The secret to making customers care about supply chain

Imagine a world where customers care about how products are sourced, made, and delivered, understand what goes into pricing, and generally take great joy in the experience. A world where customers are fluent in the language of supply chain.

It’s not as farfetched as you may think.

Supply chains solve complex problems. And in the company of supply chain professionals, we use big words and complicated terms to talk about it. Words like multi-modal logistics and global transportation, mass-customisation and postponement, procurement and letters of credit, demand management, the cost of inventory and buffer stock, assurance of supply, warehousing, and the last mile.

We nitpick over the differences between distribution and fulfilment centres, debate the true definition of supply chain visibility and the role of control towers to support orchestration across a complex network of suppliers, trading partners, and carriers. And we’re still not sure if our industries are facing an apocalypse or simply working through the growing pains of transformation in the digital age.

It’s a mouthful. And as we dive into the technical details and jargon that comprise the modern language of supply chain, one can’t help but picture the average consumer’s eyes glazing over.

But that’s not necessarily the case. There’s mounting evidence people care more about supply chain than ever – they’re just not using our words for it.

Therein lies the secret.

The words used to describe supply chain were different at the recent Shoptalk Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, a gathering of more than 2,500 retailers, start-ups, technologists, and investors all focused on the worlds of retail, fashion, and ecommerce. Though most attendees weren’t purely in the business of operations and supply chain, all were exploring how to reach, engage, and enlighten the customer wherever and whenever they might choose to shop.

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How incorporating IoT into the cold supply chain could save florists millions this Mother’s Day

A leading expert claims that the flower industry could save hundreds of millions of dollars just by ensuring supply chain efficiency in the lead-up to Mother’s Day.

Shipments in the floral industry spike ten-fold in the lead up to Mother’s Day and an estimated $2.6 billion is expected to be spent in 2017 even though it’s estimated that 40 per cent of flowers are never even sold.

David Bairstow, Product VP at location specialists Skyhook, reckons that incorporating the internet of things into the cold supply chain could result in massive savings.

He said: “Supply chain is an industry born out of economies of scale. The same applies to the cost of implementing IoT, as scale increases, return on investment increases. It costs pennies to ship individual flowers; however, using supply chain insights to increase efficiencies and reduce waste, can quickly pay for itself.

“Factoring in that the 40% waste due to unsold flowers amounts to $1.04 billion, it is evident that there is massive scope for improvement. If introducing IoT into the cold supply chain leads to decrease in waste by even 10%, that would result in more than $100 million of savings.”

Companies like KaBloom are constantly optimizing the day-to-day supply chain over time to achieve the most efficient path to the consumer. They see a ten-fold increase in volume on days like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day and their supply chain remains largely the same, except for the increased volume on those holidays so if the day-to-day efficiencies are optimized, the likelihood of failures happening on the busiest days can be drastically reduced.

Read more How incorporating IoT into the cold supply chain could save florists millions this Mother’s Day

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Why Supply Chains Need Business Intelligence

Companies that want to effectively manage their supply chain must invest in business intelligence (BI) software, according to a recent Aberdeen Group survey of supply chain professionals. Survey respondents reported the main issues that drive BI initiatives include increased global operations complexity; lack of visibility into the supply chain; a need to improve top-line revenue; and increased exposure to risk in the supply chain. Fluctuating fuel costs, import/export restrictions and challenges, and thin profit margins are driving the need for businesses to clearly understand all the factors that affect their bottom line.

Business Intelligence essentially means converting the sea of data into knowledge for effective business use. Organizations have huge operational data that can be used for trend analysis and business strategies. To operate more efficiently, increase revenues, and foster collaboration among trading partners companies should implement BI software that illuminates the meaning behind the data.

There is a vast amount of data to collect and track within a supply chain, such as transportation costs, repair costs, key performance indicators on suppliers and carriers, and maintenance trends. Being able to drill down into this information to perform analysis and observe historical trends gives companies the game-changing information they need to transform their business.

Read more at Why Supply Chains Need Business Intelligence

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Why Supply Chain Risk Management is Key to Supplier Management

While brand damage can be quite costly to the businesses whose sales rely strongly on the customer loyalty they generate from their brand strength, cost volatility and supply disruption is very costly to all manufacturers. In fact, in the latest 2015 study by the Business Continuity Institute, supply chain disruption is double in priority relative to other enterprise disruptions and over three-fourths of respondents cited that they had at least one recent (significant) disruption. The same percentage didn’t have full visibility of their supply chains.

While category management can address and even reduce supply chain risk by ensuring a chosen strategy has the right level of resiliency, prevention and agility, it cannot prevent risk or do much to eliminate the source of risk once something has happened. That can only be done by each party in the supply chain doing everything they can to eliminate the risk. In particular, a supplier needs to do all they can to minimize the risk on their end.

However, not all suppliers are as advanced in supply chain management, and in particular, risk management as the buying organization. That’s why good supplier management combined with SCRM is key. Good risk management is a combination of risk prevention and risk mitigation when a risk is detected. Risk prevention involves selecting suppliers, products and services that are low risk and risk mitigation involves taking action as soon as an indicator is detected.

A supplier is not always good at mitigating or even detecting risk in its supply chain, or may overlook an obvious sign that an observant buyer would not, which is why proper supplier management is key. This begins even when qualifying suppliers. Including risk criteria related to the supplier and supplier location gives a good indication of a supplier’s the risk level. Besides the supplier qualification criteria, supply location-related risks provide an overview on potential threats like natural disasters, political situation, sanctions or economic risk. This gives buyers the chance to take preventive actions.

Read more at Why Supply Chain Risk Management is Key to Supplier Management

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5 Critical Supply Risk Mitigation Principles for Your Sourcing Process

Supply chain risk management (SCRM) is becoming a top priority in procurement, as organizations lose millions because of cost volatility, supply disruption, non-compliance fines and incidents that cause damage to the organizational brand and reputation.
Bribes to shady government officials, salmonella in the spinach and forced labor in the supply chain can all result in brand-damaging headlines that can cost an organization tens of millions in sales and hundred of millions in brand damage. And while reputation may only be important for name brands, cost volatility and supply disruption affect all manufacturers.

In fact, in the latest 2015 study by the Business Continuity Institute, supply chain disruption doubled in priority relative to other enterprise disruptions (48% of firms are concerned or extremely concerned). Roughly three-quarters of respondents said they had at least one disruption, and the same amount lack full visibility of their supply chains.

In the same study, 14% had losses from supply chain disruptions (e.g., natural hazards, labor strikes, fires, etc.) that cost over €1 million, and these disruptions can easily go up to nine figures. For example, Toyota estimates the costs for the recent Kumamoto earthquakes to be nearly $300 million. Imagine being out of stock on a product line that does $12 million in annual sales for two months. That’s $2 million in immediate lost sales and longer-term brand damage.

Risk management, and what is necessary for ongoing risk management, never gets operationalized, and as new suppliers get added, supply shifts and supply chains change, new risk enters the picture — risks that go undetected unless risk management is embedded in all key procurement activities, including sourcing. It is important to remember that:

1. When You are Sourcing, You are Really Changing Your Supply Chain Network

2. Supplier Risk is Only One Aspect of Supply Chain Risk

3. Your Sourcing Criteria Must Be ‘Protected’ and Risk Must Be Factored In

4. You Need to Cost the Risk” and Also Get It in the Contract

5. You Must Design a Monitoring System That is Part of Onboarding

Read more at 5 Critical Supply Risk Mitigation Principles for Your Sourcing Process

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Capitalizing on Cross-Docking

Today’s marketplace is moving faster than ever, and companies are challenged to distribute their products more quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively; cross-docking can be a useful tool to help keep pace with customer demand.

While cross-docking is not a new phenomenon, this process of moving material from the receiving dock straight to the shipping dock is gaining traction as more companies recognize its value in today’s competitive business environment.

Why Cross-Dock?
Companies choose to cross-dock for a variety of reasons.

Common benefits include:

Increased speed to market – With high turn rates and reduced handling, cross-docking helps to increase efficiency and get products to market faster. While typically associated with durable goods, cross-docking can be effective for temperature-controlled, perishable and high-value/high-security products as well, thanks to its high velocity.

Reduced costs – Cross-docking requires a smaller footprint than traditional warehousing and often utilizes less labor as well. The practice also eliminates the cost of inventory and product rotation. Considerable freight savings can be achieved by consolidating LTL shipments into full loads.

Improved service levels – Because product is shipped in bulk and picked at the cross-dock, the practice offers great flexibility for changes to orders further down the supply chain. This helps to ensure a more accurate – and more responsive – process with shorter order cycles.

Prime Candidates for Cross-Docking
Just about any type of product can be cross-docked, but cross-docking is particularly effective for companies that are moving heavy volume on any given day and need to do it in a precise way where service is critical.

Read more at Capitalizing on Cross-Docking

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5 Data-Driven Supply Chain Challenges to Overcome in 2016

Supply chain, sourcing and procurement executives are feeling immense pressure to cope with the expansion into global markets, waves of disruptive innovation, rising customer expectations and complex regulatory requirements. These are catalysts that require supply chain management strategies to become bimodal and to make a shift from tactical to strategic.

In addition to the sourcing of goods and services, cost management and internal stakeholder compliance, executives’ responsibilities will include the ability to promote and support the top line. They have to be a trusted advisor to internal business partners and will have a tremendous impact on the success of an organization engaging with suppliers, managing relationships with strategic vendors and solving business problems.

For 2016, I see leading supply chain organizations making these top-five data-driven supply chain management challenges a priority.

1. Meet Rising Customer Expectations on Supply Chain Management

2. Increase Costs Efficiency in Supply Chain Management

3. Monitor and Manage Supply Chain Compliance & Risk

4. Make Supply Chain Traceability and Sustainability a Priority

5. Remain Agile and Flexible in Volatile Times and Markets

Read more at 5 Data-Driven Supply Chain Challenges to Overcome in 2016

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Cloud-Based Supply Chain Faces Scrutiny

Cloud-Based Supply Chain Faces Scrutiny

As the supply chain looks for new tools to manage increasing complexity, as well as a need to manage risk and other variables quickly and proactively, cloud-based solutions, which are relatively underutilized today, will become more common.

What are some of the common misconceptions around cloud computing and supply chain applications?

Supply chain has generally been a very slow adaptor to new technologies, and cloud computing is no exception. Besides data security and ownership, other factors come into play around how the infrastructure would behave in terms of excess volumes and concerns the in-house IT team may have with feeling helpless when it comes to issues around performance, managing downtime, and handling end customer pressures.

Often, lack of management support is cited as a reason for not adopting cloud technology. Why do you think the corner office is reluctant to support these sorts of initiatives?

Not all senior managers have yet to fully understand the implications of moving into cloud. They still look it as a pure cost saving initiative vis a vis the risks and the litigations they may end up facing in case they encounter issues around their data. Managers would like to hear success stories that [demonstrate that the concerns about] data security are all addressed by big product vendors, which are now moving over to cloud.

What are the best ways that supply chain managers can “speak the language” of business leaders to quantify the potential benefit of cloud-based apps for the supply chain?

The ROI of moving to a cloud-based service is very fast. Customers need not invest in capex for their expensive infrastructure, licenses, and upgrades. This can be very easily worked out. Another factor is that often, companies invest in large IT teams and have to constantly manage them – thereby deviating and investing in a division that is not their core business. By moving to the cloud, they can overcome this by maintaining a lean IT team.

Do you have any personal views about utilizing cloud-based system? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages?

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