As your company grows, your supply chain management changes and shifts. What worked for your brand when you were new may create bottlenecks as you advance. How can you ensure you send and receive things as efficiently as possible? You must revamp what you’re doing every so often.
During the pandemic, nearly every business saw a massive increase in online shopping. Forbes estimates approximately 17% of goods will be purchased online this year. People working from home and staying home more accelerated digital retail in unexpected ways some companies weren’t prepared for.
So, what can you do to improve business operations within your supply chain management? How can you adapt to an ever-increasing automated world and keep customers and suppliers organized and happy?
1. Improve Visibility
Your supply chain’s visibility is basically your ability to track each step of the process and see where all components are at any given moment. You can improve fulfillment speeds and accuracy by more careful tracking.
Investing in the right software is the first step toward better visibility within your supply chain. Allow your suppliers to check real-time inventory and prepare for demand. Know which areas tend to run into problems and be proactive in solving supply chain issues before they occur.
2. Insist on Excellence
Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the United States, with well over 500 million products. They work with many different suppliers and their power means they can insist on excellent business practices from them. They are changing the way supply chains work by setting new standards.
You can take a page out of Amazon’s play manual and insist on suppliers you work with having ethical employment practices. What causes are near and dear to your heart? Look for like-minded suppliers. Insist on ethical practices by any company you use.
Adding automation to your warehouse and encouraging suppliers to automate where it’s needed speeds up the process for everyone. You may not have the funds to utilize the approach everywhere, so look for where it will have the biggest impact.
Big box online retailers set the tone and customers expect fast and free or inexpensive delivery. How quickly you fetch their order and get it out the door has a big impact on time from order to front door. You can also add parameters to your shipping software to help choose the best delivery method based on item weight or location.
Unfortunately, you can’t just set up automations and forget them. You must ensure they’re well maintained and updated frequently. As your business grows, you may have new needs you didn’t upon installation.
4. Ramp Up Training
Your supply chain management programs only work as well as the staff behind them. Make sure everyone using the system is fully trained in how to update and adjust settings. From the warehouse worker who uses a forklift to pull down boxes to the person ordering supplies, they should all be comfortable with your tracking systems.
If you aren’t sure where to start with training, spend time talking to your workers about what frustrates them or what might make their jobs easier. A simple adjustment or additional methods in how to use software can solve many minor issues.
5. Assess Your Leanness
If you’re running a lean supply chain, where you only order what’s needed when it’s needed, how can you ensure you always have stock to fulfill orders?
The Council of Supply Chain Management conducted a study on lean supply chains during the pandemic. Approximately 42% of respondents felt supply chains were too lean, leading to lack of available items when people started panic buying.
You must find the right balance between not overstocking and not having what you need to fulfill orders. Improving software is one step in the right direction, but you also must understand customer purchase patterns and what items are hot during different seasons.
6. Involve IT
Do you only rely on your IT department when you need a software update installed? They may have ideas for streamlining the way your equipment works, training workers in better ways to interact with software and new technologies that can improve distribution.
IT professionals likely have the best understanding of new technologies that can help streamline things. Tap into their expertise. Ask them for ideas on how to improve productivity within the supply chain.
7. Reassess Logistics Suppliers
Spend time looking at more than your own operations. Consider how efficient third-party logistics suppliers are. Do they get your orders from the warehouse to the customer in a timely manner? How well do they handle fragile products?
You should also consider costs. Can another provider offer the same service with the same quality for a lower price point? Although supply chain management tends to focus on efficiency, your budget is also an essential component of how successful you’ll be. Shipping costs get passed on to customers, so keeping them low allows you to compete with bigger retailers on a cost-by-cost basis.
Think Outside the Box
Does it take two days for local customers to receive an online order? How might you speed that process up? Can you offer local delivery within a 30-mile radius of your building? Perhaps you can offer a locker where customers can pick up their orders sooner. Think outside the box on how to improve supply chain time and efficiency. With a little attention to detail, you’ll find more success than you might have expected.