The days of physical warehouse managers and tech gurus separated by layers of middle-management offices are swiftly coming to a close. As business from the production level on through to fulfillment services is experiencing a digital renaissance, the separation between physical inventory and digital assets is vanishing, with a new, hybrid solution rising to take its place.
Need-To-Know in a 24/7 World
If a customer clicks a shopping cart button halfway around the world, how long does it take for that information to hit the corresponding shelves of products in a warehouse or the inbox of the material broker who helps make those items? Variations on this question have become more pressing than ever in an emerging digital market, and those that aren't able to answer them with expediency and clarity are setting themselves up to be left in the dust.
Supply chain professionals can no longer afford to be passive participants in the fulfillment process. With data available in seconds, pushed to smartphones and RFID tags and other tech innovations used in modern warehouses, there's no reason not to constantly anticipate, plan and support B2B and B2C demands in real time.
The Looming Shadow of Omni-Channel
Seldom has business seen a buzzword that was so keenly balanced between representing a nearly boundless opportunity and representing a progressive threat as the Omni-channel concept.
As offerings, services, sales and reporting flow to unique platforms such as mobile phones and tablet computers, the role of a CIO is expanding accordingly. This once narrowly-defined position has become something of a liaison to other areas of a business, informing the supply chain on what to expect, updating order flow forecasts and more, all as it happens. In turn, supply chain professionals in fulfillment services and logistics positions must be poised to tackle omni-channel head-on, taking the time to understand its facets and responding to its potential problems with solid guidance from the CIO.
This fractal sales approach isn't a trend to be pushed to the back burner, either.
As Michael Friedenburg points out for the website CIO, tech investment in marketing and advertising across these multiple platforms is slated to increase 50% in 2017, a sure financial sign that omni-channel is on the rise.
Accountability is Becoming More Involved, Not Less
Assessments and regulations are two more compelling reasons to encourage communication between supply chain nodes and CIOs. If a regulatory agency or government official starts making queries into a business, having more than one knowledgeable touch point to consult will help speed things along. If an order is being traced and the CIO has no idea how to backtrack, or a particular material is faulty and a supply chain lacks an easily-accessible contact back at the home office, a company could find itself in hot water. CIO's Kim S. Nash mentions that food and pharmaceutical suppliers are particularly vulnerable to this lack of transparency— an especially problematic reality given the time-sensitive nature of tampering, illnesses and outbreaks.
Compartmentalization is no longer a viable option for companies that move through the digital world. Much like how internal systems and user interfaces operate, the free flow of data throughout the breadth of a given company's supply chain is essential. When the heads of the B2B or B2C technical experience feel free to ask and share information with those in fulfillment services, a harmony naturally develops— and more often than not, lifts the bottom line in the process.
If your company isn't talking to itself as 2015 gears up, it may be time to bring your CIO and supply chain workers to the table and make some very important introductions.