Five Good Projects for Wholesaler-Distributor Summer Interns - 2019 Edition

Tuesday, June 4, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Categories: Management

By Mark Tomalonis
Principal, WarehouseTWO, LLC

During these times of historically low unemployment, finding entry-level employees can be hard.  An effective way to "test drive" potential entry-level employees is first to hire them as summer interns while they are still in school.

Rather than have them do work normally assigned to full-time employees, assign one-time projects to them.  The benefits are that they will feel a sense of accomplishment during their brief internship, and you will get something valuable done that your full-time employees may have not had time to get to.

Here are two perspectives on hiring summer interns:

For the past five years, we have offered a list of five projects suitable for summer interns.  Here are the lists from 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Here are five good projects for 2019 that you can assign to a summer intern.

I.  Reach out to existing and potential clients at LinkedIn.

On-line promotion takes many forms.  One of them is publishing brief articles ("Posts") at LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is the leading "social media" site for business-to-business communications.  Creating and serving up high quality content about your company and the products/services that you offer should be part of your formal on-line marketing efforts.  Making those posts effective depends on increasing their audience.  This is where an intern can help.  Provide a list of existing and potential clients (company names and contact names) to an intern and have him/her log into your sales people's LinkedIn accounts or your company's LinkedIn account and invite these contacts to "connect".

For guidance on this project, consider these two articles:

II.  Clean up part numbers in your ERP system database.

Entropy: lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.

Entropywhy your teenager's bedroom is the way it is.

Entropywhat causes databases touched by multiple people to get less and less accurate.

Given enough time, the part number database in your company’s ERP system gets messier and messier.  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 that traditionally has been hidden in your ERP system.  This now-revealed data might be messy.  Bad part numbers in your ERP system can cause problems because the part number field 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 EXACT part number.  Click here to learn why.)  By exporting each manufacturer's list of part numbers from your ERP system to an Excel file and by providing a set of manufacturer's literature and a price list, you can have an intern review and propose corrections to each vendor's item data set in your ERP.  And because of entropy, we think that this should be an annual intern project.

III.  Organize literature (printed and digital).

Printed literature?  Who uses that anymore????  We bet YOU do.  And so we bet that you still have a literature library somewhere in your building.  And, it being 2019, you probably also have an internal on-line library of digital literature.  Using resources available from your vendors (e.g., their websites and distributor resource tools), have an intern identify what literature your company should have in its print and digital libraries, and add/delete documents as necessary.  And while the intern is elbow-deep in all of this information, have him/her also create/update a process to foster better maintenance of these libraries, to be managed by a full-time employee after the intern is gone.

IV.  Institutionalize annual inventory exchanges.

Hopefully, many of your vendors still offer an annual inventory-exchange program, to help you replace slow-moving inventory with more active inventory.  It would be a shame if you missed even one of these opportunities each year.  To avoid that, a sustainable system needs to be in place to ensure that your company takes advantage of every one of your vendors' generosity.  Have an intern create such a system and integrate its management into future employee training.  As examples, a sustainable inventory-exchange system might include perpetual reminders in a purchasing group calendar to perform annual inventory exchanges per each vendor's allowed schedule and perpetual reminders in managers' calendars to verify that annual inventory-exchanges are being done on schedule.

V. Clean up your "Returns" shelf.

In my experience, one of the most frequently avoided tasks in a warehouse is processing customer returns.  Each returned item can turn into its own project, often requiring research, discovery, additional paperwork, inspection, shipping, etc.  While usually we do not recommend that an intern be used for work normally assigned to a full-time employee, we take exception with returns-processing.  Who would not like a little extra help with this on-going challenge?

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