Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

Three critical steps to a hi-tech, agile supply chain

01-Mar-2019
Three critical steps to a hi-tech, agile supply chain
Retailers are facing a new reality and as a consequence supply chains must change.

Consumers are becoming ever-more demanding, wanting their purchases faster, delivered as and when they choose and at highly competitive prices; while their smartphones are empowering them to review products, check prices and shop around on the move. Technology has enabled consumers to be highly agile in the way they shop and seek value, so likewise, retailers too must learn to leverage technology fully if they are to become agile organisations capable of delivering the services and value consumers now expect.

Here are three key points to consider when using technology to support agility:

1. Shaping the future:
Understanding future demand is notoriously difficult. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are opening up exciting new possibilities for the forecasting of demand. This burgeoning technology is being used to analyse internal data on past sales in stores, taking into account the influence of markdown value on sales volume per outlet, and this data is being aggregated across whole store geographies to help position stock more advantageously, to maximise margin.

AI is also helping to reveal predictable ordering patterns for store and online sales by bringing together external data too, such as trends on social media, economic data, the weather, and a whole multitude of other factors. All this information is analysed to help shape the expected sales quantities for each product. Big Data is used to reveal hidden patterns that are simply not visible at the item level. So, retail businesses need to tap into these fast-developing technologies to better understand and predict order profiles, as having a clearer idea of the future helps determine just how agile an organisation is needed.

2. Visibility and responsiveness:
Of course, a prerequisite for achieving supply chain agility is to have complete visibility throughout the chain, and critically, that depends upon having highly connected and intelligent IT. Visibility of inventory deployment, order management and execution, right through to the customer – as well as on returns – forms the basis for automating processes and making informed decisions. This is where having agility really counts and where it can offer huge rewards.

For example, knowing where inventory is in transit allows for products to be re-directed to where demand is greatest or where the greatest margin can be achieved. Or perhaps, a home delivery may be dynamically re-routed for pick-up from a store or a click & collect locker. But enabling these actions to be taken often involves a complex set of tasks – requiring knowledge of transport routes available, possible added value services, such as re-labelling or re-packaging, and all this takes precise timing. Orchestrating tasks of this level of complexity demands highly connected, integrated systems capable of responding with speed and agility.

These capabilities, and much more, are now increasingly available through a plethora of Software-as-a-Service offerings, presenting new opportunities for creating agile retail businesses. However, there are many choices here too and SaaS may not always be appropriate.

3. Enhancing operational performance:
There are a growing number of operational challenges. With mounting cost pressures, rising demand, special promotions, multiple service offerings and the increasing scarcity of labour resources, many businesses are now looking to the automation of key processes within the warehouse and wider supply chain as a solution. Technology offers the potential to improve productivity, whether that is by using mechanisation, robotics, new SaaS offerings or advanced AI.

However, there are many important questions that need to be asked before any such investments are made. What level of flexibility is necessary in the fulfilment process and where is it most required? Flexibility tends to come at a cost, so understanding just what needs to be flexible and what doesn’t is important to determine. In a dynamic environment, such as an omni-channel warehouse, the many varied processes and physical layout of a facility should be constantly reviewed and adjusted to optimise performance. So, careful planning and analysis are essential.

A new eBook “The technology and infrastructure needed for an agile landscape” explores the various options and technologies available to those retail businesses seeking to develop an agile enterprise. Technology is the great enabler that drives productivity, but exactly which technology and where, when and how it is deployed is absolutely critical to both a successful implementation and the future performance of the business. Get it right and great gains can be made. Used imaginatively and a huge competitive advantage can be won.

To gain further insights and a greater understanding of how to use technology to create an agile and responsive supply chain, download the free eBook at: https://www.bis-henderson.com/ebook-3-launch/

Steve Purvis
Operations Director, Bis Henderson Space
Brexit Uncertainty Highlights Need for Flexible Logistics Strategy
Alan Gunner
Business Development Director, Adjuno
Starting at the source: achieving a sustainable supply chain
Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Conquering Connected Commerce
Mark Jolley
EMEA Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics Solutions Sales Lead, Zebra Technologies
Augmented Reality is becoming a Retail Reality
Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
The Cost of Doing Nothing
Sam Ireland
International Marketing Manager, Loftware
Are You Navigating Global UDI Compliance?
Stephen Cameron
Business Development Director, SWRnewstar
How the Resource and Waste Strategy Can Empower Industry
Georgia Leybourne
Senior Director International Marketing, Manhattan Associates
Are we embracing the profit potential of the over 50s?
Jon Moody
Chief Executive Officer, SSG Insight
The Future of Supply Chain Management
David Luttenberger
Global Packaging Director, Mintel
Mintel announces top global packaging trends for 2019 and beyond
Andrew Tavener
Head of Marketing, Descartes UK
Compliance Management – it’s time for joined up thinking
Stephen Cameron
Business Development Director, SWRnewstar
Primark's move to 100 per cent sustainably sourced cotton should be commended
Marc Corriveau
Account Manager, Loftware
Changes in packaging result in ROI for F&B products
John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
Why an extension is best for British businesses
David Jinks MILT
Head of Consumer Research, ParcelHero
Booking a courier? No printer required, says ParcelCompare
Graham Parker
CEO, Gravity Supply Chain Solutions
Mitigating The Risks Of Trade Wars And Tariffs
Sam Ireland
International Marketing Manager, Loftware
How Brexit Will Impact Supply Chain Labeling?
Manu Tyagi
Associate Partner, Retail and Consumer Goods, Infosys Consulting
M&S and Ocado have signed a £750 million deal to take M&S groceries into the home delivery market
Olivier Frère
Serialisaton Expert, Zetes
Understanding the Tobacco Products Directive
Paul Heiden
Senior Vice President of Product Management, Ultimaker
6 overlooked benefits of 3D printing for your supply chain
Dave Locke
EMEA Chief Technology Officer, WWT
Merged pharmaceutical firms seek fast-track route to savings
Johannes Panzer
Head of Industry Strategy for Ecommerce, Descartes
How to make international ecommerce transparent, efficient and cost-effective
Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Putting the WOW in the checkout experience
Richard Parfect
Fund Manager, Seneca Investment Managers
The cessation of Airbus A380 production
John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
What next for British business?
Chris Jones
EVP Marketing & Services, Descartes
5 Key Logistics Trends and Technology Implications for 2019
Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
What is the Checkout of the Future?
Andres Richter
CEO, Priority Software
UK Manufacturing: The Productivity Conundrum
Martin Meacock
Director, Product Management, Descartes
Brexit: only 10 weeks to implement if changes are ultimately needed
John Perry
Managing Director, SCALA
What does May's defeat mean for the supply chain?
Martin Meacock
Director, Product Management, Descartes
Get Ready for CDS
Don Brenchley
Director Industry Strategy, LLamasoft EMEA
Don't Let Soft Skills Be Forgotten In Your Supply Chain
Robert Broström
Director Of Service And Support, Handheld Group
Handheld Promotes Robert Broström To Director Of Service And Support
Dan Willmer
Professional Services Leader, MercuryGate
MercuryGate Hires Dan Willmer as New Professional Services Leader
Bob Brown
Manufacturing Industry Specialist, Loftware
Ideal Enterprise Labeling Systems Include Support and Service
Jason Chester
Director of Channel Programs, InfinityQS
2019 will see half of manufacturers invest in data collection technologies
Craig Summers
UK Managing Director, Manhattan Associates
Integrating Man And Machine: A Fresh Approach For Modern Grocery Warehouses