No matter what type of products you sell, the quality of your business’s supply chain can make all the difference in your ability to please your customers.
When your supply chain runs like a well-oiled machine, warehouse inventory remains at healthy levels and customers get their orders in a timely manner. But if inefficiencies are present, both your internal operations and your customer satisfaction can suffer.
Fortunately, you can quickly improve your supply chain efficiency through some straightforward adjustments to your practices.
1. Regularly (and Honestly) Evaluate Your Supplier Relationships
Supplier relationships are foundational for getting your product into the hands of your customers. A strong vendor can help you save money, while also offering reliable shipments and superior product quality.
But if you stick with a single supplier for years, you might be doing your company a disservice. Regularly evaluating supplier relationships and exploring options with other vendors could be an important money-saving move for your company.
New vendors could offer improved product quality or delivery speed. They may be able to provide lower manufacturing costs (including reduced tariffs). A geographically diverse group of suppliers can even lower risk of disruptions caused by weather or other events.
Manufactured makes sure all of their product and electronics manufacturers have the best product quality.
2. Outsource, Outsource, Outsource, etc. (Focus On What Matters!)
You have a lot of responsibilities to keep your business running smoothly — and if supply chain management is outside your core area of expertise, it could be a source of stress and frustration. Worse still, it could be taking your time and energy away from the things you do best to help fuel the growth of your company.
As with so many other aspects of business nowadays, outsourcing part or all of your supply chain management could be the perfect solution for your needs. You’d hardly be alone in this, either — it’s estimated that roughly 40 percent of companies outsource manufacturing, while 80 percent outsource supply chain transportation.
Outsourcing can be especially valuable if you don’t have the internal resources to manage things like warehousing and transportation. By choosing a reliable third party to handle these tasks, you can save money and operate more efficiently. You can then focus your energy on marketing, product development and other growth tasks.
3. Be Eagerly Open to Adopting New, Exciting Technology
Technology innovations have brought about rapid change in a wide variety of business operations — and this includes the supply chain. New supply chain technology can improve product sourcing, automate shipment tracking and handle other vital activities.
Regardless of the specific function of the supply chain technology, your willingness to adopt sooner rather than later can pay big dividends for your business. As a whole, many companies (and their employees) are notoriously slow at adopting new tech.
This gives your company an important competitive advantage by providing access to resources that they don’t have. While your competitors are still doing things the same way they’ve always been done, you can lower your costs or improve customer satisfaction with new, innovative solutions. Though you should always do your due diligence to ensure that new tech tools are worth the investment, they can clearly have a big impact on your bottom line.
4. Say ‘Yes’ to Big Data and Predictive Analytics
As an extension of the previous point, big data and predictive analytics are two key areas where technology can provide significant improvements to the supply chain.
Big data tools collect information from all areas of your supply chain. There are more data sources available than ever before, and with machine learning technology, this information can be analyzed and dissected to generate valuable insights for your company’s operations.
Predictive analytics tools can help decision makers plan for and accurately anticipate demand fluctuations, and make decisions that account for these factors.
A report from McKinsey provides just one example of this: “Visibility of point of sale (POS) data, inventory data, and production volumes can be analyzed in real time to identify mismatches between supply and demand. These can then drive actions, like price changes, the timing of promotions or the addition of new lines, to realign things.”
Big data and predictive analytics fuel better-informed decision-making to further enhance your supply chain’s efficiency and profitability.
5. Update Your Returns Process
Returns are a big issue in the e-commerce world. In fact, some sources estimate that as many as 30 percent of online orders are returned — over triple the rate for brick and mortar retailers. With returns being such a common occurrence, two-thirds of shoppers will actually check a company’s returns policy before they make a purchase.
Needless to say, ensuring that you have a consumer-friendly returns policy in place can play a significant role in helping you gain more customers. Features such as free shipping and easy-to-print labels can greatly streamline the returns process. It is typically easiest to use the same vendor for returns as you use for shipping products to customers.
Make sure that your returns policy is clearly stated on your website. This can help eliminate confusion and complaints, ensuring you can keep a customer’s business even if they return a product.
6. Monitor Your Systems Like a Hawk (Recalibrate When + Where Necessary)
All of the previously mentioned tips ultimately coalesce into this final point. No matter how good you think your current supply chain systems may be, you should constantly monitor their effectiveness.
While automation tools and third-party vendors can help manage supply chain performance, you need to stay in the loop. Changing market conditions (such as new tariffs or even a weather disaster) have the potential to completely disrupt your company’s logistics if you aren’t careful.
By staying abreast of trends and challenges at each stage of your supply chain, you can proactively identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Prompt recalibration of your processes will ensure that unexpected events do not result in a major long-term setback for your business.
While monitoring and improving your supply chain may feel like an involved process, there is no understating just how important it is for your business’s long-term success. As you continually refine your supply chain, you’ll be well-equipped for whatever the future might hold.
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