It’s becoming increasingly evident that organisations who do not have an omni-channel fulfilment strategy risk losing out on major avenues and opportunities for growth.
By Fabio Tiviti
Two years into the global pandemic, we continue to see how the crisis is disrupting the business landscape and accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies across industries. Unsurprisingly, reports indicate that executives are viewing technology more critically within their organisations, and especially as a crucial pillar of business competitiveness during the pandemic. Many companies are also fast-tracking their digitalisation efforts for customers, supply chain interactions and operations over the next three to four years.
Despite these efforts, some sectors continue to find themselves caught off guard in the wake of the pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc with the latest delta variant. Businesses and operators in the warehousing and logistics sector, for instance, have been battered by rising volumes of e-commerce, and a skeleton workforce in some markets because of persistent lockdowns across the region. From distributors of professional trade and industrial products to safety and medical supplies, these disruptions have shone a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of global trade, and the need to streamline and optimise warehouse operations.
To that end, how can Asia’s distributors position themselves for success in a disruptive new normal?
Critical Factors Creating A Paradigm Shift In The Logistics World
It is imperative for distributors to consider that all activities that take place within the warehouse have a direct impact on their relationship with customers.
The challenge here is that both the goals and the goalposts are constantly changing. The pandemic has presented simultaneous challenges for warehouse operations around the world. One of the more pertinent issues is the inconsistency across the workforce, as workers deal with lockdowns, illnesses, quarantines, or childcare demands, putting pressure on the teams and impeding productivity.
Another is that e-commerce growth is outpacing even the most bullish of prior estimates, with customers establishing high standards for an omni-channel experience. In Southeast Asia alone, more than 70 million new online shoppers were added since the start of the pandemic, with retail growth continually driven by online channels.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that organisations who do not have an omni-channel fulfilment strategy risk losing out on major avenues and opportunities for growth. As a result, having a warehouse that can effectively fulfil many channels optimally, is key. This challenge is particularly pertinent as many existing warehouse management systems (WMS) are outdated legacy structures, and simply do not have the capacity to provide this optimised fulfilment.
A common misconception is that optimised fulfilment is simply about getting the product out of the door on time. While this is crucial, optimised fulfilment is more about adding value to fulfilment, despite the inability to offer face-to-face services for customers. However, the ability to go above and beyond in the name of customer experience requires the right digital foundation in place to facilitate these efforts effectively.
Increased Complexity From Escalating Consumer Expectations
Adding on to this, optimising e-commerce has become more complex than the traditional pick-pack-ship process. There are new variables that need to be considered, including what happens to the product once it leaves the dock, and many distributors have been caught off-guard by the number of returns they have needed to process.
Many e-commerce consumers today may buy something in three different sizes or three different colours, and then return two of the three. To increase their agility and stay ahead of the curve, Asia’s distributors must thus implement systems that allow them to seamlessly accept that return and get it back on the shelf in an effective manner.
Streamlining Business Costs Through Smarter Inventory Management
This time of business disruption has seen many distributors hunkering down and attempting to trim the fat off already extremely lean processes. If inventory is incrementally managed more effectively based on greater transparency across your organisation, it can equate to huge amounts of savings.
A WMS system designed specifically to keep costs streamlined through intelligent inventory insights can help distributors become more confident of meeting their customer commitments without needing to buy and stock more than necessary. Essentially, warehouse operations can be a solution to control purchasing and manage any lost or mismanaged inventory.
Finding The Silver Lining In The Cloud
On-premise was once the accepted standard in wholesale distribution, but it’s no longer offering the flexibility and innovation needed in today’s business environments. Where cloud really shines is in managing increased throughput in the warehouse. Cloud provides the capabilities to quickly calculate the increased throughput, and automatically add any computing power necessary for that increased throughput. The security, reliability and built-in disaster recovery all comes with the package, but it’s the ability to handle this increased throughput automatically, at any given moment, which truly adds value.
Testament to harnessing the power of cloud is that businesses who were already leveraging cloud solutions had a much easier time adapting to last year’s disruption, making the necessary adjustments as needed.
In achieving this, not only will operators be able to optimise their fulfilment, but they will also be able to harness a strategy that boosts their market share in the digital economy, and position themselves to thrive in the long-run, in a new logistics landscape.
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