The inventory management horror stories that clog news feeds make it seem like The Grinch now manages the supply chain, not Santa Claus. According to market researcher International Data Corp. (IDC), the supply shock that began in China at the start of 2020 and the demand shock that followed it with the shutdown of large parts of the global economy, exposed the vulnerabilities as well as the resiliences supply chains around the world. Retailers, according to the research firm, have faced supply and demand disruptions, navigating stranded inventory at factories, global shutdowns, changing trade policies and related surges behaviors of hoarding essential items such as toilet paper.

IDC’s report on the implications of COVID-19 for the future of retail notes that retailers have been faced with accelerating online sales and growing demand for safe shopping, transparency and omnichannel processing. And they have had to deal with massive economic changes resulting from high unemployment and changing shopping habits, including massive shopping losses resulting not only from changes in daily habits, but also from the decrease in travel activities.

The crisis has shown once again that to meet customer demands and remain competitive in a world of ever-increasing expectations for product availability and speed of delivery, every link in the supply chain must operate efficiently. From managing warehouses to order fulfillment to juggling multiple channels, there are often countless points in a single product’s journey where eliminating errors and delays can mean increased profits. and optimizing the customer experience.

“While it is painful for food retailers to order products from hundreds of discreet suppliers, it is also painful for suppliers to receive orders and payments from hundreds of retailers who do not communicate through digital means” , says Robert Pinkerton, CTO of Vori, a technology platform and digital marketplace for retailers. “They send e-mails and faxes, call the order desk, text the sales people. … The list is lengthened increasingly.”

Here are some ways businesses can use the right solutions to quickly adapt to changing demand this season:

Inventory visibility

One of the fundamental ways to achieve this is through improved inventory visibility: the ability to see the status of each SKU across all locations (warehouses, stores, vendors, and third-party vendors) in real time. The key to having complete inventory visibility is leveraging a supply chain network that connects all stakeholders.

Having accurate inventory information is not only good for your customers and business partners; it is also beneficial for overworked and overworked teams. Manual inventory tracking is a common use of employee time and hurts their ability to build better relationships with customers and partners. Additionally, it can lead to outdated information that makes it difficult for decision makers.

real-time information

When suppliers and retailers have real-time inventory data at their fingertips, they eliminate common time and profitability waste. By integrating and automating inventory information, companies get a head start on improving internal processes. Indeed, real-time inventory data is immediately actionable and helps to make better decisions, optimally allocate products and streamline transactions with your supply chain partners.

For e-commerce businesses, knowing their inventory levels allows them to sell across multiple channels, while giving customers accurate information about availability. Instead of frustrated customers, e-tailers create happy customers.

Better prediction

Stock-outs kill customer loyalty and better inventory visibility helps merchants avoid them. Modern inventory management platforms help by using historical data to better predict how much product is needed, where and when in your business cycle. Using running real-time data helps maintain healthier, more balanced inventory levels wherever goods need to be.

Full data control helps create more timely and intelligent replenishment strategies and better respond to spikes in volatile demand, without escalating into chaos.

Reduced costs

Many supply chain players are leveraging powerful technology solutions to better manage order processing, warehouse management, and fulfillment. But many others still use separate, siled solutions that don’t provide enough visibility. Unified commerce solves this problem by bringing omnichannel operations together using integrated technology.

Complete visibility is backed by a central “inventory center” that acts as an aggregator of inventory information across the enterprise: products in the warehouse or in transit to it, at a third-party logistics provider (3PL), in a returns center and even in a supplier’s finished goods warehouse.

Ideally, such a hub should also include inventory positions and movements within each outlet. This gives companies the advantage of up-to-the-minute product availability, so features such as Availability-to-Promise (ATP) can help suppliers allocate products in short supply, providing valuable product transparency. execution for partners.

Another tool to improve supply chain visibility for retail partners is called Supplier Managed Inventory. A modern VMI platform provides insight into stock levels at retail partners and sets automatic reorder thresholds, so products arrive just in time. This allows warehouses to lean on both ends and improves the customer experience with fewer stock-outs.

Advanced VMI features get even more out of your data. This is crucial in an environment where customers choose products that can be delivered the next day or even the same day.

An integrated e-commerce platform is another way to improve inventory visibility for everyone’s benefit. With the rise of online shopping, it’s important to give customers accurate information about what’s available. After all, no customer wants the experience of clicking “order” and then receiving an “oops” email due to out of stock.

Ideally, the aforementioned “inventory center” should work in conjunction with an organization’s e-commerce system so that digital shoppers always see the correct availability. All of this minimizes the risk of an “oops” moment and helps the “command center” or ERP system determine the most cost-effective location, time, and shipping method to fulfill the order.

With an excellent return on investment and measurable benefits for all parties involved – retailers, suppliers and customers – leveraging technology to increase your inventory IQ is a smart way to dethrone The Grinch and strengthen the supply chain once again. supply Santa.

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Haitham Ghadiry has served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at TrueCommerce, Inc. since joining in December 2009. Mr. Ghadiry oversees marketing communications, demand generation, new customer acquisition, core account management installation, professional service sales, sales enablement and indirect channel sales.

Prior to joining TrueCommerce, he was Director of Global Sales and Strategic Accounts for Trimble Navigations, Ltd., a publicly traded provider of advanced location-based solutions, and Director of North American Sales at Everest Software, a leading provider business management software. His long history of delivering superior sales results and leading top performing teams will help propel TrueCommerce further into the market leadership position. Haitham holds a Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management from Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt.