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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Artificial Intelligence: The next big thing in Supply Chain Management

Imagine the endless possibilities of learning from 2.5 quintillion bytes of data generated every day. Artificial intelligence (AI), which began its journey 60 years ago is well on its course to make this implausible scenario a reality. Artificial Intelligence, is slowly taking over our lives.

From personal assistants like Siri in Apple products to stock trading to medical diagnosis, AI is able to learn from seemingly unstructured data, take decisions and perform actions in a way previously unimagined.

Businesses too are undergoing digitization rapidly. They are using AI – capable of performing tasks normally requiring human intelligence – to create a significant impact in the way businesses operate. In an increasingly dynamic environment comprising demanding customers and the need for speed, it was only a matter of time before the businesses embraced AI to obtain much needed agility. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2016 survey spanning 11 countries and 12 industries, 70 percent of corporate executives said they are significantly increasing investments in AI.

Artificial Intelligence in Supply Chain

Organizations are increasingly digitizing their supply chains to differentiate and drive revenue growth. According to Accenture’s digital operations survey 85 percent of organizations have adopted/ will adopt digital technologies in their supply chain within 1 year.

The key implication of this change is that the supply chains are generating massive amounts of data. AI is helping organizations analyze this data, gain a better understanding of the variables in the supply chain and helping them anticipate future scenarios. Thus, the use of AI in supply chains is helping businesses innovate rapidly by reducing the time to market and evolve by establishing an agile supply chain capable of foreseeing and dealing with uncertainties.

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4 ways retailers can improve supply chain management

Retailers and their suppliers are under more pressure than ever before to deliver more goods to more destinations faster.

To stay competitive, “retailers need to know where things are at all times so they can redirect shipments, rebalance inventories and respond to new demands on the fly,” says Rich Becks, general manager, Industry Value Chains, E2open, which delivers cloud-based supply chain collaboration solutions.

And if there is a problem with their supply chain, and they can’t get products to stores and/or consumers, retailers (and their suppliers) risk losing customers.

So what steps can, and should, retailers take to make sure their supply chain operations are running smoothly? Following are four suggestions from retail supply chain experts.

1. Use cloud-based software that can track and manage inventory in real time.

“Retailers struggle to balance uncertain consumer behavior and long, complex supply chains,” explains Kurt Cavano, vice chairman & CSO, GT Nexus, a supply chain technology company.

2. Use source tagging and RFID to keep track of inventory and stock levels.

“To improve supply chain management from the moment product leaves the manufacturer’s warehouse all the way through to the point-of-purchase, retailers should deploy a source tagging solution,” says Steve Sell, director, North America Marketing, Retail Practice, Tyco Integrated Security.

3. Become a part of a B2B e-procurement network.

“B2B [or e-procurement] networks can help companies predict supply chain disruptions and act quickly to adapt business processes,” says Sundar Kamakshisundaram, vice president, Procurement and Business Network Solutions, Ariba, an SAP company.

4. Make sure your marketing and supply chain teams are in sync.

“When executing a promotion, a lot of retailers overlook the alignment of the supply chain and marketing teams, which is crucial [if you want] to successfully launch a promotion,” says Pat Sullivan, senior vice president, Promotions Management, HAVI Global Solutions, a consulting company.

Read more at 4 ways retailers can improve supply chain management

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6 Steps To Supply Chain Risk Management Success

6 Steps To Supply Chain Risk Management Success

Lean production may traditionally be considered the linchpin that holds successful supply chain management together, but reducing your exposure to risks is becoming a key priority for maritime companies.

Our dependence on, and partnerships with suppliers, whether it be via outsourcing or mitigating stock opens up a whole world of exposure for marine businesses and their procurement teams. That’s why risk management is so crucial to the supply chain.

Navigating risks really is the key to management success. With the global expansion of supply chains comes ever more complicated business structures and so countless issues can arise causing disruption, delays and ultimately money going down the drain.

Both buyers and suppliers can be hit by a number of unavoidable problems. From natural disasters to terrorism or cyber attacks. Each problem can have big effects on both upstream and downstream partners.

So what can you do to mitigate risk?

The best way to reduce exposure is to make sure you and your company keep up to date with developments in the maritime sector. And to follow a few key steps…

1. Choose your suppliers carefully

Conduct audits of your suppliers on a regular basis and if necessary, inspections to make sure they are committed to risk management like you are.

2. Authenticate suppliers’ insurance cover

It’s worth remembering that a certificate of insurance is only evidence of the insurance cover as it was when it was written.

3. Clearly define contract scopes and draft contracts

Be careful when defining contract scopes and draft contracts.

4. Understand the extent of your exposure

How much risk are you and your business exposed to?

5. Put a plan in place

Identifying risks is the easy part, now you have to get an action plan in place.

6. Lower the threat of risk by purchasing the right cover

Making sure your policy covers your company’s specific exposure mix and risk tolerance is important.

Do you have any ideas to add regarding risk management in supply chain? Share your opinions in the comment box or send us a message for discussion.

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The Higher Stocks Go, The More Important Risk Management Becomes

The Higher Stocks Go, The More Important Risk Management Becomes

Summary

  • With “new high” showing up in market reports on a frequent basis, it is prudent to nail down equity risk management plans.
  • Economic and central bank signals are quite a bit different in the United States and Europe, making seat of the pants allocation decisions more difficult.
  • Rising inflation in the United States could bring correction/bear market plans into play in the coming months.

Financial Markets Are Complex Organisms

Just as the human brain is an extremely complex organ, the financial markets have an almost infinite number of factors that ultimately determine the value of our investment portfolios. Therefore, it is unlikely that “figuring it out as we go along” will produce favorable investment outcomes. In the present day, there are numerous and somewhat conflicting signals. On the bullish end of the spectrum, growth in the United States appears to be picking up and the Fed has been extremely accommodative. However, the economic bears can point to low inflation in Europe (fear of deflation) and rising prices in the United States that may force the Fed’s hand.

Investors Need A Consistent Approach

While we are not brain surgeons, our guess is that surgery involves somewhat of a “flow chart” or “if, then” approach. For example, if bleeding needs to be contained, then there are specific steps to address the unfavorable situation. An investment risk management plan works in a similar manner by having specific and executable strategies that follow an “if the market does this, then we will do this” script. A recent bullish example surfaced on June 8 as observable evidence began to surface in equities favor. The evidence allowed for a prudent “bump up” to the growth side (SPY) of our portfolios.

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