With the consumer market driving the American economy, it is one of the ironies of the process that so few people ever give any thought as to how the products sitting on store shelves get there. The reality is that the backbone of the entire marketplace is an increasingly sophisticated wholesale distribution and logistics industry. The activities of this vital market component start with getting the raw materials from vendors to value-added producers that turn those items into finished goods. Then, there is the entire network of warehousing and shipping facilities and companies that get those products to other warehouses and, ultimately, to the consumer. As the IT world has evolved, this entire effort has become dependent on very sophisticated and powerful distribution software and many layers of automation.
The development of integrated wholesale technologies that deal with the many dimensions or the process has consumed billions of dollars. Such capabilities as sales order management, detailed order entry with multiple options, inventory management, and availability alerts all enhance productivity and efficiency at every level of the distribution industry. Warehouse management now falls under the concept of logistics, encompassing many functions beyond simply storing and retrieving boxes and products off of shelves. This includes procurement, transportation management, financial management, complex pricing management, quality control, attributed inventory, kitting and assembly and the many other functions that get products out the door and in the hands of consumers. This essential industry which is largely invisible to the consumer moves billions of items daily to keep those retail shelves filled.