5 Opportunities to Help Retailers Build Resilient Supply Chains Throughout 2023

From high inflation to rapidly changing labor needs and hiring challenges, retail manufacturers and logistics providers continue to face multiple supply chain challenges with their organizations and there’s no determination of when these challenges will subside.

However, there are certain opportunities retail manufacturers and logistics providers can take advantage of now to start to overcome these challenges and rebuild their resilient supply chains throughout 2023 and beyond:

Opportunity 1: So Long Standardization

Let’s face it: No matter how many strategies retailers have in optimizing their supply chains and no matter how many investments are made in digital visibility technology, there is simply not a one-size-fits-all solution to supply chain management.

Sure, it can be easy to get caught up in the recommendations of large consulting companies or even what the Fortune 100 and 500 retailers are doing, but no supply chain should be approached or built the same. While there is a core strategy to apply operational technologies in a certain way, such as with robotics-driven automation systems, thinking about what matters to the retailer, and how the retailer is going to define and grow that supply chain strategy is significant.

For example, retailers shouldn’t be looking at implementing labor management or labor planning solutions just because it seems like the logical next step, but should be taking more of a full overview approach to really look at supply chain strategy, the technology, and data needed to support those labor decisions. This will ultimately help retail manufacturers and logistics providers make purposeful decisions to grow their strategies in ways that make complete sense for the company.

Opportunity 2: Rethinking Business Operations

In order to be able to support a resilient supply chain, retail operations must be reimagined. Many times, retail manufacturers and logistics providers will try to run their supply chain in partnership with their business operations team, and while business operations teams bring a lot of value and business, most of the time those teams are really only built to manage marketing, sales, and financial decisions.
This means that the business operations team has a hard time aggregating and surfacing the amount of data that their supply chain really needs, and they have an even harder time presenting this data in a way that’s helpful and makes sense for the supply chain during a single shift. Retailer manufacturers and logistics providers should be encouraged to partner with their business operations team to rethink the current approach of how the supply chain is being managed on a daily and a shift-level basis.

Bring the business operations team along as a partner, but realize the approach may need to be updated, as the systems, tools, or strategies being applied in other areas of the business will need to be reimagined.

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Opportunity 3: Transparency in Partnerships

As more retailers rely on third party logistics (3PLs), partnerships with 3PLs must improve and be data centric. If retailers are growing 3PL relationships or further solidifying the relationships they already have, creating transparency, not only at the relationship level, but at the data level, is key.

Providing visibility back-and-forth with the 3PL and the retailer, whether it’s the status of inventory, labor, productivity, or efficiency, across the supply chain is critical to maximize the partnership. If retail manufacturers can provide that level of visibility and get executive input on the metrics that they and the 3PL are looking at together, that will only strengthen the relationship and allow the retailer as a business to be more successful.

Opportunity 4: Updating Labor Strategies

Labor strategies with warehouse operations should be restructured, as many of the current strategies retail manufacturers are utilizing today are outdated, or never even worked well to begin with.

Retailers have said many times that they’ve implemented labor or had a few false starts with labor, but weren’t able to get it off the ground or had it implemented for a short period of time until it stopped. A lot of times this is primarily due to the data being outdated and with that outdated data, retailers seem to lose faith in their labor programs.

By continuing to analyze the current labor program and deciding if retail industry standards meet the implemented strategies, retail manufacturers can further understand the right approach of what their labor strategies should look like. Whether it’s looking at more time-based labor planning solutions or starting with time-based and growing into discreet labor planning, retail manufacturers need to be thinking about what that labor strategy should look like, making sure all data is correct and up to date, as well as having the confidence to execute it.

However, accurate demand forecasting that properly aligns the planning and execution of different supply chain processes is difficult to achieve. To arrive at the most accurate forecast and optimize the movement of materials, manufacturers must leverage all information available. They can then leverage this information to integrate demand planning operations with sourcing, production, and inventory management logistics.

Opportunity 5: Global Visibility

With warehouse inventory and labor being volatile since the pandemic, accurate, real-time inventory and status visibility across warehouses is critical for retail manufacturers and logistics providers to employ.

Retailers need to take advantage of updating their labor strategies and be more efficient with having fewer physical employees, which means global visibility across the entire supply chain network is a priority. Whether that’s having greater visibility across multiple warehouses or across the supply chain in general, visibility data that is readily available is more important than ever for retailers to make ongoing decisions. For example, if looking at labor from a shift perspective to compare how different labor shifts are being optimized, retailers can better understand what’s working in different places through global visibility to possibly update labor strategies if needed.

Just by looking at these five opportunities, retail manufacturers and logistics providers can immediately improve their warehouse operations and build their resilient supply chain throughout 2023 and beyond.

About the Author:

Chelsea Brady is the Director of Implementation and Professional Services of Longbow Advantage, the industry-leading supply chain execution company behind The Rebus® Platform and the global leader in warehouse software and consulting.

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