When it comes to the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, the clue is in the name as to the turnaround speeds these operations must adhere to. The same is true for retail. Consumers live in a world of instant gratification, so retailers need to ensure they are providing the fastest possible service.
This has been made more complicated by the fact that consumer trends have changed drastically over the last 18 months. COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to online purchases, with the ecommerce share of global retail sales rising from 13.6% in 2019 to 18% in 2020 – and predicted to reach 21.8% by 2024. This is putting increasing pressure on businesses to meet online demands while maintaining – and improving – efficiency.
Customers have also become more demanding and keeping up with their expectations is vital. Common customer complaints tend to be around faster response times, providing information in real-time and proactively communicating information about delays or disruptions.
Faced with these challenges, it’s clear that real-time visibility (RTV) technology has a key role to play in enhancing processes within these two consumer-facing sectors. It has the power to transform operations across three core pillars – all of which contribute to every company’s bottom line.
Supply chain efficiency
RTV can instantly make FMCG and retail supply chains more efficient. For example, RTV provides live information that can be accessed quickly when needed to ensure rapid, proactive decision making.
It helps shippers communicate any delays with customers ahead of time, enabling the customer to reprioritise transports and re-allocate time slots. Live tracking makes it easier for customers to ensure that their warehouses are ready for incoming transports, whether the transports are running ahead or behind schedule. With labor able to be proactively reprioritised, trucks spend less time idle at warehouses – potentially reducing loading times by more than 20% – resulting in quicker turnaround times and a more efficient warehouse operation.
In addition, check calls are automated with RTV, meaning customers receive consistent ETA updates and any disruptions are resolved proactively. We’ve seen shippers reduce the quantity of check calls by 60-80%, saving them a considerable amount of time as they no longer need to manually contact drivers for location information.
The customer experience
RTV gives carriers the tools to provide full transparency across multi-modal transports. With more operations involving multi-leg solutions, RTV offers the possibility to incorporate multiple transport modes of a shipment’s journey – whether by train, barge or ocean.
As a result, the whole process can be displayed. This leads to better insights and transparency, helping to build trust with customers and provide in-the-moment updates about any delays. At the same time, automating check calls empowers staff to dedicate more time towards dealing with customer queries. This is also made easier by the fact that customer service teams have direct access to real-time information and insights.
Ultimately, the customer experience end goal is that on-shelf availability is the best it can be. By adopting a more holistic approach to logistics that is powered by visibility, businesses will be better positioned to minimise product shortages and provide transparency into the progress of goods through the entire supply chain.
According to research from Transporeon, 66% of carriers consider freight decarbonisation as a priority. RTV addresses this issue by providing deeper insights into how transports are being used, particularly across multi-modal supply chains, which can be instrumental in reducing carbon footprints.
For example, businesses can track and refine routes, reduce distances travelled and more effectively match capacity and demand. This all helps to cut waste and decrease empty mileage, in turn driving sustainability across the supply chain.
What’s more, the data generated can be used to identify a baseline from which advancements in sustainability and efforts to reduce carbon emissions can be measured and quantified.
Maintaining operations with RTV
Of course, the other crucial consideration for FMCG and retail supply chains is resilience. Disruption has become part and parcel of global supply chains, so having access to information in real time is key when building agility into processes and shaping operations to be predictive rather than reactive. The challenge facing businesses is that, according to a recent Gartner survey, 59% of retail supply chains are designed for cost-efficiency over resilience or agility.
RTV data helps to predict any issues ahead of time and to communicate them proactively with customers. This access to real-time data is especially crucial during peak times such as Easter, Christmas and Black Friday events – as well as more large-scale unprecedented events like Brexit or a global pandemic.
When it comes to large scale disruptions, being able to solve problems and react quickly is the key to minimising the impact on supply chains. For example, Nestlé was able to leverage RTV to respond to volatile product demand and build resilience beyond COVID-19. RTV allowed Nestlé to identify issues and plan alternative routes/modes for its 3,000+ weekly cross border loads.
As a result, it was able to maintain service levels during a particularly difficult time and quickly react to disruptions before they became more significant problems further down the line.
The future is now
This all paints a picture of the role RTV is currently playing in enhancing operations across the FMCG and retail sectors. But this is just the first step on the journey towards truly impactful digital transformation.
While data-driven solutions such as RTV contribute towards a more efficient and effective supply chain, the greatest value comes when visibility data is integrated into transport execution. Applying AI and machine learning capabilities can improve and automate decision-making – from dynamic time slot management to automated payment processes – in turn taking businesses to the next level.
This is the future of global supply chain operations. FMCG and retail businesses must be prepared to embrace this level of transformation if they want to thrive in an increasingly connected and complicated world.
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