Companies that produce and distribute to retail chains across geographical regions require a seamless flow of information that range from a variety of sectors like field representatives to customer planning and forecasting managers to the internal supply chain stakeholders. The entire process needs to be done real-time rather than a lagged ‘traditional monthly’ plan. As opportunities are changing now, the response time needs to keep up. Without end to end information flow, the chances of missing opportunities are extremely high and with current times, organizations cannot afford to lose any opportunities.
How can an organization prepare during these times?
- Enhance focus on workforce and labor planning
- Equip employees with online tools and applications to gather crucial retail data and be connected to decision makers to take actionable steps.
- Update inventory policy and planning parameters. Monitor stock levels at stores, shuffle these based on demand, not leaving idle stocks on shelves.
- Illuminate the extended supply network, integrate it with the retail data and reduce the turnaround time for responding to field reps demands and adjusted orders.
- Focus on production scheduling agility, abrupt closures, absenteeism of employees.
- Evaluate alternative outbound logistics options and secure capacity
- Conduct global scenario planning
Organizations should invest in tools that enable them to quickly pivot toward intelligent AI based systems that enhance employee productivities and make their actionable steps more productive and focused.
Having audited several such services, the comprehensive service which I came across was Storecheck Hub that provides this retail ecosystem that enables to automatically collect information from all required sources, such as your retailers or customer platforms, online sales, market research, and other sales data entry points. This data is then cleaned, validated and transformed into a standard template as a management dashboard. They have algorithms that analyze this data, aligning it to the organization’s KPIs to generate reports which facilitate your decision-making process. Instant reports help decision makers to analyze sales performance, identify product shortages and root causes, improve your forecast assertiveness and monitor current marketing offers and launches, among others. This is then linked to the Supply Chain, to reduce the forecasting time from months to real time daily decisions, the need of the day.
With stressed supply chains and uncertain delivery schedules, intelligent data modelling can help in predicting demand and hence making supply chain forecasting more proactive than reactive one. The trends are also not the same, who would have thought stock out of toilet paper and Lysol would ever happen! Will these trends continue, we cannot predict, thus over stocking might also be an issue here. Only redemption is to equip the Field Force and Merchandisers with mobile application that can capture relevant data and backend smart algorithms to analyze and predict the supply chain forecasting. This would help in recovering and preventing loss sales and also unproductive over stocking.
Invest wisely during these times; focus on increasing productivity of the front end sales and promotional staff.