Based in Tuscaloosa, AL, AFFLINK helps executives make wiser procurement decisions by offering true knowledge about their supply chain–not only in the products they buy, but how they buy them, store them, and even use them. “We have amassed volumes of information from our manufacturing partners across various market channels to create an online consulting tool called ELEVATE™,” affirms Riffer. “And our goal with ELEVATE is simple: to provide free advice to clients looking to maximize their indirect supply chain.” Aligning product acquisition with corporate goals and objectives, ELEVATE also uncovers enterprise-wide savings through an evaluation process that identifies efficiencies in possession and application costs that may normally fall below-the-waterline for some companies.
One of the pioneers in offering eCommerce to the B2B world, AFFLINK has evolved considerably over a period of 40 years. “When we introduced our first eCommerce platform in the mid-nineties, our customers who had multiple locations across the country could place orders from any branch, with agreed-upon national pricing, and have those items delivered by the local independent distributor in their area. It was truly revolutionary for the time,” says Riffer.
Today, the company continues to thrive with that same spirit of innovation; developing methods that enhance clients’ supply chains.
"We’re not just focused on the products to perform a task, but look beyond to identify savings in ordering, inventory, and labor usage"
A 4-Step Approach
Supply chain optimization is an intricate process that demands proper consultation and a series of standards to follow. To help organizations resolve these intricacies, AFFLINK delivers a no-risk, no-cost online consultation though www.ELEVATEProcess.com. It is a four-step strategic approach that helps clients measure their indirect supply chain. “The first step begins with identifying and verifying the client’s unique business priorities,” explains Riffer. “In this Discover phase, ELEVATE asks a series of questions to uncover these needs and then ranks them in order of importance.”
In the Explore phase, clients are able to then peel back the roof and perform a “virtual audit” of their entire facility. A guided, room-by-room tour allows users to view recommended solutions that align with their priorities outlined in the previous section. “This second step is a true knowledge portal, where visitors can gain insights on thousands of products that have been selected based on their specific needs.”
The third phase, Evaluate, emphasizes the client’s supply chain processes. Using the customer’s own data, the proprietary algorithms within ELEVATE highlight potential cost savings in ordering, invoicing, warehousing and even labor usage to ensure that they are making decisions that take into account the entire spectrum of the supply chain.
Finally, in the Conclude section, clients can view a recap of the recommendations made, and then either request an on-site consultation with one of AFFLINK’s experts who will advise them on how to implement the ELEVATE solutions, or they may simply continue on and order any selected products directly from the site as well. “In the end, ELEVATE does just as its name suggests—‘elevates’ the client’s expectations to focus on complete supply chain optimization,” explains Riffer.
Focusing on Indirect Costs
From healthcare and hospitality to industrial and commercial, AFFLINK serves companies across various market verticals. “While these industries are vastly different in nature, they share some commonalities, most notably the rising costs associated with their supply chain,” comments Riffer. Most businesses today are focused primarily on direct supply chain costs, such as raw materials, freight and logistics. AFFLINK’s ELEVATE process helps clients understand the indirect, commodity and consumable products as well.
ELEVATE does just as its name suggests—‘elevates’ the client’s expectations to focus on complete supply chain optimization
It’s these items that too often fly under the radar but can make up a significant amount of spend for the client. “Our research shows that while all businesses may share similar needs, their order of importance will likely vary from industry to industry, or even company to company,” adds Riffer. In a manufacturing plant, productivity may be of utmost importance, while in a healthcare facility, the focus may be on hygiene and safety. “Regardless of the industry segment, we’re able to customize supply chain solutions based on specific business needs. We do not provide a one-size-fits-all solution,” he adds.
ELEVATE has helped many of its clients drive out costs and increase efficiency. One of AFFLINK’s clients, Zodiac Aerospace, saved more than $650,000 across five manufacturing facilities last year. AFFLINK has also helped Adventist Health System save 20 percent in indirect supply costs through vendor and product consolidations. And by spotting ineffective processes across 32 of Sun Country Airlines’ locations, AFFLINK also identified a nationwide plan to increase supply chain efficiency for the regional jetliner.
AFFLINK streamlines procurement practices by consolidating vendors, rationalizing Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), and centralizing procurement to drive down the total cost of operations. “We’re not just focused on the products to perform a task, but look beyond to identify savings in ordering, inventory, and labor usage,” explains Riffer. “Upwards of 90 percent of a company’s maintenance and operations spending can be on components other than products. What we do is put these other areas under the microscope to uncover opportunities that may be buried in the business.”
Having served in the supply chain industry for a long time, Riffer opines that the rise of robotics and automation is going to radically shape up the future of supply chain. “The supply chain landscape is going to have to become more agile to cater to the demands of younger consumers and millennial managers in the workforce,” he says. “And technology will certainly play a critical role in that evolution.”