2020 has brought unprecedented challenges to retail supply chains. From extreme spikes in demand to new safety protocols in stores, retailers have had to constantly adapt to keep their supply chains running smoothly, all while facing consistent pressures associated with the on-demand economy. Now more than ever, retailers need a holistic visibility solution that can optimize their complex supply chain – from procurement teams all the way to store managers – keeping costs low and products available on-shelf.

FourKites Chief Product Officer Priya Rajagopalan recently sat down with Paul Thompson, Domestic Logistics Director at Meijer, to learn more about the unique challenges retailers are facing, why Meijer co-innovated our new PO tracking and lifecycle management solution, and how real-time visibility can bring agility to supply chain teams. Read on for three key takeaways from their discussion, and catch up on the webinar here.

Supply chain complexity is here to stay

While 2020 has presented some unique challenges for retailers, many retailers have been dealing with increased pressure on their supply chains for some time, and there’s no sign of that slowing down. Customer expectations are higher than ever, as two-day (or even same-day) shipping has become the norm. The in-store experience is also critical; with so many products available online, Meijer focuses on delivering low prices in store, which means they have to keep costs down by eliminating as much excess cost as possible from their supply chains.

Labor and capacity shortages are also a concern, especially heading into the holiday season. Capacity has been extremely tight since July, and with an estimated 30% increase in online sales this year, retailers need to get creative to find additional capacity in the marketplace. And while there will always be uncertainty and potential disruptions lurking around the corner, one thing is clear: Retailers need more ways to reduce costs, increase efficiency and maximize workforce productivity.

Unlock agility with accurate, actionable data.

Technological developments over the past few years have allowed companies to process massive amounts of data faster than ever. This has enabled retailers to make quick, informed decisions on the spot when unexpected disruptions arise, rather than waste hours, or even days, tracking down and processing relevant data streams to understand the impact of certain events. Better data availability and analytics have also resulted in more accurate forecasting and stronger customer relationships.

The importance of data availability in supply chain management is also what spurred Meijer to co-innovate FourKites’ new purchase order (PO) lifecycle management solution. Many supply chain teams work with PO numbers instead of load numbers (the default way of tracking), including inbound logistics, track-and-trace, customer service, procurement/materials management and merchandising. That’s a significant number of people all across the organization who can leverage real-time visibility to make more informed decisions in their daily operations. Previously, those individuals had to go through several manual steps to match load numbers to relevant PO numbers in order to use the tracking information to find the items in question.

Paul and the Meijer team are excited about their new ability to optimize PO lifecycle management for prepaid POs (in addition to collect); make real-time decisions on inventory in transit with real-time PO tracking; identify ideal ordering patterns based on product-level information; and leverage one unified technology platform throughout their entire supply chain.

Proactive collaboration is key to weathering disruptions.

COVID-19 brought unprecedented challenges to retail supply chains that many companies are still working to overcome. Meijer has been able to weather the pandemic over the last few months in part due to its commitment to collaborating with its partners across its supply chains. Paul shared some great examples of innovative ways Meijer is working collaboratively – both internally and with other supply chain stakeholders – to optimize operations:

  • Meijer leverages FourKites’ Network Visibility solution to easily share tracking information with its vendors. This has allowed the company to analyze a mutual set of data in its top-to-top meetings, as all parties strive to maximize on-time delivery. Network Visibility helps Meijer and its partners rely on facts and trends during their discussions to achieve their mutual goals.
  • To combat driver shortages and capacity challenges in the face of increased demand, Meijer has worked with its manufacturing partners to optimize their truck capacity and ensure that inbound trucks are as full as possible.
  • Meijer ensured excellent communication and collaboration across all of its internal teams (including supply chain teams, store operations teams, marketing and government affairs) at the onset of COVID-19 to proactively communicate any downstream changes to customers, and remain flexible as a company as the situation evolved.

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If you’re interested in learning more about how FourKites real-time visibility platform can help you build a more agile and resilient supply chain, watch the entire webinar here, and don’t hesitate to connect with us at hello@fourkites.com.

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