An optimized and functional supply chain is one of the crucial elements of running an eCommerce company. Without a well-thought-out supply chain, you expose yourself to the risk of losing customers and, ultimately, cash flow. What should you bear in mind when it comes to designing and optimizing the supply chain for your online store? And what should you do to turn each parcel into success? Let’s find out!
Running an online store in the COVID-19 times is both a fantastic opportunity (people stay at home and buy significantly more products online) and a great challenge (many companies went bankrupt, suppliers struggle with production, etc.). Your supply chain is one of the critical elements that are currently at risk. Therefore, you should exert every effort to protect and optimize it. Here’s what you can do:
Work with at least several suppliers
Naturally, it depends on your offer, but if it’s possible to cooperate with two or more suppliers, you should. Reliance on just one supplier, especially during the pandemic when many companies struggle to stay afloat, is risky, to say the least.
Imagine what will happen when your supplier shuts down business or loses cash flow and can’t ensure timely delivery of ordered goods? Your situation will not be much better, as the store will stop making money overnight. You cannot let that happen!
Are there any precautions available? Thankfully, yes:
- Conduct regular market research: You should regularly send inquiries to potential wholesalers.
- Look for suppliers abroad. Who said that your suppliers have to be located in the same country? Look for them all around the globe! Such a strategy will allow you to guard against many crises.
- Expand the offer. Can’t you find another supplier? Consider expanding your offer! It’s a relatively straightforward way to grow your business and become independent.
Ensuring that you have at least two different suppliers is your starting point. Now, you can think of enhancing your processes and procedures.
Optimize your supply chain. How?
Today, we want to show you eight essential elements that significantly influence your supply chain and its quality. In short, you have to take care of your warehouse, data management, distribution strategy, procedures (e.g., accounting), and automation. At the end of this article, we will show you what supply chains will look like in the near future. Perhaps you could use that knowledge even today!
First of all, you have to take care of your warehouse. It’s at the very core of your supply chain. If your warehouse doesn’t work correctly, everything will soon fall apart. Make sure your inventory is properly organized and arranged. Check if everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Ask your warehouse workers if they have any problems finding the necessary products and infrastructure? Also, check if everything is safe and operational. Try to prevent any possible accidents and delays.
This abbreviation stands for Warehouse Management System. In modern warehouses, WMS plays a key role. Do you have it in your warehouse? If not, take your time to compare commercially available solutions and pick the WMS that suits your work's needs and specificity. And if you already have such an application, update it regularly and monitor its efficiency. Possibly, changing a WMS is the easiest way to improve your inventory management?
You have to be aware that many complications with supply chains are not visible at first glance. In order to find the source of your problems, you have to dig deeper and thoroughly analyze the data you possess. That's why you need a data analytics tool. There are many tools adjusted to the warehousing environment. For instance, you could take a look at Xplenty, Amazon Redshift, Teradata, and Oracle 12c.
Regular monitoring and auditing of your inventory will also be immensely helpful. If you don’t know what’s happening with your inventory, you can’t see when the problem started. You have to know how many products and of what sort you have at any given time. A decent inventory management software will help you keep track.
For instance, if you see that some products don’t go, think of necessary corrective actions. If you don’t deal with this issue on time, before long, your inventory will start to pile up, and, eventually, it will become dead stock. Poor inventory management adversely affects your warehouse and, as a result, your supply chain. We advise you to read more about the dead stock issue here.
Devise a distribution and marketing strategy
Are we still talking about supply chains? Yes, it’s all interconnected. If you want to make sure your supply chain remains efficient, exert every effort to build an extensive distribution and marketing strategy. After all, you have to do something with all these products in your warehouse. Shipping is the last, but also incredibly important, element of your supply chain. A proper distribution/marketing strategy will help you keep constant product flow in your warehouse.
If you do not enjoy a sufficient number of orders each month, it's a clear sign you have to do something differently. Perhaps you should optimize your online marketing campaigns or think of expanding offer? Again, do your research, and you will find the source of these complications.
Interestingly, sometimes the accounting department can be the root of all evil! For example, if you don’t have automated accounting solutions, you can easily fall into the trap of excessive paperwork and invoice mix-ups. If it turns out that products are not shipped immediately because your company is waiting for payments to be processed, you have to do something about it and automate this process!
Automation is your key to success
While we are at the automation subject: Today, almost every process can be automated. Payments, invoicing, picking and packing, shipping… There are dozens of tools that help you automate and accelerate these processes. Get acquainted with available solutions and implement ones that can significantly enhance your supply chain-related processes.
Work with a logistics partner
The fulfillment operator is a company that deals with all the logistics processes for you. Such a company is focused solely on delivering the best logistics services possible. In many instances, when you’re working with a logistics partner, you don’t even have to run your own warehouse. They store, pick, pack, and ship products for you. Furthermore, logistics operators, like Omnipack, frequently deal with complaints and returns on your behalf. As a result, you can focus on growing sales and leave the logistics to them. Without a doubt, it’s an interesting way of optimizing the supply chain.
And one last piece of advice: Always measure your suppliers’ and logistics operator’s error rates!
Adopt the technology of the future
Even if your supply chain works appropriately, there's always room for improvement. We believe that future supply chains will be shaped by two modern technologies: the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.
Interestingly, the Internet of Things can also be a way to improve your current supply chain. How is that possible? First of all, thanks to IoT, you can get even more data about your logistics. As you probably know, IoT is all about taking various items and devices that normally operate offline and connecting them to the internet. IoT enables you to install many sensors that measure all the relevant parameters (temperature, motion, light, air quality, etc.) in places where products that you sell are produced, stored, and transported.
According to the Retail Industry Digital Outlook report created by the Infosys consulting company, IoT significantly enhances business operations:
- 80% of the report’s respondents credited the IoT with improving existing business operations
- 45% said it solved new problems
- 47% claimed it created new opportunities
We can expect that IoT will be an indispensable element of all future logistic processes. The good news is, you can implement this technology even today!
Consider Ambrosus. It’s an IoT/blockchain company. Currently, they are working on a specific tracking system that comprises a combination of various IoT sensors that can track parameters across the entire supply chain and production process. As a result, their clients manage to achieve peak supply chain efficiencies, from the assembly line to last-mile delivery.
Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence is virtually everywhere and can be found in the logistics sector as well. When we talk about AI, we refer to broadly understood technology that automates, facilitates, and improves human work. The AI-based apps and algorithms execute tasks that before had been reserved for human employees. When it comes to logistics and supply chains, AI-fueled algorithms can:
- Improve accuracy in the tracking of departing and arriving orders
- Increase fleet efficiency
- Optimize logistics routes
- Help in supplier selection
It’s all just the question of appropriate software.
It’s worth noting that AI can be immensely helpful in warehouse management. This is where CV (Computer Vision) software comes into play. You see, these systems (consisting of cameras, sensors, and analytics software) can automate the barcode reading process and, therefore, accelerate and simplify it. And it goes even further! CV algorithms can:
- Track the employees and their performance
- Prevent thefts and violations of the safety rules
- Identify who is entering and leaving the warehouse
As you can see, there’s a multitude of possible options that can help you improve your logistics and supply chain. However, as always, start with thorough research. The more you know about your current situation, the more informed decision you can make. And if you are interested in cooperating with the logistics operator, Omnipack is at your service!