Shane Smith is the senior vice president of supply chain solutions at enVista, a supply chain and enterprise technology consulting firm. Smith brings to this position some 30 years of experience as an executive supply chain leader in the design and administration of systems in distribution and manufacturing environments. He works with enVista’s key clients in creating world-class distribution centers and in negotiating purchases, liaising across functions to improve processes, and overseeing the implementation of cutting-edge software solutions.
Q: How would you describe the current state of the industry?
A: The WMS [warehouse management system] market has undergone rapid growth and innovation in recent years. As e-commerce and supply chain complexity increase, so does the need for effective and adaptable WMS solutions.
There are many challenges in the industry, from warehouses being strained for space to labor issues to customer satisfaction. Thus, companies are turning to automation and systematic tools to help drive more efficiency, reliability, and accuracy in their businesses.
These challenges are leading to the digital transformation trend—wider adoption of no-code/low-code platforms, increased migration to the cloud, leveraging AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning] technologies, increased automation, and wider investment in blockchain.
Q: What are customers looking to achieve in their distribution operations?
A: Customers in distribution operations usually have several goals, such as increasing operational efficiency, improving inventory management and accuracy, achieving precise order fulfillment, trimming labor costs, and realizing better space utilization. Currently, space utilization and labor management are a couple of the biggest undertakings for distribution operations, with many warehouses failing to leverage all of the space available to them and struggling to attract, retain, and properly manage talented associates.
Q: What technologies are distributors currently seeking in order to maximize productivity?
A: Productivity is a top priority for distributors, especially in today’s climate. Some of the main technologies they are pursuing are warehouse automation, internet-of-things solutions, data analytics and business intelligence, cloud-based solutions, and mobile technologies. These types of solutions are meant not to replace human labor, but rather to augment it and allow for higher levels of efficiency, productivity, and safety in the distribution center.
Q: How are your supply chain clients dealing with the worker shortage?
A: To cope with the lack of available workers, supply chain clients have been adopting various strategies. Some of these include workforce management optimization, automation and labor management systems, training and upskilling programs, the use of staffing agencies, and incentive and retention strategies. Many are considering incentive-based pay and other employee engagement programs to improve retention, since finding new labor is so challenging right now.
Q: What are the advantages of taking a vendor-agnostic approach in devising solutions for your clients?
A: Taking a vendor-neutral approach to supply chain solutions enables us to deliver several benefits to our clients. We create value by tailoring solutions based on the specific requirements of each client, thus selecting the best solution for them.In addition, because we are looking at multiple vendors, clients are receiving a fair and impartial assessment of the tools available to them. A vendor-neutral approach also helps us stay current with the latest trends and innovations across different supply chain solutions, ensuring that the client has access to the most advanced solutions. Aside from these main benefits, there are several others, such as cost efficiency, long-term partnerships and a focused approach.