• Inventory/Warehouse
  • Supply Chain

What’s Old is New: Traditional Options for the Modern Supply Chain

Written by Elias Schoelmann
March 23, 2016
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Handwritten thank you notes may be more effective than digital communications.

Handwritten thank you notes may be more effective than digital communications.

As businesses look to the future, it may be smart to keep one eye on the past. New ideas and advanced technology can help organizations satisfy modern consumers and simplify operations, but prior best practices exist for a reason.

In the supply chain, innovative methods of warehouse management or distributing goods may not always pan out. Companies should collect data on new ideas and compare results to what worked in the past to determine future strategies. Here are a few examples of previous supply chain solutions that could make a comeback:

Warehouse Signage

Signs in the warehouse never really went away, but as companies turn to digital solutions they are less occupied with the maintenance of their physical space. When employees can perform inventory management tasks by looking at information on mobile data collection devices, there’s no need to lift their heads and read signs to pick goods and store supplies. Digital solutions allow workers to drill down into datasets and find answers traditional signage just can’t provide.

Warehouses can’t be too careful. The Reliable Plant manufacturing information resource said signage in shop floor and inventory storage environments are essential to safety concerns. Businesses need to provide information for anybody who walks through dangerous workspaces, not just the employees armed with mobile tools. Public displays of safety data, location markings and other cautions provide important details for guests and reinforce best practices for inventory workers.

Modern mobile data collection solutions allow signage to play a part in digital strategies. Companies can implement bar code data collection software that works in conjunction with tags on packaging and shelves, so workers can scan products and locations at the same time. This provides even more information for managers and gives employees the ability to instantly check actions against business needs.

Outdated Products

Businesses improve their products to take advantage of modern technology and provide the most efficient version of their goods. This means they remove unnecessary pieces to streamline their manufacturing processes and give consumers the most bang for their buck. Sometimes, however, customers don’t want the smartest version of a product when they show attachment to the more traditional option.

Consumers can play music digitally on their preferred mobile device, and yet, some want to listen to their favorite bands on vinyl records. Forbes reported vinyl record sales increased 51 percent in 2014 – after showing consistent growth since 2012. Even though the products aren’t as convenient as newer music options, consumers like the nostalgic value and believe they provide a unique audio experience.

Vinyl records are more expensive and less eco-friendly than digital options. Their popularity goes against numerous market beliefs of customer preferences. Collecting real-time information on customers reveals their actual interest. Service departments should capture data on feedback to new products and track complaints to innovation.

Sometimes people are just hesitant to change in general, but consistent complaints about new features show when consumers would prefer sticking with traditional options or when it’s time to bring back an old model.

Handwritten Messaging

Companies can communicate with their consumers through phone, email or social media. Online chat interactions are often short and to the point. Modern communications are efficient and convenient, it allows consumer interactions to be free of redundancies and delays.

The exact opposite of lightspeed communication is handwritten messages. Physical letters must be created by employees and carried to the proper destination by vehicles and delivery drivers. Still, sending personally crafted thank yous and greetings helps foster the relationship between brands and consumers, according to Open Forum. Sending the occasional handwritten note with shipments, on special occasions or after long periods of silence may be just what an organization needs to reinforce a positive association with its customers.

Keeping customer communications part of a centralized data collection system helps managers recognize when it’s time to reach out to clients or leads. Comparing schedules to conversion tactics or best practices for consumer satisfaction lets senders know when it’s time to make an extra effort through pen and paper. Also, Fast Company detailed how software solutions allow companies to send notes that look personal through digital means. If a business finds innovative features that work with its centralized infrastructure, it can implement old-fashioned ideas into innovative strategies.