Visibility: The Key to Unlocking the Potential of a Multi-Source Supply Chain.

Origin/Destination Services, Retail, Supply Chain
February 17, 2014

Five ways to manage SKUs and vendors and overcome five key challenges.

Few industries are as complex as retail. Orders are generated across multiple channels. Shelves (both bricks-and-mortar and virtual) are stocked with thousands of branded and private label SKUs. And suppliers are often scattered around the globe.

Managing a supply chain with so many moving parts is a tall order. Running one that moves hundreds of thousands of products takes on an entirely new level of complexity. As a retail supply chain manager, how do you effectively manage the sourcing and in-transit movement of thousands of SKUs and business relationships with domestic and offshore suppliers?

Multi-source supply chain

What’s more, how do you react if products are delayed at customs? If a supplier in China can’t make your ship date? Or a tsunami in Malaysia wipes out an entire source of inventory? How do you prevent bumps in the road from completely derailing your profit picture? The secret to supply chain visibility is to pinpoint visibility across the distribution chain that enables you to get the right products to market at the right price and the right time from a multitude of suppliers. And that means overcoming five key challenges.

Five Multi-Source Supply Chain Challenges
Managing a multi-source retail supply chain? Then you likely face these challenges:

  1. Building a cost-effective physical supply chain that aligns the movement of goods to delivery dates, configuring routes and transportation modes to accommodate different products and sources based on the locations of suppliers, fulfillment centers, distribution centers and stores.
  2. Transforming SKU-level data about scores of suppliers into actionable business intelligence.
  3. Optimizing shipping and transportation by accurately planning and forecasting demand.
  4. Enhancing inventory velocity across the supply chain to meet specific deliverable dates.
  5. Complying with regulations: governing the movement of goods across international borders.

Five Ways to Keep Your Multi-Source Retail Supply Chain on Course
To keep the chaos of a multi-source supply chain from stopping your business in its tracks, make sure you:

  1. Analyze: evaluate where branded and private-label products come from and assemble a supply chain that moves goods from source to store or fulfillment center efficiently.
  2. Configure: set up supply chain routes and transportation modes to accommodate different products based on the international locations of suppliers, fulfillment centers, distribution centers and stores.
  3. Use technology: to gain visibility across the supply chain that allows you to coordinate prices, terms of payment, ship dates and need-by dates and accommodate a range of customer sourcing strategies, production lead times, ship windows, transportation providers and need-by dates.
  4. Comply: know how to comply with the rules, regulations and practices of the destination country, including properly filing Importer Security Filings (ISF) forms.
  5. Partner: team up with a trusted 3PL with engineering, integration and operations teams at the point of origin and destination – one that can manage inventory across multiple modes of transport.

Are you sourcing hundreds or thousands of products from multiple vendors? How do you keep small problems from turning into big ones that derail your best-laid supply chain plans?

To learn more, download a PDF of a question-and-answer session done with Chain Store Age magazine about the challenges of managing multi-source retail supply chains.

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