“What about this? Experts 2 cents”

Companies are competing significantly more on supply chain management. There are many technologies that aid COOs and managers to gain a competitive edge to make their business more efficient, cost-conscious, and enhancing strategic operations. Modern businesses must transform the way suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers interact globally. The developments of technology compensate for these challenges to help maximize operational efficiency to satisfy consumer expectations in immediate (‘want it now’) delivery. Before this course, I did not realize the big picture and that company’s survival depends significantly on supply chains. I thought competition was primarily based on their strategy (low-cost, response, differentiation) and how desirable their products are in the market.


In class, we learned how different supply chain decisions impact strategy—such as low-cost, response, and differentiation. It is imperative for companies to adjust their approach on how they mitigate risk and react to disruptions of the factors in Process, Controls, and Environment appropriately. With technology and analytic tools, managers have the capability to plan, monitor, and forecast more concisely than ever before.


There was a featured panel discussion of supply chain Industry Experts that shared their opinion on the ‘Trends and Insights’ in SupplyChainDigest website article. The VP of Marketing at Logility, Karin Bursa, mentioned that companies want to improve their forecast accuracy. She said analysts discussed how a “5% improvement in forecast accuracy can drive double digit improvements in service levels virtually for free.”


Building value throughout the supply chain is vital to sustain successful relationships between suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers. Companies are now adopting a more complex and detailed supply chain by creating “multiple virtual supply chains to develop tailored end-to-end processes to support distinctly different segments of the business.”


This reminds me of when we discussed how supply chain decisions impact strategy. If the two concepts compliment each other, it can avoid setbacks and expedite the process activities to maximize strategic operations. The four basic process strategies we covered were process focus, repetitive focus, product focus, and mass customization. The type of product, volume produced, and variety of products must be taken into consideration when deciding which process to implement and how it will affect the strategic operations of the company.


Process and supply chain activities affect the main strategies, low-cost, response, and differentiation. For example, operating a differentiation strategy, process characteristics are modular—process that lend themselves to mass customization. Or operating a low-cost strategy, the process characteristics will be to maintain high average utilization. It is evident from our class discussions that the interaction between supply chain management and strategy can determine how competitive a company is in the market.


What a store might know about YOU…

Many companies are using technological tools that change the way inventory management is conducted. In our fast paced, global market, companies cannot have idle assets and goods piling up. Inventory carrying costs can significantly impact the bottom line and congest cash flow operations. Accurately forecasting sales and demand is important in order to approximate the appropriate production volume to avoid these costs. How does a business deal with being too optimistic with its forecast and produce too much? It must find the most efficient ways to sell these extra units in the shortest amount of time. What type of technology is there that can solve the dilemma?


The Washington Post had an article covering one of the possible solutions. A law school graduate and entrepreneur, Fuentes, explored ideas on how to improve processes and sales within the retail store he worked for. He collaborated with his supervisor and executives regarding the problems he saw and how he can help them move products faster out of inventory.


Fuentes began experimenting with his new ideas with customers and said that he could possibly discount a particular item in two to three weeks and contact them if they were interested. He then tracked who wanted to be contacted and what item they were interested in buying at the discounted price. Before a product goes on clearance, it can be sold to some who is already interested. This system inspired Fuentes to create Lemur IMS. He describes it as, “An inventory management system for big-box retailers that connects local customers with local, slow-moving inventory.” He found this to be especially helpful to smaller stores that needed an edge to compete with larger stores in the community.


The Lemur IMS is effective because it increases revenue and more importantly, delivers personal attention and offers customers the products they want at a better price. This is fantastic because it decreases the amount of customers that turn to alternative competitors for lower prices or easier accessibility for the specific product they are interested in. If they like a product but do not want to pay that price, the store can offer to contact the person if the product is available at a lower price later.


A relevant trend and (obvious) concept that is providing customers with greater value is customization.  Lemur can be used on a tablet app, which is customized for each specific retailer. It can even go to the extent of tracking, “who is interesting in what product, at what time of the year and at what price.” Fuentes mentions that his tool for managing inventory is unique because, “It looks at all aspects of inventory information, not just velocity, cost, and revenue.” This deeper approach seems to be very effective. What other systems are available? What competitive advantages do they offer companies’ operations and inventory management?