Practical Considerations for Improving a Supply Chain

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One of the most competitive industries in the United States is logistics and transportation, which is primarily responsible for moving stock across the country. The end result is product delivered to a consumer’s doorstep, work site, warehouse or sales floor to be offloaded some other way. In fact, in 2015, logistics represented approximately 8% of the GDP for the United States.

Logistics is the lifeblood of nearly any industry, from retail to oil production. Everyone needs tools to do a job, products to sell, and equipment to work with. With more ways to order product and a need for delivery to a greater number of locales, supply chain managers must work continually to push for better efficiency in the chain.

Faster Ordering and Payouts

One of the challenges retailers face is monitoring stock levels, and there are two ways to solve those problems:

The first is is freight factoring. TBS Factoring is one of many operations that work directly with freight companies to sell invoices at a discount. They wait for payment, but the freight company is paid upfront for the load they will deliver. The reason this speeds the process up is simple: payment up front. When the freight company is paid, they’re more willing to continue deliveries, thus faster fulfillment for the retailer or manufacturer.

The second method is to automate ordering, which is the practice of major retailers like Target or Wholefoods. So called “store ready” distribution methods put automation to work tracking customer purchasing habits and demand to make sure shelves are always stocked.

Better Data

Automating a supply chain requires strong data sets that explain customer behavior. Today, companies have real-time reports of sales figures and trends they can review to see how customer buying habits change day to day. Couple with faster payouts, supply chains are becoming more agile. By tracking customer buying habits, stock levels can rise or lower accordingly.

However, information is meaningless in a vacuum. Better data management software allows for faster decision making. Actionable metrics are key, and there are many options available (from Google’s own tools to third party CRM software) that allow for access to inventory, sales, and production data for critical decisions.

Understanding Costs

Pricing and quotes used to be an art, not a science. It was difficult to identify what costs a supplier would incur, so it was hard to gauge the value of a service. Today, there is more data and it’s become easier to shop for better logistics. Companies like Amazon will use multiple companies for fulfillment, often seeking the lowest possible rates for transportation costs.

Part of this improvement comes from better access to a company’s financials. Not as much in-depth auditing is needed to produce a report that details where and how money is spent, so executives have greater flexibility in cutting costs without reducing operational effectiveness.

Better Data on Employees

Focusing one’s workforce on the most pressing concerns is the ideal situation for any business looking to remain agile and profitable. Wasting time on low priority task items only means increased costs and glut.

It’s not uncommon for companies to utilize time management software that will track an employee’s working habits throughout the day. This allows management to make adjustments on the fly, so warehouses and stores are ready for receiving and stocking. However, a robust training program is equally important when it comes to putting an employee’s skills to use.

Final Thoughts

Logistics isn’t an afterthought, it’s a pressing concern for stores with a physical presence or eCommerce operations. Emphasizing improvements in workforce effectiveness, cost saving measures and better usage of data are the pillars for success.

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