How Intelligent Fulfillment Helps Meet Consumer Demands

Intelligent fulfillment laptop and warehouse feature

Increasing demand for next-day and same-day delivery is forcing companies to adopt new strategies and restructure traditional methods to compete with the rapidly changing landscape. Legacy companies are being challenged by upstarts who have harnessed the immense power of technology. How can you evolve from surviving to thriving in a disrupted economy, exacerbated by the global pandemic?

One solution: Intelligent fulfillment. It’s a multi-layered strategy powered by data and analytics to fulfill customer’s needs and proactively create strategies and predictions to anticipate market trends. At the heart of intelligent fulfillment is the collection and utilization of data and analytics to predict shifts and help improve your business.

There are several ways to improve intelligent fulfillment for your company. Here are the top 5:

Analytics and Data

With the right data and analytics, retailers are open to a range of capabilities designed to reduce cost and increase performance:

  • Anticipating market trends
  • Making faster, more accurate production decisions
  • Conduct root cause analysis
  • Measure efficiency and opportunity costs among routing options
  • Forecast seasonal and cyclical customer demands
  • Determine inventory turnover ratio
  • Better labor management

Descriptive and prescriptive data can convey trends, find inefficiencies and optimize results. Predictive data can be used to strategize and run different scenarios to help implement policies and plans of action. As important as data analytics is, equally crucial is obtaining that data in a streamlined way.

System Integration

A company that shares multiple systems for each function has the flaw of incompatibility among platforms. Different departments can’t utilize each other’s data to analyze trends and must rely on manual labor or time-consuming software to gather data dumps and sort through to make sense of it. With system integration, collective data flows seamlessly throughout the supply chain and can more readily be analyzed based on whichever parameter is required. System integration increases inventory visibility among online and offline channels, minimizing human error.

Another positive about having a single system is the cost of training employees. Employees have an understanding of the system as a whole and how it relates to their specific function, avoiding duplicated effort and poor visibility among departments.

Informed Employees

A company is only as good as its employees. While the market may be shifting towards more machines and artificial intelligence, employees are still the lifeblood of a supply chain. Having workers that understand the data being accrued and how the system works are infinitely more valuable than those who only know their specific function outside the context of the big picture. An employee who can understand what data needs to be ascertained and its importance may even find more efficient ways of obtaining it. Informed workers also help eliminate data silos where knowledge is centralized to specific departments.

Silos create miscommunication among departments and are dependent on specific teams. Should the right person be unavailable or leave the company, the void they leave create data gaps and inaccurate data analyses.

Automation

As market demand continues to grow, automation through AI has become a staple in the retail supply chain. Automation allows massive amounts of data to be collected seamlessly.

The means of procuring data has also seen an evolution from manual to electronic with RFID, mobile computers and scanning devices, all geared toward automating data receipt and storage. An automated system reduces labor costs and allows for accurate, rapid amounts of data to be accumulated, ready to be analyzed.

Omnichannel Distribution

Ecommerce with in-store pickup, ship from store and return to store are all aspects of omnichannel that give customers the flexibility to choose how they want to buy and receive their orders.

For this strategy to work, retailers must also have seamless interaction among partners including suppliers, carriers and 3PLs. They must also have a clear idea of how much product needs to be shipped based on demand. If the estimated delivery time is too long, alternate suppliers need to be quickly pulled in. Retailers must know how much product they need to hold, and 3PLs must know where to ship them at the most efficient cost. For this seamless interaction of information, it’s critical to have system integration and accurate data.

Final Thoughts

The ever-changing economic landscape has forced retailers to evolve alongside customer demands and needs. With more and more of them expecting products at breakneck speed, intelligent fulfillment methods are a proven winner, part of a philosophy of continuous improvement.

Michael Johnson is Executive Vice President of Strategy for Redwood Logistics