Insights from RILA Retail Supply Chain Conference: Top 3 Ways the Retail Revolution Impacts the Supply Chain

I was one of those fortunate enough to attend the RILA Retail Supply Chain Conference – Logistics 2013 event in Orlando a few weeks back. When I call myself fortunate for attending I’m not just referring to leaving my home in Wisconsin for warmer temperatures in Orlando; I’m talking about the value gained from a retail show specifically focused on logistics.

Throughout my 40+ years in the warehousing and software industries, I’ve attended my fair share of events catering to retail and supply chain audiences; and while I gain value from each of those shows, there was additional excitement at the opportunity to get deep into the details relative to retail supply chain issues.

While retail’s revolution has been covered tirelessly in recent years, there’s certainly more to be said – and done – to optimally meet the needs of today’s empowered consumer starting first and foremost with the supply chain. With that in mind, the following is what I consider to be the biggest takeaways from the event as it relates to how shifts in retail are impacting the supply chain and supply chain professionals.

Top 3 Ways the Retail Revolution Impacts the Supply Chain, Supply Chain Professionals.

1. Supply Chains Require Integrated Planning and Execution

One of the first sessions I attended was a presentation by Lowe’s that offered retailers insights on how to build the case for change within their organizations relative to improved forecasting and replenishment processes. The presentation did not shy away from the complexities of integrated supply chain planning and execution, instead offering a roadmap to success that starts with customer-centric inventory strategies. It was a powerful reminder to retailers and supply chain professionals alike that customer experience is not just about what happens in-store, but is largely influenced by what happens in the supply network to ensure the right products, in the right quantities and varieties, are available at the right place and time.

2. Automated DC Operations & End-to-End Inventory Visibility

In recent years, retailers faced a mad scramble to achieve “buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere” success. In many cases, supply chain professionals felt the brunt of remodeling inventory holding and fulfillment strategies to reflect “one logical pool” of inventory theoretically available to any customer, anywhere, anytime. But now that leading retailers and their internal and external supply chain partners have made bold strides in enabling buy anywhere, fulfill anywhere, the race (and pressure) is on to make transactions as profitable as possible. Retailers are realizing that the first step is having a real-time, actionable view of end-to-end inventory visibility across DCs, stores, drop-ship providers; the second step is driving automated processes into their distribution centers.  Once these both are achieved, it will better enable people, processes and technology to determine the most profitable fulfillment decisions whether it is fulfill from store, ship to home, fulfill from a warehouse, etc.

3. Supply Chain Professionals Have New Responsibilities, Recognition  

Last but not least, the shifts in retail have had a positive impact on the responsibilities and recognition retail supply chain leaders are receiving for preparing their companies to compete in this new business environment. While driving costs out of the supply chain will always be a priority, supply chain professionals – and the supply chains they enable – are increasingly recognized for their ability to enable top line sales growth by being flexible and responsive to changing consumer demands. And while JDA has always believed supply chain professionals form the backbone of retail, isn’t it nice that they are finally getting the recognition they deserve?

For those of you who enjoyed or weren’t able to attend RILA’s Retail Supply Chain Conference, I’d like to encourage you to check out FOCUS 2013, JDA’s annual global conference May 5-8 in Orlando. Like RILA, it will offer supply chain professionals an opportunity to network, share best practices and hear how industry leaders are finding success in today’s complex marketplace.

  1 Comment   Comment

  1. I find the insight in the third point above to be interesting. I would suggest with the enhanced realization of the importance of supply chain managers comes a responsibility on the part of those managers to interface more fully with marketing managers. Part of the value that a supply chain manager brings to the organization stems from the ability to react to changing purchasing habits by consumers. A large part of this change can be forecast by the marketing department, and I believe that the next revolution in supply chain management may come from those managers who appreciate this link and exploit the information provided by marketing in a more proactive way.

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