How to handle supply chain ‘truth’

21 November 2012
Data quality is a crucial driver of ‘omnichannel’ strategy success – where customers can use whichever sales channels, such as in store and online, they choose - and nowhere is this more important than in retail. Retailers must share data across a network of trading partners in order to create a single version of supply chain ‘truth’ and many are now investing in new technology to gain visibility, manage data growth and collaborate across their network. Equipped correctly, retailers can integrate all systems and provide a useful analysis of the data that flows through them, allowing them to make intelligent supply chain decisions across all channels. So what does this single version of truth, built on high-quality and structured data, allow retailers to achieve? Inventory numbers. Visibility and integration are two concepts that lack practical application without reliable data. Without it, a company may “see” where inventory is delayed, or miss it entirely, and be forced to make logistical decisions based on inaccurate information. But when data is mapped properly, updated instantly across a trading network and presented in visual form, a company can assess its on-hand and in-transit inventory and achieve the agility needs to become truly successful. Supplier performance levels. High-quality data can also be used to measure supplier performance levels. Carefully organised, timely data can help companies compare rates with contracted carriers and display the likelihood of on-time shipment and delivery. Data can also be used to track allocations to multiple carriers. For example, if a store is preparing for a promotion, they may use performance data to choose a carrier with a more reliable service. Here, knowledge that the shipments will arrive on time for the sale is more important than saving money on shipping rates. Other times, they may pick a low-cost carrier if a late shipment will not negatively affect store sales. Customer service. This can be greatly improved if a retailer can track dynamic estimated times of arrival, which assess multiple factors involved in delivery, for the shipment of products to customers. Effective supply chain platforms will alert trading partners when a shipment has reached a certain milestone, allowing for a quick response to any disruption or last-minute changes. This information can be passed onto the customer, improving transparency and increasing the likelihood of repeat business. Retailers must embrace this integrated approach for survival. The leaders that emerge are the ones that, with the click of a button, will be able to peer out across their global trading partners and guide a single item to their customer’s doorstep. ☛ Jim Brownell is vice president of retail at GT Nexus
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