Sponsored: Three critical steps to a hi-tech, agile supply chain

Retailers are facing a new reality and as a consequence supply chains must change.

Consumers are becoming more demanding, wanting their purchases faster and at highly competitive prices. Smartphones allow them to review products, check prices and shop on the go. Technology has enabled consumers to be agile in the way they shop, so retailers too must learn to leverage technology fully to be capable of delivering the service and value consumers now expect.

1. Shaping the future: Understanding future demand is difficult. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are opening-up exciting possibilities for the forecasting of demand. This technology is being used to analyse data on past sales in stores, taking into account the influence of markdown value on sales volume per outlet, and this data is being aggregated across whole store geographies to help position stock more advantageously.

AI is also helping to reveal predictable ordering patterns for multi-channel sales by incorporating external data too, such as social media trends, economics, the weather, and a multitude of other factors. All this information is analysed to help forecast sales quantities for each product. Big Data reveals hidden patterns that are simply not visible at the item level. So, retail businesses need to tap into these fast-developing technologies to better predict order profiles, as having a clearer idea of the future helps determine just how agile an organisation is needed.

2. Visibility and responsiveness: A prerequisite for achieving supply chain agility is to have complete visibility throughout the chain - that depends upon having connected and intelligent IT. Visibility of inventory deployment, order management and execution forms the basis for automating processes and making informed decisions. This is where having agility counts and can offer rewards.

For example, knowing where inventory is in transit allows for products to be re-directed to where the greatest margin can be achieved. A home delivery may be dynamically re-routed for pick-up from a store or a click & collect locker. But enabling these actions to be taken often involves a complex set of tasks – requiring knowledge of transport routes and co-ordinating timings. Orchestrating such tasks demands highly connected, integrated systems capable of responding with speed.

These capabilities are now increasingly available through a plethora of Software-as-a-Service offerings, presenting new opportunities for agile retailers. However, there are many choices here too and SaaS may not always be appropriate.

3. Enhancing operational performance: There are a growing number of operational challenges including mounting cost pressures, rising demand, promotions, multiple service offerings and diminishing labour resources. Many businesses are now looking to the automation of processes within the supply chain as a solution. Technology offers the potential to improve productivity by mechanisation, robotics, new SaaS offerings or advanced AI.

However, there are important questions to ask before such investments are made. What level of flexibility is necessary? Flexibility tends to come at a cost, so you must evaluate how much is required. In a dynamic environment, such as an omni-channel warehouse, the varied processes and layout of a facility should be constantly reviewed and adjusted to optimise performance - planning and analysis are essential.

A new eBook “The technology and infrastructure needed for an agile landscape” explores the various options and technologies available to those retail businesses seeking to develop an agile enterprise. Technology is the great enabler that drives productivity, but exactly which technology and where, when and how it is deployed is critical to both a successful implementation and the future performance of the business.

Calls to action/ links: To gain further insights and a greater understanding of how to use technology to create an agile and responsive supply chain, download the free eBook at: https://www.bis-henderson.com/ebook-3-launch/

Contributor: Sid Holian is Managing Director of Bis Henderson Consulting, an operating division of Bis Henderson Group.

Bis Henderson Group: Recruitment, Consulting, Academy, Warehouse Space


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