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07/26/2022

4 Ways Merchants Can Beat the Supply Chain Crisis

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Automation in the supply chain.

From ports clogged with containers and raw materials running low, to factories shutting down and truck drivers being in short supply, retailers have faced a steady stream of devastating supply chain issues over the last year. 

Lots of retailers have, understandably, reached a crisis point. To survive, and grow successfully, many are now having to make critical decisions to navigate supply chain challenges. 

[Related: Unveiling the Transformative Potential of AI and Automation Across the Supply Chain]

The good news is that retailers that proactively take the right steps to deal with supply chain issues ahead of time can do more than just survive; they can thrive. After all, when supply chain management is effective, it is proven to lower a company’s overall costs and boost profitability.

Here are four ways brands can beat the supply chain crisis in 2022.

1. Optimize Inventory 

Without optimized inventory, promotions or peak periods will feel especially stressful during the supply chain crisis. 

For retailers, being able to accurately predict demand for their products is the key to striking the delicate balance of avoiding stock-outs of the most profitable items and avoiding having warehouses packed with inventory that can’t be shifted. 

The best demand planning tools make this easy for brands by connecting sales data and factoring in seasonality and promotions to predict what consumers will buy. Armed with accurate inventory forecasts, retailers can regain control over their supply and focus, if necessary, on replenishing the most successful items. 

Optimizing inventory in this way makes good business sense all the time, but it’s particularly important as brands navigate the current market. 

2. Automate Shipping

With container costs up by around 600%, it’s essential that retailers streamline shipping workflows as much as possible — and that means introducing automation. 

Automated shipping typically means that as orders are placed, pick, pack and ship workflows — including choosing the best shipping provider, sending invoices and printing labels — are triggered automatically. 

[Read more: Amazon Rolling Out Electric Delivery Vehicles Across the U.S.]

If implemented properly, automated shipping can help dramatically boost supply chain efficiency, saving valuable time and resources. Ultimately, automating shipping can help your business continue to grow and keep your customers happy. 

3. Follow Your Data

As the leader of a fast-growing business, your success rests on being able to make the right decisions at the right time. However, the supply chain crisis has brought with it huge uncertainty, which makes it harder than ever to confidently make snappy decisions. 

The solution? Tech tools that give you the insight you need, when you need it. With the right data, you can make smarter, faster decisions about everything from which new channels you should add to boost profit to which new items you should invest in. 

In these uncertain times, data removes any guesswork and offers a roadmap to protected margins and an optimized supply chain.

4. Speed Up Cash Conversion

With so much disruption taking place, it’s a good idea to think carefully about how long it takes your business to convert inventory into cash. It may no longer be practical to use a “just in time” approach to inventory, especially if significant disruption would quickly leave you short of cash. 

Work out whether your cash is tied up in more days in inventory and raw materials than in days to collect on sales — a good retail operating system will easily do this for you. Then decide if you need to switch up your workflows and practices to speed up how long it takes to convert your inventory into cash. 

Mark Hook, VP of Global Brand, Comms and PR, Brightpearl

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