4 Ways Retailers Can Cut Waste by Improving Supply Chains

The circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic are forcing retailers to rethink and redefine how to manage their businesses. 

On the one hand, it has been brutal for some segments. The pandemic has severely limited consumer mobility, forcing big-name clothing retailers and department store chains to file for bankruptcy. On the other hand, those who have invested in ecommerce are reaping the rewards. Due to safety and physical distancing concerns, more consumers are buying online. Ecommerce purchases from new and low frequency buyers are projected to increase by 160 percent.

Considering there’s still much economic uncertainty in the coming months, retailers must take care in how they go about their business. Efficiency, especially in their supply chains, will be crucial for most operations. Supply chain inefficiencies such as out-of-stock, overstock, and returns cost retailers nearly $2 trillion yearly. Cutting down on supply chain waste should afford companies some breathing room through better margins in this new business normal.

Here are four ways retailers can cut down waste on their supply chains.

Monitor Shipment Condition

Shipping sensitive cargo such as food, pharmaceuticals, and electronics can be tricky. Not only do these products have to be handled with care, most have to be kept within carefully controlled conditions for safety reasons. Retailers dealing with such products often have to bear the brunt of damaged and spoiled goods due to mishandling as they’re the ones that have to interface with customers, logistics companies, and manufacturers and distributors to resolve these issues.

Stringent shipment monitoring can help retailers improve the viability of such products. Having timely information on the package’s condition and whereabouts allows retailers to act quickly should any issues arise with their shipments. Logmore, for instance, provides dynamic QR tags equipped with sensors that can track information such as shocks, temperature, humidity, ambient light exposure, and scanning location. This allows shippers to determine if a package is exposed to conditions that may affect its safety and quality.

Unlike conventional wireless tags, Logmore tags can be scanned using any smartphone or QR code reader. It require no additional investments on special infrastructure or devices to work. The code on the QR tag gets automatically updated whenever the sensors log new information. Once scanned, the information is sent to the cloud and can be accessed through a web interface. Access to the dashboard can also be delegated to the various supply chain stakeholders, allowing them to see any issues in the package’s journey. The data can also be useful in determining liability in case of mishandling or damage.

Use Effective Packaging

Many retailers tend to use copious amounts of packaging materials such as cardboard, plastic, and foam to protect shipment. Consumers have now become quite critical of how products are packed and many companies tend to overdo it just to show customers that they put effort in protecting their orders. However, not only can this practice be costly for retailers but it’s also contributing to the growing ecological caused by packaging waste.

Retailers can opt to carry brands that already factor these into their packaging. Companies like Rothy’s work toward having a positive impact by ensuring that their product packaging is robust enough not to be damaged in transit and minimizes the need for added packaging materials for individual shipping to customers. Rothy’s shoeboxes are designed to be readily used for shipping and returns without the need for additional packaging.

Some retailers may not have much control over the durability and packaging of the products they sell, but they can make the effort to use effective packaging techniques to prevent packaging overkill. Understanding concepts such as impact protection and cushioning and knowing the right packing techniques can help retailers use just the right amount of materials and still provide ample protection when fulfilling customer orders. Reducing packaging materials and preventing product damage can cut costs. 

Manage Inventory

Inventory management is a vital concern for every retailer. Not carrying enough stock means a business can lose out on sales, and overstocking means capital is tied up with non-moving items and storage costs. Some businesses think that inventory management is all about tracking how much of each item is on stock, but it actually involves a bit more effort.

Online shopping cart platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify typically have some form of inventory management. So, using one can allow a retailer to handle the essential management tasks. Retailers can also leverage data to further streamline their inventories. They can review their sales data to know which items have higher demand, if and when demand changes, how long it takes to replenish moving stock, and if they have ample storage space to keep these items in saleable condition.

Due to the global pandemic, some factories, distributors, and logistics services are operating at limited capacity leading to longer fulfillment and delivery times. Setting up alerts and notifications on when stocks are running low can give retailers ample lead time to order fresh supplies.

Choose Dependable Partners

Being at the latter end of the supply change, retailers have to carefully work with the other stakeholders to truly achieve efficiency. For starters, they can encourage transparency by adopting shipment monitoring and allowing everyone to gain access to the same information. Accurate data allow stakeholders to specifically identify the root causes of issues in the chain and resolve them.

Retailers also need not be at the mercy of those upstream. They should be able to cut ties with those that cause problems such as manufacturers that offer poor products, distributors that are inconsistent with their supply, or logistics providers that habitually mishandle packages and orders. Having dependable partners allows retailers to focus on engaging customers.

Efficiency Can Mean Survival

Tough times mean retailers have to deal with an extremely competitive and volatile business environment. As such, they need to be able to depend on robust supply chains to ensure continuity and sustainability. Ushering in improvements in their supply chains can greatly help cut down waste and improve their margins. Considering every cent counts these days, efficiency can very well mean the difference between survival or closure.


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