Use data and analytics to rescue your supply chain
- Posted on August 4, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Maybe it’s just me but it seems like supply chains are taking a very long time to “normalize.” A personal example: We needed to replace the compressor in our fairly new car. We were about an hour’s drive away from home when the car stopped working. We went to the nearest service station, where a well-meaning mechanic told us it would take at least 10 days to get the part we needed. Instead of hanging out at the station for the next week and a half, we opted to have our car towed to the service station near our home, hoping we would have better luck there. But our mechanic told us the same thing – 10 days. And then he tried to get us a refurbished part. Same story. Finally, after calling around to his network of mechanics he was able to find the needed part, still under warranty, which just happened to be in a wrecked car of the same make and year.
I guess, in a way, this is a cautionary tale with good and bad elements to it. Beware of the traditional supply chain these days, and if you’re agile and resilient, with good partners, things can work out.
This experience piqued my interest, so I did some checking. According to a White House blog, the U.S. retail sector inventory-to-sales ratios hit record lows in March 2021. These ratios measure the number of days of current sales that retailers can support out of existing inventories. The figures show that while retailers had 43 days of inventory in February 2020, by June 2021 they had just 33 days.
Fighting back with data and analytics
Retailers are fighting back by building more flexibility into their supply chains, building out a stronger partner network and using a local/regional/national combination for product alignment. Immediately, however, the need is for a transparent, efficient way to manage inventory, tracking and delivery – a way that works for all the touchpoints along the supply chain as well as the customer shopping journey. Retailers are looking to data and analytics for help with this.
A good example is Breville, where we implemented one of the first agile implementations of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and built a minimum viable product to introduce incremental functionality improvements and facilitate change management. The transparency and visibility into the supply chain helps Breville communicate to customers about what products are available as well as when they will be shipped and delivered. More functionalities also allow the company to add new products and services with speed and ease.
There are success stories out there. But they’re competing with a growing chorus of disgruntled customers waiting impatiently for their purchases, and retailers scrambling to build up an inventory that is fuller but still has the flexibility to shift quickly when the next disruption comes along.
There’s a lot more to know and learn. As a start, I suggest you take a look at one of our retail guides, titled “Don’t waste a good crisis.” It talks about pragmatic challenges facing retailers, including supply chain issues, and offers suggestions on how to meet them.