A fresh new year brings with it an array of personal resolutions that – to say the least – are easier said than done. We all have that one friend that declares on the 1st of January that they are now alcohol, sugar, fat, carb, gluten, dairy, or whatever comes to mind, free.
But we all know how the story goes. A few months pass and responsibilities and serendipitous life-events seem to push our plans to the way-side. Many people struggle sticking to new year’s resolutions because they are often created with vague goals in mind. For example: there is a difference between “I’m going to exercise more” and “I’m going to exercise three times a week.”
But don't worry, this post wasn't designed to preach to you about starting the year with a new gym membership. This post will look at ways you can implement new year's resolutions in your business, change out-dated supply chain habits, and work toward more productive logistics operations.
If you’re thinking about sprucing up your business in 2018, then there really is no better time than today. We’ve got a few supply chain mistakes to avoid, and we hope you find them relatively easy to integrate into your business.
Mistake #1: You’re still relying on spreadsheets
Did you know that the Microsoft Office Suite is now a 32-year-old technology? Regardless of being one of the oldest technologies we use in business today, spreadsheets also haven’t changed very much since they first hit computers in the 1970s. Considering the very first iPhone came out in 2007, and since then has gone onto revolutionise the whole smartphone industry, spreadsheets really do seem to be lagging behind on the innovation front.
You may have used spreadsheets for years and they might even feel like a layer of comfort in a world of possible unknowns. The issue using Excel Spreadsheets in your supply chain, though, is that they were never designed to keep track of inventory.
Don’t get us wrong, spreadsheets still have their place in accounting and calculations. But when it comes to inventory management, you need to maintain your records manually, all your data is stored in one file that could be easily lost or deleted, and most of all, the more complex your business becomes, the larger (and harder to use) your spreadsheet will be.
How to fix it
There are a range of solutions out there that can help you replace your reliance on spreadsheets. Real-time asset management systems and enterprise resources planning software are becoming increasingly important for productivity. A good inventory management software system should allow you to update information without having to refer back to multiple spreadsheets manually.
- Accessible by multiple users in multiple locations
- Provides greater transparency across departments
- Updates in real-time
- You’ll know exactly what you have and where it is
Mistake #2: You’re not looking after your customers
According to the experts, the customer experience will take over price and product by 2020, so if you’re not starting to think about how you treat your customers today, you will lose revenue and profitably just from poor customer service alone.
In an eCommerce era filled with fierce competition, customers can become easily perturbed by lack of availability of products, late delivery, denied orders or even just bad communication in general.
The more data you have on your customers, the easier it will be to avoid mishaps like this. New technologies like cloud storage, automated support and data analytics are making it easier for businesses to create meaningful experiences for their customers. However, the biggest challenge for businesses today is keeping up with the pace of change and ever increasing customer demands.
Your businesses customer service is constantly being compared to your competitors. If a customer has a great experience with a different supplier, that will then become their new standard for customer service. If you fail to meet the new minimum requirements of service your customers now expect without question, you’ll lose their business.
How to fix it
Firstly, develop customer service offers and policies that are derived from your customers needs and wants. An easy tip to start implementing today is to actively seek feedback on your customers’ experiences. Were they happy with their delivery time? Was the buyer journey hassle free? Send them a quick email a few days after their purchase to make sure they're happy. A little love can go a long way.
Secondly, if you’re planning on replacing all your manual spreadsheets with a real-time inventory management system, then you can be assured that your customers will have the visibility into the products they want, and whether or not they are available at the time they want them. Proper inventory management really feeds into customer satisfaction so if this isn't on your radar, it should be this year.
- You’ll develop a more loyal customer base because you’re giving your customers what they want
- You won’t lose business needlessly to inventory errors
- Utilising data and seeking feedback from customers will raise your standards of customer service
Mistake #3: You’re reducing too many costs
A few years ago, having a lean supply chain was all the rage and excess waste was being eliminated left, right and centre. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s now possible that your supply chain could be too lean.
Jeff Karrenbaur, president of Insight, Inc. states that supply chains that are too lean are putting themselves at a disadvantage when demand suddenly changes:
"The leaner the supply chain, the more significant the changes need to be to get up to speed. The average loss from supply chain disruption alone can be in the millions of dollars," he added. "If you focus your supply chain goals on lean, the more brittle your supply chain will become, making it susceptible to failure from even the slightest event, such as losing a supplier, rising fuel prices and natural disasters. There needs to be a balance between efficiency and resiliency."
Don’t get us wrong, we see how this can sound counterintuitive. The goal of all businesses is to generate profit and reduce costs where ever necessary, but there may be a better way to manage waste than just cutting spending in every department.
How to fix it
A better way to cut spending is to reduce the amount of times your products are ‘handled’ across the supply chain. Every time a product is moved, packed, shipped, loaded or even looked at, it’s costing you money. You can read more about how to reduce the cost-per-touch of your items in our post on Ikea’s self-service supply chain.
Mistake #4: You’re not planning for the future accurately
There couldn’t be a worse position to be in if you’re using spreadsheets for your inventory, dealing with customer complaints poorly, and then relying on a supply chain that’s too lean to fix errors and delayed orders.
It sounds like a nightmare. But it is a very realistic position to be in if you’re not planning for different scenarios in the future. The irony in this situation is that new technologies have enhanced visibility and data management over the years, making it possible for businesses to gain insights into their operations like never before.
Unfortunately, even with a multitude of business intelligence applications available, the ability to choose the right technology, implement organisational change and integrate new technologies with existing systems are hindering progress.
How to fix it
Hire an astronaut.
Well not a literal astronaut. But someone who has a cool head, the right intellectual stamina and foresight to manage your supply chain while also developing a strategic vision for the future. You either need to be, or hire, the champion that will align your supply chain with your overall business goals.
If there is one piece of advice that you get from this article, it would be to never stop improving. Even if your business doesn’t have the resources or capabilities to revert these mistakes into measurable business solutions, it’s never too late to start making small changes today.
Do you have any other suggestions for how businesses can move into a more productive and efficient 2018? Let us know in the comments below.