Keeping Pace with Changes in Supply Chain Management

By Bill Cunningham

0f335efSupply Chain Management is an ever-evolving industry.  It was not until the 1960’s that the concept was actually defined, and even at that point, all the various aspects to a business were still seen as individual silos, not one interrelated system.  But as time passes and technology advances it has became clear that there are substantial economic benefits to developing an integrated supply chain.

“Keeping Pace with the Skills Needed to Manage Supply Chains” (Supply Chain 247, April 15, 2013) by Edgar Blanco and Chris Caplice highlights how Supply Chain Management (SCM) has evolved and highlights the skills that are required to effectively manage it in today’s global environment.

There has been an evolution from basic supply chain functionality towards a more strategic approach applying technology, metrics and risk management disciplines.  In this environment, SCM leaders need to have better analytical skills that they can cultivate within the organization, be leaders of virtual or multinational teams, skilled at integrating complex technology systems that span multiple functions / organizations, and be strategic thinkers at both the company and industry level.

Although this seems like a long list of prerequisites, here at Supply Chain Coach we couldn’t agree more.  This is why we coach our clients on how to build their business intelligence through better data analysis.  We emphasize building strategic business scenarios through modeling so our clients can see the big picture along with its possibilities.  We help companies transition to cloud-based technologies for reliability and efficiency.  And we coach them on creating uniform and consistent project management with clear and concise communication.

The quick pace of advancing technology has propelled this evolution in SCM.  Supply Chain professionals who use these advances to their advantage can outpace those who remain complacent with the old ways of doing things.

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Process Flow: The First Step

By Tom French

Tom FrenchNow more than ever the conversation about data management is ever pressing.  With so many systems and devices constantly being introduced or improved upon, many companies feel a sense of urgency to capitalize on maximizing their profits within their supply chain by implementing new data tracking systems.  The instinct is valid, but the process requires some strategy.

In the May 2013 Logistics Management Issue their cover story “Real Time Visibility Within Reach” was a comprehensive article with nuggets from industry followers providing updates and trends on the growing importance of Automatic Data Capture (ADC), Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Global Trade Management Systems (GTM).

In the article the most prevalent insights were touched upon by John Hall in the WMS section where he stated, “Well defined workflows and procedures have always been important to laying out the proper foundation for successful WMS configuration and deployment, but never more important here.”

Also, in the inset article “Research: Overcoming WMS Upgrade Fears” Ian Hobkirk states, “Adequately defining business requirements upfront is still the most important thing a company can do to ensure success.”  These statements are so true.  More often than not companies do not have their business requirements defined and their current “AS IS” process flow mapped.

The process flow mapping exercise is especially important in order to provide visibility to what processes steps can be eliminated or automated with the WMS.  Most companies want to jump right into process flow mapping and skip to the end, reaping the potential benefits of properly processing data.  But until the existing process is identified, even the most sophisticated WMS is only as good as the information you know to give it.  This is why it is vitally important to first map the “AS IS” process.

The overall theme to the article is exciting for the Supply Chain Management field, as data capturing is getting easier and more affordable.  But the true savings are unquestionably linked to properly identifying the existing process so that the desired outcome can come to fruition.

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Moving into E-commerce

By Sam Smith

The integration of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with e-commerce is a common and popular trend that doesn’t appear to be tapering off.  In the April 2013 edition of Inbound Logistics there is a great article highlighting a few leading companies who are successfully paving the way between these two worlds.

Home DepotThe portion of the article that spoke about the national home improvement retailer Home Depot was particularly interesting.  Their success has been in maintaining close to 35,000 SKU’s readily available on hand in their stores for the in-person customer experience, while their DC’s stock over three-times that amount for their online consumer.  They added use of a fully interchangeable system, where customers can look at items, purchase, or return items online or in-store; or do any combination. This strategy makes the costumer experience seamless while ensuring that the consumers home improvement needs are being met one way or another through Home Depot.

As a developer, I see more problems in the interface side with our customers. The article talked about managing inventory, where I am often thinking about the overall importance of managing data. We know that data needs to be completely correct, since with e-commerce there can be little human work so there is nobody to catch errors.  Efficient, accurate data extraction and tracking is key to successfully executing an online business.

The article also highlights a common challenge in e-commerce of efficiently delivering products to the consumer in the quickest / cost effective ways.  With retailers like Google’s Shopping Express and Amazon Primes same day delivery programs, retailers are pioneering a new world of logistics.  At Supply Chain Coach we have successfully used a Web Portal Platform through MercuryGate that creates shipments that represent home deliveries, helping retailers stay on the competitive edge.

As the article points out, e-commerce is still relatively new and has room for development as technology is ever changing, but it is an exciting time for retailers to increase their customer base and move beyond the limited possibilities in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.



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Supply Chain Management can be the Key to Sustainable Growth for the Small to Mid-Size Business

By Mary Hubbard

imagesOftentimes the small to mid-size (SMB) retailer underestimate their ability to make necessary changes to ensure their financial success.  A recent article in Logistics Viewpoints by Karen D’Andrea of Pitney Bowes, highlights four steps that could make all the difference.

Because many SMBs focus on the idea that resolving their day-to-day business operations outweighs the analysis and implementation of shipment management opportunities, they miss out on the significant savings associated with reducing freight costs.

Only 25% of SMBs use a transportation management system (TMS).  A good TMS can identify shipping management solutions, optimize system automation, integrate inventory management from multiple stores or warehouse locations, and create multi-carrier shipment management solutions.

While most SMBs may feel they are not yet ready for or don’t need a TMS, a growing company often finds that their logistics expenses outpace their revenue growth. For instance, they may add more warehouse capacity, in “stair-step” mode, and thus the per-unit cost of their logistics operations shifts.  Successfully growing as a business is unquestionably linked to optimizing logistics within the supply chain.  A transportation management system is an easy way to ensure that success.

For most of our clients, we favor MercuryGate (as does Forrester Research) or 3PL Central, but we can support you in selecting a TMS that’s a good fit for your unique situation.




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