Agility On Demand
An instantaneous experience. It's what consumers expect and the environment online retailers face. When consumers are captured by a product they must have, online retailers have only a few swipes and a few minutes until their brand's reputation is on the clock.
Couple this breakneck pace with the historically tight labor market and unpredictability of the global trade landscape, and e-commerce businesses must be just as fast as they are flexible to succeed in today's market.
This starts by having an agile supply chain that values efficiency, but also provides the ability to change direction in a split second. How do you create a nimble and flexible supply chain? By striving for the following characteristics:
1. Capacity to scale. Thanks to the internet, dreams can happen instantly. If your brand goes viral after an online influencer mentions it, do you have the capacity and flexibility to fulfill the orders?
Campus-based warehousing—a network of multitenant warehouse operations located in close proximity to each other—enables businesses to share key resources such as technology, labor, and equipment. If sales boom overnight, you can quickly assemble resources across the campus to fulfill orders and scale up.
Pop-up warehousing can also help address volume surges. These temporary, strategically placed facilities provide extra space and can be leveraged in specific regions to reduce shipping costs and speed final-mile transit time.
2. Innovation to optimize your workforce. Even with shared resources, the pace and volume that distribution facilities face can be extraordinary. Mix in a tight labor market and the result is that traditional picking methods, especially for single-piece orders, are no longer sufficient to keep pace with the demand placed on workers. An agile supply chain blends smart technology with a talented workforce to meet ever-changing demands.
Autonomous solutions play a crucial role in optimizing the workforce and increasing efficiency at distribution facilities. For example, autonomous robots can eliminate wasted movement by picking and bringing pieces to workers. Not only do goods-to-person robots expedite picking and increase throughput, but they can also improve accuracy and reduce mis-picks or order errors.
Technology like conveyance or automation can help accelerate tasks and provide employees with support. For example, a robot that recognizes and speaks an employee's native language can improve training, speed the learning curve, and ultimately make that individual more successful in their job.
3. Visibility to adjust. The ability to change is only useful when you know when to adjust. Having end-to-end visibility is paramount for supply chain executives to be able to make decisions as quickly as they need to today.
True end-to-end visibility for an e-commerce company is not solely knowing where a product is in its path to the consumer. It may include knowing the inventory positions of its supplier to know if it can offer a new promotion or accommodate a surge in orders.
This begins with intelligent data collection and management. Supply chain executives must define, from a strategic standpoint, any mission-critical information to avoid data overload. Once they determine that criteria, they need to ensure the right technology is in place to gather real-time, reliable data to ultimately achieve the visibility needed to make confident decisions and adjustments.
An agile supply chain enables businesses to thrive and deliver the instantaneous experience consumers seek today.