Managing Multiple Locations: The Key to Success


In the recent spate of mergers & acquisitions, managing multiple locations has become a challenge for companies, particularly those that have expanded through acquisitions. Each acquisition typically brings its own unique culture, workflows, operating procedures, and IT infrastructure, creating a complex operational landscape. Having a single, accurate, real-time source of data and control gives companies with multiple locations a competitive advantage.

In the labels and packaging industry, mergers and acquisitions continue to be a key trend throughout the North American region. Sometimes these are consolidation moves, where one label or packaging company acquires another. But increasingly, private equity (PE) firms are acquiring label and packaging companies. It’s part of a strategy to build a multi-location platform geared toward a unified operation that can produce more types of labels and packaging at or near the point of need 

Sharp increase in M & A activity predicted 

Fortis Solutions Group is an example of a label company using acquisitions to expand its geographic footprint: According to an article in Labels and Labeling, the company made six acquisitions in 2022, expanding its footprint to a total of 22 manufacturing sites in the U.S. and Canada. As reported in another industry publication, Label & Narrow Web, DRG Technologies acquired La Fiesta Label & Packaging Systems in May of 2023, adding shrink sleeves, flexible packaging, digital, and board stock to its product offerings.  

Private equity firms have their eye on the labels and packaging industry due to its persistent growth opportunities, while other segments in printing are contracting. Investment group RL Hulett reported more than 89 mergers and acquisitions across the United States and Canada during 2022. In 2023, though reduced to 66, M & A activity was still strong. In 2024, the pace of acquisitions is still brisk with the momentum carrying over from 2023, with many analysts predicting that it will be at least as vigorous as 2023. 

LPC’s Jennifer Dochstader, states, “I predict that once interest rates start to decline again and the market becomes more hospitable to private equity acquisitions, we are going to see a sharp increase in activity and even more interest in printed packaging than we saw in 2020 and 2021.”  Dochstader adds, “Our industry has proven itself. It’s an industry that is resilient through pandemics, continued global uncertainty and recessions. Private equity groups are constantly seeking safe harbor sectors and we will see activity return at an even higher level once the lending markets open up again.”  

Challenges of Managing Multiple Locations

The challenge, of course, for companies with multiple locations added through acquisitions is to be able to integrate them operationally. Most likely, each acquisition has its own culture, workflow, operating procedures and information technology infrastructure. To gain maximum benefit from these acquisitions, all of these ideally should be standardized across the platform in order to more efficiently manage the business.

The best way to address these challenges is to implement an overarching MIS/ERP solution across all locations. This standardizes the data infrastructure, adds automation, and synchronizes operations across the entire platform. It means that owners and managers can quickly and easily put their hands on the exact data and information they are seeking, whether it be business/financial, prepress, production, customer engagement, inventory and warehousing, etc. The ideal system enables dashboards customized to role, location, and other criteria, enabling employees across the organization to gain fast access only to the data and information required to do their jobs, which simplifies their work and protects the integrity of the overall data infrastructure.

This integrated architecture enables:  

  • Proper Tracking and Management of Inventory: 

Having multiple locations with different inventories can make it difficult to keep track of where each item is located, how much is available at each location and when to replenish stock. 

  • Keeping Accurate Records: 

Keeping multiple locations synchronized and up to date can be a challenge, as it requires accurate and up-to-date records to ensure that inventory is not overstocked or understocked at any location. This is simplified with one system of record and a single source of data. Robust reporting allows oversight of the entire operation, analysis of a single location, or even management down to the level of a single printing machine. 

  • Managing Inventory in Real Time. 

The more locations and warehouses there are, the harder it can be to manage inventory issues, like overstocking or general inventory losses. Especially with the supply chain issues being experienced these days, it is critical to manage raw materials, work in progress and finished goods inventories across all locations – in real time. This enables the ability to make adjustments quickly, direct work to the most appropriate location based on raw materials requirements, and more.  

  • Streamlining Communications

In an environment with several diverse warehouses, each with its own set of tools, procedures, and best practices, communication can easily break down, leading to errors and preventable errors. With a common information technology architecture, with the ERP/MIS as the system of record, these types of errors are easily preventable, and communications across the platform are streamlined. 

  • Ineffective Inventory Management = Order Bottlenecks 

Ineffective inventory management across various locations and warehouses can result in bottlenecks, slow down production and warehouse operations, and aggravate customers. This is fairly typical if each warehouse has its own set of operational policies in place. Challenges that can be addressed using a single system of record (ERP/MIS) include: 

  • Inventory management:

Having multiple warehouses adds a layer of complexity to inventory management. This can be alleviated with a system that will enable businesses to distinguish between identical items stored in different locations, choose the most appropriate location to receive supplies, and fulfil orders according to stock levels. 

  • Inventory analysis:

Understanding the ebbs and flows of supply and demand and how they vary by location are critical to maintaining optimum stock levels in each warehouse. Regional variations can occur due to local preferences or the mix of customers in a particular location. For global organizations, seasonal differences can play a part as well. 

  • Standardizing procedures:

This is particularly difficult if warehouses have been added in a piecemeal fashion or inherited from other organizations. Having a central view of all stock and giving consistent service to customers will depend on being able to rationalize different systems and approaches. 

  • Managing shipping of goods between warehouses:

When stock is low in one location, should you ship between warehouses, which may be more cost effective, or buy a new supply, which may be faster if stock is needed to fulfil a customer order? These dilemmas are commonplace when managing multiple warehouse locations and can only be resolved effectively if you have full visibility of your stock across all locations, a functionality that should be a requirement when adopting an ERP/MIS solution with an inventory management module. 

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Benefits of a Single System of Record for Multiple-Location Businesses

In summary, there are a variety of benefits to a single system of record spanning multiple locations. It enables more efficient management of the entire business, access to a single set of real-time data, rule-based and role-based access to needed information and more. In addition, it enables businesses to: 

  • Automate Warehouse Management Processes: A multi-warehouse inventory management solution enables tracking of inventory levels in the different warehouses in real-time from one central site. This makes it easier to manage orders for all warehouses without neglecting any. Easily view and monitor warehouse data from any device, route orders to warehouses with required stock to avoid loss of revenue or delayed deliveries and integrate third-party inventory management systems. 
  • Integrate Suppliers to the Inventory Management System. . Integrating suppliers into the inventory management system can help keep the inventory levels as required at all times. Information about pricing, availability, and lead time from ERP/MIS software makes the ordering process more efficient. 
  • Use Inventory Analytics.  Multi-warehouse management systems can track inventory turnover rate, and this information highlights which products sell the most and which are just lying in the warehouse all year. 

These are just a few of the benefits of an overarching IT infrastructure for multi-location businesses, whose core is a robust ERP/MIS that acts as a single source of data and the system of record for label & packaging businesses. 

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