News regarding supply chain interruptions tends to focus on natural disasters, climate change or global politics. However, while many organizations will be impacted by these factors, the biggest disruptions will come from the customer base, according to ITProPortal. Consumer trends, demands and preferences are changing almost daily and drastically enough that production can be impacted.
Predicting changing purchasing habits can be nearly as tricky as predicting an earthquake. For large distribution warehouses that tailor mostly to the consumer market, inventory control is of the utmost importance. Just seven years ago, GPS devices were an exploding market and companies in the industry were growing by leaps and bounds.
However, as quickly as the explosions took place, sales were extinguished by smartphones. Any company distributing or manufacturing new technology products should have its ear to the ground and be prepared to change direction quickly. The same is true for companies in the food supply chain. What's considered healthy and popular is changing almost daily.
For years, consumers have teeter-tottered on things like margarine or butter, but now preferences are having a much greater impact on production . The push for non-GMO grains or more natural ingredients can be costly and time-consuming to implement, and one never knows when the sentiment will change again.
The Need to Connect Remote Locations and Departments
Consumer demand is hard to predict, but automated data collection tools can make it easier to adapt to changes. Solutions that integrate with existing ERP software can create a wide range of information. Data from office processes can be combined with those from the warehouse to see how demand is impacting all departments of the organization.
When trends change, suppliers may need to be updated, warehouse departments and employees shuffled and marketing and sales campaigns altered. To stay profitable, businesses must ensure changes across these departments occur cohesively and that they respond to one another. If warehouse data is siloed from office data and remote warehouses are unable to communicate, changing consumer demand will derail production as quickly as consumers' tastes change.
Data collection solutions ensure that information is accurate and complete, something that is hard to achieve with paper-based systems. Automated data collection also optimizes the supply chain indirectly:
- Improve Employee Engagement: Happy workers are better workers, and reducing the time an employee spends on mundane tasks such as data entry can improve morale in the warehouse or plant.
- Reduce Wasted Movements: With real-time data collection, workers will spend less time filling orders that were canceled between entry and the warehouse because information will update faster. Inventory will also be more accurate so pickers will be less likely to discover a stock-out when they reach the racks. Stock can even be automatically reordered when it reaches a certain level.
- Training Takes Less Time: The training period for new hires can be reduced because there will be no need to explain data collection. The training process can also be reevaluated to focus on more important aspects of the job.