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The secret to reducing costs and optimizing revenue lies in day-to-day execution

When market conditions quickly change, supply chains can struggle to keep up. 2022 was a perfect example, as retailers binged on inventory and manufacturers struggled with replenishment. In both instances, their bottom lines suffered due to excessive costs or missed revenue opportunities.

As companies increasingly focus on profitability and cash-flow management, inventory levels will grow increasingly leaner. While this shift will push many leaders to focus on sharpening their forecasting models, the greatest opportunity exists in optimizing the operations and workflows for the teams navigating inventory challenges on a daily basis.

Case in point: while production runs that have been refined to meet to-the-minute delivery windows look great in a spreadsheet, the reality is that they’re often anything but just in time. This way of doing business can be confusing, if not unpredictable, for your associates.

So, how do you enable those on your frontlines who need to be able to find the right items for their tasks? Whether building a critical customer order or keeping production lines moving, how are you offsetting the difficulties of lean logistics practices for your associates? The answer is visibility the way your ecosystem needs it.

The Role of Order- & Inventory-Level Visibility 

Real-time visibility began with a simple goal eight years ago: to track where full truckloads were at any given point across the network. These dots on a map did little to tell supply chain managers much more than “here where this truck is.”

Like any technology, it changes and changes rapidly. Where’s my truck? It is still important for many, but those who have adopted this are already focused on it. Where’s my inventory?

For most roles outside the transportation department, your team needs that golden screw and answers are paramount. Locating where those items are, whether vendor-managed or not, can mean the difference between a massive disruption and staying the course.

Think about the roles that come out of the woodwork during any major disruption. Suddenly, your CSCO is a logistics planner, your CEO is a sales rep, and your COO is negotiating your vendor agreements if urgent needs aren’t met. All questions that need to be answered with order- and inventory-level visibility, and all questions that rely on the earliest detection available to afford them more time to come up with a resolution.

Would you be prepared to tell them? How long does it take to get answers?

The 6 Insights for Better Inventory Management

To start, identify what your team needs to be more effective in their roles. Are they prepared to deal with anything that happens, inbound or outbound, for both prepaid and collected freight? These six areas are a great place to start, ensuring those on the frontlines can quickly react to the unexpected:

  1. Full Order Lifecycle Visibility: By having visibility into the full order lifecycle, including fill rates before an order is handed over to a carrier, companies can proactively manage inventory levels and customer expectations, leading to improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.
  2. Risk Assessments with Correlating Dollar Amounts: Conducting risk assessments that quantify potential disruptions in monetary terms enables companies to prioritize resources and strategies effectively, ensuring financial stability and operational resilience.
  3. End-to-End ETAs: Providing accurate end-to-end Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for products, starting from the point of origin, allows companies to plan more effectively, improving inventory turnover and reducing the need for excess stock.
  4. Inventory Levels Across All Warehouses and In-Transit Shipments: Monitoring inventory levels across all warehouses and in-transit shipments offers a comprehensive view of available stock, facilitating better inventory allocation and reducing the risk of stockouts or overstocking.
  5. Stock Forecasts Across the Next Production Cycle: Forecasting stock levels for the upcoming production cycle aids in aligning inventory with anticipated demand, minimizing waste, and optimizing production planning.
  6. Chargeback Success Rates for Missed Deliveries by Carriers and Vendors: Tracking and analyzing the success rates of chargebacks for missed deliveries by carriers and vendors helps in assessing the reliability of logistics partners and the effectiveness of inventory policies, leading to improved supply chain accountability and performance.

While understanding what needs to be managed is crucial, the next step involves streamlining the process. This is where the future of visibility merges with workflow automation.

The Next Generation of Visibility Focuses on Workflow Automation

Bringing it back to your operations: what is the biggest time drain on your teams? Is it pulling reports and answering questions? If so, it’s time you’ve looked into breaking that pattern. Supply chain data has become so important because all of the new stakeholders are asking for it. So why not give them access?

Self-service tools with carefully permissioned access to your supply chain are the key to unlocking productivity for transportation teams and new levels of efficiency for these new stakeholders. Systems like FourKites can help serve up order- and SKU-level information with the touch of a button to new roles, freeing up time and energy spent answering questions you may not be prepared to answer at a moment’s notice.

FourKites has pushed the boundaries of supply chain visibility for nearly a decade. Introducing a new perspective for your business to harness: order visibility. Find out more here or contact us at [email protected]

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