How distributors are managing supply and demand in the face of COVID-19

How distributors are managing supply and demand in the face of COVID-19

Ingram Micro, Westcon-Comstor, Dicker Data, Tech Data, Exclusive Networks, Synnex, Leader Computers and others are all open for business

Credit: Dreamstime

Distributors across the region are activating their business continuity plans, keeping supplies up to meet demand and reassuring partners of minimal disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many distributors are also undertaking specific health precautions, instructing staff to work remotely where possible, shifting to virtual meetings and increasing cleanliness and hygiene at their facilities.

In a note to partners, Ingram Micro director of advanced solutions Brett Armstrong assured partners that the distributor is doing everything possible to support their business needs locally and overseas, and that it is carefully managing inventory levels with fair allocation for high demand products such as VPN, unified communications, laptops and other remote gear. 

Solution bundles are also available for remote and work from home (WFH), cloud, internet of things (IoT), virtual desktops, hybrid and software-defined computing, as well as critical cyber security solutions. 

Armstrong said credit representatives are also proactively calling partners to discuss financial services, credit options and leasing programs for products.

“We have business continuity management programs (BCP) in place to ensure that we can still function in a safe and efficient way at this critical time. As part of this we have daily calls which allow us to evaluate the current status of communities and facilities across Australia to ensure the health and safety of our associates and be proactive with your needs,” Armstrong said.

In response Armstrong said the company is operating work from home processes across its office locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with its functional distribution centre practicing safety standards such as split shifts; strict cleaning protocols between shifts and no integration between warehouse and office staff. 

He also detailed a list of actions taken to support customers through its external sales support team including proactively calling partners to understand their business needs and prioritise orders for new laptops and other remote devices.

They can also connect customers with subject matter experts for remote work, security and other unified communications solutions. 

Dicker Data CEO and chairman David Dicker has said that all of the distributor's warehouse and distribution centre functions remain uninterrupted.

“We recognise the potential impact on vendors and partners we work with but be assured, Dicker Data is well placed and with complete business continuity for the channel market throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dicker said in a statement.

“As well as our assurance to minimise any possible disruption, our experienced and locally based teams are committed to provide you and your business with our highest standard of service and customer support.”

Dicker has moved to assure partners that it is adhering to strict health guidelines and has set a range of precautions in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its people, including the mobilisation of its technical resources and remote working capability; extending warehouse operating hours; and reorganising its workforce to mitigate risk and avoid potential delays in order fulfilment.

“We are closely monitoring this evolving situation as it unfolds and will continue to proactively adapt our approach according to the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ministry of Health NZ in conjunction with our evolving operational requirements and those of the businesses we work with,” Dicker said.

“The team and I will continue to keep you informed of any developments and ask you to maintain communication with us on any changes within your business that may impact Dicker Data.”

Synnex Australia CEO Kee Ong has also moved to reassure partners that it is still operating despite the disturbances caused by COVID-19.

"This is an unprecedented time in our history," Ong said. "As we all continue to navigate through the COVID-19 uncertainties, Synnex Australia would like to reassure you that our business is fully operational and our commitment to the channel remains consistent.

"Supporting our employees during this crisis is critical so that they are in the position to continue to provide you with the services and support you need with minimal disruption. To mitigate further risks, we have put in place enhanced remote working capabilities and are deploying all our workforce to work remotely," he added.

Ong conceded that, during this transition, partners might see an impact on delayed responses on the distributor's 1300 or 1800 numbers, however he encouraged partners to continue to get in contact via email or phone.

"Our warehouses and distribution will remain uninterrupted except for pick up services which are suspended until further notice," Ong said. "You will still be able to access our B2B platform to place and manage your orders.

"We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we work through this challenging time together.

"We remain committed to keeping you informed and finding ways to support you during this critical time," he added.

At the same time, Westcon-Comstor has also been working with its vendors and carriers to monitor and advise on any potential issues. 

Westcon-Comstor Australia managing director Phil Cameron has told partners that, since the onset of COVID-19, the distributor has proactively increased its stock levels to ensure operational consistency, and is working with freight suppliers to prioritise deliveries and to identify alternative transport methods. 

The distributor is also in discussions to use additional warehouse space including access to third party logistics providers.

“Given the current global situation regarding COVID-19, it is important that as a partner of Westcon-Comstor we keep you informed as to the measures we are taking to ensure the health and safety of our partners, vendors and staff,” Cameron said.

“Furthermore, our previously established Business Continuity Planning Response Team continues to meet daily and is tasked with ensuring minimal disruption operationally.

“We truly think of our teams as an extension of yours and, as such, we will take every necessary precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to proactively communicate with you as the situation develops.”

Not only is cloud software distributor Rhipe working to keep its service and support staff in the Philippines working during the Manila lockdown, the company’s broad business continuity plans are keeping all facets of the business in operation.

According to Rhipe CEO Dominic O’Hanlon, Rhipe moved early to establish a work from home policy for its 400-plus direct staff members. Indeed, its employees have long enjoyed the facilities to work remotely, if needed. 

“Rhipe is a born-in-the-cloud, digital-first organisation,” O’Hanlon said. “We activated our business continuity plans early and moved quickly to shift our teams to a work from home environment. 

“Consequently, our operations continue to run as close to normal as possible given the circumstances.

“As an organisation built on agility and flexibility, we are leveraging our digital collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams across the entire business, while providing support to our partners in driving similar initiatives with their customers,” he added.

Tech Data country general manager of Australia and New Zealand Wendy O’Keeffe said the company's operations team was working really hard to keep everyone up to date, looking after its loyal customers and coming up with innovative ways with offering automated quoting and billing tools for resellers.

“We have to do something alternative and we think the vendor community will also step up to support the channel,” she said. 

Tech Data has been building its TechPay automated quoting tool, offering resellers one, two and three year options with a monthly billing sum. 

In the next couple of months, it will also have an end-user version of the tool, for partners to produce quotes for their prospective customers.

“We’ve made a really simple methodology around it, and it backs to a financier, and uses automated APIs with a financier, and backs into our system. There’s no cumbersome paperwork, or manual processes,” O’Keeffe explained.

The tool will generate quotes from a majority of Tech Data’s vendors excluding IBM and Dell, as O’Keeffe explains it already has “great financial deals with those two vendors.”

“It’s a great way to help resellers with their own cashflow,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with innovative ways, but it’s still going to be a tough few months ahead for the industry.”

O’Keeffe said the industry will face challenging market conditions in quarters ahead, particularly with companies not being able to make payments.

“Foreign exchange rates have really challenged our US buying. When the Australian dollar drops AU$0.05 in a few days, and if you’re only making $0.05 in the dollar on every margin, then you’ve swiped out your profit,” she said. “We have to be fluid and agile in our process, offering daily expiration quotes.

“There’s also supply chain issues that will have a deep impact, particularly with products coming into Australia. With the reduced number of airlines coming into Australia, the cost for freight has gone up phenomenally and we’re seeing a daily change in rates.”

For its part, Exclusive Networks has conceded that current trading is “challenging,” but the distributor has noted that its business year to date remains on track with its company plan as the distributor gears up to keep things running smoothly as the pandemic rolls on. 

“Business continuity preparations in terms of employee welfare and remote workplace provision, supply chain contingencies and customer care have proved to be invaluable and, thus far, resilient with minimal operational impact,” Exclusive Networks Pacific managing director Jonathan Odria said. “Financially, the company’s balance sheet and cash position is strong and sustainable. 

“The company’s risk and continuity team meet and communicate on a daily basis, minimising service disruption whilst maximising employee and customer welfare. Contingencies are in place to support the fast-changing environment, and the company continues to work in harmony with its vendor and supply chain partners,” Odria said.

As part of its efforts to support the large number of Exclusive Networks reseller and integrator partners in the current climate, the company has announced a Partner Support Package to assist efforts to continue business on a sustainable basis. 

“The full package includes Communications Pathway Plan, Operational Continuity Aids, Customer Professional Implementation and Support Overflow, Consolidated Vendor Programs and Wellbeing and Safeguarding Guidelines,” Odria said, noting that more details of these elements and how partners can engage with them will soon be announced.

Adelaide-based distributor Leader Computers managing director Theo Kristoris, meanwhile, said that resellers should feel very confident in fulfilling any customer demands as it has begun to see supplies arriving daily and doesn’t expect any issues in April. 

“The majority of our China-based manufacturers are back to work and almost at full production now,” Kristoris said. “We did see some stock issues in the past few weeks however we increased our orders many weeks ago and now, we are seeing very good supplies arrive daily. 

“Intel continues to have shortages, however Leader has special allocations being the largest PC manufacturer in Australia and holding good stock. Leader has been in business for over 20 years and has very tight relationships with suppliers so we have been able to pull in special allocations and air freight.” 

Kristoris said the company has been very open in its communication with resellers as it anticipates price rises due to shifts in foreign exchange rates, freight costs and supply chain cost increases. 

He also noted that he had seen a significant shortage in notebooks due to demand stemming from the U.S. market, but has seen a strong lift in demand for Leader's own locally assembled and Leader-branded notebooks, 2in1s, corporate PCs and servers.

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