There used to be a tattered cartoon taped to every dry cleaner’s cash register. There’s a man laughing — holding his stomach, actually, as the joke is so funny — with a bold face caption that reads: “YOU WANT IT WHEN?!”
Faced with minimal competition, it was a time when companies held production and delivery control, with consumers at their mercy to indeed receive their press garments at a time of the dry cleaner’s choosing.
Those days are long gone. Armed with just a digital device, consumers have numerous options in finding suppliers who can provide things whenever they desire. As such, they expect — rather, demand —products and services on their terms.
As a result, companies must either adapt their supply chains to accommodate these expectations or find themselves with diminished market share.
Below are key areas that companies must address to compete in today’s on-demand environment.
Take inventory of your inventory - As a first step, perform a comprehensive audit of your entire supply chain, even hiring a third-party specialist to develop the critical assessment. Such a deep-dive look will measure delivery accuracy, on-time performance, worker productivity and even call center effectiveness, all significant contributors to the overall efficiency of your suppliers and their impact on your supply chain.
Find a better mousetrap - Once the audit is complete, it’s time to take action, which may mean making fundamental changes to your supply chain. If you’re currently operating with a hub-and-spoke distribution model, for instance, the feedback may point to achieving greater efficiencies by adopting a decentralized distribution model (and vice versa). Especially when it comes to last-mile delivery, partnering with a third-party provider can also help, providing you with the fast turnaround that your customers expect without straining your existing operations.
Get your house in order - Any fundamental change to the supply chain must include enhancements to warehouses, adopting technological advances that deliver greater efficiencies. For some, this may mean incorporating a short-interval waving warehouse management system (WMS), which allows orders to be dispatched in clusters, or waves. Other advances automate the sizing and selection of cartons, which makes packing more efficient while streamlining costs.
Taking things personnel-ly - Until supply chain logistics can all be outsourced to robots, bottom-line performance ultimately depends on the availability and performance of your employees. To those ends, leverage technology to minimize labor supply disruptions, especially during holiday seasons when demand peaks. (This is increasingly important as unemployment reaches record lows, further diminishing the labor pool.) Technology should also be used for scheduling and training, which delivers greater efficiencies and even job retention, as greater scheduling flexibility leads to increased employee satisfaction and loyalty.
Consumer demand for ever-shrinking delivery timelines makes ongoing supply chain refinements no longer optional, but mandatory. Your long-term success depends on it.