In today’s world, every distribution center is being asked to do more. Get more throughput, more accuracy, more productivity, more volumes, and more space just to name a few. How? Many times this request comes as a plea without any capital investment. Getting more with fewer people is the norm but how do you do it? Many times it requires an investment in material handling equipment, technology or new layout. None of this comes free. The distribution center manager is then presented the challenge of presenting the case for investment to the executives that will approve such an investment. Unfortunately, this usually takes a skill set that some distribution managers lack: salesmanship. How do you present your case well the first time so the money is allocated to the project? 

1. Know the audience and what is important to them.
Remember who you are presenting to so that you don’t get caught off guard. If you are presenting to the CFO, this person will be all about the return on investment and numbers. A CFO is going to want to see strong justification and return. Because some CFOs don’t understand supply chain lingo, make sure you present in a way that he/she can understand the information. For example, if you are presenting a PTL system for order picking, it may be beneficial to give a brief statement of the benefits and briefly how it works before proceeding with the project details. If the CFO says, "We are doing just fine the way we are, so why invest?" you will need a strong argument. A good argument example is, if our volumes increase by 10% we are out of room and without increasing headcount by 20% we will not be able to ship same day. Arguments in terms they understand will help get their attention. Focus on dollars and percentages.

2. Deal in facts and proof points
Executives want to hear about valid claims on return. Saying that the system will give between 10-40% gain probably will not be accepted. They will want the numbers to be more concrete. There may be similar case studies that would prove the return. Ask the vendor to partner with you on the information, but ensure the information is accurate. When presenting the AS IS and the TO BE case to executives, stay with the factual information that you know. 

3. Stay high level but have the detail if needed
Most executives do not want to hear about all the implementation details or the installation details. They want to know the high level scope and return on investment, whether monetary or customer service oriented. Stay out of the weeds, which could send your presentation off topic. Make sure you have the details available should questions be asked, but don’t focus the presentation on the details.

4. Introduce the problem and opportunities
Before you jump right into the project, introduce the problem. For example, we are running out of space and if there is not a redesign within the next 12 months we won’t be able to ship the volumes projected for this year. Ears will definitely perk up with that introduction. Put it in terms they will understand. Won’t be able to ship orders, accuracy will slip, headcount increases, etc. Once you present the problem then you can focus on explaining the solution or opportunity for improvement.

5. Explain the hazard or risk if investment is not made
Sometimes investments are made not to be able to keep up with orders today or to reduce cost today but to be able to keep up with projected volumes or budget. A good example of risk or hazard to the company’s bottom line is in the pharmaceutical and food verticals. If the distribution center doesn’t have a system that can keep up with lot codes a total recall of defective product is not possible. Therefore, all orders must be recalled. But if the system was able to narrow it down to a lot, then only the lot would need to be recalled and the system could tell you exactly where that lot shipped.

6. Don’t forget the intangibles
Many times in presenting a case of return on investment the intangibles are forgotten. Some of these like; better customer service, better picking accuracy, more inventory availability to sell could be a big return but how do you put numbers to it? Use percentages!

7. Summarize the request and need
At the end, give a summarization of the total presentation and summarize with an investment strategy. If the project is a $500,000 project, with 20% of this the first six months, 30% next six months and 50% year two, spread the cost out on a spreadsheet. Many people do not get the project approved because they do not show the cash outlay when it happens. They just say it’s a $500,000 project instead of, "The cost of the project over two years will be x." This will also allow you to bring in the second year return which will also give a better return.