Connected supply chain systems rely on the advancement of sensors, analytics, and real-time data to make informed decisions and reduce inefficiencies. This advanced supply chain, known as supply chain 4.0, says McKinsey & Company, includes “the application of the Internet of Things, the use of advanced robotics, and the application of advanced analytics of big data in supply chain management: place sensors in everything, create networks everywhere, automate anything, and analyze everything to improve performance and customer satisfaction significantly.” Thus, supply chain leaders need to know how this newfound capability can add value and turn those opportunities into real-world benefits for e-commerce and peak season.
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Common Challenges in Managing Disparate Systems During Peak Season
For example, according to Emma Cosgrove of Supply Chain Dive, “warehouse management software intended to register what was in the warehouse and update availability on its website.” As a result, the company lost insight into its actual inventory and found itself unable to meet peak season demand.
- Increased volume and speed of order fulfillment and transportation. Disparate systems are also limited in their ability to scale when peak season and e-commerce logistics orders swell.
- Inability to see end-to-end movements and intervene when problems arise. When a supply chain exception does occur, the ability to recognize the problem and intervene promptly is crucial. Failure to do so could result in a poor customer experience, missed deliveries, and higher supply chain costs.
- Limited access to supplier processes and poor collaboration. The lack of insight into supplier and supply chain partner processes may also lead to anomalies within the supply chain. For instance, a simple error during a system upgrade delayed 5% of shipments for customers in a supplier network, said Cosgrove. If the company had been able to see that the issue was, in fact, an upgrade on the supplier network, it could have rerouted inventory to account for that change.
Unified Supply Chain Systems Promote Scalability and Higher Customer Service
A unified, connected supply chain enables scalability and improved customer service levels. Since company partners can see freight activities in real-time, the risk of a delay or exception decreases. Furthermore, robotics processes, including physical robots and robotics process automation (RPA), can virtually free resources to help companies do more with less. In a sense, these automated functions create an unmatched level of scalability. They may further handle all customer service inquiries without giving rise to the sense of lost human-to-human interactions in customer service. It’s that simple.
Additional Steps to Leveraging a Connected Supply Chain Systems in E-Commerce
Automation in logistics and connected supply chain systems optimize the whole process to meet customer demands. Remember that the supply chain is reliant on internal and external factors for success. As explained by PwC, the modern supply chain must overcome the traditional linear nature of logistics:
“A traditional linear supply chain creates blind spots, gaps of knowledge, and lack of real-time information. Bring down those walls and create a dynamic, adaptive, and connected supply chain ecosystem with built-in intelligence and automation—transforming reactive response into confident leadership.”
To achieve these goals, supply chain leaders should follow these steps:
- Rethink your distribution system.
- Identify barriers to customer service improvements and common causes of freight exceptions.
- Apply artificial intelligence and automation in logistics to capture and analyze more data.
- Retrofit the supply chain with connected sensors that continuously provide end-to-end visibility.
- Encourage supply chain partners to use similar systems, if not the same in TMS as your company, to reduce inconsistencies.
- Share data within and outside the four walls of your company to speed operations.
- Use software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to create scalable architecture that adds value without increasing costs too extravagantly.
Deploy a Connected Supply Chain Tech Stack With the Right TMS
A connected supply chain tech should work as a single pane of glass—providing a continuous loop of information and improvements. And a wide-ranging supply chain solution, including an advanced TMS and the power of expert consultants, such as those offered through Cerasis and GlobalTranz, form the foundation. Together, they ensure a strong start and finish to e-commerce through peak season and beyond.