The retail industry is a complex, dynamic sector, in which evolving customer demands place stress on the end-to-end supply chain. Today, omni-channel retailing, mobile shopping, same-day delivery and growing volumes of customer and product data are forcing retailers to remain competitive and better respond to evolving customer needs and preferences.
Online retailers’ success is even driving change in how retail businesses operate in today’s changing marketplace. For example, the “Amazon Effect” has set new expectation into the visibility of a consumer’s purchase. With the pressure on “brick and mortar” store managers to increase revenue, store managers are now requesting the same level of visibility into their own incoming inventory.
Successful performance of a retail business is highly dependent on the availability of products on the shelves. This means you need to ensure efficient and accurate replenishment of inventory in all your distribution centers and retail stories.
The implication for retailers is simple but profound: To succeed and win requires a modern approach to supply chain logistics. Visibility into transport logistics becomes a pivot point in achieving competitive performance in the retail industry. Being able to see the dynamic transportation logistics “window” and then respond proactively is critical to achieving success.
Inbound Supply Chain Visibility
Without visibility, managing the inbound freight from vendors can be like “flying blind.” Your product might get there on time or it might not. Poor inbound freight visibility negatively impacts different parts of your organization. A real-time freight tracking platform solves these problems by providing visibility to the key organizations involved in your inbound shipping process: purchasing, track and trace teams, and distribution center management teams.
Your inbound purchasing department’s biggest mandate is reducing the cost of procurement of materials, goods and merchandise. What they do not want to spend their time on is searching for the status of their orders. Following up with vendors and suppliers is time they could be spending negotiating better deals or researching other procurement options. With just a glance at a real-time freight visibility and orchestration platform, they can quickly see an order’s status and whether that load is at risk. The purchaser, in real time, will know the order status and can be proactive in adjusting scheduling and receiving if necessary.
Track and Trace
Track and trace organizations are always chasing orders in the supply chain. This type of “reactive cost” can affect overall profitability. They chase all loads, not just the ones that are in trouble. Only handling the exceptions significantly reduces the time and effort used to rectify the issues. With a visibility platform, the Track and Trace team members can create their own filters to only show loads running behind schedule. Then they can focus on the loads that need attention and not waste time on the on-time loads.
Distribution Center Operations
Distribution center operations, inventory, schedules and personnel management are in constant flux based on when carriers arrive. If a carrier is early: Is there a dock open? Are there personnel to unload? Is there room for the shipment? Will your carriers charge you assessorial fees if their drivers must wait? What if a truck shows up late — are you paying the dock personnel to sit and wait for the truck? Is another carrier waiting to go out because the goods they need are on the incoming truck? A tracking platform lets you see into the carrier logistics and proactively rearrange the schedules, personnel and inventory.
[Did you know most drivers spend three to five hours waiting to get loaded or unloaded? Of the carriers surveyed, 54 percent of them said that they wait between three to five hours every time they’re at a shipper’s dock.]
Visibility into Outbound Shipping
Managing the flow of goods from the distribution center (DC) to either another DC or to brick and mortar stores is just another link in the shipping chain that often times “goes dark” after the carrier leaves with the inventory. Visibility into a shipment’s location, ETA and other environmental factors makes managing loads easier and helps eliminates risk.
Distribution Center to Distribution Center
Managing the flow of inventory from DC to DC is crucial to making sure your business has what it needs, when it needs it. Similar to inbound inventory from vendors, DCs need to know when trucks will arrive to pick up loads and when they will get to the next DC to offload. With freight visibility, DC operation management can plan more efficiently and manage their resources as effectively as possible.
DC to DC transports can also come with increased risk due to longer hauls. The more miles a carrier travels, the more factors that could negatively affect the haul. A tracking platform can also provide the visibility that can allow for change management when things do not go as planned. Being able to see where carriers are for re-routing purposes can save time, money and unnecessary work for all.
Distribution Center to Stores
A retailer’s priority is revenue generation and exceptional customer service. Key to this business imperative is a streamlined shipping and receiving process that limits merchandise stock-out or staff disruptions due to delivery challenges. For example, if a delivery comes outside of a specified window, that shipment is likely to be turned away.
If a delivery is turned away, that means your very expensive inventory is sitting at a yard or truck stop somewhere (where they are susceptible to theft) and not on your shelves. With freight visibility, both DC operations and store management can see where the trucks are and get an estimate of when they might arrive. This allows all parties involved to be proactive in arranging alternate delivery windows.
Sometimes a product will have better response in a certain area of the country than another. Visibility into where your inventory is when it’s on the move allows for “on-the-fly” rerouting of inventory. Using real-time visibility, you have the flexibility to see which carriers are closer to a particular store that may be out of that very popular inventory, giving you the opportunity to affect revenue from that store.
Visibility with Real-Time Tracking
Supply chains are complex, and comprehensive visibility can’t be readily provided with a single one-to-one connection. A real-time tracking platform helps you manage this dynamic complexity through technical integration with three key data sources: location, truck and unstructured data.
With the top platforms, location data is provided through integration with the leading Electronic Logging Device (ELD) vendors, providing connectivity to over 3 million installed devices today. The number of digitally connected trucks will expand in 2017 as new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules take effect. During the transition period, some platforms can collect vehicle data through a driver’s smart phone app and determine location in real-time through cell tower triangulation.
Leading platforms are integrated with Transportation Management, truck dispatch and warehouse management systems such as JDA, McLeod Software, TMW Systems and several others to retrieve the truck numbers assigned to specific shipments.
Finally, look for a platform that continually collects and aggregates environmental information through unstructured data sources including weather, traffic, loading/unloading times and estimated driver hours of service.
[Did you know that FourKites helped a national clothing retailer prevent a large inventory disruption due to a warehouse fire? Using FourKites Visibility and Orchestration platform the retailer was able to proactively reroute inventory from other warehouses to ensure minimum inventory levels were met at all their retail locations.]
Bio: Matt Elenjickal is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FourKites. Matt is an innovative and thoughtful leader, recognizing pain points in the logistics industry and designing elegant and effective systems to address them. His vision for the product and the team have defined FourKites’ success and provide focused direction for continued growth.
FourKites provides comprehensive real-time tracking and supply chain visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms. Using FourKites, blue-chip shippers and 3PLs can share the same real-time shipping location and status information. FourKites saves time and money across the transportation spectrum. Best of all, nothing falls through the cracks. Learn how FourKites’ real-time load tracking can help your business by requesting a demo at www.fourkites.com.