Supply Chain Automation Helps Retailers Meet Consumers' Omnichannel Needs
The use of automation technology to facilitate the seamless flow of information between product suppliers and retailers is critical to meeting consumers’ omnichannel fulfillment demands. Automation is necessary for retailers to not only satisfy their customers’ lofty expectations for buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup, but also to keep pace with their competitors that are offering the same services.
With that in mind, Total Retail, in conjunction with cloud-based supply chain management software provider SPS Commerce, recently produced a report detailing how automated technology solutions can help retailers address the challenge of balancing inventory and gaining visibility into it, which is required for effective and efficient BOPIS and curbside pickup programs. The report, Automated Order Replenishment Drives High-Level BOPIS Execution ... and Customer Satisfaction, offers data, insights and tips to help retailers improve BOPIS and curbside execution through the use of automation. Here's a sampling of the best practices featured in the report:
- Collect the right product information from suppliers. By automating the collection of accurate, real-time order, inventory and product information from suppliers, retailers can speed up inventory turns and help to ensure optimal inventory levels across all points in the supply chain, critical components in improving BOPIS and curbside pickup operations.
- Continually evaluate the performance of suppliers and ensure compliance. Are your suppliers providing you information on whether your POs will be fulfilled on time and in full? Require suppliers to send updated order information via order acknowledgements in response to the initial order as well as any order updates as things change. The same principle applies to ASNs from suppliers. Retailers need this information to prepare for the arrival of a shipment, including knowing when the order will ship, how it was packed, what was packed and, most importantly, what’s not being delivered. Without vendor compliance in these two areas, retailers often overcompensate by ordering excess safety stock to mitigate risk.
- Share sales and inventory data with suppliers. The information exchange should be a two-way street. Just as suppliers should be continually communicating with their retail clients, the same is true for retailers. Sharing sales and inventory data with suppliers can help improve a retailer’s inventory position. For example, this information allows suppliers to make informed recommendations for future POs, as well as helps them to identify optimal order replenishment levels to minimize stock-outs. Benefits of automated information flow between suppliers and retailers include the ability to identify and thus help prevent stock-outs, the opportunity to reallocate stock to locations (DCs, stores) where it is in greatest demand, the ability to minimize overstocks and the resulting markdowns that are associated with them, and capitalize on new sales distribution channels such as BOPIS and curbside pickup.
- Train staff on how to effectively use automated tools to improve processes. For example, warehouse staff can be trained on using barcode scanners in the DC to speed up the process of accounting for and inputting inventory into internal systems. However, the first step in using scannable barcodes to their full potential is having suppliers provide this automated product information to retailers. Standardized usage of UCC-128 barcode labels is effective at speeding up the DC receiving process, as the label contains valuable data such as origin and destination information, contents of the shipment and quantities, among other key data points. Likewise, in-store staff should be trained on how to use data systems (e.g., OMS, IMS) to help them efficiently pick and pack merchandise for BOPIS and curbside pickup orders.
For more tips like these as well as other insights into how retailers can leverage automation technology to improve BOPIS and curbside pickup execution and performance, download the full report here.