Much like cars on a train, each link in your supply chain KPI (key performance indicator) needs to be on the same track. If something goes awry in one of these "cars," there's a very real potential for derailment— especially if you’re moving toward omni-channel fulfillment. Consider your current supply chain focus. Are you well-versed in supply chain KPI numbers but less knowledgeable than you should be about overall flexibility and capability? Here are some important points to incorporate into your strategies, whether they take the form of initial setup or tweaks to existing supply chain processes.
How Much Access Do Your Customers Have?
According to Chuck Fuerst of Highjump Software, a recent Forrester Research Poll found that only 32% of retailers currently offer customers the ability to check inventory. While this does open up certain competitive issues— competitors will also be able to see the same stock numbers— the benefits this move bring outweigh the risks. As an added bonus, the system and real-time data accuracy needed to put the option in place demand an organized structure that will keep your stock and fulfillment sectors on their toes.
These data demands in the system mean that interruptions or mistake in workflow will become quickly apparent across the entire chain, enabling quick correction and serving as a potent reminder that accuracy is important. Giving customers access to this information also cuts back on the monetary and loyalty cost of cancelled orders, vendor-hopping and overall fulfillment satisfaction shortfalls.
Technology Is Paving the Way
Even if your supply chain seems too large, mired in legacy tech or unwieldy to navigate the tricky transition to omni-channel, or too small, without the resources or trained personnel to implement such a wide-reaching program, new cloud-based solutions are starting to level the playing field.
Shanton Wilcox points out to Capgemini that in the case of online interface technology, in some cases the jump to customer transparency or employee lookup capabilities can be started with an uploaded file or two. There will be fine tuning necessary, no doubt, but don't let concern over shifting to the cloud keep you from doing it in the first place.
Vendors Are Looking to Court You
The need for omni-channel-appropriate solutions in supply chain workflow is becoming increasingly clear as an already-crowded marketplace grows ever more competitive. The benefit to individual companies looking to polish their omni-channel approaches is that the vendor marketplace for solution providers and tech is growing just as rapidly.
As Celerant Technology cautions, don't hesitate to be picky when outlining your expectations, deadlines or budget, and don't fall into the trap of believing you can only use one vendor for each omni-channel need your company has. The most aggressively-marketed solutions may not be the best ones, so be sure to take your time when shopping around, and don't be afraid to bring proof of competitor pricing or capability to negotiation chats.
Omni-Channel Will (Eventually) Save You Money
It can be hard to frame the initial cost of "going omni-channel" as an investment, but, in the long run, that's exactly what it is. Though we won’t deny that there is a real cost to setting up an omni-channel system, add up the cost of labor, time and emergency incidentals involved in scrambling to connect one supply chain to another, and you're likely to find that you're spending more than you think on ad-hoc solutions.
Sedlak Management Consulting also reminds retailers that the absence of clear omni-channel guidance can put pressure on the wholesale distribution market, which may very well translate into lagged performance and sluggish response times for traditional orders
Skilled, future-focused companies are hopping on the omni-channel bandwagon and shaping up their supply chain processes, and it’s something you need to start working towards as well. Developing new transparency measures, updating supply chain KPI metrics and getting your supply chain nodes on board with a multi-point fulfillment goal will keep your ROI high and dry, even in a flooded market.