Smarter Supply Chain

Few would dispute that today's retail supply chains would

benefit greatly from becoming smarter.

For one thing, retailers lose billions every year in missed

sales because they don't have the

right products in stock to meet demand.

But what would a smarter supply chain look like?

Today's supply chains are much more global in nature,

more complex, with greater numbers of moving parts.

Becoming smarter will require a change in

awareness, accuracy and connection.

Ultimately, by strengthening the connections from suppliers

to upstream producers to other service providers,

supply chains will evolve into supply networks,

offering managers greater visibility and

agility to deliver value to targeted customers.

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A smarter supply network provides visibility

into every corner of the retail operation and

upstream into the network –

collecting, integrating, analyzing and

reporting on the movement and condition of goods.

In fact, in a smart supply network,

it's objects (not people) that do the

reporting and sharing of information.

Critical data flows out of sensors, RFID tags,

meters, actuators, GPS and other technologies.

Products warn you when they are spoiled.

Inventory counts itself. Containers keep you posted on their location.

With that kind of up-to-the-moment insight,

supply networks can not only report but

respond automatically in real time.

Machines do the working so the humans can do the thinking.

For example: Say you're a supermarket seeking

to improve inventory freshness and availability.

Using sensors, event traceability and analytics,

products that are expired or nearly expired can

send an alert to the system and can be rapidly removed from inventory.

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With greater visibility, retailers have the opportunity

to create supply networks that are more agile –

responding quickly to unexpected market changes

such as rapid wage inflation, spikes in commodity prices,

increasing energy costs and fluctuations in capacity.

Smart supply networks can shift workloads around the globe,

adjust inventory based on trend spotting,

respond to currency fluctuations and ultimately cut costs

by realigning network partnerships.

And this applies at every scale, whether you're

tracking cotton as a commodity

or a pair of cotton socks on a shelf in Dublin.

This agility and responsiveness can in turn fuel sustainable growth.

For example: Say you're an apparel retailer seeking to provide

customers endless aisle choice without actually

having to carry every style-size-color combination.

By deploying a new sales and inventory management system,

you are able to view availability of merchandise

across your supply network.

So when a consumer wants to purchase a pair of shoes

in a less common color, an associate can quickly scan

the supply network for the optimal shipping location –

accelerating its arrival to the customer's home.

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