Interviews | July 23, 2019
Top Distributor Deep Dive: #10 Meridian
Meridian landed at No. 10 on the 2019 Top Distributor list in the June/July issue of PS Magazine this year, up one slot from 2018. Meridian’s customers are asking for quicker lead times, better pricing and a more automated experience. “We are always investing in new technology to support those efforts,” says Jake Chanson, who’s in charge of business development for the company.
Specifically, the Meridian team says these tech enhancements matter to clients — auto billing, instant estimating, digital proofing, auto tracking, web-to-print portals, company stores, print on demand and inventory management. “Automation is critical to any distributor trying to create a better user experience,” Chanson says. “One way for us to become more competitive on price is to become more efficient and streamline our order management process.”
We caught up with Chanson to dig a little deeper on Meridian and get insight for other distributors.
What advice would you give to other distributors looking to invest in technology? How do you know what technology to choose?
Look at technology for your business as ever evolving and always changing … the same way the iPhone does. Partner with a solution that has experience but is young and nimble enough to encourage changes and updates as technology advances. Schedule demos — LOTS of demos. Always ask for referrals from within our industry and outside. Working with other PSDA members has been crucial to our technology advancements. Look at other PSDA members as partners and not competitors, and you will gain tons of insight and value from their experience and yours alike. I’m a fan of software as a service (SaaS) options, as you aren’t tied down to hardware, pay by the seat/user, and get all the automation and features of a living, breathing platform.
What technology do you see on the horizon that Meridian has yet to invest in but see yourself doing so in the near future?
We are close to a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and are always looking at other tech (collaborative project management software, warehouse management software, auto-proofing/interactive file sharing, etc.). We are also spending money on integrations between platforms. A robust software suite is great, but if you are lacking integration then you are limiting the effectiveness of each platform.
Does Meridian have a role model in terms of great user experiences? Who is doing it the best, in our industry or elsewhere?
We all want to be like Amazon or Apple, right? In all seriousness, we are watching the leaders in the industry and in the e-commerce space. From manufacturers to distributors, to leaders outside our industry … there are a lot of cool companies to keep an eye on and be inspired by. In the end, we are striving to create the best customer experience regardless of the industry we are in.
How long does it take for investing in new technology to pay off? Did you find you had to be patient in order to reap the benefits of diving into new tech?
That’s a tricky one, but I’ll give it a shot. The return on investment (ROI) for tech is not as definitive or tangible as, say, a new piece of manufacturing equipment. We created workflow charts and time studies to illustrate our most obvious pain points, then worked backward from there to eliminate steps that weren’t needed or were taking too long to complete. If we could reduce the number of hours it took to complete a specific task by a significant number, then we figured it was worth the investment.
[It’s important to] be patient but also be diligent. Assign a team leader to every technology solution you are looking for and make them own it. We all get lost in day-to-day routines, but technology is a significant factor to every businesses success or failure, regardless of the industry. I recently read an article saying the average spend on tech is 3-5% of your annual revenue. Do the math and see if you are part of the average.
Technology Case Studies and Profiles Distributors