Supply chain management and logistics cover a lot of ground: meeting with manufacturers, product planning, production and tooling capacity, inventory planning, third-party logistics relationships and fulfillment operations, and managing overseas production. But the best supply chain managers are also data analysts at heart. All the answers that you need are in good data somewhere.
To get the most value out of that data, and run the most efficient supply chain possible, companies need two other things: talented employees to mine and make sense of the data, and strong partners that can help them raise their game and deliver great customer service. But first, let’s look at how the data can set you free.
The primary role of a retail supply chain manager today is to understand consumer demand and use that information to make sure the right product gets to the right place at the right time. Data
available today gets us closer to our consumer base and helps us respond more quickly and effectively to their needs.
That starts with point-of-sale information—crucial data captured by transactions taking place at the store-level in real time. Foot traffic in the store, buying patterns, and responses to promotions can all be integrated into planning and production processes. And today, companies can often get readings from across the industry to round out their own customer data.
Without information, you’re flying blind, vulnerable to mixed signals from customers. Lack of reliable customer data has historically stressed the supply chain, with huge peaks and valleys in the manufacturing industry to support customer demand trends that proved fleeting or illusory.
Once you have the data, you still need to make it readily available and interpret it correctly to make it actionable. Today’s technology and systems can help companies make smarter operational decisions, but it takes experienced people to extract all the value from the data. You need people who have analyzed end-to-end supply chain data to reduce inventory levels, increase forecast accuracy, and improve fill rates and on-time shipping performance. It requires people who understand how to reduce the costs of working capital and fulfillment, and to increase sales through better inventory management. Without that experience, you don’t know what you don’t know.
And once you have the data, technology, and personnel in place, you can amplify their value by building productive partnerships with organizations that can deliver expertise your organization lacks.
Start looking at partners and vendors as an extension of your internal team and treat them as such. This means collaborating closely with them, but also holding them accountable to deliver the targets on which you agree.
At S’well, for example, our core capability is to design a fashionable, functional water bottle that people love. We don’t want or need to develop internal expertise to get them manufactured, shipped, picked, packed, and fulfilled to consumers. But we do have to establish and maintain great partnerships to drive great results from those segments of our supply chain.
The best partnerships are designed as win-win relationships. I’ve got to be a good partner to my supplier and they’ve got to be a good partner to me. And that’s all a matter of delivering high quality on a regular basis, meeting deadlines, and service level agreements so that both parties derive value from the relationship.
And that brings us back to the data. There’s no reason to keep it to yourself. Your partners should know as much about your business as you do, because the more you’re informing them about your expectations and future forecasts, the more they’ll be able to plan efficiently and react to that. Sharing your data helps your partners deliver better service to today’s increasingly demanding retail customers.
Supply chain management and logistics cover a lot of ground: meeting with manufacturers, product planning, production and tooling capacity, inventory planning, third-party logistics relationships and fulfillment operations, and managing overseas production.
But the best supply chain managers are also data analysts at heart. All the answers that you need are in your data somewhere. You just need the ability to mine your data to develop solutions that really make sense for yourself and the suppliers and partners that you rely on to surprise and delight your customers.