Ensuring Supply Chain Visibility
In today's increasingly omnichannel marketplace, good visibility is vital throughout the supply chain. Here's how to maintain optimal visibility at 10 key touchpoints.
1. Monitor inbound shipments. The need for visibility begins in the earliest stages of the supply chain. Manufacturers must confirm the status of incoming raw materials while retailers and e-commerce companies need a clear view of their suppliers' inventory.
2. Establish an enterprise-wide view of inventory. The growth of omnichannel has intensified the need to distribute inventory across multiple locations—distribution centers, brick-and-mortar stores, vendors for drop shipments, and others. Having an enterprise-wide view of all fulfillment sources enables shippers to understand what they have available to ship and to promise, helping to optimize inventory and prevent stock-outs and overstocks.
3. Provide information for customers. Today's shoppers extensively research their purchases online and expect up-to-date information. They want to know if the product they're seeking is in stock in store and/or online and how many are remaining. If an item is on back order, they expect to know when it will be available. The ability to access this information impacts where consumers shop.
4. Ensure visibility across channels. Consumers have high standards for a seamless experience across channels and devices. They want to research available product options on their phone, read reviews on a social network, place an order from their laptop, pick it up in their local store, and enjoy a consistent experience at every point in the journey.
5. Manage incoming orders. To give consumers the experience they expect, shippers must be able to view and process orders across multiple channels in real time.
6. Optimize order routing. Shippers must determine which fulfillment source is best to pull from for each order, and if it makes sense for individual line items to be shipped from different sources for optimal service. Intelligent order routing helps to optimize inventory and ensure delivery as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
7. Provide order status details. Today's shoppers are looking for detailed information regarding order status and backorders, including when the desired item will be in stock.
8. Track deliveries in real time. Customers expect up-to-the-minute information regarding the whereabouts of their orders. Shippers must monitor shipments and provide real-time tracking and delivery details.
9. Offer reporting and analytics. It is important for shippers to have visibility into operational data. This is particularly useful in terms of their parcel spend, including accessorial charges and shipping across time.
10. Streamline the returns process for customers. Roughly 20-30% of all online purchases are returned. Shippers must monitor return shipments to speed returns processing, share details with consumers, and get salable products back in inventory.
SOURCE: Steve Congro, Director, Omnichannel Fulfillment Technology, Saddle Creek Logistics Services