RBTE 2016: What should a modern, successful supply chain look like?

Shopper habits are changing and consumers are now more empowered than ever – they expect the same seamless experience and full product availability wherever and however they buy, whether in a local or out-of-town store, online or mobile. This means that retailers now need to rethink their supply chains and raise their game.

The supply chain is no longer linear – it used to be a relatively straightforward process to get the products from the manufacturer to the distribution centre, then to the stores and ultimately to consumers. Now, the growth in omnichannel retailing has changed the traditional supply chain – by offering more products through more channels has added greater complexity to the process. For example, because of more online shopping  consumers can not only order more products conveniently they are also now returning  more items and are using multiple ways to do so – in-store, click & collect, delivery to home, delivery to a collection point.

All with the expectation at no extra cost to the consumer.

So how can today's supply chain evolve and improve? It can by becoming more agile so goods and products can move from one destination to another more quickly and efficiently, and by becoming more flexible so that retail and brand owners can find effective ways to deal with returns without risking customer loyalty and ultimately lost sales. Having 100% supply chain visibility and knowledge of where goods are at any given time, from source to point-of-sale to returns, guarantees better fulfilment of consumer service expectations.

At GS1 UK, we're working with the industry on perfect order and returns management initiatives to successfully simplify working processes, promote collaboration at a wider industry level and enhance the supply chain visibility. The new programmes help the industry determine what standardised end-to-end supply chain processes look like and reduce complexity in how a product is moved through the supply chain.

So, what does the industry need to do to create a modern, successful supply chain? To succeed, the industry needs to understand where to collaborate – on logistics, fulfilment, returns by using industry standards – and where to compete – on range, price and shopping experience offering.

Robson is involved in a panel debate at today's RBTE in London, where some of the above topics are being discussed in detail. Other panellists include Jeff Bee, merchandising director at Bonmarche, and John Munnelly, head of operations at the Magna Park Campus for John Lewis. The discussion is chaired by independent tech consultant, Jon Collins.

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