What Does the “Perfect Storm of Innovation” Mean for Your Supply Chain?
We’re living in a historic era of technology, innovation, and economic growth. Consumers expectations are rising and new technologies are upending the status quo. These two “storm fronts” are clashing together to form a “perfect storm of innovation” which is shaking up the supply chain industry. Between customers’ empowerment to get exactly what they want and a diverse and expanding realm of digitally connected smart technology, companies can be left feeling lost in the storm. However, with a little foresight, companies can navigate these new straights and position themselves for success in this brave new world.
In the modern age, if a customer is dissatisfied with a purchase, they don’t just complain to the store manager or forget about it. Instead, they might take to social media to lament their experience. This can be a huge hurdle for any company to overcome. Social media is a double-edged sword. If used correctly, however, social media can be a huge asset to a company.
Taking a personal approach to customer service can help with dissatisfied customers. Whether you are replying to a negative tweet or responding to a direct call to your support team, the customer no longer needs to put up with poor service. It’s a buyer’s market, and consumers can easily move their loyalty to a competitor. Consider leveraging tools like automatic chat on your website and providing them self-help visibility to the status of their orders.
Visibility is a huge buzzword in the supply chain industry right now. Giving your customers visibility means being able to show them where their orders are when their orders are going to be delivered, and being able to explain any delays in transit. To be able to give your customers this level of insight, however, you first need to have visibility to your entire supply chain. Technology like a transportation management system (TMS) with advanced tracking capabilities can give you this.
With a TMS you can view the status of any order at any stage of the supply chain and even have automatic alerts sent to you when something goes wrong, that way you can proactively warn your customers. Customer loyalty can be developed through proactive and personal communication and you can even turn what would likely have been a negative experience for your customer into a positive one.
Technology and managing customer expectations go hand in hand. If consumer preferences stayed the same, there would be no reason to modernize your supply chain to meet changing expectations. Customers are demanding more and more customization of their purchases. Companies can leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect the moving pieces of their supply chain and compile Big Data about their operations to analyze and make strategic improvements.
Some companies are going as far as to employ 3D printing or additive manufacturing techniques to accommodate this new demand for customization and to help with the cost of R&D. Mass-customization is taking the place of mass-production, and supply chains and manufacturers need to be nimble and react to feedback from customers quickly.
Speed of delivery is another hot-button issue for consumers which can be solved with the help of technology. To keep up with mega-giants like Amazon which dominate the e-commerce market, companies need to offer faster shipping at greatly reduced or free rates. To do this, companies can leverage technology to find and book freight with the most cost-effective carriers at the best service levels. With a transportation management system, you should be able to compare several modes, such as air, LTL, or TL to find the carrier that can meet the customer’s expectations. TMS technology can also help companies improve the flow of their inbound and outbound operations to reduce delays in the yard and speed final mile delivery.
It’s anticipated that drone technology will eventually take over as a main method of delivering orders to individual customers. That isn’t quite a reality at this time, but companies can already leverage drone and robotic technology in their warehousing processes. GPS technology, sensors, and RFID tags can improve operations in the warehouse and streamline the movement of individual orders.
The Eye of the Storm
Many companies are struggling to keep pace with changing consumer expectations and new technological advancements. These companies should take a step back and review how they can leverage technology to meet the needs of their customers. Consider social media as an asset as well as the power of giving customers end-to-end visibility to their orders. Think about ways to speed up the supply chain by finding and capitalizing on different carrier rates and service levels. Can additional technology in the warehouse improve selection times? Companies who get ahead of customer expectations by leveraging technology will find the eye of the innovation storm and be able to benefit from the changes taking place in the industry!