X

The Supply Chain Management Blog covers the latest in SCM strategy, technology, and innovation.

Putting Customers at the Center of Your Supply Chain

Guest Author

By Howard Engle, Enterprise Solution Architect, CSS

Consumer behavior leads the way

Today consumers are just a click away from getting their hands on just about anything their heart desires. And even better, they can have it delivered to their doorstep in just a day or so. Just a few years ago, this level of convenience would have been unthinkable. Now consumers demand it all the time. And get it.

In the space of a few years, an array of new buying channels has opened up and consumers have gone from roaming stores and showrooms to tapping and swiping their smartphones. Purchasing goods and services is an anywhere, anytime activity with delivery options ranging from same-day drop-offs to in-store pickup of online orders, and consumers can track their orders every step of the way. This is putting pressure on supply chain and logistics professionals to get products and parts to customers faster than ever before and causing companies to switch to a supply network model to meet that customer demand.

 

Faster product lifecycles 

The shift is overturning long-standing supply chain practices and empowering companies to compete and innovate at a whole new level. To grow and profit in a consumer-driven economy, businesses are retooling their supply chains to be faster, more flexible and resilient. Older supply chain systems are being replaced by platform-enabled, collaborative networks with the digital capabilities and fast feedback needed to support the new consumer experience.

These collaborative supply networks operate over a web of connected digital communications, with information flowing between the customer, fulfillment teams, demand planners, smart factories, and ultimately design and development teams.

By plugging into social media channels integrated into the supply chain ecosystem, for example, companies get instant feedback on products so they can really understand what their customers are looking for and deliver new versions that much faster. A classic example is the global smartphone market where new versions are launched every year.

 

Staying Ahead

To outpace change in the consumer-centric world, companies are reengineering their product lifecycles to be shorter, more efficient, and more responsive to shifting consumer tastes. They are leveraging advanced, collaborative product development teams and technology platforms that factor in supply chain constraints and costs in the initial design of products, helping accelerate time to market and avoiding costly supply bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, cloud-based forecasting solutions are helping companies better match production with demand, helping optimize inventories and boosting asset utilization. On the logistics side, automated fulfillment systems and IoT-based tracking deliver goods with unprecedented speed and visibility, satisfying the elevated expectations of a new generation of mobile, tech-savvy customers.

All of these advancements form the backbone of a modern consumer-driven supply chain. By putting consumers front and center, they can impact any part of the supply chain directly and decisions related to product planning are centered on meeting the needs of customers. It also means that changing customer demand is communicated to all the participants in a supply network in near real time, creating a highly efficient and customer focused “collaborative supply chain” and giving companies the power to compete and innovate at a whole new level.

Understanding consumer behavior is a crucial first step in designing and operating an agile and efficient supply chain. 

Be the first to comment

Comments ( 0 )
Please enter your name.Please provide a valid email address.Please enter a comment.CAPTCHA challenge response provided was incorrect. Please try again.