When Kali Audio launched in 2018, its entire team worked from home. Granted, the group was small: John Melikyan and a few former colleagues had left a multibillion-dollar audio company to start their own company, a manufacturer of audio equipment. Today, they’re a team of nearly 20.
Kali Audio—which makes professional-style loudspeakers and monitors for recording studios—has seen impressive growth in its two short years. It sells on all inhabited continents, in markets from Russia to Uruguay, with a range of six products and more in development.
When much of the world was required to work from home this past spring, Kali didn’t skip a beat. Melikyan, now the EVP of business development, credits the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system he implemented in the company’s early days.
“COVID did not affect the way we operate day-to-day,” said Melikyan. “We have always been remote working; we don’t have an office where we all congregate. [It is so beneficial] to have a cloud-based ERP in a remote environment.”
Kali’s use of ERP allowed the company to build momentum before huge changes hit the economy—and to sustain that momentum even now. Kali’s use of ERP allowed the company to build momentum before huge changes hit the economy—and to sustain that momentum even now
Working from everywhere
The obvious benefit of a cloud-based ERP is the ability to log on from anywhere, Melikyan said.
With a locally-based software, “the pain was always having remote connection issues,” he said. But “you can work from anywhere with NetSuite. … I took a family vacation to the other side of the planet last year and was able to get my work done as if I was sitting in my home office.”
This past spring, some companies struggled with the transition to working from home, Melikyan said. Kali didn’t.
During office shutdowns, “I think [ERP] did give us a leg up,” he said. “Our employees were already used to working from home, so for us it was business as usual.”
During office shutdowns, “I think ERP did give us a leg up. Our employees were already used to working from home, so for us it was business as usual.”
-John Melikyan, EVP of business development at Kali Audio
Quick moves during supply chain snafus
One thing that didn’t operate as usual was Kali’s supply chain. The team had prepared for its Chinese suppliers to shut down during Chinese New Year, the annual January holiday. But then, factories announced they’d be extending their shutdowns into February due to COVID-19.
So, Melikyan asked some of his customers to place orders a few months in advance, to give his team a better understanding of future demand. That way, he could send purchase orders to his suppliers with plenty of time for them to plan materials purchases around the shutdowns.
This planning allowed Melikan to strike the balance between ordering too little and too much inventory, a critical skill for any distributor.
“NetSuite pulled all my demand data, open sales orders and forecast, and compared them to my current inventory and current open purchase orders,” he said. The system “then recommended actions to take in order to meet my customer demand. With some slight adjustments … I was able to secure our supply chain with the help of NetSuite.”
Placing POs during meetings
Back when face-to-face meetings were a thing, Melikyan’s ability to see Kali’s available inventory allowed him to build major momentum with customers.
On a non-cloud system, he’d have to log in via VPN if he wanted to see the number of, say, LP-8 studio monitors in Kali’s warehouses. With NetSuite, the numbers are in his pocket.
“I’ve been in several customer meetings where I was asked for my current inventory availability and took less than a minute to pull it up on my phone, which led to a PO being placed on the spot,” he said. “It’s truly a powerful capability to have.”
“I’ve been in several customer meetings where I was asked for my current inventory availability and took less than a minute to pull it up on my phone, which led to a PO being placed on the spot.”
Now that customer meetings aren’t happening in-person, a clear picture of inventory is arguably even more important.
Melikyan has a customized dashboard in NetSuite which shows him current inventory value vs. open sales order value.
“If I have enough inventory [to fulfill an order], the system will just automatically allocate to all the open sales orders,” he said. “If sales order quantities are larger than current on-hand inventory, I use the inventory reallocation transaction to manually make adjustments. … I can also pull in open PO data to know when the rest of the stock is coming.”
Kali Audio uses NetSuite’s inventory dashboards to allocate stock appropriately.
Planning for future orders—no matter how much they change
Melikyan also uses the tool to forecast how much inventory he’ll need in order to fulfill upcoming orders. While the system makes recommendations, he’s able to override it if needed.
“No ERP should be telling you how to run your business,” Melikyan said. “So having a solution that’s applicable [to all companies] is great, but being able to customize [dashboards and reports] on top of that—it feels like the system was made for me.”
As the economy continues to change, Kali will adjust its inventory levels accordingly. Doing so lets the company keep building momentum, which it’ll need in order to develop more products and reach more customers.
“If I don’t have inventory, I can’t sell. But if I have too much inventory, I can’t invest or buy more inventory where I need it,” Malikyan said. “So [ERP] is extremely useful—it allows us to change and evolve with the situation of the world.”