The customer-facing experience gets a lot of attention when a company is discussing growth and expansion. It's not a stretch to say that, in today's omni-channel sales landscape, far more consideration is given to the type of channel distribution as opposed to the realities of implementing it. Without a properly-prepped supply chain, however, even the most well-designed, seamless dashboard rollout will end up tripping on the shoelaces of its own success. Simply put, an out-of-date supply chain will actually hold back business innovation, no matter how well-intentioned the rest of the business may be.
1. Poor Response Times and Fulfillment
With new distribution channels come additional opportunities for consumers to weigh in. Written reviews, satisfaction ratings and feedback all have the ability to make or break a presence on a given channel. When a company's fulfillment center isn't poised— or worse, even aware of— its parent company's initiatives into new markets, shipping metrics are bound to suffer. New distribution channels also come with transparency challenges, which in turn puts demands such as real-time shipment updates on the supply chain. If warehouse management and shipping providers lack the tools or technical knowledge to deliver this data to waiting customers or clients, those customers are bound to either shift to a competitor or make their dissatisfaction known in an impactful way.
Industry writer Han Nabben of Digital Supply Chain even goes so far as to name this need for flexibility as one of the top dozen trends shaping the future of logistics as a whole.
2. It's Easier to Affect Feedforward Controls than Feedback
In a survey for Supply Chain Insights, supply chain professional Laura Cecere emphasizes that supporting and renovating supply chain structure for future demands is just as important to omni-channel-style expansion as development on the "front" end. Rather than tackling the problem as outdated nodes of it arise in concurrent review, Cecere counsels that the best approach to ensuring smooth channel distribution is to infuse scalability and modern approaches now, before they may be needed.
Anticipating supply chain stress by designing "dry runs" of popularity or material shortage and training logistics employees with modern equipment should be a distinct action point in any growth plan. Waiting until the need for modernization becomes a pressing one will only result in piecemeal approaches and a disjointed logistics support staff, at odds with their own equipment.
3. Compliance Will Make the Decision for You, Eventually
Taking a tack of necessary supply chain transparency isn't just sound advice for expansion, it will also help uncover previously-unknown obstacles to success and shore up your workflow for future compliance demands. A 2014 report from The Economist on supply chain management highlights the reality clearly: agile, transparent supply chains are poised to weather potential storms, whereas those that only address growing pains in-the-moment are falling behind.
Transparency allows for micro adjustments and macro-focused workflow shifts with equal ease, where supply chains still mired in opaque methodologies suffer from disconnection and confusion as vendors strive to get a clear top-down view when assisting in a crisis.
Compliance requirements aren't always predictable, either, and keeping your workforce in a place to respond to sudden changes in reporting structure will keep downtime or retraining needs to a minimum.
Both multi- and omni-channel distribution are challenging enough on in their own right, so making sure both your logistics and customer-facing processes are in alignment is a vital step for future planning. While there will undoubtedly be struggles connecting the "new world" of omni-channel focused sales to the "old world" of mono-channel focus, the result is a rewarding one. Once implemented, future-focused changes in your supply chain will ultimately ensure viability in an uncertain landscape, regardless of your industry or product.