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​Supply Chain Trends For Small Business

New trends that align supply chains can help small businesses thrive

20Dec

Supply chains today are seen more as dynamic ecosystems that serve as value to new networks in ways beyond aiding basic logistics.

The supply chain ecosystem should be constantly evaluated and improved to provide greater value from suppliers and business partners. When efficiently coordinated, a better supply chain will reduce costs, improve the level of your services, minimize risks of delays and disruptions, provide positive feedback and branding, and can even deliver innovation by adapting to new challenges.

There are several new trends that align supply chains to support current business ideas.

Demand-driven inventory

Companies have traditionally relied on sales forecasts to anticipate what they would be making and shipping to their customers. U.S. retailers have lost $224 billion due to excess inventory. In an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing marketplace, historic sales figures are far less reliable, and the value of such data more short-lived.

Modern technology allows companies to use real-time data. Point-of-sale devices scan the product barcode into files for upload, and information from the past week or past day is available for statistical analysis. This enables companies to more quickly respond to what's happening now.

SMBs with such systems are can integrate ordering to better manage inventory and save money. Sales forecasts provide an element of risk, compounded by expenditure in boosting stock levels. Connected companies can automatically re-order inventory as it's sold, in any increments or timeframes they choose.

Market segments

More than 50% of online searches come from mobile advertising. This is a growing segment of users that should be monitored. It makes good sense to structure the right aspects of your supply chain to better service your most valuable customers, or more profitable demographics.

Companies focused on better service align their inventory, production, and distribution to provide both reasonable costs and discrete services to major revenue sources. While this may at times be restrictive to smaller, 'special' orders, it does provide more efficiency and a better customer experience to preferred clients - those you are especially keen to retain.

Analytics and logistics

More SMBs are taking advantage of data analytics to monitor consumer and industry patterns. Expensive business intelligence solutions often required data teams and qualified analysts on the payroll, making it an expensive option for SMBs. However, business analytic software is now available over the cloud and even from sites like Facebook and Twitter, allowing small companies the same advantages.

The business intelligence solutions available today are more than automated number-crunchers requiring a practiced eye to interpret. They can weigh various perspective to suggest real solutions and predict the corresponding risks. Over 58% of U.S. companies today are seeing benefits from big data.

This allows companies the opportunity to adjust or enhance supply chains based on evolving consumer requirements.

Omni-channel systems

One trend is to maintain a common inventory pool, which may be spread across several locations depending on product or demand. No matter where the product order originates, from a company outlet or an individual online shopper, the product comes from a common pool, whether a single large warehouse or a distributed system.

The problem with this approach is having a sufficient workforce for picking what might be a single product or two for hundreds of independent orders, in addition to bulk shipments to stores or other businesses, or efficiently organizing transitions between the two. One solution is a hybrid approach to delivering on both, with separate teams, systems, and equipment such as dedicated conveyor systems or Wi-Fi tablets.

Advances in technology may some day see inventories managed by software and product handled by robots, but that is still many years away. And even when it happens, managing dynamic supply chains to most effectively serve the business and the customer will still be essential.

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