Retail sales is facing more challenges and competition than ever before. Customers demand more options at lower prices from more places. Addressing how these demands affect your supply chain can be difficult, but ignoring effective inventory management can be just as costly.
E-commerce has changed how companies need to respond to customer’s requests. The ability to get any product to any place at a specific time can create an internal competition for resources between the positioning of inventory and logistics. By implementing an “end-to-end” approach for inventory management, these trade-offs and compromises can be mitigated.
With clearly defined responsibilities and roles between each tier of the supply chain, collaboration can create a more valuable fulfillment process. Instead of sinking money into extra transportation costs to rebalance inventory or paying for additional storage when manufacturing levels exceed demand, supply chain partners can work together to achieve efficiencies and cost savings.
These decisions and protocols need to connect and involve the three main levels of fulfillment:
From the strategic level, an overall plan needs to be developed. It is helpful to begin by mapping your existing supply to visualize the key players and information flows. Whatever type of plan you develop, focusing on reliability, agility, responsiveness and cost need to all be key supply chain attributes on which performance can be judged on. Identifying the best metrics for your organization will be essential in making this end-to-end strategy successful.
Tactical decision making pertains to how each different division, or “touch”, will be coordinated to execute this new end-to-end strategy. This stage will have multiple timelines. The longest will be focused on the overall inventory strategy and need a longer horizon. This timeline will be based on demand forecasts. It is important that your defined metrics for success aren’t handed down from the strategy level as each different element that carries out the plan will have different priorities. The decision making at the tactical level is also crucial as traditionally decisions are made in a vacuum and that leads to more reactionary initiatives. Proactive measures are necessary for an efficient, effective full visibility plan.
Where all of this planning and paradigm shifting comes together is at the operations level. Order management, visibility and allocation all play a role in the important task of fulfilling orders to the customer’s specifications. Implementing this new strategy with enhanced coordination and planning will allow the operations team to carry out the logistical challenges of meeting new consumer demands while negotiating volatile inventory levels.
Barrett Distribution Centers, with a focus on visibility and supply chain strategy, creates solutions for the retail sector.