'Do you have this item in stock?'
It's a haunting question for retail outlets, eCommerce businesses and distribution centres the world over. And why do customer service representatives get nervous when someone asks this innocent question? Because workers simply can't be sure, due to ineffective insight into goods' availability and location.
Inventory control processes are now moving towards a digitally connected ecosystem of hardware and stock management platforms. Many Australian businesses are evolving their supply chain management off the back of three factors
- Capturing and improving access to real-time data on stock arrival, storage and departure for management end-processes.
- Using autonomous robot technologies to reduce goods picking-packing times.
- Deploying Radio Frequency Identification to make checking merchandise order history and inventory levels more accurate.
See how you can utilise these three supply chain management technologies to make that dreaded customer enquiry an issue you can handle with confidence!
1) Real-time data capture
In the retail industry, both e-Commerce and bricks-and-mortar businesses are suffering from the same weight of expectation – instant customer gratification. Whether that means immediate access to stock or quick dispatch from distribution centres, customer demand is higher – and more focused on now – than ever. Salmat's 2018 report found that a mere one in five Australians are only loyal to one brand. If consumers can't get what they want when they want it, they won't stick around to wait.
To meet heightened expectations, retail businesses need to connect with partners across their supply chain and use real-time data software for advanced inventory management. Instant access to goods availability and transport timeframes means customer-facing retailers can better manage in-house stock levels. Meanwhile, suppliers will be able to better plan for merchandise deliveries and storage.
Cohesio offers the exact retail automation software needed to transform inventory control – ignito. The system integrates every aspect of the retail process for a comprehensive overview of your stock management and sales, including:
- Collating data from multiple sales points for better insight into patterns across your brand outlets or distribution sites.
- Automating inventory management to reduce time spent on tasks like cycle counting.
- Managing the retail click-and-collect process to improve the accuracy of delivery and pick up timeframes.
2) Autonomous robotics
A lot is made of how robotics will change inventory control processes and wider supply chain management. Much of this is misinformation around robots replacing workers, when the role of autonomous robotics is to make manual labour easier and leave stock management to humans.
A World Bank Group report on Supply Chain 4.0 focuses on a U.S.-based case of a business trialling robotics in its warehouse. The enterprise deployed the autonomous robots for picking-and-packing functions with the aim to improve operational efficiency and reduce order fulfillment times. Such was the increase in customer demand that the firm had to request more robots and employ new workers to manage an additional shift.
One of the main functions of supply chain management robots is to combine GPS navigation and robust hardware to effectively locate and transport stock around a site. To that end, Cohesio's Geek+ robots are the ideal solution to improve inventory control processes.
- The Geek+ solution picks and transports goods with 99.9 per cent accuracy.
- Every autonomous device is capable of moving a 1,000 kilogram load and operate in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
- Each robot is compactly designed, meaning you can operate in a smaller warehouse, with up to a 90 per cent reduction in necessary floor space.
3) RFID stock tagging and tracking
Warehousing and logistics is moving towards a flexible, 'always on' supply chain, powered by real-time data for better production and process planning, according to Ernst & Young. How do businesses achieve this tracking of every unique item of stock in storage? Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
The technology has been used in different guises across human history – it uses the same data propagation method via radio wave as high frequency transceivers. It also works in a very similar way to barcode scanners in retail stores. However, where RFID differs is in its range. A microchip with a unique identifying code and location on every item gives each piece of merchandise a geolocation tag.
From there, operators can simply and easily find an item, even in a storage facility with tens of thousands of goods. This makes inventory control easier to manage as staff on the ground can instantly track and locate like-items and relay this information to suppliers, delivery teams or even customers.
The Cohesio team can help your operations with active (battery-powered tags that continuously broadcast their own signal over a longer range) or passive RFID systems. We work your staff from integration to deployment, helping to educate individuals on how to use the technology, giving you the best possible chance to streamline supply chain management.
'Who dares, wins' – dare you discover more about the supply chain management technologies that can help you revolutionise your operations? If so, transformation is only a conversation away – over tea, coffee or a beer!