Delivering products from manufacturers to customers is a multi-step journey that takes time. Supply chain and logistics companies aim to make this process as efficient and cost-effective as possible by looking at the supply chain holistically and leveraging technology across the first mile, middle mile, and last mile.
First Mile: From Factory to Warehouse
From an increasingly integrated international supply chain network, from high transportation costs and container shortages, first mile logistics (moving products from factory to warehouse) faces unique challenges. To increase operational efficiencies and facilitate more informed decision making, suppliers and manufacturers are using digital-led means and data analytics to visualize where materials and products are placed and placed in slots.
For example, warehouse workers utilize inventory management systems to increase fulfilment efficiency and optimize operations. When running on a tablet, these systems could easily be mounted on a forklift, giving workers real-time insight into where assets are stored or moving within a warehouse. As slotting gets popularized and optimized, pallets become more individualized and complex, this level of visibility is key to avert any iteration.
By combining mobile solutions with technologies such as RFID tags, product information is transferred to a central inventory database. This not only improves productivity by automating the inventory process, but also reduces human error and provides real-time visibility.
Middle Mile: From Warehouse to Store
COVID19 pandemic has led to increased personal consumption and increased expectations for faster delivery and delivery. To adapt to supply chain pressure, many retailers turn brick-and-mortar stores into warehouses or fulfilment centers to offer local stores for roadside pickup as well as order exchanges and returns. This allows retailers to cope with dynamic expectations of today’s consumers. In fact, by 2023, more than 50% of all e-commerce purchases are expected to be shipped from offline retailers.
Middle mile visibility is where it plays an important role. In the distribution center, transportation and distribution specialists can utilize the technology to identify the shipping status to individual stores. For example, a mobile solution could track where a product is in a shipping network and alert shippers of how long it will take to reach the store. This allows retailers to prepare inventory space in advance to ensure that product information is up to date on their website.
When processing orders at regional distribution points, handheld devices with barcode scanners make it easy to sort each item and update inventory records. Data captured from
these devices helps retailers operate more efficiently by maintaining inventory on shelves and updating inventory information in real time over a secure network.
Last Mile: Store to Home
Today’s customers expect same-day shipping and 23% is ready to pay an additional fee for the same. As demand increases, transportation and logistics companies rely on technology to ensure transparency and traceability throughout their last mile journey. For example, sensor and internet of things (IoT) technology is used in transport trucks for more accurate transport visibility, robotics, sensors, edge devices enable delivery almost instantly, within 2-days of shipping.
Reverse logistics is also an important component of the last mile. This section of the supply chain requires companies to maintain visibility throughout their operations to simplify post-sales activities by returning products to warehouses. As e-commerce sales increase, so do returns, with more than 30% of all purchases being returned – as the data shows.
A well-planned and thoroughly implemented reverse logistics process helps retailers easily collect customer return reasons and data information. Simplified, error-free returns can also help businesses reduce return-related losses while increasing customer satisfaction.
Digital means improved visibility
From manufacturing facilities to warehouses to stores and end customers, digital helps businesses manage their work in a more efficient and connected way. It incorporates a combination of manual processes to facilitate returns online and in-store, track product data in real time and facilitate actions as needed. Also, organizations can navigate each stage of their supply chain journey more seamlessly and build resilience to adapt to changes and disruptions in the marketplace.