Intelligent workflows 101: Building a better supply chain
By Saif Rivers | 3 minute read | February 28, 2019
It’s time for retailers to re-think their supply chains
Artificial Intelligence (AI), has given retailers new insight into every step in the creation of their products, presenting opportunities for efficiency and cost-savings. But the adage “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is still true. Surprises from unforeseen factors like weather or geopolitical events, and changing market conditions present challenges. Intelligent workflows can help.
Intelligent workflows harmonize emerging technologies in the back, middle, and front end of the office, utilizing curated data, to reimagine any process in your business.
For retailers, the ultimate goal is to re-make supply chains so that there are no blindspots, which would in turn contribute to a better customer experience and serve as an engine for innovation. The industry is changing rapidly, here’s how you can stay ahead of the curve.
Intelligent workflows are key to supply chain insights
Today, retailers can drive increased transformation across their supply chain with closer collaboration between retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and transportation partners. By utilizing the same source data, all parties can understand which products are needed at what time, increasing efficiencies.
An intelligent supply chain doesn’t only increase transparency via communication, but it also increases elasticity. With automation data can be collected in real-time to provide hyper-localized visibility which gives retailers the flexibility to expand or contract manufacturing and distribution as needed. This allows the supply chain to do more than just fulfill demand – but also generate it.
Demand is a critical, ever changing, factor in any retailer’s supply chain. External data collection and limited analysis can sometimes make fluctuations in demand seem like a tsunami, prompting an overreaction. Intelligent workflows, powered by data and analytics, can provide more accurate forecasting which would help retailers with on-hand inventory or rerouting shipments. With hyper-localized information, retailers can assess how weather, community-specific events and other local factors will affect demand at store-level.
Ultimately, this degree of insight from end to end enables a retailer to shape its digital experience for customers with a level of data-driven confidence unlike ever before. Regardless of channel, the customer will see the truth when they order products or check status.
AI-supported supply chains increase transparency
When retailers have insight into every element of their supply chain through intelligent orchestration or blockchain approaches, they can stand by the safety, security and ethical provenance of their products and materials by capturing their exact origins — whether it’s a dress, diamonds or fresh produce. A transparent supply chain enables retailers to closely review every aspect of production and distribution, and make quick decisions if they learn a supplier failed inspection or if a parts manufacturer receives components from a factory that has unethical labor practices.
And it is more than just production and distribution that benefit from an AI-supported supply chain. It can do the same in reverse. Warranties, recalls and exchanges affect the bottom line just as much as sales. It has been reported that there were over $100 billion in returns in the U.S. following the holiday season in 2018, so controlling the backward flow can minimize losses. Reverse logistics need to be forecast as carefully as forward logistics: which store received the item, whether an item is back on a store shelf or in a larger regional warehouse awaiting proper destruction, or whether any hazardous or large materials need to be specially transported, which incurs handling fees.
Delivering products on time, at the right time
The ultimate goal of a supply chain is to deliver the right product on time, to the right place and the right customer or facility. Automation and AI-driven analytics consistently provide the insight that a retailer needs to accurately forecast and plan, as well as deliver an optimal digital customer experience.
For more information, check out this interactive demo or schedule a conversation today to learn more about optimizing the visibility of your supply chain with AI insights.