How Retailers Can Avoid Supply Chain Woes by Fixing 3 Common Digital Breakages
Increasing digitalization has had a huge impact on our economy, and retailers’ supply chains are no exception. For example, new digitized shipment documentation, cargo visibility, inventory management, customer service and other supply chain process data streams are more efficient and accurate than the manual processes they replaced. However, many of these data streams are poorly connected to each other, resulting in “digital breakages” in which important information isn’t transmitted to the retailer, its customers, and its other trading partners.
However, by adopting a digital acceleration approach that seeks to incrementally enhance their digital business on an ongoing basis, retailers can repair these digital breakages and prevent them from negatively impacting their business.
Avoid Documentation Delays When Importing Products
One of the most common digital breakages experienced by retailers is not having up-to-date digital information on the status of their international shipment documentation. Know that the status of this documentation is critical — if it's not completed, a product shipment can miss a departure, making it impossible for the retailer to sell it to customers during peak holiday shopping seasons.
Digital operational dashboards can fix this digital breakage. By feeding Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and other data into these dashboards, retailers can monitor the status of the documents they need for international shipments. This allows them to ensure all their documents are in compliance, and their cargo is shipped on time.
Provide Customers With Product Stock Details
Another digital breakage often experienced by retailers is not providing consumers with accurate information on the availability of products. While most inventory management applications manage in/out product inventory quantities, they don't account for orders in process and future deliveries. This is where breakages occur and, as a result, customers might order a product only to later learn that it's out of stock with no indication of it will be in stock again.
Retailers can fix this digital breakage by integrating Available-to-Promise (ATP) algorithms into their inventory management applications. These algorithms analyze data on current inventory, orders in process and future deliveries, allowing the retailer to provide customers with more accurate information on what products are in stock and when they can be delivered. If a product is out of stock, ATP algorithms can also offer customers alternative products that are in stock, helping the retailer avoid missing out on a potential sale.
Inform Customers of Shipment Delays
Retailers can experience digital breakages even after their products have cleared customs and been shipped to customers. For example, most retailers have visibility applications that provide them with real-time data on the location of their customer shipments. While these systems might warn the retailer if there's a shipment delay, often this data isn't transmitted to the retailer’s customer service applications. As a result, the retailer's customer services agents do not inform customers of the shipping delay.
Retailers can address this digital breakage with APIs (application programming interfaces) that integrate shipment data from their visibility applications into their customer service applications. By providing their customer service agents with this information, agents can proactively contact customers if there's a shipment problem.
As the examples above make clear, despite rapid supply chain digitization, digital breakages still occur that can cause retailers’ supply chain woes. However, by employing a digital acceleration approach that makes incremental updates to their supply chain applications’ connectivity and functionality on an ongoing basis, retailers can repair these breakages and deliver better experiences to their customers.
Antony Francis is a supply chain and logistics consultant at Endava, a next-generation technology solutions provider.
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Antony Francis is an internationally recognized expert in Supply Chain and Logistics. He has a deep understanding of fulfillment operations, e-commerce (B2B & B2C), returns processing and product repair. He has an outstanding IT background leveraging cloud based and IoT technology for customer benefit.
He was also a successful business leader with proven ability to direct corporate strategy from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies and has significant experience in both full-time and interim management, restructuring and turn-around of operations and in growing start-ups. Well versed in positioning / messaging of company service offerings and in lead generation/pipeline development programs to expand revenue channels; he has a broad 6 Sigma and Lean/5S background in eliminating costs, improving production performance, and increasing revenues. Deep knowledge of DLT/Blockchain workflow processes.
He is adept at developing, nurturing and mentoring teams to drive forward with passion and conviction. An experienced board member, he has extensive international experience with deep understanding of other cultures. Bilingual English/French. U.S. Citizen.