12 Supply Chain Pains of Christmas and How to Turn them into Gains
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — and for companies, it can also be the craziest. December brings spikes in business for brands and sales for consumers, spreading the holiday cheer. With so much excitement, it’s easy for young companies to get wrapped up in the holiday honeymoon phase and forget that more sales mean more complexity for physical and digital supply chains. To ease this, brands can turn to a supply chain solutions provider to identify and guide them through the twelve holiday supply chain pains of the season.
- Forecasting inventory. It’s hard for brands to know where to store their products to best prepare them for the holiday rush. Forecasting helps brand decide which approach works best for them — either centralizing inventory in one place or distributing inventory across various warehouse sites and in-store stock rooms. A supply chain partner can help form this strategy, so brands can access products when they need.
- Hot product shortages. When a product gets hot, the last thing a brand wants is an inventory shortage, but year after year we see it happen, often due to a lapse in forecasting. If a product is popular in the U.S., companies don’t want a surplus of inventory sitting at a site in Australia. With locations worldwide, a supply chain partner can help get the products closer to the consumer.
- Postponement. With the growing popularity of built-to-order products, the manufacturing process can often get pushed right up until the last minute. Brands often don’t have the resources to deal with this on their own, but supply chain partners do. By teaming up, brands can ship the base product to the supply chain partner’s location closest to the consumer, where they can put on the final touches before the last mile.
- Buy online, pick up in-store orders. This fulfillment trend links the digital and physical supply chain and can go one of two ways. In some cases, an online order ships the product to the store to get picked up, and in others, it draws from the in-store inventory. For companies that choose this second option, there needs to be a plan in place to prevent double-counting inventory. A supply chain partner can help manage this to ensure that online stores represent in-store inventory accurately.
- Staffing. Warehouses often end up understaffed during the holiday rush. Most brands hire seasonal employees to handle the surge in demands, but just as inventory demands change year by year, so does the number of helping hands a brand needs. A supply chain solutions provider can help forecast staffing needs by looking at historical data and expected sales, and then providing recommendations.
- Losing value on returns. Returns are a huge hassle for brands, and there’s an uptick during the holiday season. When brands are unable to manage reverse supply chain logistics, products wind up back on warehouse shelves collecting dust and losing value. Supply chain partners can offer help in a number of ways to ensure brands are not losing revenue on returns.
- Repairs and recycling. To gain value from returned products, brands need to invest in having a reworking process set in place. When a product is returned, companies have to determine whether a product can be repaired and returned to the consumer, or if it can’t be fixed and must be disposed of. A supply chain partner can manage this process end-to-end, running the tests necessary to determine if a product is eligible for repair, sending it back to the manufacturer if needed, and even recycling products that would normally be thrown out.
- Refurbishing and reselling. Once a returned product is repaired, there’s still more work for brands to do. Repaired products can be refurbished into b-stock and remarketed, starting the process over again. Most brands don’t have the time or resources to handle these added procedures, so in order to turn these products into revenue, they need to partner with a supply chain solutions provider to manage all outsourcing necessary.
- Data protection. For companies in the consumer electronics and IoT space, returned products need to be wiped of all consumer data before being refurbished, resold or even recycled. If mismanaged, there’s a chance a consumer’s personal information ends up in the wrong hands. A supply chain partner can take care of each aspect of this process and perform carrier-grade data wipes.
- E-commerce payments. Global brands sell products to consumers in different markets all over the world and depending on the region, this can mean accepting different currencies. An international supply chain partner can offer solutions like ModusLink’s Financial Management Services offering, a platform that accepts more than 350 alternative payment options, so brands don’t have to sweat the small stuff.
- Transportation management. Now that today’s consumers can (and like to) track packages, it’s even more important that companies have a way to manage product transportation efficiently and effectively. While a supply chain partner might not offer transportation services, the best ones have the tools to help manage the process to reduce costs and track data across logistics functions.
- High customer expectations. The modern supply chain centers around customer satisfaction. Emerging technologies have helped consumers get exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. ModusLink helps customers create the optimal experience for consumers via their Contact Center solution, stocked with individuals to answer all consumer confusion and concern with products, and their e-commerce solution, which includes an online portal so consumers can troubleshoot issues and initiate returns independently.
The 12 supply chain pains of Christmas don’t have to be a nightmare. A service provider like ModusLink can manage the end-to-end digital and physical supply chains, removing stress from brands as they embrace the holiday buzz. For information on how companies can de-stress their supply chain with ModusLink solutions, read here.
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