5 Ways To Improve Intelligent Fulfillment
Increasing demands for next-day delivery and immediate gratification are forcing companies to adopt new strategies and restructure their traditional methods to compete with the rapidly changing landscape. The ways of doing business in legacy companies are now being challenged by new competitors who have harnessed the immense power of technology. How can a company evolve from surviving to thriving in this already changing economy, exacerbated by the global pandemic?
One solution to this problem is intelligent fulfillment. Intelligent fulfillment is a multi-layered strategy that is powered by data and analytics to fulfill customer’s needs and proactively create strategies and predictions to anticipate market trends. At the heart of intelligent fulfillment is the collection and utilization of data: obtaining it, dissecting it, analyzing it, and using it to predict shifts and help improve your business.
There are several ways to improve intelligent fulfillment for your company, here are the top 5…
Analytics and Data
Data is king. With the right data, companies can anticipate market trends and make faster, more accurate production decisions, determine root-cause analyses, measure efficiency and opportunity costs among routing options, forecast seasonal and cyclical customer demands, determine inventory turnover ratio, manage labor, and a plethora of other functions that can reduce costs and increase productivity.
Descriptive and Prescriptive data can convey trends, find inefficiencies and optimize results. Predictive data can be used to strategize and run different scenarios to help implement policies and plans of action. As important as data is, equally crucial is obtaining data in a streamlined way.
A company that shares multiple systems for each function has the flaw of incompatibility among platforms. Different departments can’t utilize each other’s data to analyze trends and must rely on manual labor or time-consuming software to gather ‘data dumps’ and sort through the data to make sense of it. With system integration, collective data flows seamlessly throughout the supply chain and can more readily be analyzed based on whichever parameter is required. System integration increases inventory visibility among stores and branches and minimizes human error.
Another positive about having one system versus multiple is the cost of training employees. With one system, employees have an understanding of the system as a whole and how it relates to their specific function, avoiding duplicated effort and poor visibility among departments.
A company is only as good as its employees. While the market may be shifting towards more machines and artificial intelligence, employees are still the lifeblood of a supply chain. Having employees that understand the data being accrued and how the system works are infinitely more valuable than employees who only know their specific function without knowing how it pertains to the big picture. An employee who can understand what data needs to be ascertained and its importance may even find more efficient ways of obtaining the specific data needed. Informed employees also do away with ‘silos’, or information hubs where knowledge is centralized to specific departments or branches.
Silos create miscommunication among departments and are dependent on specific employees. Should employees be unavailable or leave the company, the void they leave create data gaps and inaccurate data analyses.
As the market demand continues to grow, automation through AI and technology have become staples in the supply chain industry. Automation allows massive amounts of data to be collected seamlessly.
The means of procuring data has also seen an evolution from manual to electronic with RFID’s, mobile computers, and scanning devices. These are all for the goal of automating how companies receive and store data. An automated system reduces labor costs and allows for accurate, rapid amounts of data to be accumulated, ready to be analyzed.
The term Omni-channel means multiple platforms revolving around the customer. The customer can purchase and receive orders from whichever channel the company provides, be it in-store or online. The competitive market has birthed this powerful idea that tackles customers with different needs. Online shopping with in-store pick-up, shipping from store, returns, this distribution strategy allows the customer to choose how they want to buy and receive their goods.
For this strategy to work, a company must also have seamless interactions between shippers, retailers, and 3PL’s. Shippers must have a clear idea of how much product needs to be shipped based on demand. Should they have too long of a fulfillment time, diversification of suppliers would be implemented to minimize fulfillment time. Retailers must know how much of the product they can and need to hold, and 3PL’s must know where to ship products and at the most efficient cost. For this seamless interaction of information, having system integration and accurate data is critical.
The ever-changing economic landscape has forced companies to evolve alongside their customer’s demands and needs. With more and more customers expecting products at break-neck speed, Intelligent Fulfillment methods have proven to be more than just a strategy. It’s part of a philosophy of continual improvement that is here to stay.
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