Complexity in supply chains is the natural course of things in larger organizations. Companies that find themselves at the cutting edge of supply chain implementation usually utilize a multi-channel order fulfillment approach to their digital supply chain management (SCM). Multi-channel fulfillment itself is demanding. From a technology perspective, multi-channel fulfillment requires a handful of innovations working seamlessly with each other.
Focusing on IBM as a Case Study for Multi-Channel Fulfillment
IBM has managed to stitch together three different technologies in their approach for multi-channel supply chain fulfillment. These technologies are designed to help companies with their work in procurement networks, order management, and increased visibility using control towers to achieve multi-channel satisfaction truly. IBM’s system is the second largest of its type in the world and used on any messaging-based sales CRM platform. IBM leadership has noted that these innovations underlined the importance of leveraging technology in multi-channel fulfillment.
Advanced Sourcing Decisions in Supply Chain Management
Multi-channel complexity requires a broader base of input to determine solutions to problems. Because of the complicated systems involved, a handful of stakeholders can’t be the only ones to offer solutions. More often than not, implementing those solutions from isolated stakeholders leads to the creation of other problems in separate channels. On the other hand, solving these problems through a multi-channel approach leads to an increasingly complex supply chain – something that industry leaders tend to prefer.
The critical element for supply chain management is leveraging the data that one has to provide for demand along the supply chain adequately. Advanced strategic sourcing practices are crucial to this goal. Datasets across the company should be harmonized so that managers and planners are fully aware of the state of the supply chain at all points in time. The knowledge of data along the supply chain itself allows them to dynamically adapt to changes within the system when and where they occur.
Order Management, Visibility, and Procurement
Business supply networks help companies deal with sorting out their procurement issues by offering a means to integrate and manage supply chain data. Processing can occur within the cloud, or in on-premise installations as necessary. The technology they use is based on something known as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and existed far before the internet. Additionally, by utilizing coding to manipulate the system, tasks that can be automated may benefit from exposure Robotic Process Automation (RPA). In combination, these innovations cover the procurement part of multi-channel fulfillment.
Inventory visibility and order management are both linked, since dealing with one usually affects the other. The retail sector has already embraced the use of eCommerce inventory management services. However, while many still default to spreadsheets, some have instituted more sophisticated methods to deal with their supply chain management. REI, an outdoor equipment and apparel retailer, utilized IBM’s Watson AI to deliver more optimized order management and fulfillment. REI’s implementation allowed it to have better visibility of its inventory and leverage that to their benefit by improving their business results.
Leveraging Order Fulfillment To Better Serve Business
At its heart, multi-channel supply chain fulfillment is an attempt to make a complicated system more manageable without impacting the actual processes involved. To do so, companies can set about using their goals in multi-channel fulfillment to advise their purchase and implementation of new technology. With a robust technology base, there’s no need for a company to spend money on solutions that won’t benefit their goal of multi-channel fulfillment. Instead, the purpose should advise the upgrade decisions.
Enterprise-wide platforms that are scalable and flexible should be high on the list of priorities for businesses looking to optimize their multi-channel fulfillment. The best solutions should attempt to harmonize data across the entire organization, even incorporating new silos into its overarching data paradigm.
Manufacturing companies should look at having less inventory on-hand and instead aim to implement more build-to-order systems. With less inventory on-hand, this lowers the company’s risk and limits the amount of wasted value when the demand for the product shifts. Alternatively, retailers should look at less build-to-order, and only keep in-stock their most in-demand product. By utilizing multi-channel fulfillment properly, retailers can benefit by having more efficient services, including distribution and delivery.