Five Good Projects for Wholesaler-Distributor Summer Interns - 2017 Edition

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Categories: Management

By Mark Tomalonis
Principal, WarehouseTWO, LLC
June 2017

Got summer interns?  High school and college students can be enthusiastic, tech-savvy, and inexpensive resources for your company.  (Here are three articles about hiring a summer intern:  “Why Hire Interns?”, “Should You Hire an Intern This Summer?”, “5 Tips for Hiring and Managing a Summer Intern”.)

We recommend that you assign to your interns projects, not regular work expected to be done by full-time employees.  By having them work on projects, your company will gain benefits on things that you have put off for too long, and your interns will gain valuable experience on how your company works, and how to make it work better.

A good intern should possess these skills:

  • Accomplished user of Microsoft Excel
  • Good writing and communication skills
  • Attention to details and accuracy

For the past three years, we have offered a list of five projects suitable for summer interns.  Here are the lists from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Here are five more good projects for 2017 that you can assign to a summer intern.

I. Organize Sales Samples.

If your company sells things, your salespeople are probably showing samples of these things during customer visits.  Sales samples cost something, and ought to be treated as a valued asset.  Do you keep a record of all “sales samples” in possession of your salespeople?  If your salespeople share certain sales samples, how do you track who has what at any given moment?

Have your intern work on any of these tasks, to improve the management of your company's sales samples:

  1. Label all individual and shared sales samples.
  2. Perform an inventory of all sales samples, and then create a searchable list of all sales samples, available to all employees.
  3. Create a schedule to re-inventory all sales samples annually.
  4. Establish a central place where all shared sales samples shall be stored when not in possession of a salesperson, and then create a check-out/check-in system to track shared sales samples.

II.  Clean Up Item descriptions in Your ERP Database.

Whether you are offering your items for sale to end-customers via your company’s e-commerce site or to peer wholesaler-distributors via WarehouseTWO, you are exposing to the outside world content stored in your ERP system.  Part numbers must be accurate, because that is how you identify the item when buying from your supplier and selling to your customer.  (For branded products with a single supplier, your part number should be the manufacturer’s part number.  Click here to learn why.)

But what about your item descriptions?  What drives the accuracy and consistency of item descriptions in your ERP database?  Here is our guess: "entropy" (per definition 2b here).  Here are suggested steps on how to create and manage uniform item descriptions.  Using literature available from the items' manufacturer, and with just a little training, an intern without prior knowledge of the product line should be able to handle this project.

  1. Define a set of attributes that closely define an item, such as, type, sub-type, material(s) of construction, size/range, options.
  2. Create lists of acceptable values for each attribute.
  3. Assign to each part number in your database an acceptable value for each attribute.
  4. Concatenate these values into a single text string to create a simple description.

This project should be an annual event for interns.  In a future article, we will offer in much greater detail how to manage consistent item descriptions.

III.  Experiment with On-Line Advertising, Beyond Google "AdWords".

Have you ever visited a website, only to see an advertisement from that website’s company appear in your browser or Facebook, weeks after you visited that website?  How do they do that?  And why do you not do that for your company?  In addition to enabling Google “AdWords”, advertising at Facebook and LinkedIn might give your company greater exposure to potential clients at a reasonable cost.  Have an intern research this for you, and make recommendations on how to proceed and how much it will cost.

IV.  Identify On-Line Reviews of Your Company.

How often does someone in your company perform an internet search on your company name, plus the word, “reviews”?  Never?  Have an intern do it now.  He/she may find nothing.  That would be fine.  Otherwise, address any negative reviews that might be found.

V.  Automate Inventory Data Uploads to WarehouseTWO.

Yes, we have included this in previous lists of summer intern projects.  Still, it is worthy of including it here again.  Offering your inventories to an audience of peer wholesaler-distributors at WarehouseTWO can result in increased revenue, and perhaps in conversion of some surplus inventory into cash.  Automatically uploading an inventory data file to our system every night is easy for anyone to set up, using these step-by-step instructions.  Doing this is one of those “it took five years and one hour to complete” projects.  We will concede that automatically creating a fresh inventory data file is a much more complex project, and is subject to your ERP system’s reporting capabilities and available talent.  (Click here for a list of third-party resources familiar with common ERP systems.)  Until you have figured out the more complex step of creating a fresh inventory data file every night, send us the same file every night, using the instructions referenced above.  Periodically (e.g., every month) update the static inventory data file that you send to us every night.

About the Author
After a successful career in sales and operations management in the wholesale-distribution industry, Mark Tomalonis is now principal of WarehouseTWO, LLC.  He amuses himself by writing articles, such as this one, to help wholesaler-distributors execute their operations better.  Mark’s articles and tips are published in WarehouseTWO’s monthly e-newsletters.  Click here to subscribe.

About WarehouseTWO
WarehouseTWO, LLC is an independent “inventory-sharing” service created exclusively for durable goods manufacturers and their authorized distributors, and for any group of durable goods “peer” wholesaler-distributors, such as members of a buying/marketing group or cooperative.  To learn how inventory-sharing with WarehouseTWO can help your business, visit the WarehouseTWO website, or email