This commentary was written by Ahmed Raza, vice president of PartnerLinQ. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Modern Shipper or its affiliates.
Speed and instant gratification have been the biggest catalysts for evolution in the retail industry. Customers want their goods now, and for the most part, various verticals have been able to pivot to meet these demands. Amazon, for example, introduced Prime two-day delivery in 2015 and followed with same-day grocery delivery in 2017. Since then, retailers, grocery stores, restaurants, big and bulky sellers have all followed suit to compete.
Food delivery, in particular, has heightened these consumer expectations. A person can get their meal ordered and delivered to them within 45 minutes. Customers, unsurprisingly, reacted favorably to this level of instant gratification and want it extended to all sectors of retail delivery, not just the food industry. This food delivery model has since spread into every touchpoint for other non-food retailers.
With this shift in fulfillment also comes a shift in managing the supply chain to maintain continued success and be able to pivot in times of disruption to meet these demands. Speed and instant gratification, combined with the effects of the pandemic, drastically altered supply chain dynamics, including the constant movement of products from warehouse to stores, the emergence of new inventory channels, the surge in last-mile delivery options and operations, and the reverse logistics of the return process. Experts predict that retailers are investing more in supply chain optimization platforms to unify all these moving parts and deal with the current supply chain crisis and product production delays.
Typically, retailers segment their management of the supply chain (production, warehouse and store inventory, fulfillment, etc.), using singular tools that specialize in one portion. This causes a disconnection between the nuanced steps of the supply chain. Optimization platforms like Visionet Systems’ PartnerLinQ differ from the norm and offer retailers a more holistic approach to their supply chain management, allowing businesses to have comprehensive insight into the successes and pitfalls of their current operations landscape and pivot to make improvements. Two vital reasons to embrace this holistic approach are global unification of the supply chain and machine learning and “self-healing” capabilities.
Global unification of the supply chain
With the advancements of cloud technology, optimization platforms can be utilized to link supply chain operations globally. All the data that is collected by and passed through the software interface can be accessed internally, creating a complete picture of communication. For example, if there is a production delay for a certain product, cloud technology links every single part of the supply chain to show other areas that might be affected by this delay. This also helps retailers identify if this is a localized or company-wide problem.
Similarly, cloud technology allows for the seamless integration of existing apps and software that manage parts of the supply chain, acting as a technological glue that brings all these data points together. The core processes stay the same but, combined with these different network extensions that monitor different arms of the supply chain, provide a much more efficient and comprehensive look into business operations.
Machine learning and ‘self-healing capabilities’
Retailers are turning to companies that can provide a holistic solution to supply chain management incorporating machine learning and “self-healing” capabilities. These platforms can see every step of the supply chain through their collection of data and provide the best, most efficient solution for each problem as it arises. Building off the earlier example of a production delay for a certain product, machine learning capabilities can anticipate any problems from this delay by adjusting min and max inventory numbers in the warehouse, e-commerce platforms, and brick-and-mortar stores, adjusting fleet transportation schedules, adjusting materials and source planning, communicating with customers who are waiting on this product, etc. Pivoting preferences can also be set by front-end users and are taken into consideration by the platform when providing these solutions. Using this strategy and reliability is especially critical for preventing losses and unforeseen risks to distribution and supply chain channels.
Overall, transparency is essential because it enables pivots to take place seamlessly and efficiently. In the short term, a comprehensive approach to supply chain management may appear overwhelming due to the large amount of data collected; however, in the long run, having complete, organized knowledge of operations will help a company run more efficiently.
About the author
Ahmed Raza has extensive experience in design, development and architecting enterprise class software. An excellent communicator, Raza concepted PartnerLinQ and pitched it to Visionet’s C-Suite. Agreeing with his vision, Visionet created PartnerLinQ as its flagship digital supply chain connectivity solution. Raza has more than 16 years of experience in architecture, design and development for large enterprise systems and has spent the last 8 years as product owner and solution architect on PartnerLinQ.