The best supply chains in retail enable the quick transfer of goods. They are also transparent, versatile, stable and diversified.
There are three main components to achieving each of these attributes:
People means having the right individuals performing the tasks that best suit both the individual’s skill-set as well as the needs of the company. Processes means having the best systems in place in order to maximise your supply chains’ efficiency and sustainability.
Lastly, technology means having the right infrastructure in place so that you are able to adapt and take advantage of different opportunities as they arise.
If your customers are choosing your competitors over you - chances are they are performing better in one or more of the following areas.
Below are 5 things that you can learn from your competitors:
1) Efficient Processes
Needless to say, without efficient systems and processes in place… you’ll never be able to meet the demands for faster shipping and order fulfillment.
Efficient systems require the optimisation of your supply chain: the systematic improvement across your people, processes and the technology you use to get it done.
These processes must be documented and someone should be tasked with seeing them implemented on a day-to-day basis. Without this repetition of ‘best-practices’, your order fulfillment will be inconsistent and inefficient.
Take Amazon for example. Their supply chain is optimised to obsessive levels (every little detail is documented and controlled).
This is the kind of obsessive optimisation that you need if you want your supply chain to compete with the retail giants.
2) Transparency Across the Supply Chain
Consumer trust has decreased in recent years. This is why it’s important to be as transparent as possible across the supply chain, but also with your customers.
Icebreaker is a retailer who has adopted this approach. Their Baacode Traceability system is designed to give customers full disclosure across the supply chain; from the sheep, to the farmer, to the factory, and finally to the customer.
Not only this, but Icebreaker are using this transparency across the supply chain as a marketing tool. At each stage of the supply chain, Icebreaker tells the story of the sheep that produced the wool; the farmer and production process, and how the finished product reaches the customer.
Increased transparency for your workers and suppliers is a “no-brainer” in itself. Mighty Ape has been competing with the e-commerce giant Amazon for years now.
Mighty Ape openly acknowledges that they can’t compete on price. Instead, they focus on areas where they can contest i.e. relationships with local suppliers and speed of delivery. This is as a result of providing greater transparency with suppliers and building distribution centres closer to their main customer bases.
3) Versatile Systems
Different types of retailers have different technology requirements. For instance, retailers who store and distribute highly perishable items such as fresh produce or meat will require strict management of temperature and quality control.
On the other hand, retailers who move electronic equipment need to have systems and processes in place in order to prevent the costly damage of inventory.
E-commerce retailers such as Amazon require a combination of robust and versatile systems as they supply both high-value and low-value products, perishable and non-perishable items.
These complex requirements for retailers means that it is even more crucial to have strong and flexible systems in place.
4) Stable Technology
Regardless of unique requirements, every retailer needs infrastructure that they can rely on everyday. They also need customer support for when something goes wrong or when they encounter a new problem.
WMS is often expensive to implement, inflexible and offers poor customer service. Smart retailers adopt WMS that is stable, yet offers flexibility and ongoing support during installation as well as once the software is live and operating.
Why is this important? Because if your supply chain stops functioning, your business stops operating. Limiting ‘down time’ means your suppliers are kept happy and you also keep your shareholders off of your back.
Retailers need robust and flexible software such as HighJump’s Warehouse Advantage. You can find out more about this solution here.
5) Planning for the Worst
Irrespective of your people, processes or technology; some things will eventually go wrong. Smart operators plan for these types of scenarios and put processes in place in order to handle these situations while minimising the impact on the company.
Contingency planning must happen across the company and not just from the top-level management. This is because errors can happen at every level of a business, and managers especially, need to know how to respond in a quick and timely manner.
But it’s not just management; employees at every level must know their role in case of a scenario that poses significant risk to the business. This is so that they are able to respond quickly and smartly, and the business can get to back to business-as-usual sooner.