- Boost supply chain execution: Visibility provided by a trading partner management system can work with your warehouse management system to speed scanning and receiving of produce into your facility. This helps you increase your ability to move perishables and other products in and out of your facility on the same day. Advanced cross-docking capabilities such as flow-through and put-to-store processing allow you to divide pallets by store destination or place goods directly on an outbound trailer.
Grocers in the UK have been using these methods to distribute perishables for years. Consider trying these methods out on products that experience high volumes of orders in a short period of time, such as seasonal or holiday goods, when one pallet might be destined for 15 different stores. Called "just in time" inventory, it can help you assign late inbound shipments to outbound company trucks and minimize spoilage.
Advanced warehouse optimization tools such as slotting and labor management solutions can help you improve facility layout and productivity in your facility and reduce product damage and replenishment costs. A slotting solution can optimize the configuration of your facility and keep it optimized on an ongoing basis to maximize throughput. The right automated tools for slotting, labor monitoring (using baseline or engineered labor standards) and workload planning can help you increase productivity, not headcount.
You might want to deploy supply chain solutions that are RFID-enabled and compatible with voice-recognition and other technologies. These are proven tools for reducing distribution and picking errors and increasing productivity and accuracy. Bar code scanning and RFID tags can provide real-time information and product tracking.
- Take more control of goods en-route: Whether you work with a private fleet or contract carriers, consider a transportation management system with fleet management capabilities to optimize planned and opportunistic backhauls and tandem loads and eliminate deadhead miles. Using dynamic and continuous driver and asset optimization, you can remain proactive despite unforeseen changes. Establish automated processes for lane bidding, appointment scheduling and payment capabilities that benefit you and your carriers—and help you become a preferred vendor.
- Plan ahead: Once you have optimized your warehouses and reduced empty miles, consider the true cost of replenishment. With perishable items, effective inventory management and accurate forecasting are essential. A closer balance between your inventory and demand can allow you to reduce inventory levels by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
Look for an advanced inventory management solution that helps you extend visibility upstream so you can anticipate demand, adapt to evolving customer needs and industry changes and proactively set service levels at each tier of the supply chain. Sharing forecasts with your carriers and your inbound transportation department as early as possible can help you improve relationships as well as processes.
Even the greatest buy has labor, transportation and warehouse storage costs associated with it. An integrated replenishment solution can balance all these aspects before the buyer issues the PO—giving you a real-time picture of your company's forecast and helping you ultimately generate a higher return on your inventory investment.
One food service distributor utilized such a solution and was able to reduce inventory levels while experiencing a year of more than 8 percent growth. This can also effectively centralize non-food products that most grocers sell, such as health and beauty aides.
- Take it to the top: One of the best assets of a well-constructed supply chain lies in its ability to provide information on performance for future business strategy and alert you of issues before they become critical. An integrated business intelligence solution tracks and analyzes incremental activities throughout the supply chain so you can provide your executives with a dashboard view of operations. They can measure the information against business strategies to improve margins and stay competitive.
Whatever your choice for your supply chain technology, be sure it is maintainable, integrateable and flexible. Deploy a solution that will allow you to grow with your business so you will not have to invest time and money in pursuing and implementing a whole new solution five years down the road. You can use that money, too, for other capital investments.