Blog Category: Logistics & Supply Chain

  • How to Improve Global Fulfillment in 2023

    Fulfillment

    Introduction

    The past years have shown the vulnerability of the supply chain. Just-in-time inventory philosophies have fallen short and resulted in lost site supply for warehousing and distribution centers, and the post-COVID consumer is more conscious of their decisions. The risk of the next disruption is just around the corner. Success in 2023 will depend on the success of supply chains, and one-third of company leaders believe their supply chain distribution problems will last through 2023 (SAP News).

    The evidence is clear; supply chain leaders will face great uncertainty in the coming year. However, cross-global fulfillment will largely depend on the ability of warehouse and distribution centers to manage operations proactively. Furthermore, the decline in revenue, which will affect 58% of companies, will continue to undermine the efficiency of fulfillment strategies. Let’s look at how supply chain parties can improve warehousing and distribution in global fulfillment and distribution in the coming year.

    Optimize Labor

    Optimizing labor resources is the most common facet of cross-global fulfillment in 2023. According to Supply Chain 24/7, the continuous process of doing more with less and hiring more people to meet demand is inevitably facing a crossroads.  A tightening labor market will mean that “warehouses that rely heavily on manual processes will be way behind the curve, and even those that still rely on outdated technology and legacy systems will struggle. However, advanced warehouse management systems, voice picking, light picking, and robotics can help fulfillment houses do more with less labor.”

    As a result, the need to do more with less will become more integral to figuring out the best way to leverage resources and avoid overspend. Further, today’s supply chain professionals will face the persistent problem of defining what’s necessary and what could be over the next year. Thus, the best way forward will be to redefine operation standards and focus on tracking labor metrics that foster innovation and supply chain optimization.

    Stay Flexible With Multi-Location Inventory Management

    Another core strategy for success in warehousing and distribution will revolve around inventory management. According to UpKeep.com, the overwhelming majority of companies, 75%, are proactively looking to find ways to improve inventory management practices (UpKeep).  Unlike a single-site supply inventory strategy, multi-location inventory management leverages all existing spaces down to the store level.

    Using a centralized system that can visualize all activities and inventory needs is crucial. This central supply chain control tower ensures all companies can keep operating at peak capacity without breaking the bank.

    Further, there may be instances where the success of the supply chain hinges on the reallocation of inventory between individual stores and distribution centers to fill more orders. Reducing the total volume and leveraging more space across multiple locations conserves resources (Rickerby).

    Build New Fulfillment and Cross-Global Partnerships

    The best partnerships should put your brand front and center. New fulfillment partnerships are a great way to leverage the sustainable and forward-looking premise of other brands as your own. This may also include leveraging additional site supply resources to avoid stock-outs and enhance cross-global warehousing and distribution. These partnerships demonstrate your commitment to a better future and will effectively boost your customers’ views of your brand. Plus, they reduce your total risk and costs along the way.

    Improve Packaging

    Any conversation on better warehouse distribution and fulfillment is complete with discussing packaging design and the ease of shipping. Poor packaging will upset customers and, even worse, additional waste. With 72% of American consumers saying that product design packaging influences their buying decision, it is no surprise that there is a marketing effort to make the outside of a box more appealing (Packaging Fulfillment Co., Inc).

    Regardless, the message is still the same. Customers want eco-friendly materials and minimalist designs. Those facts allow customers to feel good about their purchases and how such purchases affect the global economy. That’s not to say that your brand cannot be evident on the package. Your brand should be apparent, but your message will reverberate beyond the package. It should indicate your commitment to sustainability and give rise to your need for a better tomorrow. In other words, be present, but do not go overboard. Provide the just-right level of packaging and ensure that your packaging is recyclable.

    Prioritize the Customer Experience

    Supply chain leaders who want to improve cross-global fulfillment, warehousing, and distribution must prioritize the customer experience. According to 2023 survey results, 45.9% of companies rate customer experience as the number one priority for the next five years, surpassing pricing and product (SuperOffice). Greater customer experiences have a self-propagating effect that will generate more demand for your e-commerce brand and reduce the confusion of fulfillment in the first place.

    Choose ModusLink to Streamline Your 2023 Fulfillment Strategy

    The right strategy for global warehousing and distribution in 2023 is not finite. Today’s supply chain leaders need a continuously evolving strategy to meet customers and do more with less. Fortunately, those that care can understand their supply chains and where to do more and less. Connect with an expert in global fulfillment to learn more about the value proposition of working with ModusLink today.

    Bibliography

    Packaging Fulfillment Co., Inc. 5 Custom Packaging Trends for 2023. n.d. 29 November 2022. <https://www.packagingfulfillment.com/5-custom-packaging-trends-for-2023/>.

    Rickerby, Matt. How to Improve Your Multi-Location Inventory Management. 10 November 2022. 29 November 2022. <https://www.extensiv.com/blog/multi-location-inventory-management>.

    SAP News. New Research Forecasts the State of U.S. Supply Chains in 2023. 24 October 2022. 02 December 2022. <https://news.sap.com/2022/10/us-supply-chains-in-2023-new-research-forecast/>.

    SuperOffice. 32 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE STATISTICS YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR 2023. 15 November 2022. 2 December 2022. <https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-statistics/>.

    UpKeep. What are the most interesting stats and facts about inventory management? n.d. 4 December 2022. <https://www.upkeep.com/learning/inventory-management-stats>.

     

  • 7 Top Supply Chain Trends to Know for 2023

    Supply Chain

    Introduction

    The past few years have been chaotic and disruptive to the supply chain. It’s easy to tie everything back to COVID-19, but the reality tells a different story of continuous and cross-global disruption. Yes, COVID caused many issues, but other factors, including geopolitical changes, the war in Ukraine, weather events, peak season, and economic instability, have altered the fabric of logistics. With so much disruption fresh in mind, looking toward 2023 feels a bit more stable for every warehouse and distribution channel. However, the instability around the risk of recession remains, and knowing the top supply chain trends to watch in 2023 will help your organization prioritize operations and succeed. 

    1. Carriers Will Lower Rates But Keep Many Others

    Carrier rates are declining across the board, and Seatrade Maritime News reported an “expected trough of freight rates to mid-2023 from 2024 with a lower demand forecast and a higher than expected effective capacity increase due to the unwinding of congestion. Sector profitability is set to hit bottom in second half 2023.” Additional predictions for rate decline have ranged from 51 to 80% (Hand)

    The decline in container rates will precipitate further declines across other transportation modes and in all geographies. Still, accessorials may remain as they aren’t subject to the same lowering of typical per-mile costs (Flat World Global Solutions).

    For instance, the continued push for higher wages means that time is of the essence, and delays on a loading dock still amount to lost time and wasted resources. As a result, carriers may apply additional accessorials to compensate for the bottoming of rates in tandem with rising labor costs. 

    2. Cost Control Will Be Even More Important

    The cost control issue isn’t isolated to those in a warehouse or distribution company. According to SAP, a 58% decrease in revenue has contributed to additional financing and missed payments across the supply chain. US-based consumers evaluate pricing on every purchase, including considering the shipping costs associated with e-commerce. Warehouse and distribution managers and procurement professionals will need to start thinking about managing the customer experience better. 

    For international customers, the challenges of e-commerce are also making it troublesome to track landed costs and make the most of existing operations. The VAT tax and duties in the EU and Canada will pressure retailers to increase the visibility of operations and expenses. 

    3. Cross Global Visibility & Data Will Remain Critical

    The issue of visibility is paramount in every facet of the supply chain, and in 2023, visibility and data will be integral to all improvements. They will also rise in demand in tandem with advanced technologies, including drones, AI, and robotics, as well as robotics process automation (RPA) tools. 

    The use of technology can help shippers and carriers mitigate rising costs, and to that point, many organizations have pursued additional means of digital transformation. For instance, 80% of respondents in a Forrester Consulting study conducted on behalf of KPMG, found that digital transformation is the most critical priority for organizations (KPMG Australia). Of course, any plan for improved visibility must coincide with a renewed focus on cybersecurity. 

    4. Cybersecurity Risk Management Will Grow More Important in Omnichannel E-Commerce

    Cybersecurity risks are a prevalent fact in today’s supply chain. According to Check Point, “global attacks increased by 28% in the third quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. The average weekly attacks per organization worldwide reached over 1,130” (Check Point Research). And while the healthcare and education industries may most commonly suffer an attack, the supply chain is still at risk. After all, even healthcare and education have arms in the omnichannel e-commerce landscape, and each purchase around these industries ties back to the supply chain. 

    As a result, companies are actively investing in cybersecurity measures. Those investments will grow as more companies seek to embrace digital transformation fully and apply technology to do more with less. 

    5. Alternative Fulfillment Strategies Will Be Key

    COVID taught supply chain professionals that nothing is certain. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to drive cross-global change within the logistics industry, asserts Shopify (Keenan and Moore). 

    The pandemic revealed that the world could and does change even with lean inventory management practices in play and a strategy for every scenario. In response, today’s supply chains have fought to introduce new and alternate fulfillment models, such as hub injection, zone-skipping, and dropshipping, to reduce costs and avoid risks. Further, shippers might consider revamping existing omnichannel e-commerce capabilities to account for these changes in cost. For instance, it might be time to consider Shopify plus B2B features or define other distribution partners. 

    6. The Last Mile Will Become a Focal Point for Improvements

    While alternate fulfillment forms a basis for improvements, the last mile will continue to become more critical in the supply chain throughout 2023. The last mile is where the actual interaction with the customer occurs. It’s also the riskiest and most costly part of transportation, and there is more handling and more opportunity for things to go wrong. Supply chains will look for ways to increase transparency, such as tracking goods in the last mile and providing more insight into those problems to keep everyone in the loop. 

    7. Geopolitics Will Still Be at Play

    Geopolitics is the most wide-reaching of impacts that will affect the supply chain in 2023. The following year of development will be subjected to additional scrutiny and demands from governments around the globe. According to Forbes, Biden’s actions in late 2022 have triggered an ongoing cross-global challenge with how manufacturers operate with companies in China, saying “trade barriers are apt to increase” (Banker). Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine will undermine efficiency and worsen the semiconductor shortage due to the country’s role in producing neon gas—a precursory ingredient in manufacturing semiconductor chips. In turn, the supply chain will need to grow more agile and look for sourcing raw materials from other countries and regions. And it’s not isolated to neon; it could affect any commodity or material needed to maintain operations. 

    Align Your Organization With These Supply Chain Trends by Partnering With ModusLink 

    The supply chain trends of 2023 will center around the changing, cross-global landscape. Shippers, carriers, and other supply chain parties around the globe need to start thinking about how they can improve their organization and align operations with these trends now. Fortunately, ModusLink can help your organization achieve those goals. Connect with a ModusLink expert to get started today. 

    tegrate this within your Supply Chain? Contact one of ModusLink’s Industry experts by clicking here!

    Bibliography:

    Banker, Steve. Top Supply Chain Trends Heading Into 2023. 2 November 2022. 24 11 2022. <https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebanker/2022/11/02/top-supply-chain-trends-heading-into-2023/?sh=2ea26e6e55e2>.

    Check Point Research. Check Point Research: Third quarter of 2022 reveals an increase in cyberattacks and unexpected developments in global trends. n.d. 30 November 2022. <https://blog.checkpoint.com/2022/10/26/third-quarter-of-2022-reveals-increase-in-cyberattacks/

    Flat World Global Solutions. 2023 Supply Chain Trends: What You Should Know. 19 September 2022. 28 November 2022. <https://flatworldgs.com/2023-supply-chain-trends/>.

    Hand, Marcus. Container shipping to hit bottom in mid-2023, forecasts HSBC. 12 October 2022. 30 November 2022. <https://www.seatrade-maritime.com/containers/container-shipping-hit-bottom-mid-2023-forecasts-hsbc>.

    Keenan, Michael, and Kaleigh Moore. Supply Chain Trends That Will Shape 2023. 21 October 2022. 20 November 2022. <https://www.shopify.com/enterprise/supply-chain-trends-strategies>.

    KPMG Australia. Future of Supply Chain: The road to everywhere. February 2022. 30 November 2022. <https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/au/pdf/2022/future-of-supply-chain-road-to-everywhere.pdf>.

    SAP News. New Research Forecasts the State of U.S. Supply Chains in 2023. 24 October 2022. 25 11 2022. <https://news.sap.com/2022/10/us-supply-chains-in-2023-new-research-forecast/>.

     

  • A Review of the Top EU E-Commerce Shipping Challenges

    Top View Cargo containers ship logistics transportation Container Ship Vessel Cargo Carrier. import export logistic international export and import services export products worldwide

    With all the turmoil and upheaval, the global supply chain has endured since 2020, the impact of changes the EU is initiating stands to throw more disruptions and issues at shippers. Managing cloud-based e-commerce platforms and global shipping logistics is a vital part of the process of overcoming cross-border challenges for online retailers.

    According to the industry experts at Whistl, “The EU’s e-commerce industry has been experiencing a lot of positive growth over the past few years. A new report from the industry association E-commerce Europe found that there was a 15% growth in 2016 and the industry is predicted to be worth €602 billion by the end of 2017. That would represent a further 14% year-over-year growth.” (Whistl, 2017).  This level of growth and value highlights the challenges of e-commerce and the need for strong cross-border e-commerce logistics and operations. 

    The growth seen within e-commerce and online transportation are indicative of changing market trends and consumer purchasing habits. As businesses open and people start returning to some semblance of normalcy in their day-to-day habits, the demand for fast and reliable shipping service remains as important as ever. Consumers have gotten used to the benefits of cross-border e-commerce and shipping and are unlikely to go back to accepting slower shipping options for many of their shopping demands (Yun Express, 2022). 

    Increasing e-commerce shipping, services, and sales along with advances to VAT and import/export services have all helped achieve this and create such projections.  Cloud-based e-commerce platforms with the right merchant of record (MOR) pay model is crucial in helping companies in Europe be prepared for a number of challenges that face the e-commerce and online store shipping industry.

    The Importance of E-Commerce Shipping and Logistics in EU Transportation

    Many of the most commonly cited challenges of e-commerce within the EU are those that impact logistics, shipping, and customer service. Companies dealing with the transportation of goods, whether importing or reporting, must be mindful of advanced e-commerce shipping advancements.

    With improved digitalization and automation, cloud-based e-commerce platforms become much more influential and impactful. According to Ecommerce Europe, “Western Europe is, by far, the strongest region in terms of B2C e-commerce turnover, holding 63% of the total turnover for 2021. Southern Europe follows in second place with just 16% of total turnover, while Central Europe and Northern Europe come in third and fourth (10% and 9% respectively), and Eastern Europe (2%) in last place” (E-commerce Europe, 2022).  E-commerce services can be a major factor that plays into EU services.

    The continued focus on cross-border e-commerce and having the right MOR) is critical for continued growth and recovery within the B2C commerce industry.  Dealing with the top challenges of e-commerce often relates to one of the following cloud-based e-commerce platform issues or cross-border e-commerce concerns.

    Delivery Speed and Accuracy Falling Below Acceptable Levels

    Issues with the speed and accuracy of deliveries remain the most reported problem for e-commerce businesses in the EU and many other countries as well. Customers who experience delivery failures, delays, and problems are unlikely to give shipping companies a second chance. 

    Despite the close transport networks and links that connect many European countries, due to issues such as weather anomalies, local and global politics, environmental factors, and cloud-based e-commerce platform problems, delivery issues continue to be an issue.

    The findings from the “Tomorrow’s Supply Chain: Disruption Around Every Corner” report by SAP highlight that “since the start of the pandemic, supply chain issues have been disastrous for organisations in the UK. 66% of businesses have experienced delays in the production of goods/delivery of services, 64% have seen revenues decrease and 58% have experienced a loss of customers. Given this outlook, it perhaps comes as little to no surprise that almost a quarter (23%) of businesses expect supply chain issues to last until Summer 2023.” (System Analysis Program Development)

    The ultimate cause for these issues with speed and accuracy comes down to poor management within the supply chain in the UK and with other EU countries. Without access to cloud-based e-commerce platforms and the delay in embracing cross-boder e-commerce solutions the bottlenecks and delays continue to impact speed and accuracy with EU deliveries.

    Technical Supply Chain Issues Within the EU Network

    Technical failures within cloud-based e-commerce platforms are another risk for e-commerce service providers within the EU. Cyber-attacks and hackings have been on the rise, with reports showing nearly half of all businesses experienced at least one cybersecurity breach or attack over the last year. The latest innovations in supply chain tech and cyber security keep companies protected but they must be properly applied, onboarded, and embraces in order to be successful, something many companies have been slow to understand.

    Many supply chain networks and companies in the EU today struggle in this area due to poor management of current tech trends and a reliance on outdated data and processes. Tech Monitor noted in a report last year that, “Taking a look across our supply chains, the current system remains highly fragmented, often paper-based, with limited interoperability, sporadic collaboration, and poor information flow… Organisations have a colossal amount of data at their fingertips, but the majority are either not gleaning the right insights from this data, or are failing to share meaningful information with key stakeholders.” (Tech Monitor, 2021

    For businesses dealing with cross-border e-commerce this is obviously a serious problem. Digital companies stand to be impacted more than more traditional companies as the majority of their activities are based online and rely on omnichannel supply chains.

    Political Landscape and Cross-Border Regulatory Change

    There are a number of issues that have impacted cross-border e-commerce in Europe, some of the most well-known being the Brexit vote and changes to VAT processes. Challenges of e-commerce become all the more complicated when political factors come into play.  More expensive trading costs and new regulations are expected to impact e-commerce companies in the coming years.
    However, ongoing Brexit negotiations, VAT regulations, and other changes also will come into play for international shipping providers. This was highlighted in a 2022 report from nShift that noted even before Brexit, UK consumers were often hesitant about dealing with cross-border e-commerce and ordering from abroad. This recent survey asked 1000 UK residents why they avoided buying products from overseas. The major issues, with each earning more than 50% response, included concerns about returns, returns, high delivery costs, and the delivery process itself (nShift 2022).

    Another concern for B2C and B2B e-commerce shippers in the EU is that the existing policies and regulations are changing and updating at a rapid pace. The European cloud-based e-commerce platforms that play a role in e-commerce shipping services are always in a state of fluctuation. New regulations and changes to EU shipping processes and requirements will make it all the more vital that importers and exporters have a single source of information and service. From financing to merchant services, a single point of contact will be much easier to manage and track as political uncertainty continues to plague EU cross-border e-commerce businesses. 

    Purchasing Power

    Ongoing global factors including war and other supply chain disruptions are proving to be major consequences on the European economy overall and the cross-border e-commerce industry as well. A number of companies within the transportation industry have reported declines in consumer purchasing power and confidence.  

    Cloud-based e-commerce platforms can be influential in improving customer experience, services, and purchasing power. All of this change in purchase power is mostly due to high energy prices, inflation, shipping costs, supply chain issues, and overall uncertainty. AJ Todd of Flock Freight noted that “3PL’s are skilled at finding areas for extra cost savings, such as more efficient routing or carrier selection. Plus, by placing it in the hands of experts, you no longer have to focus on day-to-day oversight of your transportation supply chain” (Flock Freight, 2019). 


    Working with a 3PL provides management with greater access to data and provides them with greater bargaining power with carriers, shippers, and forwarders. It can significantly improve cross-border e-commerce processes from start to finish. EU businesses that work with a 3PL can often see consistent benefits that include a reduction in rates for transportation and stronger logistics services. 

    Overcome the E-Commerce Shipping Challenges With ModusLink

    Although the EU’s e-commerce industry has seen growth in many sectors over the last few years, there are still many effects from COVID-related shutdowns being felt today. European e-commerce solutions providers and medium to small businesses should still be prepared for a number of challenges that face the industry. 

    These common challenges of e-commerce cannot be completely avoided but they can be mitigated and largely avoided by having a merchant of record (MOR) and the right approach to e-commerce shipping within Europe. 

    Contact ModusLink today to learn more about how our cloud-based e-commerce platform and unique approach to cross-border e-commerce and MoR payment services can impact EU E-commerce.

    Bibliography

    AJ Todd (2/4/19).  5 Benefits of Working With a 3PL. Flock Freight. Accessed 10/31/2022

     From https://www.flockfreight.com/blog/5-benefits-of-working-with-a-3pl/ 

    Delivery Management (7/3/22). How might Brexit impact delivery and cross border shipping? nShift.  Accessed 10/31/2022  From https://nshift.com/blog/brexit-impact-delivery-cross-border-shipping 

    Jeremy Silver (8/23/21). The future of the UK economy depends on supply chain innovation. Tech Monitor.  Accessed 10/31/2022 From https://techmonitor.ai/leadership/innovation/future-of-uk-economy-depends-on-supply-chain-innovation 

    Press Release (6/8/22). Supply Chain Crisis: Over 85% Of UK Businesses Plan To Move From ‘Just In Time’ To ‘Just In Case’ Model And Prioritise UK-Based Solutions To Overcome Challenges. SAP. Accessed 10/31/2022  From https://news.sap.com/uk/2022/06/supply-chain-crisis-over-85-of-uk-businesses-plan-to-move-from-just-in-time-to-just-in-case-model-and-prioritise-uk-based-solutions-to-overcome-challenges/ 

    Luca Cassetti (6/28/22). European e-commerce still growing but new global challenges lie ahead. Ecommerce Europe. Accessed 10/31/2022 From https://ecommerce-europe.eu/press-item/european-e-commerce-still-growing-but-new-global-challenges-lie-ahead/ 

    Whistl (7/1/2017).  Main Challenges Facing European E-commerce Businesses. Whistl. Accessed 10/31/2022 From https://www.whistl.co.uk/news/main-challenges-facing-european-e-commerce-businesses 

    Yun Express (3/15/2022).  Top Three Challenges to Mind for Your E-commerce Logistics across Europe. Yun Express. Accessed 10/31/2022 From https://www.yunexpresseu.com/blog/top-three-challenges-to-mind-for-your-e-commerce-logistics-across-europe/

    .

     

  • Latest trends in Supply Chain Digitization & Automation

    Introduction

    To say 2020-2022 was a challenging year for the supply chain industry is one of the biggest understatements of the decade. The aftermath of COVID-19 can still be seen across global supply chains. The pandemic clearly showed the importance of having a solid foundation and bonded logistics in place. A solid infrastructure and reliable tech stacks founded on the latest digitization and automation can make all the difference. This is especially true when faced with disruptions and obstacles.

    According to K.P.M.G. (z.d.), in Europe, the rise of e-commerce is pressuring retailers, manufacturers, transport, warehouse, and logistics companies to fulfill and deliver fast, in total, and meet high expectations for order status, supply chain visibility, enhanced service, and return logistics. A trend that has risen within the industry is related to a shift in customer demands. 

    To reinforce delivery assurance and supply chain resilience, customers (both B2B and B2C) now require end-to-end networks to hold more transparency, embrace  omni logistics,  focus on bonded logistics, and increase their visibility. All of this can help improve supply chain performance.

    Greater visibility requires stakeholders in the chain to have the same visibility to decrease disruption while monitoring for new ways to implement improvements. The key takeaway is that shippers and carriers now require their physical and digital workflows to be more synchronized. The emphasis on greater visibility and transparency is at the heart of  supply chain optimization. It all can be achieved through digitization and automation of e-commerce platforms and processes.

    Digitalizing your Supply Chain

    With technology growing faster than ever,  supply chain optimization is critical for ongoing success and recovery. Managers and business owners alike need to incorporate the most advanced technological processes to reinforce the resilience of their supply chain networks. Digitalization of e-commerce solutions can be achieved in many ways. 

    First things first, what exactly does it mean to have good supply chain operations and planning?

    According to Team D.F. (2021), Supply chain digitization (or digital transformation) is the process of turning analog processes into digital ones by establishing dedicated master data. 

    By doing so, it allows aggregate information from across your entire supply chain, as well as information from some external sources to be compiled. This can include internal historical sales data, point-of-sale consumer data, socioeconomic data such as unemployment rates, and external data from outside sources. 

    Overall, the process is most commonly achieved through the use of dedicated software and a focus on  omni logistics and  supply chain optimization through digitalization and automation. The tightrope of balancing supply and demand is easier with the right processes in place.

    Supply Chain Advantages Seen Today

    The advantages of shipping and distribution innovation and integration are far-reaching and include the following:

    • Synchronization – Digital processes are far easier to connect. This makes the entire process, whatever process it is, react much more smoothly. Analog methods are complicated to align correctly but working with bonded logistics services and automated processes streamline the entire process.
    • Time-saving/Efficiency – Digital supply chain processes are far more efficient, thus saving valuable time. Automatic inventory and CRM processes, for instance, can save ample time when executed correctly. Omni logistics make this all the easier to implement and maintain. 
    • Decision-making advantages – Having better control of your digital data allows you to leverage your position when going into a new decision-making process. This aspect of supply chain optimization should never be underestimated as it allows for a much better negotiation position.

    Implementing Automation 

    The next Trend expected to continue in 2022 is the increasing usage of Automation. Again, the increase of viable technological advancements also results in manual process to be automated. This can be easily seen through the increasing usage of AGV (Automated Guided Vehicles) that allow for immense efficiency increases in warehouses. Daunting manual labor that can be Automated (e.g., Packaging) should be automated as fast as possible as strong efficiency increases are easily seen when done so accordingly. According to Vanner (2022),

    Benefits of Improving Supply Chain Processes

    The benefits of implementing integrated systems and advancing supply chain processes with updated tech include:

    • The Automation of manual tasks – Automating daunting manual labor yields the highest efficiency boosts as these tasks usually allow for substantial process time deductions.
    • Increasing Transparency and Visibility – Self-managing tasks usually come with the innate ability to capture and share data from supply chain design and processes that have been automated. 
    • Flexibility and Adaptation – Streamlined, automated inventory management software will enable companies to increase their control by automatically ordering raw materials/inventory when inventory levels fall below a set percentage.

    Tap Into the Latest Trends and Unlock Benefits With ModusLink

    With a keen eye on the latest in innovation and partnerships with bonded logistics providers,   supply chain optimization can be easier than many have ever thought possible. Supply chain managers and shipping service providers can utilize the power of omni logistics and integrated technology to improve services for cross-border supply chain networks.

    Would you like to know more about the latest automation and digitalization developments for supply chains and how they can help you meet and exceed customer expectations? Talk to a ModusLink expert today to learn more.

    Bibliography

    Bendis, M. (2022, 17 mei). Industry 4.0: the digital supply chain. EasyStock. Geraadpleegd op 20 mei 2022, van https://www.eazystock.com/uk/blog-uk/digital-supply-chain-digitization/

    K.P.M.G. (z.d.). Five supply chain trends to follow in 2022. Zetes. Geraadpleegd op 19 mei 2022, van https://www.zetes.com/en/supply-chain-visibility/supply-chain-visibility-software/five-supply-chain-trends-to-follow-in-2022.

    Team, D. F. (2021, 19 augustus). What Is Supply Chain Digitization, and Why Does It Matter? DDC Freight Process Outsourcing. Geraadpleegd op 19 mei 2022, van https://www.ddcfpo.com/freight-process-insights/what-is-supply-chain-digitization-and-why-does-it-matter

    Vanner, C. (2022a, februari 7). Supply Chain Automation: What is it and How Can it Benefit Me? Bizagi Site. Geraadpleegd op 20 mei 2022, van https://www.bizagi.com/en/blog/supply-chain-automation-what-is-it-how-can-it-benefit-me

    Vanner, C. (2022b, februari 7). Supply Chain Automation: What is it and How Can it Benefit Me? Bizagi Site. Geraadpleegd op 20 mei 2022, van https://www.bizagi.com/en/blog/supply-chain-automation-what-is-it-how-can-it-benefit-me.

     

  • Choosing a Fulfillment Partner

    Short term – Long term

    The importance of fulfillment as a service and site supply logistic management is widely known in the corporate world.  This is true for shippers, carriers, and any packaging and distribution resource management teams.

    For those dealing with cross-border logistics and shipping these concerns are even more critical. Issues such as reliable site supply, packaging and distribution management, and customer retention all directly impact logistics companies and their partners. Also, poor fulfillment management can lead to fulfillment costs comprising as much as 20% of net revenue, reports Forbes, up from 5-10% today.

    Choosing a fulfillment partner that is up to the challenge can save transportation service providers a lot of time and money by avoiding potential problems in the future. It is important to keep in mind that the partnership may last a significant amount of time. 

    So short and long-term needs for shipping services with digitization and automation must be addressed.

    This means that sometimes, the long-term element must be prioritized over the short-term elements. Everything from packaging and distribution to third-party collaborations needs to be carefully considered when choosing a partner within the logistics industry.

    5 Key Elements to look out for

    In this article, logistics companies will learn about the five most important aspects to look out for when choosing a fulfillment partner for on-site supply, order fulfillment, and logistics. They are as follows:

    Experience and Reputation

    When management teams choose an inexperienced provider that’s new to the industry, they run the risk of delivering a poor brand experience to customers. The impression on the end customer is often directly related to fulfillment performance.  

    This increases the need to partner with a well-established, reputable company that is experienced in  site supply logistics and fulfillment. Even the largest logistics companies today rely on a team of experienced fulfillment partners and outside parties to get the job done.

    It is vital to conduct business with a company that has years of proven experience and staff that is trained and knowledgeable in all areas of the business and supply chain management. 

    Business owners and logistics companies in North America and other regions as well often look for partners with a similar business model and approach to business. This way all involved parties will have direct feedback that enables faster and more accurate decision-making.

    Lastly, meeting the  packaging and distribution and fulfillment partner in person might reinforce the relationship which could lead to potentially increased problem-solving in the future. Don’t disregard your company’s reputation in favor of price and make sure they are professional and reliable before you choose them as a partner. 

    Navigating the changing landscape of e-commerce and current market trends requires reliable coordination and collaboration at all times. 

    Seamless Integration

    This element of  site supply logistics management makes the initial set-up process much easier. Set-up should not be a hassle and should not be the most dreaded part of the onboarding and integration process. 

    An experienced professional fulfillment partner usually has all types of integrations available that make your life easier.  Third party logistics can help keep things running smoothly day in and day out.

    They sometimes offer real-time views of transport, inventory management, warehousing, etc. Make sure to discuss this topic thoroughly before establishing your partnership to avoid the rise of potential issues in the future. 

    When reviewing the integration possibilities, consider aspects such as omnichannel integration (price/delivery/transport/warehousing), CRM/ERP platform integration, automated email communications, real-time packaging and distribution, etc. It is well worth the effort to find  logistics companies  that offer these sorts of solutions and services.

    Reverse Logistics and Performance

    Fulfillment service providers, like  logistics companies and other shipping service providers, can also offer the option to handle the complete returns process. Known as reverse logistics, this is the backward flow of inventory and shipments. It can significantly complicate supply lines and make life harder for logistics managers and business owners. 

    Working with a partner experienced in reverse logistics and performance can save time and money. 

    Reverse logistics is vital for successful shipping logistics and packaging and distribution. It should always be considered due to the high brand impact potential. This is especially true of cross-border e-commerce and shipping where returns could potentially cost more than the initial shipment.

    Make sure to review the performance metrics of logistics companies and partners to ensure there are no nasty surprises down the road and that everyone involved knows what to expect. Also, make sure to consider switching your current service provider and partner if there is a better option available that can save you time and money.

    Warehouse Locations

    We currently live in an era that follows the golden rule of ‘the faster the better’. Of course, this is not always true, however, customers do expect their shipments to be delivered to them as fast as possible. 7+ days for delivery times are usually not acceptable anymore for site supply logistic services. 

    The average delivery time within Europe is around 2-3 days. Experienced fulfillment partners sometimes even offer same-day delivery, depending on your business model. Regardless, it is important to have knowledge of the fulfillment partners’ infrastructure. 

    Knowing where their warehouses are located and even knowing traffic routes might validate the claims of delivery performance.  It will significantly improve packaging and distribution, and boost the services and logistics solutions offered.

    Working with shippers, carriers, customs brokerage companies, and logistics managers is vital to ongoing growth and recovery today. It ensures everyone knows what their responsibilities are and that everyone stays on the same page with   site supply logistics management.

    Brand Reinforcement

    The final point to consider when choosing a fulfillment partner for the modern-day service provider is the reliability and reputation of the logistics companies. It is often the small things that make a difference. 

    Customization is an important element that should be considered when choosing a fulfillment partner.  Providing the customer with a strong personal brand experience can have highly positive impacts on customer retention and continuous purchases. 

    Allowing managers and team members to use custom packaging options may make a difference for M-commerce businesses. It can also provide a competitive advantage by providing customers with the brand experience they seek. 

    These five key elements should be kept in mind when considering a fulfillment partner to outsource your shipping and transportation services. Expert insight makes every step of the process, from site supply management,  packaging and distribution tracking, and customer service simpler and easier.  Whether you are dealing with truckload, ocean, rail, or air freight, improved logistics management and distribution will improve processes from start to finish.

    Finding the best logistics companies can make all the difference! Would you like to know more about how to choose the correct fulfillment partner?  We have many services, including customized options that can meet all of your needs. Talk to a ModusLink Expert today to get started!

    Bibliography

    Prozan, Esther Kestenbaum (2022, May 21) Fulfillment Is At The Epicenter of E-Commerce Enablement Accessed October 19, 2022 From https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/05/21/fulfillment-is-at-the-epicenter-of-e-commerce-enablement/?sh=2550fbb56113

    Busby, A. (2019, 24 oktober). Fulfillment As A Service, Why The Future Of Delivery Is In The Clouds. Forbes. Geraadpleegd op 26 februari 2022, van https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbusby/2019/10/23/fulfillment-as-a-service-why-the-future-of-delivery-is-in-the-cloud/?sh=6b83309d4af1

    business.com editorial staff. (2014, 25 juni). Benefits of Using an Order Fulfillment Service. Business.Com. Geraadpleegd op 2 maart 2022, van https://www.business.com/articles/benefits-of-using-an-order-fulfillment-service/

    Roggio, A. (2011, 4 november). 5 Reasons to Consider Fulfillment Services. Practical Ecommerce. Geraadpleegd op 5 maart 2022, van https://www.practicalecommerce.com/5-Reasons-to-Consider-Fulfillment-Services

    Thill Inc. (2021, 21 oktober). Fulfillment Center Pros & Cons. Thill Inc. Geraadpleegd op 5 maart 2022, van https://thillinc.com/blog/fulfillment-center-pros-cons/

    3Pl, L. (z.d.).  7 tips for choosing a fulfillment partner. Logicos. Geraadpleegd op 5 maart 2022, van https://www.logicos3pl.com/en/blog/tips-for-choosing-a-fulfillment-partner

    Lab, T. F. (z.d.). 8 Essentials When Choosing a Fulfillment Company + 8 Best Companies for 2021. Thefulfillmentlab. Geraadpleegd op 7 maart 2022, van https://www.thefulfillmentlab.com/blog/choosing-fulfillment-company

    Roggio, A. (2011, 4 november). 5 Reasons to Consider Fulfillment Services. Practical Ecommerce. Geraadpleegd op 5 maart 2022, van https://www.practicalecommerce.com/5-Reasons-to-Consider-Fulfillment-Services

     

  • IOT SupplyChain Tools (Internet of Things)

    The supply chain network today has been under more pressure than ever before, and it is not just COVID-related disruptions impacting every aspect of shipping and legacy logistics. Supply chain management is a complex and often confusing process that requires careful planning and monitoring of the network. The importance of digitization and automation today cannot be underestimated.

    According to a 2019 review from The International Journal of Product Research “supply chains are operating under an ever-changing environment and are vulnerable to a myriad of risks at all levels. This environment is an ever-changing landscape because of many factors. Many supply chains extend over wide geographical areas and are vulnerable to global risks. 

    Customers are increasingly demanding in terms of product customization, price, and level of service.” Improving, supply chain optimization and updating routine processes and procedures are critical to maintaining a competitive advantage today.

    Added to this is the increasing complexity of goods and products, making it more time-consuming to package, handle, and ship popular items. The rapid technological changes, the continuous introduction of new products, the changing service provided by logistics providers, and shifting market demands keep the supply chain under pressure. 

    And on top of all that, changing climates- weather and global conflicts- puts global supply chains under increasing pressure. Warehouse automation, delivery tracking, and digital shipping services help to offset these sorts of obstacles for shippers, M-commerce managers, and transportation service providers.

    The fastest and most effective way to combat this is to improve tracking and monitoring services with innovative tech and tools. Many of the electric devices/sensors that are applied to intelligent packaging use the global interconnected network. 

    The concept of IoT (internet of things) within warehouse operations and shipping logistics is quite complex. It is aimed at providing global corresponding network infrastructure and improved supply chain optimization for connecting objects to the cyber-physical world.

    The utilization of IoT tools (Internet of Things)

    Many of the electric devices/sensors that are applied to smart packaging use the global interconnected network called the Internet of Things. The concept of IoT (internet of things) is aimed at providing a global interconnected network infrastructure for connecting objects to the cyber- physical world. It enables companies to track and trace their products which are equipped with sensors devices (Cheung, 2018).

    IoT Tools- A Logistics Providers’ Friend

    The main IoT tools are elaborated upon below.

    RFID (radio-frequency identification): is an electronic sensor and data collecting system using RF signals located on packages to monitor critical parameters such as temperatures, pressure, and vibration which captures and communicates data about how the products are moving along the supply chain and enable organizations to track and trace the product during its journey from manufacturer to customers (Cheung, 2018). The use of smartphones to increase the supply chain visibility and anytime access by using available handled devices is quickly standardizing for companies’ solutions. The technology is optimal to track products that are in transit (Fedex, 2020).

    Traditionally, inventory counts were a complex exercise done manually about once a year but RFDI technology enables retailers such as Macy’s to monitor stock monthly bringing accuracy from 60% to over 90%. Macy’s reported that it experienced 2-3% inventory inaccuracy per month which is 24% annually but by implementing RFID solutions it minimized out-of-stock situations, provides real-time merchandise location data and allows to track their inventory throughout the retail supply chain (Bianchi, 2017).

    This is non-contact near-field communication technology. NFC reader is a tool that can be integrated into the warehouse management picking verification system. The benefits of using such technology are widespread for customers, retailers, shippers, and logistics providers. Its ability to sync with smartphones and mobile devices helps improve delivery.  NFC enabled devices are increasingly popular in today’s shipping lanes.

    Enhanced  supply chain optimization allows faster communications, automated updates, and push notifications to be sent in real-time between fulfillment partners and e-business owners. Furthermore, it helps eliminate the paperwork and provides information about the inside of the package. This can include the location of the product inside the warehouse, the description of the item, and the number of items inside the warehouse.

    Customers who have an NFC chip or NFC tag enable phones to read information from the NFC on the label with additional information about the product and find out if the bottle was in some way misused. It also allows the company to track the product during the whole supply chain, storage, and opening times (Vasić, 2018).

    Barcode label:

    Plenty of processes involved in shipping and logistics today rely on administrative documentation and  legacy logistic basics. Using these barcodes and rack labels save a lot of time for the different employees and managers involved in the process. 

    The packing and picking process is simplified as they only need to scan the barcode and receive all the required information about a given product instantly. The barcode label also benefits in managing inventory by tracking the exact location and movements of products. They can even make inventory management easier in the long run.

    This applies to whether the movement is in or out of the warehouse facility. All this improved tracking helps to eliminate delays and errors. Barcode labels are usually called the foundation of automated warehouses. It was the first data tracking technology and referred to one-dimensional data, meaning that they can only hold information in the horizontal dimension. 

    They provide several crucial benefits such as inventory tracking, arrival planning, and improved picking efficiency. Areas such as traffic optimization decreased human data entry errors, and reduced out-of-stock situations also see great improvement (Jules, 2020).

    Figure 1Vasić, Đ. &. (2018). NFC Technology and Augmented Reality in Smart Packaging.

    The table above compares the different CRM technological devices in terms of speed, scalability, devices needed, sensing distance, and error rate. It is obvious that compared to the verification systems, the manual work is slower, and error rates are high, giving more work for logistics providers (Vasić, 2018). A strong supply chain management software platform can make all the difference in the world!

    Improve Shipping Tracking and Delivery With a  Strong Logistics Provider

    All the different devices result in advantages for supply chains through the use of IoT tools and help companies in their daily operations. From e-commerce websites to handheld devices to remote networking and logistics, every step of the process can be improved with the right logistical approach.  

    Although the initial cost concerning new sensor technologies is high, the inherent opportunities incentivize companies to invest in the integration of IoT.  Whether it is barcode automation, NFC forum platforms, or RFID tools, innovations are helping companies offer better shipping options for their customers. The e-commerce challenges facing companies today are only going to intensify as demand continues to grow.

    Having a strong and reliable supply chain management SCM in place can help shippers, retailers, and customers reap the benefits of digitalization. Would you like to know more about how ModusLink can implement IoT tools when managing logistics providers and see how easy it can be to improve  supply chain optimization? If so, then contact ModusLink today to get started!

    Bibliography

    Bahron, Zied and Ben-Daya, Mohamed (2022 November) Internet of things and supply chain management: a literature review Accessed October 18, 2022 From https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321131587_Internet_of_things_and_supply_chain_management_a_literature_review

    Aliakbarian. (2019, February 20). Smart packaging: challenges and opportunities in the supply chain. Retrieved from supplychainquaterly.com.

    Bianchi. (2017, June 28). 5 Examples of Innovative Uses for RFID Technology in Retail. Retrieved from shopify.com.

    BioSpectrum. (2012, July 16). Packing smart for better reach of vaccines. BioSpectrum digital edition. Retrieved from https://www.biospectrumasia.com/.

    Cheung, S. &. (2018). Smart Packaging: Opportunities and Challenges. University of Liverpool & University of Northumbria, Department of Mechanical and Construction Engineering & Division of Industrial Design. Liverpool: Elsevier.

    Choudhury. (2018, April 05). Top Benefits of Smart Packaging for Packaging Companies | Infiniti Research. Retrieved from Infinity research.

    Emprechtinger. (2019, April 18). 5 things you should know about smart packaging. Retrieved from lead-innovation.com.

    Fedex. (2020). Tracking Technologies Are the Cornerstone for a Competitive Supply Chain Strategy. Retrieved from Fedex.com.

    FreightPOP. (2019, September 3). Barcodes, QR Codes, & RFID In Supply Chain Management. Retrieved from freightpop.com.

    Hou, L. &. (2016). The Application of NFC Verification System in Warehouse Management System. South China University of Technology, School of Computer Science and Engineering. Guangzhou,: Atlantis Press .

    impacx. (2020). What is smart packaging and its benefits? Retrieved from impacx.io. Jules. (2020, April 8). warehouse automation 101: a complete guide. Retrieved from easyship.com.

    Pagliusi, J. &. (2020). Roadmap for strengthening the vaccine supply chain in emerging countries: Manufacturers’ perspectives. Elsevier.

    Regattieri, S. &. (2013). The Important Role of Packaging in Operations Management. In Operations management .

    Richelle. (2021, January 11). Smart packaging. (Boulanger, Interviewer) Thrams. (2020, November 25). Big Benefits of Smart Packaging

    Retrieved from primarypackaging.com.

    Vasić, Đ. &. (2018). NFC Technology and Augmented Reality in Smart Packaging. University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Technical Sciences., Department of Graphic Engineering and Design. International Circular of Graphic Education and Research.

    Ward, h. &. (2019). Rethinking packaging. DHL , Supply chain department. DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation Represented by Matthias Heutger.WHO. (2020). Bar-codes, QR codes and Vaccine Vial Monitors in the context of COVID-19

    vaccines. World Health Organization.

     

  • Drones in Supply Chain

    Introduction –

    Of all the systems involved in shipping and transportation services today, automated processes for delivery and logistics remain among the most critical. Looking at the future of shipping service providers as well as the future of drones is a fascinating aspect of the modern supply chain network. It all comes down to digitalization and automation

    The evidence of the increasing popularity of supply chain automation is pushing companies to research even more performant alternatives that will keep boosting the efficiency of robots inside supply chains. The many benefits that come with omnichannel logistics and automation are the reason why new and higher productive technologies are surging among high-tech drone companies.

    According to the experts at Supply Chain Digital, “The potential for drones as powerful business tools is huge. For supply chains, drones can be used in warehouses to increase the accuracy and efficiency of inventory management through to last-mile delivery.” Big companies around the world have started to integrate drones into their supply chain over the past years to help manage their inventory. 

    The drones are designed to assist human workers indoors and benefit large organizations with stationary stock. Companies that deal with a large amount of inventory often find omnichannel logistics challenging when it comes to locating items inside the warehouse.

    Therefore, aerial inventory drones can benefit many prominent organizations in finding the right items inside the warehouse and cutting their inventory carrying costs. The drones have sensors, scanners, and cameras to monitor and track inventory visibility and availability. 

    The aim of integrating this automated drone technology with delivery and logistics is mainly a concern with accuracy as drones should be more efficient and precise than humans. Additionally, camera drones can verify e-commerce deliveries and other milestones in real time without waiting for human intervention.

    So far, implementing drones into supply chains has been great, and drones are becoming quite popular. This is largely due to their capability of flying around, avoiding obstacles, navigating indoors, and operate in fleets with direct distribution (Dronevideos.com, 2018). The collection of aerial data and navigational insight also helps boost the popularity of drones today. 

    Benefits of Drones- Delivery and Logistics

    Several benefits can be identified while using indoor drones. First, the human workforce will potentially hold fewer hazardous tasks, and no ladder climbing or dangerous inspections anymore. There is a fast return on investment due to the manageable acquisition cost of hardware associated with this type of omnichannel logistics.

    Secondly, the reliable/stable software can enable fully autonomous indoor navigation and automatically scan barcodes. Despite these promising positive effects that drones bring to a warehouse, many negative side effects regarding e-commerce solutions must be overcome. These include issues, such as inventory service costs and warehouse space management concerns, and more..

    Limitations of Drones for Logistics

    The limited flying area and the many obstacles inside the warehouse make the process complex. Furthermore, integrating the drones into the existing process makes it time-consuming and sometimes unsafe due to potential drones failures such as battery explosions. The maintenance and reparation costs also take into consideration resulting in some delays or downturns. 

    Analysis of direct distribution with drones has also shown that automated systems often suffer from the “garbage in,” and “garbage out” issues. When inventory gets lost, drones cannot prevent it, identify it, or resolve it. Despite all the benefits that drones can bring, a few adjustments still need to be studied, analyzed, and fixed to enjoy and operate the drones inside omnichannel logistics and automated supply chains fully.

    Furthermore, the future might worry workers as they feel targeted and soon stand the risk of being replaced by more efficient and accurate drones (Maghazei, 2019). On the contrary, drones could also be an opportunity for workers to be trained and taught about new systems. They must know how to manage/supervise these drones and receive more specific assignments related to delivery and logistics. This will merely shift the work dynamic and prevent job loss and turnover within the global supply chain.

    Limitations of Drones for Logistics

    What the Future Holds for Omnichannel Logistics With Drones

    Nowadays, automated supply chains are revolutionizing and reshaping the fulfillment process. The number of drones integrated inside warehouses into daily operations is booming. In general, technologies such as barcode labels, automated guided vehicles, automated storage and retrieval, and automated mobile robots are the near future for most global supply networks. These can aid in both forward and reverse logistics and keep the supply chain operating efficiently.

    Despite the many benefits such as time-savings, increased accuracy, error reduction, cost-saving, better productivity, efficiency, and more space created, the human workforce is worried about their future as robots start to replace them.

    Many disadvantages still need to be overcome regarding omnichannel logistics; even if the availability of affordable drones is increasing, the initial investment remains high, at least for most companies. Not to mention the regular maintenance check cost, repairs, and the training of the workers who do not especially know how to use specific drones. 

    Even though drones can operate autonomously within direct distribution tasks, it is still essential for workers to understand delivery and logistics protocols to not form supply chain bottlenecks along the way.

    A massive boom in technology has happened, and drones are showing strong potential in performance capabilities. This makes it easier for service providers to meet customer expectations while better managing opportunity costs and profits.

    The indoor drones which are being analyzed and studied for full implementation will be another essential step for automated supply chains as they will be able to bring many positive effects, such as a fast return on investment. However, innovation is still essential as changes will need to be made for them to be fully operational.

    Improve Delivery and Logistics With Help From ModusLink

    Despite the necessary adjustments, the rapid growth and advancements in innovative drone technology illustrate a bright future. Would you like to know more about omnichannel logistics, drones, and how to integrate modern tech within your supply chain? Contact one of ModusLink’s Industry experts today to get started with improved delivery and logistics!

    Bibliography:

    Ashcroft, Sean (2022, February 02) Drone use in supply chain about to take off, Accessed October 16, 2022 From https://supplychaindigital.com/logistics/drone-use-in-supply-chain-about-to-take-off

    Baker, P. &. (2007). An exploration of warehouse automation implementations: cost, service and flexibility issues. Academic paper.

    Banker. (2019, March 11). The Autonomous Mobile Robot Market Is Taking Off Like A Rocket Ship. Forbes.

    Bonn. (2016, June 06). DHL employs robot as picker’s best companion. Retrieved from DHL.com.

    Bowles. (2020, November 18). Warehouse robotics: everything you need to know in 2019. Retrieved from Logiwa.com.

    Bridger. (2015, October 8). Upgraded cold storage AS/RS boosts Americold’s productivity, labor efficiency. Retrieved from refrigeratedfrozenfood.com.

    Croxton. (2003). The Order Fulfillment Process. The Ohio State University. The international journal of logistics.

    Dronevideos.com. (2018, September 4). Companies Using Drones In Their Warehouses For Inventory Control & More. Retrieved from Dronevideos.com.

    Jules. (2020, April 8). warehouse automation 101: a complete guide. Retrieved from easyship.com.

    Koster, A. &. (2017). Robotized Warehouse Systems: Developments and Research Opportunities. Research paper, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands, School of management, Rotterdam.

    Maghazei, W. &. (2019). Applications of drones in warehouse operations. Academic paper, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Chair of Production and Operations Management Department of Management, Technology and Economics, Zurich.

    MMH. (2018, March 23). FedEx partners with Vecna Robotics as part of automation growth strategy. Retrieved from mmh.com.

    Monroy. (2020, August 28). What is warehouse robotics . Retrieved from 6river.com. Richelle. (2021, January 11). Smart packaging. (Boulanger, Interviewer)
    Romaine. (2020, September 15). Pros and cons of AS/RS for warehouse automation. Retrieved

    from conveyco.com.
    UPS. (2020, April 23). UPS Pressroom . Retrieved from pressroom.ups.com. Wilson. (2020, February 6). The future of logistics warehouses . Retrieved from

    supplychaindigital.com.

     

  • COVID 19 The State Of Supply Chains (Part 2)

    The shutdowns and disruptions from COVID-19 outbreaks have forever changed the way consumers, retailers, and suppliers work and operate. And the problems created are still being dealt with throughout the supply chain. Companies must accelerate global strategies to customer service and inventory planning processes and management. 

    It is crucial to understand the problems faced within the global supply chain when it comes to being able to meet customer expectations, contract supply  issues, and demand concerns.  E-commerce challenges continue to pose a problem as ongoing growth and recovery efforts continue. And those problems will only continue. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), COVID-19 pushed e-commerce to $27.6 trillion by early 2021.

    Transportation companies must understand why these problems had a significant impact on supply chains across many different companies. It is only when issues and their origin are understood in detail, effective and adequate solutions can be implemented to prevent the return of future negative effects within global commerce.

    Now that the negative effects are known and understood to a degree, companies are starting to implement countermeasures. The leading issue supply chains across companies have issues with coping with the impact of the pandemic lies at the current/prior resilience level. 

    Companies that wish to accelerate global demand planning and supply chain operations need to focus on known issues and improve end to end resilience.

    The first part of this article described the negative effects on Supply Chains as a result of COVID-19. It is crucial to understand the problems faced and the reasoning as to why these problems had a big impact amongst Supply Chains across many different companies. It is only when problems and their origin are understood in detail, effective and adequate solutions can be implemented to prevent the return of future negative effects.

    Now that the negative effects are known and understood to a degree, companies are starting to implement counter measures. Of course, the type of measure implemented depends on the specific company in question. However, the main issue Supply Chains across companies have issues with coping with the effects of the pandemic lies at the current/prior resilience level. Supply Chains simply did not invest sufficiently in the resilience element to minimize these negative effects. Now, how can companies specifically improve their Supply Chain Resilience?

    How Can Companies Improve Their Supply Chain Resilience?

    The pandemic will not disappear anytime soon. To improve resilience, companies require steady, start-to-finish appraisal and enhancement, and observation. Robust global commerce analytical systems must monitor constant changes in the marketplace to ensure optimal order processing by a fulfillment partner.

    Strong analytical capacity will allow companies to understand the complexity of contract supply better, anticipate potential disruption, and quickly develop a response (BizClik Media, 2020).

    See the figure below for a clear visual on how to improve supply chain planning and supply chain processes in a structured way.

    Figure 1 Operate – Execute – Monitor Cycle (Resilience) https://supplychaindigital.com/supply-chain-2/accenture-building-supply-chain-resilience-amidst-covid-19

    Steps to Accelerate Global Supply Chain Performance 

    Let’s create a scenario on how to improve the Supply Chain’s resilience using the diagram above. Remember, the end goal of increased Resilience is necessary to enable and increase a company’s ability to respond accordingly to unexpected changes within the demand/marketplace.

    Supply chain management is all about looking for ways to improve key performance metrics. The following steps can help in short term and long term goals.

    Step 1: Mobilize

    To counter unexpected changes in demand, an initial response plan must be in place that holds specific operating rules. For instance, if demand rises above level X%, automatic notifications must be sent to suppliers A/B to deliver new products on time. 

    These resilience supply parameters can be established based on safety/stock margins resulting from product priority and lead times to accelerate global metrics. Regular flow and depreciation value also play essential roles in determining these specific parameters.

    Step 2: Sense

    After creating the fundamental counterplan, risks and implications on the Supply Chain must be identified and analyzed as soon as possible. For instance, if Supplier A uses a specific raw material to create a product known to become scarce upon demand increase, inform yourself about alternatives that enable product delivery past these scarcity levels. 

    Diversify risks by looking for ways to counter transportation costs and concerns in global commerce, production, and delivery. This is critical for domestic, global, and cross-border processes.

    Step 3: Analyze

    It is essential to analyze ‘what-if’ scenarios in case of unexpected plan failures. It is best to review these plans and procedures every couple of months, depending on the company, to ensure their validity. 

    Furthermore, having multiple perceptions on/off the scenarios and solutions may contribute to increased quality and resilience. The more a company asks itself what if x will happen, especially when analyzing contract supply metrics for inventory levels and product designs, the better the understanding of the possible unexpected obstructions.

    Step 4: Configure

    This final step of this never-ending cycle should include the configuration of the entire counter process. All steps/elements needed to facilitate the counterplan should be in place. New transport/backup modalities, alternate materials, backup machinery, etc. 

    The more extensive the preparation, the better. This last step ties in with the third analysis step, as the potential disruptive scenarios accelerate global configuration needs.

    Improve Global Commerce Performance With ModusLink

    After continuous focus on Supply Chain optimization to minimize costs and improve efficiency across the board, COVID-19 clearly illustrates that many companies are not fully aware of the vulnerability of their supply chain relationships to unexpected Global changes within the marketplace/demand (Deloitte, 2021).

    Fortunately, new digitalized Supply Chain technologies are showing potential to drastically  improve the visibility across the end-to-end supply chain. It is clear that the current linear model of Supply Chains was not sufficient to be resistant to such global changes as the pandemic. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, AVG (Automated Guided Vehicles) are designed to anticipate and meet future challenges.

    Would you like to know more about the state of Supply Chains moving forward? Stay tuned for our next Blog where we will go more in-depth or talk to a ModusLink Expert today by clicking here!.

    Bibliography:

    (2021, May 3). Global e-commerce jumps to $26.7 trillion, COVID-19 boosts online sales, Accessed October 20, 2022 From https://unctad.org/news/global-e-commerce-jumps-267-trillion-covid-19-boosts-online-sales

    BizClik Media. (2020, May 17). Accenture: building supply chain resilience amidst COVID-19. Supply Chain Digital. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://supplychaindigital.com/supply-chain-2/accenture-building-supply-chain-resilience-amidst-covid-19

    COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption. (2021, October 5). Deloitte. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/risk/cyber-strategic-risk/articles/covid-19-managing-supply-chain-risk-and-disruption.html

    G. (n.d.). What impact has COVID-19 had on supply chains & responsible sourcing? Greenstone. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.greenstoneplus.com/blog/what-impact-has-covid-19-had-on-supply-chains-responsible-sourcing

    Gilkey, J. G. (2021, May 1). The challenges and realities of retailing in a COVID-19 world. Researchgate. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351656064_The_challenges_and_realities_of_retailing_in_a_COVID-19_world_Identifying_trending_and_Vital_During_Crisis_keywords_during_Covid-19_using_Machine_Learning_Austria_as_a_case_study

    Harapko, S. H. (2021, February 18). supply-chain. Ey.Com. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/supply-chain/how-covid-19-impacted-supply-chains-and-what-comes-next

    Meyer, A. (n.d.). The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Supply Chains and Their Sustainability: A Text Mining Approach. Frontiers. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsus.2021.631182/full

    Netherlands, S. (2021, July 27). COVID-19 impact on supply chains. Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved November 25, 2021, from https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/dossier/coronavirus-crisis-cbs-figures/covid-19-impact-on-supply-chains

     

  • COVID 19 The State Of Supply Chains (Part 1)

    With all the upheaval that global supply chains have had to contend with, the value of supply chain optimization has never been more vital. Significant progress has been made over the last two years to respond to the weaknesses and issues exposed, but there is still much to be done regarding supply chain strategies and implementation.  Approaching logistics with a focus on omnichannel supply chain options may be the best option to speed recovery.

    As highlighted by McKinsey & Company in late 2021, “Companies have only partly addressed the weaknesses in global supply chains exposed by the coronavirus pandemic. In the face of new challenges, finishing the job is even more urgent.” This is where a service now and omnichannel approach can make all the difference for logistics managers when it comes to recovery from the pandemic’s disruption. Many companies in the world today struggle with this aspect of supply chain operations and business strategy. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Covid-19: The Grand Disruption

    Delayed shipments because of sea freight disruptions, monthly increasing fuel charges, challenges with supply chain optimization, and disconnected communication between transport modalities.. These are all direct effects encountered across supply networks, from technology companies to fleet managers to retail distributors, that resulted from introducing the virus COVID-19.

    Companies need a  service now and omnichannel approach to logistics to maintain a competitive advantage. It is undeniable that COVID-19 has caused many disruptions across markets. 

    Especially within the supply chain industry, the virus has caused some companies to go bankrupt due to their fragile supply chain and product development and distribution processes. They simply have not been able to counter the adverse effects caused by the virus. 

    Many high paying logistics jobs offer an opportunity to improve the industry as a whole and impact future developments within the supply chain network. This unforeseen situation, experienced by companies worldwide, has caused management staff to revisit and revise their current strategies. 

    What is the current state of supply chains? Are there any positive effects of poor supply chain optimization and disruption? Which are the critical learning factors to pay attention to? How has CRM and other platform innovations impacted the supply chain?

    These questions are covered here so supply chain managers and team members can better understand the state of the supply chain industry today as the world continues to recover from COVID-19.

    Negative Effects on Supply Chain Optimization

    To understand the current state of supply chains the negative effects incurred must be known. Many Supply Chains faced comparable negative issues because of COVID-19.

    Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) surveyed in late 2020 where asked approximately 200 senior-level supply chain executives at organizations across many sectors. This includes consumer products, retail, life sciences, industrial products, automotive, and high-tech companies in the United States with over US$1b in revenues within the service now and omnichannel platforms. 

    Some of these responders were looking at high paying logistics jobs and how to improve the supply chain operations. See the chart below (Harapko, 2021).

    According to this research into supply chain optimization, the pandemic hit shippers, carriers, and transportation companies hard. Some companies experienced more negative effects than others. This research stated that, among the respondents, all automotive and nearly all (97%) industrial product companies said the pandemic negatively affected them.Furthermore, 47% of all companies reported the pandemic disrupted their workforce.  These are significant amounts and visualize the struggle experienced by many companies in their later stages. Recovery efforts will likely continue for years to come as the full impact of global shutdowns, closures, backlogs, and disruptions still impact nearly every industry from brick and mortar to e-commerce businesses.

    Confusion Fueled by a Lack of Understanding

    The specific adverse effects Supply Chains face are too many to go into detail—supplier retraction, fuel charge increases, modality issues, supply chain optimization issues etc. 

    As a result, the impact of the adverse effects stated accumulated rapidly. It was difficult to implement direct countermeasures as nobody understood precisely how the virus would develop in the future.

    According to Greenstone (n.d.), this confusion and lack of understanding resulted in cross-border flows of goods being stalled due to safety precautions needing to be understood and then implemented.

    Furthermore, local ‘lockdown’ regulations formed a great obstacle that needed to be understood about trade. Only after this could the natural flow-of-goods continue to work on service now and omnichannel operating levels. 

    This phenomenon can be easily identified within supply lines and logistical routes. However, as mentioned before, the negative effects of these high-paying logistics jobs can be seen across all industries. Fortune magazine noted that nearly 94% of the Fortune 500 companies claim to see supply chain disruptions because of the coronavirus. Implementing new processes for digitization and automation can improve recovery efforts for businesses of all sizes.

    Figure 2 COVID-19 Supply Chain effects – Fortune 1000 companies (https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fsupplychaindigital.com%2Fsupply-chain-2%2Faccenture-building-supply-chain-resilience-amidst-covid-19&psig=AOvVaw1cleCCNUnB1vy8TfDrQvHx&ust=16388950

    Overcome the Impacts of COVID-19 With Help From ModusLink

    The main conclusion that can be given from the experienced negative effects is that many companies lacked a certain amount of resilience within their supply chain optimization processes and supply chain structure.

    On the upside, COVID-19 has magnified and identified the present issues within current/former supply chain structures and operations. Now that these issues have been identified, companies can use this knowledge to adjust accordingly for the better and gain a solid competitive advantage as a result. 

    When you have products and services to offer, you want to ensure your company is up to the task. Dealing with short term and long term effects of the global pandemic is a serious task for any company to overcome. 

    Would you like to know more about the state of supply chains moving forward and how supply chain optimization continues to impact the industry? Contact a ModusLink expert today to get started.

    Bibliography:

    Alike, Knut, Barriball, Ed, Trautweign, Vera (2021, November 23) How COVID-19 is reshaping supply chains, Accessed October 22, 2022 From https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/operations/our-insights/how-covid-19-is-reshaping-supply-chains

    2021, May 3). Global e-commerce jumps to $26.7 trillion, COVID-19 boosts online sales, Accessed October 20, 2022 From https://unctad.org/news/global-e-commerce-jumps-267-trillion-covid-19-boosts-online-sales

    BizClik Media. (2020, May 17). Accenture: building supply chain resilience amidst COVID-19. Supply Chain Digital. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://supplychaindigital.com/supply-chain-2/accenture-building-supply-chain-resilience-amidst-covid-19

    COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption. (2021, October 5). Deloitte. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/risk/cyber-strategic-risk/articles/covid-19-managing-supply-chain-risk-and-disruption.html

    G. (n.d.). What impact has COVID-19 had on supply chains & responsible sourcing? Greenstone. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.greenstoneplus.com/blog/what-impact-has-covid-19-had-on-supply-chains-responsible-sourcing

    Gilkey, J. G. (2021, May 1). The challenges and realities of retailing in a COVID-19 world. Researchgate. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351656064_The_challenges_and_realities_of_retailing_in_a_COVID-19_world_Identifying_trending_and_Vital_During_Crisis_keywords_during_Covid-19_using_Machine_Learning_Austria_as_a_case_study

    Harapko, S. H. (2021, February 18). supply-chain. Ey.Com. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/supply-chain/how-covid-19-impacted-supply-chains-and-what-comes-next

    Meyer, A. (n.d.). The Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Supply Chains and Their Sustainability: A Text Mining Approach. Frontiers. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frsus.2021.631182/full

    Netherlands, S. (2021, July 27). COVID-19 impact on supply chains. Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved November 25, 2021, from https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/dossier/coronavirus-crisis-cbs-figures/covid-19-impact-on-supply-chains

     

  • Inventory Management & Supply Chain Responsiveness

    nventory management has always played a key part in any successful supply chain process. Managing inventory levels helps companies to swiftly adapt to unpredictable changes within the marketplace. Volatile demand can cause troubling issues when not handled correctly. That undermines supply chain performance and customer relationship management. When there are weaknesses in how managers link warehouse operations and manage supply chain innovation, the risk increases. In fact, 56% of business leaders still report inefficient inventory management capabilities, asserts Forbes. Let’s take a closer look at how your company can improve inventory management to boost customer experiences, purchase orders, and small business efficiencies. 

    The Importance of Inventory Management in Public Warehouse Operations

    Digitization and automation are at the heart of ongoing growth and recovery and can help businesses overcome common warehousing and inventory issues. For instance, let’s say you are a company that sells seasonal jackets. Due to an unusually warm winter, your winter jackets no longer sell as expected. 

    Without adapting to the current demand, your winter jackets will become excess inventory over time. Using up  public warehouse space to sort, organize, and store excess inventory can get costly. 

    These negative effects could have been prevented with an adaptive and responsive supply chain across all industries. Knowing how to link warehouse centers, supply lines, and shipping lanes efficiently can improve management and logistics for supply chains.

    For example, retail and spa warehouse needs may vary greatly, but they all must still rely on data to track operational efficiency.  It is crucial for all businesses looking to scale, to understand the importance of having the ability to shift production toward demand.

    Steps to Take for Better Supply Chain Responsiveness And to Link Warehouse Operations

    Correctly managing inventory levels and knowing how to effectively link warehouses requires a responsive supply chain, but what exactly does that mean? 

    According to IGI Global(n.d.), a strong supply network can be defined as a supply chain that is able to shift its production to unpredictable customer demand. How do supply chains do this? 

    One way to realize a responsive network is to correctly manage  logistics warehouse and inventory levels..

    Boost Inventory Management

    Correctly managing Inventory levels can be a struggle, depending on the marketplace and products in question. See below the best ways you can effectively improve your inventory management by making your logistics warehouse processes more responsive.

    Working with the best fulfillment partner can ensure inventory management remains front and center at all times. It allows companies to better regulate inventory and keep up with critical supply chain processes. This focus makes optimization and responsiveness much easier.

    Improve Supplier relationships

    Products that require multiple raw materials or parts from different suppliers are heavily reliant on active supplier relationships. Companies that trade in those products ought to continuously look for ways to improve their supplier relationships, including public warehouse access and utilization. 

    Having a better understanding of your supplier’s business position (and vice versa) allows a company to better anticipate and forecast possible disruptions and improve the way they coordinate and link warehouses and other applicable chain parties. This maximizes the throughput speed at which new materials can be ordered and received, in turn increasing your adaptability to the marketplace. Having access to the best supply chain tools can also help significantly. .

    Figure 1(Supplier Relationship Management) Significance of Healthy Supplier Relationship. (n.d.). from http://www.strategicsourcing.pk/2015/12/significance-of-healthy-supplier.html

    Enhance Risk Management

    Another way to improve inventory control and build supply chain responsiveness is through effective risk management. Especially in turbulent times and strong unforeseen events such as COVID-19, the element of risk management is crucial for any business looking for ways to boost  logistics warehouse operations and streamline operations.

    Especially for SMEs (Small-Medium-Enterprises) looking to invest in new technology, a detailed risk analogy of the sought-after investment must always be made prior to continuing business. Automation and digitalization are important elements in linked warehouses nowadays. Despite the importance of these elements, never invest without proper risk-return analysis. 

    Consider Outsourcing Options

    A method to the improvement of performance and inventory management that has become increasingly popular over the years is the concept of outsourcing. Companies such as ModusLink are industry experts with years of industry experience and knowledge regarding  public warehouse and inventory management processes. 

    Companies that rely on warehouse and distribution services need sound logistics warehouse management processes. Without a solid foundation, the entire network will struggle from the start. For many companies, the easiest solution to this shortcoming is to outsource services.

    Looking Forward to Future Growth and Success

    Some companies today can also be price-competitive, increasing the attractiveness of outsourcing your supply chain. These companies use their extensive network, supplier relationships, and vast IT infrastructure to massively increase supply chain responsiveness and inventory management processes. They understand the importance of linked warehouse operations. 

    Companies that outsource effectively gain the ability to spend resources elsewhere. This allows their business to flourish in a short-time period and more importantly, increases their ability to scale effectively. The effects of COVID-19 have forever changed the market and how consumers shop, which has forever altered how inventory management and supply chain responsiveness is measured.

    Improve Logistics Warehouse Operations With ModusLink

    These three elements are important ways to Increase a supply chain’s responsiveness and in turn, increase inventory management. There are plenty of other ways a business can improve its supply chain strategy and boost the ability to link warehouses effectively. 

    Would you like to know more about these innovative strategies and how to improve supply chain operations with enhanced inventory management? Contact ModusLink today to learn more and to see how easy inventory management can be when you have the right tools and guidance!

    Bibliography:

    Amsler, S., O’Donnell, J., & Cole, B. (2021, February 11). inventory management. SearchERP. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://searcherp.techtarget.com/definition/inventory-management

    Significance of Healthy Supplier Relationship. (n.d.). Strategic Sourcing. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from http://www.strategicsourcing.pk/2015/12/significance-of-healthy-supplier.html

    Walts, A. (2021, October 29). Your Essential Guide to Effective Inventory Management + 18 Techniques You Need to Know. The BigCommerce Blog. Retrieved November 21, 2021, from https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/inventory-management/

    What is Responsive Supply Chain | IGI Global. (n.d.). IGI. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/building-a-strategic-framework-for-retail-supply-chain-analytics/52748