Tag Archive: B2C

The Future of Technology

August 20th, 2020

Technology is a tricky topic. On one hand, almost everyone has put technology and ERP implementations on hold due to concerns about COVID-19 impacts and to conserve cash. On the other hand, it is the best time to gain employees’ attention and focus on upgrading technology to scale the business, create a superior customer experience and deliver bottom line results.

Kellogg or Post?
As I said in my eBook, Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19, the Kellogg vs. Post story from the Great Depression provides an excellent example to ponder. In the 1920’s, Kellogg and Post dominated the market for cereal which was still a relatively new and untapped market. Post reigned in expenses and Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal. Even as the economy hit bottom, Kellogg’s profits rose 30% and they become the dominant player.  Do you want to be Kellogg or Post? The morale to the story is NOT about dollars invested. It is about the opportunities of investing resources (which can be simply in the form of employees’ focus) in future success.

Which Technologies Provide Immediate and Long-Term Value?
Of course, the answer depends on your industry, company, current infrastructure, your customers’ evolving needs, your suppliers’ evolving needs and more. Why not perform a rapid assessment of what makes the most sense for your business and take one important step forward? As I said in my eBook, Newton’s Law is relevant. Objects in motion stay in motion whereas objects at rest will stay at rest. You must take steps forward, no matter how small.

Let’s highlight a few of the more likely technologies to provide immediate value and long-term value:

  1. Further utilize & expand your ERP system: No one uses 80% of their system.  Most organizations utilize only 20%. Find the next 1% that will yield a significant benefit to your customers or bottom line. Clients are gaining significant value from this simple step.
  2. B2B customer portal/ B2C e-commerce: No doubt about it. The ONLY growth area across the board is e-commerce. In addition, what could be more important than visibility of orders for your B2B customers? Delays will result in lost opportunity!
  3. Business Intelligence (BI): We are overloaded with data. The issue isn’t having data, it is making meaningful decisions and formulating plans based on the interpretation of data. BI will bring meaning to your data that translates into customer and profit opportunities.
  4. Artificial intelligence (AI) & Human Learning: In today’s environment, predictive capabilities produce VASTLY greater results than simply analysis and static plans. Demand planning/ forecasting, predictive maintenance, cash flow forecasting, and the automation of tasks are enhanced with AI.
  5. CRM: There has never been a time when understanding, staying in touch with and being on top of evolving customer needs has been more important.
  6. Digital Twins: Virtual replicas of physical devices that technology gurus can use to run simulations before actual devices are built and deployed. Read a fascinating article about the applications in logistics.
  7. Systems to gain efficiencies: WMS (warehouse management), TMS (transportation management), rate shopping, MPS (master production scheduling)/ MRP (material requirements planning)/Inventory planning, replenishment including VMI (vendor managed inventory) and more.
  8. 3D Printing/ Additive manufacturing – If you can produce a customized product on demand close to customers, you win in today’s Amazonian environment. Either way, it speeds up R&D.

Read our eBook, Future-ProofingiManufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 to read more about technology as it relates to successfully emerging and thriving post-COVID-19. Explore these concepts further as you start thinking through your technology roadmap.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:

The Rise of E-Commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

Systems Pragmatist



The Rise of E-commerce & WMS Popularity During the Pandemic

August 4th, 2020

According to Forbes, COVID-19 accelerated e-commerce growth by 4-6 years. Smart players are taking advantage of the opportunity. Only Amazon takes in more money than Shopify’s websites, and analysts are predicting a 75% annual rise in the next five years.

The ONLY item in common across all clients and colleagues across the board is the rise in e-commerce during COVID-19. In fact, it has been the only bright spot in many cases. As a result, there is an increasing interest in B2C AND B2B software to support improved customer satisfaction and efficient order processing and fulfillment. You do NOT have to sell to consumers to be interested in providing increased value to customers and increasing internal efficiencies!

On a related topic, warehouse management software (WMS) is also gaining in popularity. Not surprisingly, as e-commerce increases, smaller, more frequent shipments become commonplace. So, executives and supply chain leaders are thinking about how to effectively and efficiently handle this increased volume in the warehouse. It is a completely different model than pallet and case shipping in the traditional warehouse. Additionally, unrelated to e-commerce, as manufacturers and distributors work to manage costs to offset the negative impacts of COVID-19, they want to further utilize WMS systems to increase their efficiency and cost effectiveness.

One Tip to Implement This Week:
Although e-commerce and WMS are hot topics in supply chain management, they may or may not be relevant to your situation. The key is to be thinking about what is integral to creating a superior customer experience with increased profitability and cash flow. Does technology support your objective? If so, which technology?

If you have the opportunity to serve customers directly or the opportunity to encourage your B2B customers to place orders through a customer portal (giving them better visibility and accessibility), now is the time to launch a B2B/B2C software. Do a quick review of your situation so you have the facts to assess the best path forward but do not delay. Invest quickly and reallocate/expand resources to take advantage of the opportunity while the iron is hot.

An an example, check out the story of what e-commerce did for the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

Similarly, the proactive ERP partners are pursuing WMS and related business analytics to provide extra value to their clients during these turbulent times.

If you are interested in a rapid assessment of your situation and/or an e-commerce, WMS, BI or ERP-related selection to support your growth plans, contact us.

If you are interested in learning more about these types of trends and impacts for manufacturing and supply chain, read my free eBook Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19.



e-Commerce & the Rise of Online

June 9th, 2020

According to the statistics as well as client commentary, e-Commerce sales and online everything is on fire:

  1. According to data from Adobe Analytics, the second half of March saw a 25% increase in e-commerce sales.
  2. Even more impressive, Adobe said that April saw a 49% increase in U.S. e-commerce sales!
  3. Of ALL our clients, the only unanimous area of growth during COVID-19 was in e-commerce sales.
  4. According to a Gartner CFO survey, 74% intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently.

 

Thus, the key question is whether you are proactively thinking about online opportunities. If not, get ready to see your competitors rush by.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

Undoubtedly, you should be thinking about online from all angles:

  1. E-commerce (B2C): If you haven’t started offering e-commerce capabilities, you better evaluate rapidly and get on board. There are several options for how to pursue this opportunity. You can offer direct e-commerce with your website. You can go through a partner with key customers and folks such as Amazon. The bottom line is that your customer doesn’t care how you provide the capability but they expect to be able to order easily.
  2. B2B: If you serve other businesses, you cannot ignore these trends because you don’t sell to consumers. Your customers expect a B2B customer portal with the same type of e-commerce capabilities that Amazon provides. We have been helping a client with a systems roadmap, and it is quite clear that the “80/20” from the customer and sales viewpoint is Amaon-like capabilities (with an almost exclusive focus on B2B currently). Nothing else is sufficient.
  3. Supply chain partners: What are your customers, suppliers and other supply chain partners offering?
  4. Employees: Remember, your employees expect you to have Amazon-like capabilities and online capabilities as well. This perception spills over into all aspects of the business.
  5. Online is more than B2B/B2C: Have you thought about how COVID-19 has forever changed the way we do business? After all, if Gartner thinks 74% will change to remote work in some fashion, that is a HUGE change. How will that change your industry, your supply chain and your employees’ needs?

E-commerce was already on the rise, and COVID-19 gave it a strong boost. As with everything, there are advantages (such as the consumer gaining quick delivery of essential items) and disadvantages or challenges (managing freight costs, reconfiguring warehousing operations and space requirements, implementing technology rapidly, figuring out how to be environmentally-friendly delivering to tons of consumers and many more issues). Those who are most successful in proactively thinking through these considerations and creating strategies will thrive whereas the rest are likely to struggle significantly. Which avenue will you pursue? Read more about this topic as well as your strategy, priorities, key trends, and your restart recipe for success in my eBook,  Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19 . If you are interested in a rapid assessment, please contact us.



Supply Chain Management Is Evolving: How Will It Affect Your Enterprise?

June 12th, 2018

Operational efficiencies, productivity improvements, and cost savings are the top-three strategic advantages of cloud-based supply chain management, according to an IDG survey of senior managers and directors around the world. To gain these advantages, enterprises need to have infrastructure that helps them cost-effectively harness their large data workloads and move to the cloud easily.

In fact, the biggest challenge for most companies is figuring out how to have their on-premises infrastructure engineered in such a way that it mirrors the capabilities of the cloud. This way, when companies are ready, they can take their supply-chain data and make a seamless, fast migration to the cloud. Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer, or large corporation, companies looking to gain real-time, complete visibility in their supply chain require integrated infrastructure with scalable data storage, processing, and computing power to get the job done.

To better uncover these benefits and how innovation and infrastructure are changing the supply chain, I spoke with Oracle and shared insights around helping businesses maximize value.

You’ve said that the customer experience continues to play a role in the transformation of supply chain management. How is it impacting both B2C and B2B industries?

We’ve all become accustomed to getting whatever we need, whenever we need it, with frequent status updates and easy returns. We’ve raised the bar. And it leads to a host of challenges for vendors, mainly in the sense that they need a wide breadth of products available to meet customer demand at any time.

Even though the vast majority of my clients are not in the retail or B2C world, they’re all impacted by this elevated experience. I was recently talking with a couple of distribution executives who said that, several years ago, there was a small percentage of deliveries that were due on the same day, if any. Now, roughly 80 percent of the orders they receive are expected on the same day. They’ve had to start working on Sundays because customers—including business customers—are expecting these extremely rapid deliveries.

There are several other ecommerce themes that are changing supply chain management. One is 24/7 accessibility: the ability to place orders and look up your order status whenever and wherever you are. Another is rapid customization. One of my clients has become number one in his industry by making sure his company provides not just rapid deliveries, but also quickly customized orders. His company does things like paint on the fly, which doesn’t normally happen in manufacturing.

What is the technology that is making this supply chain management transformation possible?

Blockchain impacts supply chain management by allowing for immediate visibility and transparency of global financial transactions—like electronic data interchange (EDI) on steroids. When products require traceability, such as if you have a recall, you can use blockchain to immediately see where your products are in the supply chain and who paid for what. That traceability can certainly be achieved within ERP software already, but if you require the next layer of complexity and immediate transparency, then blockchain technology could be useful.

Big data is another aspect of technology that is changing the supply chain landscape because companies can better tailor the customer experience when they know more about what the customer wants. IoT comes down to data, because you’re trying to attach the data together between different devices. In manufacturing, IoT shows up in preventive maintenance and anticipating when a machine might break down before it happens. When you see how different elements are working together, you can target what needs to be fixed or maintained, without just following a schedule that may or may not be addressing a real problem. This can reduce waste and improve efficiency.

But data is just as challenging as it is helpful. Before we get to work every day, we receive lots of messages between emails, texts, videos, billboards, and messages from our cars—everything is connected these days. The biggest challenge that my clients face is that they’re overwhelmed with data, but they also want and need the data to provide a better customer experience and understand what their customers really need. And they also want to figure out how to do that in a scalable and profitable way.

The challenge is how to sift through all the data that’s collected and put it all together into something meaningful and provide information at your fingertips. My clients are very interested in solutions like dashboards, and it’s a key ingredient in selecting the software; however, getting it implemented correctly is difficult.

 

It sounds like the right infrastructure that can manage multiple data sources and provide actionable insights can improve the entire supply chain process. What about the role of the ERP system in supply chain management? 

We’ve improved supply chain performance significantly by focusing a lot of effort on the demand plan. Instead of using the older perspective of a monthly forecast and whether it’s accurate as is, we’re looking at how we can do this in a more agile, flexible way. The ERP system needs predictive analytics to be able to modify a demand forecast on the fly.

Also, by using vendor-managed inventory systems, we’ve been able to reduce lead times. We’re able to meet short lead time orders that we couldn’t previously meet, with the same or slightly lower inventory levels, at a 5 percent margin improvement. It wasn’t solely due to demand planning, but that was the first step.

Once you get beyond demand planning, the next element is going to be a more agile production schedule geared to the customer—one that’s going to offer suggestions, give you notices, and be exception-based, so that you don’t have to put as much manual effort into it. The demand plan flows down into the production schedule, and then capacity analysis is the next key topic.

What steps can enterprises do to modernize their supply chain management?

We’re in the era of the customer, so start with the demand side of the equation. There are ways, regardless of what your tool set is, to improve upon your demand now and your prediction of future demand. You may not have a system in place to do this yet, but regardless, you should be doing more to look at the demand within your supply chain.

One other quick tip is to look at what information you are getting out of your system and how you can better utilize that information. I find that no matter what client I’m working with, we can always do a better job of accessing information and taking the most relevant information to make better decisions. Even if your system isn’t yet modernized to the point of predictive analytics, you want to move in that direction. You can do this by just getting information from multiple sources and creating a simplified database.

What will supply chain management look like in five years or 10 years from now, and what technology can help take enterprises there?

We’re going to continue seeing the ecommerce effect: the importance of speed, responsiveness, and agility, and the rise of smaller, more frequent orders. All of my clients are interested in managing their vast supply chain networks with lower costs, but better service. They’re trying to find technology to support these goals and figure out how to automate using AI and data.

One ideal future is with 3D printing, because you can print what you need, where you need it, when you need it, and further extend your supply chain. Even then, distribution is going to have costs associated with it, and the last mile will continue to be one of the biggest challenges. Delivering all these smaller, more frequent orders to both consumers and businesses impacts transportation negatively and your distribution network significantly. You need your inventory strategically located closer to a customer, or to have flexible manufacturing capabilities that can respond quickly to demand. The system comes into the picture when you want to set up your network to have what you need, where you need it. How to improve delivery metrics will continue to be a key consideration in the future.

If we can reduce the cost to manufacture and distribute inventory by leveraging supply chain management tools, we can reduce prices and actually do something as radical as bringing more manufacturing back to the U.S.

Take a Deeper Dive…

Supply chain management professionals are eager for new ways to leverage data to drive business value. It is important to understand, however, that successfully using big data requires the right infrastructure designed to manage multiple data sources and provide the computing power to deliver actionable insights across the entire supply chain process. The key to gaining business value from supply chain data is by using big data infrastructure that can acquire, store, process, and analyze huge amounts of data workloads for supply chain insights.