The need for integration in retail is urgent. Retail end customers want to be in stores, they want to be online, and now, they also want to be mobile. These customers are demanding options. They want flexibility in the time their shipment reaches them; they want shipments broken up to reach various destinations; and they want customization of stock-keeping units (SKUs).
Address the challenges and move forward
Meeting these increased customer demands presented additional challenges in the retail sector. Should a retailer fulfill online customer orders from a central warehouse or from a store that is closest to the customer? Should a retailer offer in-store or special event pick-up of orders? How can a retailer best service mobile customers? How can a retailer best manage multiple channels of distribution and effectively compete with online-only competitors?
Retailers must begin to examine next-generation solutions to address these dramatic business changes. It may not always be necessary to take the plunge to build big, complicated systems that large projects require (and which can’t always be scaled back during lean periods or become outdated quickly). SCM software providers continue to make advancements in flexible cloud-based solutions, as many now offer pay-per-use models. While cloud-based SCM solutions may have initially arrived late to the party, they are anticipated to become more attractive in the near future; and may provide more viable options in the transportation and warehousing areas.
In addition, another trend may actually signify a more comprehensive solution to future needs as retailers may find it more attractive to have all the core transportation, warehousing and labor management tools integrated into one application. As package applications continue to develop and expand current core functionality and configuration capabilities, the value proposition for solution providers to offer this alternative increases. In addition to being highly configurable and scalable to meet changing needs, these future solutions can offer critical benefits such as a broader solution; faster overall implementation; lowered risk of integration snafus; lowered cost; and faster turnaround. Such solutions will be well received as retailers often have to prioritize which SCM solution to implement at a time vs. being able to employ a more transformational solution that benefits many areas.
Points of interest
How do you know that your business is in need of a partial or complete upgrade? How do you determine if there are additional technologies or integration opportunities that may expand your current capabilities? IT and SCM leaders are answering these questions by either conducting an inventory of existing SCM tools to understand any gaps in critical business functionalities; or enlisting the support of a strategic business partner to complete a comprehensive technology assessment. Depending on your unique situation, if your core SCM solutions are over five years old, the answer is probably very evident.
Don’t leave money on the table—identify the intelligent, integration capabilities that your business needs and invest wisely.
Deanna M. Rainwater is a Senior Consultant at Wipro Technologies. She has more than 20 years of management and consulting experience in supply chain optimization and operational improvements, and can be reached at email@example.com.