How are we going to transport our product? What size should the shipment be? When should we dispatch our next delivery? Who are we going to send it to? When can expect it to arrive?
These are a just a few of the questions that companies face every day when making supply chain decisions, and that are particularly pressing for those in the food supply chain. After committing abundant time and ample energy to developing the perfect product and establishing your brand, it is important to make the best possible choices regarding how that product will make it to the consumer while still retaining freshness.
Fortunately, the days of sending your product off on a truck or sticking it in the mail and simply hoping it makes it where it needs to go are long over. We have come a long way in supply chain innovation, which is incredibly valuable since customer expectations are growing and they are unafraid to take their business elsewhere if they can’t find what they need. With consumers taking full advantage of the ever-expanding options to buy goods both in person and online, it is imperative that your product makes it where it needs to go—on time, every time.
With advances in technology comes an opportunity to create a consumer-driven supply chain process that ensures distribution is even more profitable and efficient.
When distributing your product to your vendors or customers, you want to know it is going to arrive quickly and it will get there in a sellable form. This is particularly important in the food and beverage industry, where fast expiration dates put all logistics on a timeline. Expeditious shipping is often a priority, and with good reason. But cost, tracking ability, and optimization of every shipment should also be factored in to make sure your company’s transportation process is reaching maximum efficiency on both ends of the delivery.
Incorporating a transportation management system provides an all-in-one option for planning, scheduling, and tracking every shipment. This allows you to save money for the recipient of your delivery and yourself, organize and consolidate each load, and confirm your goods are making it to their destination—and to fix it quickly if they don’t.
In a perfect world, every item would be delivered on time, in excellent shape, 100% of the time. While we can accept that this might not always be a reality, there is some inventory that needs to be handled with an especially prompt and careful approach. Food and other perishable items require diligent inventory management to avoid spoilage, damage, or the passing of an expiration date before it even makes it onto the shelf. These types of items also need to be shipped and stocked in advance to maintain availability, but not so early that they sit in a storeroom long enough to go bad.
This delicate balance can be achieved more easily with electronic inventory and vendor management. The ability to quickly and accurately know which retailers are in need of what products can help reduce waste, save money, and provide consumers with the freshest, healthiest, most appealing options for their consumable goods.
Inevitably, an inexplicable trend or unexpected recall will occasionally lead to shortages of certain items and a scramble to restock. While those situations are sometimes unavoidable, they should be the exception, not the rule. Overall, you want to be aware of what your vendors need and when they will need it.
Planning software offers a way accurately determine future need and find big-picture trends to better understand specific inventory needs for individual locations. This removes the guesswork from the distribution process, maximizing overall efficiency and improving shelf-life for fresh products.
Taking advantage of some other supply chain technology—such as inventory management and planning—requires a lot of data. In fact, the use of data for supply chain management is on the rise, and for good reason. Data is an incredibly useful tool for keeping an eye on all the factors that impact the supply chain, but it is only effective if used smartly and correctly. This can be a challenge, especially when confusing, often messy data feel like one more thing cluttering your already busy plate.
This makes a data management service an absolute necessity. Keeping up with catalogs, validating data, and syncing everything up across multiple platforms can all be automated, helping to increase order accuracy and improve productivity. Many data management tools can integrate data from your company’s CRM, accounting, and sales management platforms to help you better understand the customer’s needs and how those will affect your logistical decisions.
Modern technology is often associated with a newfound ease of keeping in touch, and this is certainly something that can help change the supply chain. It is now simpler than ever to create and maintain connections with new potential suppliers or buyers by using some of the vast communication technology options available.
Staying in contact through videoconferencing, chat services, and even image scanning can help improve connections and ensure that every person in the supply chain stays up-to-date and in the loop like never before, regardless of location or role.