Often times the best sources of technological innovation for your company are the systems, assets and relationships you already have in place. The key is to find new and better ways to utilize them.

That was one of the major messages of Barnes Dennig’s recent wholesale / distribution roundtable on “Innovative Uses of Technology.”

John Bloomstrom of Bloomstrom Marketing Advisors encouraged business leaders to consider innovative suggestions from employees at every level of the company, and he offered a six-step process for initiating innovation. He stressed discipline, the ability to look within, and a shared responsibility as key characteristics of companies with a strong culture of innovation.

Jack Buecker, Vice President of Supply Chain with Skidmore Sales, shared how Skidmore has integrated sales analysis software to pull directly from their existing ERP system and easily provide specific and highly useful analytics. Both Bloomstrom and Buecker suggested reaching out to important clients for new ideas. Not only are those clients in the best position to offer potential improvements, the initiative will demonstrate attention to their customer satisfaction.

Kevin Evans of Martin & Associates detailed some of the technologies that distributors are using to improve efficiency. Technologies such as Electronic Document Interchange (EDI) and eCommerce websites are likely to be familiar because of their ability to save time and resources as well as streamline internal processes. Newer concepts such as social media and cloud computing provide benefits that are less clear to the wholesale industry and must be evaluated on a firm-by-firm basis, Evans said.

Buecker and Steve Gerwe, Controller at Skyline Chili, discussed the importance of ERP systems in the food industry and the subtle ways they have utilized their current technology to add value for clients. For instance, Gerwe said Skyline’s food audits have become so efficient and the risks of a recall are so minimal that grocers have a high confidence in stocking Skyline products.

Forty five people attended the roundtable, representing 31 companies. All of those surveyed rated the content good to excellent.

“Plenty of food for thought,” one attendee wrote.

“Very relevant data,” wrote another. “Good professional presentation supported by hands-on experience.”

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