is the reason for being for distributors,” he says, because “distributors are the buffer. Manufacturers can’t produce to demand, and they don’t want to produce to warehouse it. End users don’t want to buy in large quantities.”

So “distribution was formed in the middle,” with the result that “inventory is the core of our being. That’s what our business is. And yet, so many distributors just do such a poor job with it.”

An Inventory Strategy that Pays for Itself

The great thing about a strategic approach to inventory management is that the effort pays for itself.

“If your company is not making best use of the new technology available from Infor to manage your inventory, it’s missing the tools and processes to drive stellar customer experience, profitability, and growth,” Howard warns. He’s more modest about describing his own workshop as an essential tool for success, but the testimonials from last year’s event tell the story.

“Easy to follow step-by-step of how it all works and see the big picture,” wrote one purchasing manager. “Presentation was great—energetic. Experience was educational—Not the least bit boring. Time flew by—Open to all questions—Great information!”

“I have been with my company for almost eight years, and I’ve learned more in three days than I’ve learned in those eight years,” agreed an inventory analyst in the class of 2015. “You’ve hit on every point that I’ve been missing to make my job so much easier. I greatly appreciate you for making this so simple.”

Click here for more information on Best Practices Inventory Management with Grant W. Howard, June 7-9, 2016 in Novi, Michigan.