According to Zebra’s 2020 Shopper Study, omnichannel shopping is the new normal and e-commerce fulfillment (e-fulfillment) options are now expected of all retailers, including startups, small businesses and chain retailers who generate a significant amount of revenue from their brick-and-mortar footprint.
Supply chain operations are being forced to adapt fulfillment strategies and integrate technologies that build data-powered environments for smarter fulfillment. This enables businesses to predict and stay ahead of the high volume of customer demands. But simply collecting data isn’t enough. Organizations need a way to make sense of it in real time so that workers on the factory or warehouse floor know the “best next action” to take at all times. These front-line workers need up-to-the minute insights into everything from inventory locations to change orders to be able to mitigate costly fulfillment delays or shipping mistakes. In other words, visibility and agility are required to sustain supply chain operations today to support the demands of omnichannel shopping and e-fulfillment.
Increasing Inventory Visibility
With inventory coming and going faster than the industry has previously seen, full visibility has never been more important. Businesses need to know what inventory is in stock, where it’s located—whether in a warehouse, store or out for delivery—and its condition.
According to the latest Zebra® Future of Fulfillment Vision Study, transportation and logistics businesses along with manufacturers and retailers believe that, on average, inventory accuracy must exceed a minimum of 76 percent to handle the rise of omnichannel logistics. However, with consumers’ growing “on-demand” expectations, businesses need to be able to trust their inventory accuracy across their enterprise and beyond—including fulfillment centers, stores, third-party logistics warehouses and even their vendors. And accuracy rates will need to be much higher than 76 percent to keep consumers truly happy.
With omnichannel fulfillment, an order can ship from anywhere. Businesses need to be able to rely on their inventory numbers and have the confidence that they are as close to 100 percent as possible. While many feel they have to settle for 76 percent accuracy due to staffing, technology or process limitations, , businesses can in fact achieve even higher accuracy rates with the right inventory management solutions that would equip operations for future efficiency and efficacy.
Rugged, enterprise-grade handheld, wearable, tablet and vehicle-mounted-computers can be combined with scanners, RFID technologies, locationing systems, printers, software and services to create a solid technology foundation for data aggregation, analytics and distribution – all of which are essential to gaining 365-degree visibility into your operations and your entire supply chain. Whether customers are buying online and shipping merchandise home, buying online and picking up in store, or ordering in store to ship to home, front-line workers equipped with these tools will find it easy to fulfill complex orders in cooperation with your supply chain partners and each other.
Being able to know exactly what’s in stock and where it’s located throughout the supply chain means those at the front line of business can be more productive and effective. Workers don’t have to waste time manually searching through aisles or shelves. Information is available at their fingertips, enterprise-grade mobile computers allow them to look up anything and get real-time information — ultimately saving time and increasing workflow efficiencies. The faster items are found, the faster they can be processed for shipment. And the faster customers receive their orders, the more they are satisfied.
Increasing Fulfillment Agility
Real-time data and analytics also prepare supply chain operations to manage the exploding volume of orders, especially during the current peak holiday shopping season. Smart technology connects every link in the supply chain and enables transparency that improves operations at any part of the journey. It empowers workers with best-action guidance so they can make decisions that impact overall success.
Having access to real-time data offers the ability to track inventory even when it’s in-motion, which allows for greater flexibility to optimize efficiencies. This could mean adjusting a delivery route or creating a smoother picking and packing workflow. The possibilities are endless. It also allows your team to react fast if a customer changes or cancels an order prior to fulfillment, which minimizes the risk of a later return.
When every area of your operations area connected to the same data, and that data is being generated by software-enriched devices at the operational edge of your business, your ‘systems of record’ become ‘systems of reality.’ With this strong foundation, it becomes easier to pinpoint efficiency opportunities that will increase the level of customer satisfaction in a dynamic, customer-centric environment.
These new fulfillment challenges don’t have to create setbacks. Modernizing your operations across warehouse, retail, manufacturing and logistics with technologies at the edge of the network offers limitless opportunities for increased efficiency, productivity and profitability.
Download the Zebra® Future of Fulfillment Vision Study to view the full set of findings.