Categories
Business Technology

5 sure shot techniques to reduce costs in the retail supply chain

Creating a highly competitive retail supply chain depends on how well you’re able to control/reduce your costs. Incurring unnecessary costs can mean that your processes aren’t efficient enough, your funds are blocked in too many fixed assets, or your supply chain isn’t performing at an optimum level. These factors could pile up costs, impact margins, affect your competitiveness, and eventually make your business falter. 

Keeping costs under control is therefore one of the most essential aspects of supply chain management. Let’s look at 5 sure shot techniques that can help you reduce your costs:

  1. Localize fulfillment

Transportation accounts for about 40 to 50 percent of logistics costs, and 4 to 10 percent of the selling price of final products. Reducing the distance between your warehouse and customer clusters is, therefore, necessary to control overall costs. The closer your warehouse, or fulfillment center, is located to your customer cluster, the quicker fulfillment will be, which also means a significant reduction in fuel consumption. Regional Utilisation (RU), the idea of fulfilling maximum orders locally, is one of the topmost solutions for cost management in supply chains today. 

RU becomes even more effective when coupled with new-age merchandising solutions. Powered by data insights, this enables brands to conduct Pincode level analysis to place the right products at the right warehouse, or store, as per demand in a particular market. Shelving the right styles and size combinations can boost regional sales significantly while saving costs on logistics.

  1. Rethink warehousing!

As a brand expands, operating from a centralized warehouse can raise distribution costs and impact business quite significantly. In fact, as per Logistics Bureau, up to 12 percent of companies are unprofitable after distribution costs are taken into account.

This can be tackled with Distributed Warehousing which enables brands to expand into other regions, and support efforts toward regional fulfillment. Fulfillment of orders from various local and widely distributed warehouses is quick and cost-effective. 

Technology solutions like Increff Cloud warehousing allow brands to rent out spaces based on regional requirements. This means investment in warehouse infrastructure is not required and brands are able to convert CAPEX into OPEX thus controlling their overhead costs. In recent times, this has been further augmented with the rapid rise of 3PL players with whom brands can partner for renting warehousing spaces and adding value to the supply chain. 

  1.  Manage manpower costs

Costs incurred due to human labor is another significant portion of your expenditures. These include their wages, training and development costs, costs incurred in hiring additional/ad hoc labor during peak season sales, and adjusting manual errors committed by the workforce. 

With new-age WMS and merchandising solutions, brands can successfully avoid a lot of unnecessary labor costs and reduce errors in decision-making. Simple UX/ UI facilitates easy training which is extremely useful during crunch times when the technically skilled workforce is scarce or expensive. The ease of use increases the fungibility of staff and maximizes the use of the available workforce.

Automated solutions ensure continuous, seamless workflow with minimum decision-making errors. Digitizing inventory through serialization allows easy scanning of individual pieces of inventory for efficient tracking and reduces training time to 5-10 mins. This minimizes efforts and costs related to elaborate training and development of the human resource operating the system.

  1. Make data-backed decisions

Holding on to obsolete inventory can add up to 25 to 30 percent more to the unit cost of your products. Besides, the capital tied up with this inventory could account for about 15 percent of opportunity costs. Obsolete inventory is mostly a result of the inability to forecast demand accurately.

However, new-age merchandising solutions backed by relevant data enable brands to create product assortments with the right styles and sizes. This helps them meet the customer demand perfectly, without causing problems of overstocking or under-stocking, both of which impact costs, the former causing wastage and the latter calling for in-season redistribution. 

New-age solutions facilitate analysis of future demand over a time horizon of the next season or business year. Analyzing past sales data helps create a favorable estimate of the upcoming season stock requirements so the right quantity can be placed in the right location. Manufacturing the right quantity as per demand avoids overproduction, unnecessary expenditure, and resource wastage. 

  1. Use multiple channels for order fulfillment

Last mile connectivity is known to be the costliest part of the supply chain and accounts for about 53 percent of the total shipping costs. This calls for transforming order fulfillment through omnichannel retail, which is a fluid vision of fulfillment that allows customers to receive their orders in the faster possible time. 

Fulfillment options like Buy-Online-PickupIn-Store (BOPIC), store fulfillment, curbside pickup, home delivery, etc. are getting popular. Conversely, a customer visiting a store who is unable to find the desired product can make use of the ‘endless aisle’ online option to purchase it and get it delivered at home or the nearest store. This doesn’t just offer immense customer ease, but also allows brands to resort to the most cost-effective fulfillment option.

Cost control is the first step towards business process efficiency and with the above-given tips, brands can simply rule the roost among their competitors. Effective cost control has great benefits for not just the business stakeholders, but also the environment and society at large.

Categories
Technology

7 Biggest supply chain mistakes & how to solve them

You could be one of the most seasoned merchandisers and yet you could fall for some common supply chain mistakes. Often these result in inflated costs, poor workforce management, sub-optimal processes, delays in fulfillment, and lots of confusion and errors. It is necessary that these mistakes are brought under the scanner and fixed before they leave a severe dent on the business growth.

Below we discuss 7 common mistakes that need immediate attention. 

1. Choosing too many tech vendors

Mistake

It could be quite tempting to implement multiple tech solutions from different vendors, considered experts or specialists, at multiple stages of the supply chain. However, this can result in creation of silos, and a lack of coordination among different processes especially if there are separate screens to track the progress of each stage. Multiple dashboards require extensive coordination and great resource time in management, it affects inventory visibility and reduces clarity, leading to a fragmented workflow.  

Fix

Instead of installing separate tech solutions to monitor individual processes e.g. OMS, WMS, Returns Management, etc. within a warehouse, it is beneficial to find the right tech partner with a single comprehensive solution to ensure seamless workflow and inventory accuracy. A single view of inventory provides one source of truth and ensures transparency within the warehouse to boost efficiency by making coordination between different arms of retail operations easier. 

2. Inappropriate use of data

Mistake

Making the maximum use of data is crucial to take accurate supply chain decisions, cutting costs, and ensuring the right products reach the right customer clusters. Inaccurate analysis or working manually on tedious Excel worksheets can lead to incorrect interpretations and missed sales opportunities.

Fix

Install algorithm-based, intelligent merchandising solutions that automated decision-making to minimize human intervention, offer quick decisions, and ensure accurate merchandise planning, buying, and allocation. By drilling down analysis to the individual store level, decision-making becomes highly granular and accurate. This also enables brands to shelve the right stock at the right store in the right quantity, thus avoiding over or under-stocking and capturing sales effectively.

3. Ill inventory health in stores

Mistake

Fashion brands are especially sensitive to the health of the inventory in stores because the demand changes rapidly with seasons and trends. With expanding business requirements, brands could overlook the importance of keeping the right stock, in the right quantity, at the right location, and at the right time. This leads to problems like aging stock, leftover stock, and inadequate size and style. Stock brokenness can lead to the unavailability of popular styles and a significant loss of sales.

Fix

Ensure you conduct an accurate demand forecast for the upcoming season and regularly replenish the stores to meet in-season demand spikes. Pull back slow-moving inventory to make space for better-performing styles. By maintaining the health of the inventory, you also minimize the possibility of running out of popular styles. Investing in good inventory management software enables you to minimize human errors, streamline merchandising, and maintain a healthy inventory.

4. Poor cost management strategies

Mistake 

A number of poor management practices can lead to an unnecessary increase in costs. This starts with the overproduction of goods which overshoots the estimated market demand causing overstocking, obsolescence, and wastage. A mismatch in supply and market demand can cause wastage or shortage, and subsequently a rise in transportation costs due to in-season redistribution. As brands expand their territorial footprint, ordering from a faraway centralized warehouse can become costly. Likewise, investing in warehouse infrastructure where you hope the demand would increase, also means unnecessarily blocking precious resources.

Fix

Use data-backed solutions to accurately forecast demand for a particular customer cluster. Merchandising solutions can help you stock the right styles and sizes for each market, ensuring zero wastage. With distributed warehousing and collaboration with 3PL partners, you can avoid investing in warehousing infrastructure, and convert your CAPEX into OPEX. Likewise, with regional utilization brands can ensure that most of their orders are fulfilled locally, and transportation costs are reduced dramatically. 

New-age technology solutions like Increff Cloud Warehousing, enable automation and offer a simple UX/UI to avoid the need for costly and time-consuming training. This increases the fungibility of your manpower and reduces dependency on expensive skilled labor. 

5. Single delivery service

Mistake 

Brands that focus only on one sales channel (say a website or social media) and develop myopia for all the others are likely to face the heat of intense competition. This is because customers are increasingly looking for quick fulfillment and ease of delivery from multiple points of contact with the brand. Brands which are unable to rise up to this new trend are likely to become irrelevant as omnichannel begins to dominate order fulfillment.

Fix

Create a walled garden of brand touch-points and experiences around your customers. Adopting omnichannel fulfillment and the latest fulfillment practices such as BOPIS, curbside pickup, or in-store pickup, enhances customer convenience and satisfaction. Omnichannel is also a cost-effective practice as it enables the brands to choose the most economical option to deliver goods to the customer.

6. Inefficient returns management

Mistake 

Brands could commit the mistake of ignoring their returns management as an auxiliary function of their supply chain. This can cause delays in returns logistics, slowing down of resale, stockpiling and obsolescence, or in-transit damage. Lacking the data about the reasons for return or the most repeatedly returned items could lead to regular repetition of past mistakes.

Fix

Have an automation-based returns management solution in place that will streamline the entire returns process. It enables you to sort and grade the returned goods, resell the good stock, and redirect the refurbished stock to the secondary market. This minimizes waste and enables brands to earn maximum value from the returned goods. Serialization enables 100% tracking of inventory and capturing the exact reason for returns in the barcode. Repeatedly returned products can be easily quarantined, analyzed, and removed from circulation to prevent unnecessary expenditure.

7. Excess discounting to clear stock

Mistake

Discounting could seem like the easiest way out to clear the stock at the end of the season, or during periods of slow sales. However, excess and indiscriminate discounting don’t just impact your margins, it also affects your brand image. Excessive discounting dilute the reputation of your brand and your customers may find it hard to trust the pricing of your products in the future.

Fix

Increff Markdown optimization solution enables brands to offer the right percentage of discount, just tipping the balance towards conversions, and preventing an excess drop in margin. This depends upon the ongoing performance of an item and the status of its inventory.

The mistakes discussed above could cost your business dearly as the intensely competitive marketplace of today leaves very little room for inefficiencies. Brands, therefore, need to plug all the possible loopholes and ensure the highest possible efficiency in their supply chain processes.

Categories
Business Warehouse Management

10 Unrealized Benefits of Serialization

Itemized serialization pays rich dividends to your business by optimizing processes, making inventory 100% traceable, minimizing human errors, and increasing transparency throughout the supply chain. Here are 10 unrealized benefits of serialization for the brands:

  1. Inventory accuracy and traceability

Serialization detects and prevents duplicate scanning of items thus ensuring 100% accuracy. Since all the information is stored in the barcode, it is very easy to trace its journey within a warehouse and through the supply chain.

2. Easy tracking of user and machine actions

Since barcode scanning allows capturing 100% data in the system, in case an incorrect step is taken by a staff member it can be easily tracked. Brands can get down to the exact item barcode which is faulty, and the staff member that has made the mistake. This makes error mapping quick for training purposes and helps identify loopholes in the processes. This is not possible to record on SKUs as the number of items having the same barcode are many and zeroing in on the exact faulty item is difficult. 

3. Automate processes to reduce the resource time investment

Rather than using lengthy spreadsheets or approximations for taking crucial warehousing decisions, serialization enables easy automation of processes. Consolidating multiple steps helps reduce manpower and handle repetitive tasks more efficiently allowing managers to focus only on important tasks. It avoids costly errors and consequent business losses.

4. No need for wall-to-wall audits

In an SKU-based system, conducting wall-to-wall physical verification of the items require all operations of the warehouse to stop in order to avoid recounting the same items. This is not an issue with itemized serialization as each item has a unique ID and is perfectly mapped to the bin. With real-time inventory sync, in case there is any change the barcode will ensure it gets captured in the system. With 100% bin level inventory accuracy, regular wall-to-wall audits are not required.  

5. FIFO and FEFO for order picking

By having all the information accurately stored in the barcodes, brands can prevent piling up of aging inventory, obsolescence, and wastage. As the product expiry date of each item gets mapped to the barcodes, brands can use the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) algorithm to push out those items that entered the warehouse first. This method is widely used in industries where inventory is prone to obsolescence, such as fashion. 

Likewise, the expiry date of each item being stored, items expiring first are sold off first by the First-Expiry-First-Out (FEFO) method. Companies dealing in perishable products such as packaged milk or pharmaceuticals mostly use the FEFO method.

6. Location Adherence in Picking

In a scenario where an SKU is distributed among several bins and the whole SKU is represented by a single barcode, the picker may pick the items from any bin thus impacting bin level accuracy. SKU-based order picking will either not specify which bin the item needs to be picked from, or the system will not prompt an error when the item is picked from a mapped location. This can lead to inventory mismanagement, obsolescence, and errors in counting. On the other hand, when picking is done by following the individual barcode of each item, the picker will pick the item from the bin specified by the system. This ensures the inventory count is accurate at all times, there is no need for regular audits, and there is 100% traceability within the warehouse. 

7. Effective price analysis with the possibility for daily margin adjustments

Processes get interrupted whenever prices are revised in the stores. With serialization, brands can keep track of their cost prices and sales prices dynamically for different items. Margin adjustments can be made at individual style and piece level. Given the fact that the inventory is completely digitized, brands can easily adjust the prices of their stock depending upon the demand and location. 

8. Efficient returns management and processing

Serialization allows brands to link each returned item’s barcode with its reason for return. This makes for great insights into why customers are rejecting the products and what corrective measures must be taken. Repeatedly returned items can be quarantined for a thorough quality check, to understand the defect. Rather than creating new SKUs, serialization of inventory enables brands to send the exact item back to the vendor in RTV (return-to-vendor). As soon as a serialized item is returned, it can be made live immediately (depending upon its condition), expediting re-commerce and increasing the chances of resale. 

9. Easy SPF (Seller Protection Fund) claims to process 

When the exact reason for return is mapped to individual pieces of inventory, along with the image, it is easier for marketplaces to file a claim with brands for the rejected item. This ensures quick reconciliation with the brands.

10. Simple UX/UI for faster order processing

Serialization helps digitize the warehousing process and allows brands to use handheld devices or Bluetooth scanners for scanning items. This eliminates chances of human error and enables working with an automated system accessible through a simple UX/UI. All of this precludes the need for costly high-skilled labor, cuts down on training time, easy cross functioning, and ensures faster order processing.

As is clear from the above pointers, serialization lies at the very heart of automation in warehouses and is the first step toward making supply chain processes more efficient, cost-effective, and highly competitive. 

Categories
Smart Merchandising

4 Myths on Store Sales Maximization

As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive by the day, store managers are dealing with a tremendous amount of pressure to maximize sales, meet targets and boost profitability. In the last couple of years, the conditions created mainly by the pandemic have only added to that pressure and compelled brands to explore new options and innovative practices. 

But these have also given an impetus to a lot of myths surrounding supply chain management, four of which we are going to bust in this blog. So let’s get started!

Myth 1: Keep 100% inventory in stock to fulfill any order that may come

This could be one of the most tempting ways to ensure no sales opportunities are lost, and customer satisfaction is maintained at the highest possible levels. But having all your inventory in stock will raise your carrying costs sharply and may also result in a lot of stockpiles. 

The way forward instead is “rightsizing” your in-stock inventory and leveraging the services of your trusted suppliers for delivering on time. The future of profitable supply chains in fact lies in how well you are able to balance between in-store and Just-In-Time (JIT) inventory.

By building shorter supply chains, you can make your business continuity plans more robust and avoid disruptions that are typical of long and winding supply chains. Another crucial factor is your ability to integrate and coordinate with local and last-mile partners. These not only understand the immediate customer cluster better but also make a lot more logistical sense for your brand.

Myth 2: Calculation in Excel is easy. The new-age merchandising tool can be complex & time-consuming

Well, this statement is highly illustrative of your inertia to grow and evolve as a brand! Excel is great for storing and manipulating data and generating forecast reports. But it is a generic tool that will seem too primitive for the growing challenges of today’s marketplace that demands automation, specialization, and speed.

New-age merchandising tools may appear rather formidable or complex. But in reality, these are exactly the opposite. The great thing is, that these do not work on a rip-and-replace model and can easily be accommodated into your pre-existing systems. These are highly adaptable and operable as plug-and-play solutions. 

Myth 3: Discounting will increase sales & help earn more

Discounting could be a good short-term ploy to get the aging stock off your shelves and make room for fresh products. But using it indiscriminately could be rather counterintuitive and harm the stature of your brand in the long run. More immediately, it will reduce your margins and have serious implications for the overall profitability of your products.

What you really need, is to be able to use discounts in combination with data-based insights, from new-age merchandising solutions like Increff Markdown Optimization. These help you figure out what percentage of discount to use at what time and which store locations, so as to boost sales while maintaining healthy profit margins.

Myth 4: Forecasting the right width and depth is sufficient to improve inventory turnover

For starters, forecasting can give brands a foundational idea about the expected sales and demand patterns for the upcoming season. But in a fast-changing marketplace, a lot of in-season changes could upset even the most elaborately designed plans. 

For instance, fashion brands being highly influenced by cultural dynamics could suddenly experience a spurt in demand for a certain style, after a movie release. Likewise, a supply chain shock due to strikes, conflicts, or calamities could put significant pressure on some parts of your supply chain network.

Dealing with these dynamic market conditions in highly disruptive times requires you to think on your feet, rather than putting your supply chain on auto-pilot mode. New-age merchandising solutions allow you to do exactly that, by giving you insights into in-season changes in demand. Responding to these changes using inter-store or inter-warehouse transfers can be highly effective when backed by real-time data from across your network.

To sum up!

Sales maximization is obviously the most sought-after goal for every brand. But in the hoard to achieve their targets, brands could often fall for unfounded myths and unproven strategies that could hamper their growth or cause serious damage to their reputation. To keep evolving in the face of fresh challenges, formidable competitors, and volatile market conditions, brands need to keep an eye out for the latest technologies, cutting-edge processes, and robust strategies. 

Categories
Technology Warehouse Management

Who Says Automation is with Robots? Think Beyond!

While robotics has a significant role in automation, it is not the only way to achieve it. Robotics consists of robots/ machines substituting human labor, automation brings together machines, software, and upgraded technologies to perform tasks that are otherwise performed manually. In fact, investment in robots is a rather expensive affair! New-age warehouse management systems are smart and affordable to introduce automation in your warehouse.

Many fears of job losses are associated with the idea of automation. However, these fears are largely unfounded as automation merely seeks to supplement and empower human effort. By taking over critical decision-making and manual labor, automation boosts efficiency in processes and enhances accuracy many times over.   

In this blog, we bring forth the vast number of ways in which automation is reshaping the tasks and functions of supply chain management, and turning warehouses into incredible high-tech facilities!

Serialization of inventory: Serialization and barcoding allow effective tracking of inventory in the warehouse. It allows auto-mapping of inventory located at the time of picking, thus saving significant time and manual effort in searching for the same. Some activities are clubbed together and consolidated with serialization, thus making the process faster.

Much of our supply chain efforts revolve around seamless communication in mapping and locating the stock. Items can be easily scanned using wireless devices such as Bluetooth scanners, smartphones, handheld terminals, and barcode scanners. Wireless devices enable an easy workflow as the staff can conveniently carry them around to read barcodes and capture data in the central repository. 

Simple UX/UI: Solutions offered by Increff are easy-to-use and cost-effective owing to their user-friendly UX/UI which doesn’t require any specialized or prolonged training. Besides, in case of any errors by the staff, the system automatically blocks the user from advancing further, unless the wrong entry is resolved. This eliminates any chances of errors creeping into the system, which could snowball into costly mistakes right across the warehouse and beyond. 

Holidays and end-of-season could be strenuous for employees but a simple and user-friendly UX/UI can go a long way in reducing stress. An easy-to-use UX/UI permits collaboration and sharing of resources during peak hours to maximize manpower utilization. A user-friendly UX/UI ensures zero dependencies on skilled labor, so it’s easy to recruit extra hands in the time of need. The training time of 5 minutes, makes the system highly cost-effective and adaptable. 

Automated pick-list generation: Picklists can be generated basis channel and SLA priority. There’s no need to put the same styles or SKUs in the same bill. Serialization identifies barcodes and bins, to automatically generates picklists for wave-wise picking. The picker can then perform wave picking to save time and effort. Each item is picked and scanned. In case the picker chooses the wrong item, it will be automatically rejected by the system. This helps reduce errors in picking.

Put-to-light storage: To save time and boost efficiency while storing the products on the warehouse shelves, light devices are used to direct the operators. This semi-automatic technique enables the operator to ‘put’ the items in the right pigeon-hole where the light flashes. 

Infinite scalability: Serialization enables the warehouse staff to perform chaotic putaway. All the items are brought to the same sorting table. Barcodes are then scanned to read the order-related information after which the items are sent out on their respective routes. Chaotic putaway and storage allow maximum warehouse space utilization, and deal with remarkably huge volumes!

Seamless returns management: Barcoding captures all the information of the returned products, especially their order history and reason for return. The reason for returns can be analyzed to find the most regularly returned items (which also have a greater likelihood of being defective). Analyzing customer buying and returning patterns can provide insights to design future strategies to curb returns. Besides, visibility and traceability of returned items are essential to avoid losses and delays. This is again made possible by the serialization of each item.

Eliminating paper processes: Increff is an efficient multichannel, web-based WMS and order fulfillment system that offers a real-time (less than 15 seconds) order inventory sync feature. Serialization and barcode scanning eliminates paperwork within the warehouse and every step gets recorded in the system. Manual errors can be traced back to the warehouse worker and adequate corrections can be made to prevent such errors in the future. 

Automation is finding a tremendous application in the field of warehouse management. It has opened up new vistas for businesses, making them more proactive while handling their inventory and ensuring a high standard of service to customers. Despite all these outstanding features and futuristic benefits, automation-based solutions are highly cost-effective in terms of their upfront costs, training and development, integrations, and up-gradations.

Categories
Technology Warehouse Management

5 Myths on Warehouse Inventory Management Busted

Warehouse automation is fast becoming one of the essentials of supply chain management. But there are some very common myths that have been making rounds in the industry and believe it or not, even the most seasoned professionals may fall for them. In this blog, we clear the air around some preconceived notions surrounding warehouse management systems. So let’s get started.

Myth 1: Automation is suitable only for large brands and retailers

Larger and well-established brands definitely require a robust automation infrastructure, as they simply cannot operate their mammoth business processes manually. But this doesn’t mean that the smaller brands can afford to do without automation. 

Strategic planning in today’s highly competitive business environment requires a highly data-driven approach right from the beginning. There’s very little margin for error, especially for brands just coming into the industry and up against formidable competitors, both new and old. 

Fast-changing business environment especially demands that brands receive a continuous stream of real-time inputs and leverage automation to make well-informed decisions. Automation also boosts the efficiency and accuracy of business processes like picking and packing, thus enabling the smaller brands to save on some precious resources.

Myth 2: Adopting advanced warehousing means we must completely change every process

A drastic change in technology can significantly hamper the ongoing warehouse processes. When migrating to an advanced WMS solution, many brands are in fact apprehensive of bringing their warehouse processes to a halt.

These fears are entirely unfounded. New age warehousing solutions are often on plug-and-play rather than the rip-and-replace model. This means there is no pressure on brands to suddenly upgrade to a new system and do away with the old processes. The migration with solutions like Increff WMS is smooth, gradual, and well-planned, causing absolutely no disruptions to the ongoing warehouse operations. 

Myth 3: Automation means robotics

The word ‘automation’ instantly conjures up images of a massive assembly line with robotic arms fixing parts into automobiles. But that’s a very narrow view of the idea of automation. In reality, a number of technologies — both physical and digital — come together to set up automation in a business process. 

Transformation in warehouse management is all about automating the movement of inventory within and out of the warehouse with minimal human assistance. It seeks to eliminate repetitive, labor-intensive, manual data entry, and analysis tasks, with automation-driven processes. Most often automation in warehouses simply refers to the use of software to replace manual tasks.

Automation begins with the serialization and barcoding of all items, which makes them traceable both within the warehouse and throughout the supply chain. These are scanned and tracked using Bluetooth scanners and handheld terminals (HHT). The use of digital solutions such as warehouse management systems, merchandising software, and returns management systems allows brands to manage their inventory, take assortment-related decisions, and handle returns with greater efficiency.

Myth 4: New WMS will require expensive, time-consuming training

Advanced technology may appear rather formidable and hard to handle. It may often lead to resistance amongst the staff due to fears of the unexpected. For business owners, it could mean added costs of elaborate training interventions. But a cursory look at some of the new-age software solutions is enough to bust this myth.

WMS solutions like Increff WMS offer an incredibly simple UX/UI and workers can get started on the system with just 5 minutes of training. This makes cross-functioning of your existing staff easy and precludes the need to hire any specialized workforce for operating the system. In times of labor shortage, this feature can especially come in handy and help brands save costs on skilled labor. Besides, the implementation and deployment of the solutions are very quick and effective.

Quite contrary to the prevailing notions, therefore, new WMS solutions facilitate and empower your workforce, rather than pose a threat to it. 

Myth 5: Warehouse operations must shut down during audits

Audits are a frequent feature of warehouse management and can be quite time-consuming. This doesn’t mean the normal warehouse operations must be suspended during audits. With new-age warehouse management solutions, audits can be performed with utmost accuracy, while operations in the warehouse go on as usual.

Contrary to the above myths, new-age warehouse management systems powered by automation, make warehousing highly efficient, easy, and cost-effective. As business competition intensifies, automation is fast becoming an essential prerequisite for brands, no matter how big or small. 

Categories
Business Smart Merchandising

5 Ways to Control Inventory in the World of Lean Retailing

The fast-changing retail industry is increasingly adopting a customer-centric approach. Customers have a wider array of options and are no longer willing to buy whatever brands offer them on a platter. In the past, retailers used to purchase merchandise based on their gut instinct or mere hunches. But today, staying relevant in the market calls for a scientific and data-driven approach. 

The growing dynamism of customer preferences also means that brands can no longer pile up stocks indiscriminately in their warehouses, as this could lead to wastage and obsolescence. This is where lean retailing comes in!

Lean retailing is all about ‘rightsizing’ your inventory and maintaining a minimal stock while relying more on the JIT deliveries as and when a product style is demanded. Lean retailing is a highly data-centric and customer-oriented supply chain practice and calls for strong supplier relationships and seamless communications. It enables businesses to cut down on unnecessary carrying costs and avoid the innumerable risks of overstock.

In this blog, we take a look at 5 simple methods you can adopt to make lean retailing a roaring success.

Regular replenishment of stock

To ensure reducing your in-stock inventory doesn’t impact your day-to-day sales, it is necessary that you replenish your stores and warehouses regularly. Optimum replenishment of stock aims at keeping your inventory costs low, while still being able to meet customer demands on time.

The optimum rate of replenishment is determined based on the data related to customer demand and preferences, and also the physical storage available with the brand. These can be factored in using inventory management software which can help brands arrive at the optimum reordering levels and also the timings of stock replenishment.

Redistribution of stock with inter-store transfers

A pre-season forecast of demand is necessary and can provide a fair idea of the customer behavior patterns over the longer time horizon. But developments during the season can also impact the trends and thus brands need a more proactive approach to ensure no sales are lost. For such contingencies, inter-store transfers are a great way out.

The inter-store transfer allows easy circulation of stock from areas of low demand to those of high demand. It is very effective in improving the health of your inventory, reducing stock brokenness, and supporting omnichannel distribution.

Suggest pullbacks for dead/slow-moving inventory

Slow-moving inventory doesn’t just occupy space on your shelves, it also prevents better-performing products to be exposed to the market. Besides, the longer your products lie on your shelves, the greater are the chances of damage, eventually making them completely unsuited for sale. 

It is necessary therefore that you identify your slow-moving stock early by tracking your inventory regularly. After zeroing in on the slow-movers, pull them back either into the warehouse or transfer them to another store if there is a likelihood of better conversions.

Expose offline inventory to online sales channels

Omnichannel commerce is fast emerging as the most disruptive trend in retail, and the lines between offline and online sales channels are blurring fast. Exposing offline products otherwise lying in your physical stores can enhance their conversion manifolds and boost sales.

With automation-based solutions like Increff Offline to Online (O2O) solution, brands can get a single view of 100% of their inventory across the board through a simple UI. As soon as an order is received, fulfillment can be done from the store or warehouse closest to the customer, thus saving significantly on logistical costs and dramatically speeding up the delivery. O2O can however be made possible only by having complete transparency and traceability of the entire inventory.

Faster re-commerce to avoid stockpiles

As brands expand their presence and achieve greater sales levels, returns can also grow proportionately. Handling returns efficiently with automated solutions is necessary to ensure the quick resale of the products. 

Increff WMS allows brands to sort the returned products on the basis of their condition. Subsequently, the items can be resold through your own sales channels, or redirected to secondary markets as second-hand products.

Faster re-commerce prevents damage due to delays and prolonged transportation, and thus loss of value. This helps optimize the resale value of the returned goods and avoids stockpiling low-value items in the inventory.

Maintaining a lean inventory is the way forward when it comes to building streamlined supply chains to meet the needs of an intensely competitive, dynamic, and customer-centric marketplace. Lean retailing however comes with its own set of challenges, most of which can be mitigated with some proactive planning and smart tactical decision-making.

Categories
Technology Warehouse Management

Top 5 Challenges Within the Warehouse and How to Solve Them

As retail and e-commerce turn into highly competitive spaces warehouse management is also becoming more and more challenging. Customers these days expect lightning-fast deliveries, convenient shopping experiences, and easy returns. This requires greater flexibility, proactive handling, and a technology-driven warehouse management system backing the sales channels. 

With new trends such as omnichannel taking full effect, the challenges are further complicated as warehousing now requires a highly customer-centric approach. Competition is getting increasingly intense as smaller brands operating neck to neck with established giants, seek to carve out their place in the market. This often results in dropping margins and demands greater efficiency to stay afloat. 

As such, accurate inventory management, optimum picking and packing, transparency, and traceability of items are some of the must-have features of warehouse management systems, to ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. 

Let’s take a look at the top 5 challenges in a warehouse today, and ways to tackle them effectively.

  1. Inventory tracking during BAU (Business as usual) and during peak sales period

As businesses expand, tracking the inventory manually can be extremely tardy and hectic. Inventory digitization and serialization ensure seamless inventory tracking within and outside the warehouse. This is all the more crucial during peak sales periods like the end-of-season sales or festive sales since only an automated system can ensure continuous, real-time tracking when the stakes are the highest. Barcoding and serialization help cut down human errors and inaccuracies. This enables warehouse personnel to log the inventory correctly and locate it easily as and when they wish to move it. 

2. Efficient Picking and Packing to Meet SLA Requirements

Undue delays and inexplicable inaccuracies can turn out to be the most difficult challenges in meeting SLAs. This, in the long run, can result in an increase in the rate of returns, higher customer churn, and loss of revenue. These issues can be tackled with efficient picking and packing so that only the right products in the right quantities are shipped. 

Increff WMS express picking enables auto picklist-based SLA and channel priority to ensure express delivery orders are dispatched on priority. Pick efficiency is enhanced using the wave-wise picking technique. This way the picker doesn’t have to go to the same aisle multiple times to pick. With its image-assisted picking and packing, Increff ensures 100% order picking accuracy.

3. Minimizing Wastage and Obsolescence

Poor stock management is one of the leading reasons for wastage and obsolescence. Perishable products can especially be sensitive to expiry dates and highly prone to wastage. With automated solutions like Increff WMS, retailers can put in place an alert notification for batches approaching their expiry or sell-by date. Commonly known as the FEFO (First Expiry First Out) technique, this significantly avoids wastage and obsolescence in warehouses, especially for brands dealing in Pharma, Cosmetics, and Consumables. 

4. Maximizing Resource Efficiency and Productivity

As more and more players emerge and compete in the market, there’s growing pressure on each brand —both big and small—to improve their bottom line, maintain healthy margins, and boost productivity. By offering a simple UI, Increff enables brands to maximize the efficiency of their warehouse staff with the training of no more than 10-15 minutes. This is especially crucial during peak sales when brands have to hire additional personnel or conduct cross-functional training from within their staff. 

The system generates auto-alerts at every step and will not allow the warehousing staff to move ahead without resolving the previous error. This ensures every step is captured in the system and the errors get corrected at each step and are not amplified. By capturing the picker ID in the system, there is greater traceability and accountability for errors. 

Combining and executing multiple steps in the process also ensures high performance. Increff enables picking and auditing simultaneously, thus cutting down on any potential downtime. 

5. Faster re-commerce and returns management

In the year 2020, Americans returned goods worth a whopping $428 billion which made for a return rate of 10.6%. Quite clearly, managing returns is a serious challenge that brands must overcome proactively to ensure optimum profitability. Time-consuming returns may lead to loss of sales as products may not be visible on the sales channels immediately. 

To reduce the chances of loss of sales, WMS solutions enable brands to conduct a quality check of the returned goods, and sort them as resaleable, refurbishable, and rejected. In case the goods are rejected, capturing the exact reason for rejection can help in the correction of future errors, conduct vendor analysis, and staff training. With the right labels, tags, and barcoding, there are zero chances of mixing the returned goods, keeping the whole returns process streamlined. 

Having the right warehouse management system in place can help deal with all the above challenges with greater ease and agility. In fact, a cutting-edge WMS ensures brands stay ahead of the competition and ensure the highest levels of customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. 

Categories
Business Warehouse Management

How Technology is Propelling the Growth of D2C Brands

Brands that have a well-established presence among their customers can benefit significantly by opting for the D2C route of marketing. In the US alone, D2C sales are expected to reach $175 billion by 2023.  Even new and emerging brands find tremendous merit in D2C marketing as they wish to gain better control over their brand, eliminate the intermediary and acquire complete ownership of the customer’s journey. Technology has helped build a strong foundation for D2C brands to promote business growth:

– Emergence of easy SaaS-based website development platforms like Shopify, Magento, etc. have made it easy for merchandisers to open their own stores. 

– Quick preintegration with marketplaces have made it easy to expand the network and reach. 

– Smooth integration of SaaS-based, cloud-hosted Tech solutions help analyze demand and inventory levels.

Benefits of D2C

  • D2C enables brands to gain complete ownership of the value chain as well as the customer experience. They can create on-brand experiences throughout the customer journey and build rapport without having to rely on intermediaries. 
  • In a business world dominated by data, D2C gives brands a unique opportunity to capture comprehensive information about their target customer groups, thus enabling them to craft the right products, services, and communications.
  • Logistically, D2C makes a lot more sense as brands can directly reach out to their customers if they have a healthy online presence. It may even result in lower costs and better margins for the brands.
  • D2C is in line with the emerging trend of omnichannel commerce which allows customers to interact with the brands through multiple touch-points. Intermediary platforms like Amazon can hardly be expected to provide omnichannel services for each individual brand.

Challenges in going D2C and how technology is helping brands solve them

While D2C enables brands to retain and consolidate their identity and reach out to their customers directly, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. 

One such challenge is the direct confrontation with retailers who invariably have well-established marketing and communication channels. Brands pitting themselves against these intermediaries could get bogged down, as they will have to invest heavily in the marketing efforts that would otherwise have been borne by the intermediary.

But many of the challenges that D2C brings forth can be tackled with the help of technology-driven solutions. 

  • Maximizing the reach: Exposing 100% inventory and maximizing reach through a brand’s own website and multiple marketplaces through a single tech platform.
  • Real-time inventory-order sync: To ensure 100% of orders are captured and there are no cancellations due to overbooking.
  • Cloud warehousing: Possibility to outsource warehousing, without CapEx, to Industry experts and 3PL providers. This allows brands to build a strong warehousing network to capture customers at every point of sales.
  • Efficient and error-free fulfillment: Efficient warehousing is ensured with the use of technology and automation. Automation of processes helps minimize human decision-making errors and delays in order fulfillment. Digitization of inventory ensures 100% traceability and prevents wastage or loss of products in the warehouse. 
  • Simple UX/UI and easy accessibility: Ready dashboards to view brand, SKU & style performance at individual stakeholder levels from warehousing manager to Brand CEO. 
  • Reports of actionable insights: Easy to generate reports for analysis. Understanding channel performance and brand performance so that quick revisions can be done. 
  • Returns management: Easy returns analysis to capture the actual pain points and address them to minimize future returns. Rapid recommence to ensure maximum sales.

The emergence of D2C aggregators (Thrasio-style business model) in pushing the growth of D2C brands

A new trend on the D2C horizon is the emergence of Thrasio-style D2C aggregators that acquire new promising brands and help them expand. These brands often lack the support and technical know-how which is provided by the acquiring company. The companies also offer a common base of infrastructure that helps them support multiple brands. Besides, smaller brands also get ready access to technology upgrades which is essential to survive in the highly competitive marketplace of today. 

Companies like Perch, Moonshot, GlobalBees, Mensa Brands, G.O.A.T Brand Labs, etc. are following the footsteps of Thrasio to power the growth of D2C brands. Thrasio-style aggregators identify brands that are doing well on marketplaces and acquire them to provide expertise in marketing, brand development, and supply chain management, thus pushing for exponential growth. Having a coherent customer base, quality niche products, and a Thrasio-style backer now seems to be the perfect recipe for creating a successful D2C brand.

D2C is one of the fastest emerging trends on the e-commerce horizon. All that brands need is the ability to scale faster with the help of best-in-class technology as well as some Thrasio-style financial backing. While the challenges are many, D2C as a trend is coping well to create a level playing field for smaller and newer brands.

Categories
Business Technology

5 Growing Technology Trends Reshaping the Retail Industry

Cutting-edge technology has left no sector of the economy untouched and is turning out to be one of the biggest drivers of efficiency, customer experience, and profitability. In the last few years, the retail industry has also been experiencing some transformative technological interventions that are reshaping the way business is done.  At the very heart of this transformation is the growth in ICT (Information & Communication Technology) and digital technology. This is going to have an impact on how the industry will evolve in the coming years. In this blog, we talk about the top 5 technology trends that are at the forefront of this global transformation in retail.

  1. Omnichannel retail

Omnichannel retail seeks to provide an unprecedented number of options to customers in terms of shopping and delivery. It puts customers right at the center of the retail process. Omnichannel allows customers to interact with the brand at multiple touchpoints and switch between channels while shopping for products. Customers making a purchase on a brand’s social media page can pick up the product from their brick-and-mortar store.

Omnichannel provides customers a consistent shopping experience across diverse platforms, both online and offline. This however creates new challenges for brands at the backend and compels them to be more agile and flexible with their fulfillment process. 

Omnichannel is driven by a robust technology infrastructure. Connecting all the retail channels and integrating the assortments of all warehouses and stores is essential, and is done using automation-backed solutions. Inventory barcode and serialization facilitate easy tracking of items as they move fluidly across channels. Likewise, analytics and automation help position products at the right locations which helps reduce delivery time as well as logistics costs.

2. Need for immediate gratification

As new players enter the retail fray, customers are spoiled for choice, not just in terms of product options but also in the speed of delivery. Same-day delivery is gradually paving way for delivery within a few hours’ time. This requires rethinking the product placement and logistics on the part of the brands.

Accurate forecasting and data analysis, coupled with automation, can help brands make better decisions and place the right products close to their customer base. In-season sales and inter-warehouse transfers can further help meet the changing demand of the local market. More and more brands are now opting for distributed warehousing and on-demand warehousing, allowing brands to place the most sought-after products as close to customer clusters as possible.

3. Automation of processes to reduce dependence on skilled labor 

One of the most formidable challenges that companies faced during the pandemic was the shortage of skilled labor. This often made handling of equipment and technology difficult as most of the workforce lacked adequate training. 

But with technology solutions like Increff WMS, there is a greater role for automation and much lesser reliance on a trained or skilled workforce. The UX/UI is often very simple and easy to use. Besides, the automatic pop-ups act as warning signals in case of any errors in the input, and prevent the user from advancing, unless the error is cleared at each step. This means just about anyone with basic training can operate the system and keep the show running.

4. Meaningful partnerships for value addition and hyper-localization

The hyperlocal delivery industry is expected to grow up to $3634 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 17.9% between 2019-2027. An increasing number of brands are now relying upon local partners for their last-mile logistics and other specialized tasks. 

Hyperlocal partners are most effective in supplying goods like drugs and groceries that require quicker fulfillment. They reduce the reliance on the larger supply chain and provide for better business continuity in case of disruptions elsewhere. However, establishing a meaningful partnership with hyperlocal players means brands must integrate with them seamlessly on a robust technology platform, making them a part of their supply chain.

5. Sustainable retailing

Using technology and automation to route goods through the shortest possible pathways means savings for brands and other stakeholders, and also reduced levels of emissions. Greater levels of accuracy mean the reduced likelihood of returns and therefore elimination of additional transportation. By leveraging options like distributed warehousing and placing goods closer to the customers, brands are also able to create shorter supply chains, maximize sales and boost sustainability in retail for a better future. 

With technology as the main driving force, these crucial trends are all set to reshape the retail industry and make a lasting impact on how the business is going to evolve from here on. Quite evidently, these trends are expected to create value for all stakeholders, including the environment.