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Indies get a tech edge

A group of regional independent broadliners, Distribution Market Advantage (DMA), was formed to enable its shareholders to court chains. It has inked distribution deals with companies like P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Potbelly Sandwich Works, The Melting Pot and Moe’s Southwest Grill, among others. Part of its appeal is a technology platform called e-Advantage, which gives chains near-real-time visibility into virtually every aspect of their purchasing and distributor performance.

Some components, such as Web-based order entry and item-level tracking, are pretty standard. Others are leading edge, says Bob Sala, CEO of the Schaumburg, Illinois-based company. For instance, a recent addition to the e-Advantage suite of services is e-Verify, a program that automatically verifies a chain’s prices systemwide. “Manufacturers establish contract pricing with chains and customers expect those prices to be executed,” he says. “We load up every contract price a customer has into our system and run invoice records against what the expected prices are. We provide exception reporting and take care of any pricing errors, up or down.”

Other newer components of e-Advantage are online inventory visibility and extra delivery tracking. The former is especially useful to chains running LTOs, Sala says. “It gives near-real-time visibility into whether the item they’re promoting is in stock in all of the warehouses that service them. It tells whether there’s enough on hand to support the anticipated demand.”

Extra delivery tracking gets at efficiency. “It shows when deliveries above the agree-upon frequency are made,
and why,” Sala says. “Did the operator forget to order something? Did the distributor screw up?”

While the e-Advantage technology itself isn’t new, such new applications developed to address specific customer needs are. Says Sala, “We’ve been able to take existing data and reorganize it in new ways to solve real customer supply chain problems.”

 

DMA—Distribution Market Advantage
Schaumburg, IL
Aggregate sales: $17.5 billion
Marketing territory: National
Distributor members: Ben E. Keith Foods, CONCO Foodservice, Gordon Food Service, Food Services of America, Hawkeye Foodservice Distribution, HPC Foodservice, IFH Foodservice Distribution, Maines Paper & Foodservice, Nicholas & Company, Reinhart FoodService, Shamrock Foods, Systems Services of America