Everything interesting, new and useful about the logistics and 3PL Industry

Archive for October, 2014

A Window into Your Logistics Operations: Client Web Portals

Clients can be demanding. In today’s world, unless you supply your clients with real-time information, you could fall behind the countless other third-party logistics companies that do provide this service. Your clients want to know where their merchandise is located throughout the delivery process, so having the right warehouse management software (WMS) in place to ensure that these clients always have access to this information can help your business to grow. The system will also help you in tracking the merchandise that you are moving for these clients, so that you can streamline your warehouse and minimize your transportation times.

Client Web PortalsTruck

Once you have a WMS and/or transportation management system installed, you can give each client the ability to log in and check the status of his or her inventory and deliveries. That way, the client is aware of where their merchandise is at all times, even during the transportation process. This makes life much easier for your customer service representatives, as they will not have to look up this information every time a client calls with an inquiry. It also improves things from the client’s end, as he or she will always have access to this information. Because of this, you will not have to rely on your customer service department to look the information up on a constant basis. Peace of mind goes a long way for the client, and having access to a web portal provides it for customers daily.

The Process

While this software might seem complicated, the process behind it is actually very simple. Whenever a product enters your warehouse, it will be scanned (e.g via RF gun). The same can be said for any time a product leaves your warehouse for another destination. Any time that a product is scanned by one of your staff members, the software automatically updates the information that the clients access through the web portal. This provides your clients with real-time information around the clock, allowing you to give your customer the best possible service.

Space Management

In addition to the benefits that this type of software provides for your clients, it can also benefit you. Once the software is in place, you will know exactly how much product you have in your warehouse at all times, allowing you to manage your space efficiently. The more merchandise that you can store and transport for your clients, the more money your company will make. As a result, it makes sense
to avoid wasting space and to get the most out of it.

Tracking Inventory

The short-term benefits related to having WMS are obvious, but there are long-term benefits to consider as well. For starters, the program tracks your inventory while it in inside the warehouse, so Inventoryyou always know where it is located. You will also know who has moved the inventory, when it was moved, and where it was moved in the warehouse. This creates a culture of accountability for your workers, since they know that everything that they do will be tracked and recorded. This is a great way to keep your employees working hard, which saves money every day.

State of the Merchandise

Companies that store perishable items can also take advantage of this software, as it can track the expiry date on these items. This allows you to see when the product must be moved by and where it is being stored in the warehouse. This can help you and your clients avoid the problems associated with spoiled food and the money loss that goes along with it.

Access from Anywhere

Both you and your client will have access to all of this information from anywhere with an internet connection. This provides peace of mind for everyone involved, as there is very little chance of inventory going missing or being late on delivery. By providing your clients with a window into the entire logistics process, you can keep them informed and happy about your services.

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All Hands on Deck for the Omni-Channel Phenomenon

Implementing a successful Omni-channel distribution strategy requires incredible co-ordination between marketing, information technology, shipping, warehousing, transportation, logistics, suppliers, manufacturers, operations and merchandising — in other words, everyone who even thinks about buying, selling or delivering the product is directly involved in developing the strategy.

It requires careful planning, new business processes, dynamic re-configuration and coordination among all stakeholders. Today’s tech-savvy customer may want to order online for pick up in their local store, have it shipped directly to them from a click to buy button or place their order over the phone for same-day delivery.

Everyone involved in the back-end of the process needs to be on the same page when the buyer finally makes their decision to “push the button.”

Delivering an Extraordinary Customer Experience

The goal is to deliver an extraordinary customer experience across every single touch point. It is all too common to see a customer standing in a brick-and-mortar store talking on a cell phone to a friend, while looking up the product on their laptop.

Millennials and Generation Z buyers think nothing of showrooming. They grew up with it. They want what they want in the right size and color available now, and it needs to be less expensive than everything else they looked at. So, what is the big deal?

Oh, and by the way, if you do not have it, they will go to Amazon.com and have it delivered tomorrow – free. If the customer wants it tomorrow and they are across the country, regional warehouses need product on the shelf waiting for delivery to the retailer or the consumer directly.

The Omni-Channel Phenomenon — Channels Are Blurring

What seems like a simple and obvious buying experience to the consumer requires incredible coordination behind the scenes. All the people and systems behind the scenes, are ready to move when the buyer “clicks to buy” or takes the product off the shelf.

Instantaneous, real-time data goes from the point of purchase to all interested parties in the transaction. Delivering this instant gratification requires tremendous investment in integrated systems and coordination between all internal departments and external stakeholders.

Process Mapping With Everyone at the Table is More Important Than Ever

Practical Suggestions

  1. Engage all stake-holders and initiate focus groups to understand both consumer behavior and internal stakeholders — avoid conflicting metrics and channel conflict at all costs.
  2. Play out all the “what if’s” and known possibilities surrounding multiple buying scenarios.
  3. Develop flexible forecasting models based both on past data and future demand.
  4. Create dynamic work flows and process flows for each type of buying behavior to anticipate where the physical product needs to be and when it needs to be there.
  5. Investigate multiple delivery methods – Amazon is experimenting with drones.
  6. Evaluate existing systems and look for ways to streamline multi-directional delivery of data and product.
  7. Evaluate packaging and shipping methods for maximum efficiency, durability and safely.
  8. Consider sharing inventory across multiple stores and regional centers.
  9. Shorten the space and time from receiving to shipping.
  10. Dynamically reconfigure store and warehouse layouts to maximize floor space and minimize travel time.
  11. Review picking and staging methods to support multiple points of delivery.
  12. Constantly review EOQ’s and JIT based on the realities of new buying behaviors.

Summary

Omni-channel distribution is no longer just about distribution. It is about the entire system working together in a seamless fashion to deliver the customer what they want, where they want it, when they want it for less than every other alternative they evaluated.

It is all about who can move transactional data and physical product most efficiently and economically. This requires real time data movement and physical product handling strategies all working together as one seamless system.

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