Why Supply Chain Visibility is Vital to Transportation Industry
We all know that consumers are driving the bus for retailers, demanding an increasingly individualized shopping experience. That means deliveries are more complex than ever, often store by store. Consumers are also demanding a more error-free experience. That means deliveries have to be on time and perfect.
The only thing that’s predictable any more is the need for flexibility. But flexibility is only possible with maximum visibility into the supply chain. The alternative is simply chaos. So anything that can increase visibility benefits retailers, suppliers and the transportation logistics that link them.
Lack of visibility is costly.
Disruptions in delivery schedules, lack of compliance and misinformation about deliveries can cause out-of-pocket expense, delay and lost sales, ultimately damaging a retailer’s reputation and customer loyalty. Relying on manual labor instead of adopting the latest automation technologies is costly in terms of labor, speed and mistakes. Uncontrolled costs can ruin profitability.
No wonder improving supply chain visibility is top of mind. Better visibility is more cost-effective.
Reviving the advanced shipping notice (ASN) can be a step in the right direction.
Last year Auburn University conducted a study in conjunction with the Vendor Compliance Foundation and Retail Industry Leaders Association to determine how leading retailers are using ASNs.
The key take-away? ASNs are a vastly underutilized resource, but those who are using them are garnering significant benefits. Only about 42% of retailers actually receive ASNs from suppliers, whereas 75% suppliers say they provide ASNs to their customers.
Everyone agrees there are widespread problems with inaccuracies, missing information, etc.
Using ASNs can help improve visibility and control, shorten the receiving process and reduce manpower and facilities costs. The study’s authors identified what they called the “three A’s” that guide best practices regarding ASNs:
- Advanced. The point is providing information about shipments in advance so retailers can be fully prepared to receive them. Knowing exactly what will arrive enables faster verification at check-in.
- Accessibility. ASNs are usually delivered electronically, often directly to the retailer’s warehouse management system so they’re readily available.
- Accuracy. Each ASN must meet individual retailer specifications as well as include standard details like product descriptions, quantities and packaging arrangements, PO number, bill of lading and UCC/EAN-128 information and carrier information. It has to be complete and correct.
With the “three A’s” in place, ASNs can substantially streamline processes can lower costs throughout the supply chain, not just for the retailer. That’s possible because mobile technology – especially rugged tablet PCs – have become the preferred communications device where workers themselves are mobile. That includes every aspect of the supply chain.
According to the Auburn study, progressive retailers are establishing formalized ASN procedures, by:
- Creating an audit process with defined benchmarks.
- Measuring the actual financial impact – as opposed to using anecdotal information – by analyzing problems to understand their specific effect on operations and customer service as well as inventory.
- Re-structuring penalties for non-compliance to reflect their actual impact.
- Collaborating with suppliers rather than viewing charge-backs, etc. as punishment. It’s in everyone’s best interest to improve the ASN process.
Used universally and for their intended purpose, ASNs can be a valuable tool for increasing supply chain visibility. Clearly that includes the transportation industry, whose logistics are interwoven with those of suppliers and those who receive deliveries. Streamlining and greater accuracy support flexibility and generate savings, and that benefits everyone.
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