Countless retailers, e-commerce sites, warehouses and manufacturers are experiencing temporary shutdowns, regional closures or delays in order completion and time-to-deliver thanks to COVID-19. For many of these businesses, especially e-commerce sites and warehouses, recent closures and delays are not the result of an unavailable workforce. Rather, businesses are having trouble shifting the supply chain’s flow of goods to meet new consumer demands.
This, coupled with the widespread unavailability of certain products (from essential items like toilet paper and fresh meat products, to non-essentials like computer hardware), demonstrates a lack of end-to-end visibility throughout the supply chain — meaning critical business processes such as order to cash, procure to pay, and load tender to invoice are not seamless, and therefore at risk.
Impact of COVID-19 on the Retail Industry & Supply Chains
Businesses that have implemented automation and remote/cloud access control to critical business applications that handle these processes will be able to manage their critical operations in the face of workforce shortages and a lack of on-site personnel during the pandemic. Unfortunately, many companies have yet to automate the mission-critical integration processes that could prepare them for crisis situations like this and are still relying on manual integration processes. If their workers cannot be physically present, their company’s productivity suffers.
Before the pandemic, sifting through bureaucratic red tape, tariffs and trade agreements was a challenge for many businesses. Now, as suppliers and various trading partners are curbing or halting production at a moment’s notice, retailers are forced to onboard new partners and suppliers just as fast.
In order to stay in business, retail companies that rely on suppliers and partners in areas that have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic must quickly onboard new partners to fill in the supply chain gaps caused by shutdowns and low availability.
How Will Retailers Know They’re Equipped to Weather the Pandemic?
Over half of supply chain-driven companies state they don’t possess a preferable degree of end-to-end transaction process visibility. In addition, nearly half of IT professionals claim it takes at least one month to onboard a new trading partner. This isn’t because the onboarding process must be slow. Instead, the process can be very quick if automated integrations are enabled.
Retailers and their supply chain partners who possess modern ecosystem-driven integration capabilities, with native templates and connectors to reduce onboarding times, will be able to circumvent the manual processes required for partner integrations — reducing onboarding time to as little as a few hours.
How Can Retailers Achieve an Agile Supply Chain Through End-to-End Visibility?
Experts say there is more than enough toilet paper and food in the U.S. for everyone. Other company leaders warn that critical supply chains reach the point of breaking
Recently, the chairman of Tyson Foods penned a letter claiming that “the food supply chain is breaking.” The closure of Tyson’s pork, beef and chicken plants causes millions of pounds of meat to vanish from the supply chain — causing potential food shortages.
The major struggle for supply chain companies right now isn’t finding the products they need, but re-routing them to be sent to the necessary depots and locations for consumer purchasing. The supply chain journey of products originally destined for commercial distribution, such as dormitory toilet paper rolls, food products, industrial sanitary products, and more must now be re-routed to consumer-facing retailers and grocery stores. This requires more than a quick phone call to a new distributor or supplier, and new trading partners must be onboarded quickly to meet surging consumer demands.
Understanding the relationship between your business and trading partners is key to achieving end-to-end visibility. And end-to-end visibility helps you maintain control over your supply chain. Further, companies should have a firm grasp on the impact to the end customer and work backwards from there.
Business leaders and IT professionals who aren’t sure where to start with automating integration processes should consult an integration solutions provider and perform a gap analysis to pinpoint various chokepoints and focus on areas that are critical to their business. An ecosystem integration platform can make the onboarding process virtually instantaneous and deliver the end-to-end visibility many retailers lack today.
End-to-end visibility throughout the supply chain isn’t simply a luxury; in times like these it is critical and fundamental for success — or else stores (and other supply chain players) will remain shuttered for longer than they would like. Without that visibility, companies in retail, manufacturing, wholesale and logistics are putting critical business processes at risk.
Typically, retailers can gain significant reduction in costs and improvements in team and supply chain efficiency by consolidating the integrations that power their supply chains. Not only do these retailers optimize user experience, but also gain end-to-end visibility when all their data flows through one system – enabling an agile supply chain to meet shifting consumer and industrial demands.
Tushar Patel is chief marketing officer of Cleo.