It’s difficult to secure what you can’t see, which is why many argue that greater visibility is key to improving the security of corporate networks. Much the same can be said for improving transparency in modern supply chains, particularly ones as complex as those in the electronics industry. In an age of rapid digital transformation in almost every part of the business world and the blurring of the lines between the supply chain, sales, and customer experience, it’s imperative that managers see what is going on at every point in their supply chains.
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They need to ensure that orders are being fulfilled correctly and as quickly as possible, that efficiencies are built into every step of the process – from the time the order is made through the interaction with the customer to the fulfillment of the order. A more efficient process can even mean more revenue. Forrester analysts in recent years have said that bumping the customer experience from below- to above-average can mean as much as $80 million in additional revenue.
In addition, the supply chain environment is seeing an influx of new technologies that promise to bring even more changes. Gartner analysts took a look at some of the key trends in the supply chain for 2018 and pointed to the growing use of new technologies to confront industry challenges. Supply chain mangers are adopting artificial intelligence to drive better decision making, predictive and prescriptive analytics for identifying new opportunities, and the Internet of Things to drive better asset utilization and customer service, not to mention robotic process automation, immersive technologies and blockchain. These technologies all aim to make a complex situation even more fluid.
Just as employees quickly adopted the simple and responsive nature of their Apple or Android smartphones in their work environment, the customer experience is now being defined by the Amazon model – transparency in everything from price to products, a fast and easy ordering processing and speedy delivery of their orders. They can track their orders through delivery and get updates where their orders are.
Transparency is becoming increasingly critical to a business’ operations and applying automation to the supply chain holds the key to driving that transparency. Technologies like AI, robotics and blockchain all will contribute to automating parts of the process, but a fully automated supply chain solution is needed to enable the transparency that is demanded by customers, and that will help customer service representatives (CSRs) better serve their needs.
For customers, automated supply chain management software gives greater visibility into inventory and pricing, which is particularly important for an electronics industry that has had more than its share of price fluctuations and subsequent evolutions of its cost structures. They can better plan their costs and streamline their ordering process, including submitting orders in whatever form they choose, whether it’s through an electronic data interchange (EDI) system, via a fax machine, in an email or over the telephone. By enhancing supply chain visibility, customers can get real-time information about their orders and when they can expect delivery of the products.
Customer service representatives also have better visibility into the order, which enables them to fulfill the order more quickly and with fewer corrections or errors. Artificial intelligence takes data from an EDI order and translates it so people can read it, making verification of the information faster and easier for customer service representatives (CSRs), who can also correct errors and send the order to the fulfillment centers more quickly.
In addition, customizable dashboards help them gain more insight into the customers and their orders and set and track key performance indicators (KPIs). In the end, what’s achieved with supply chain automation solutions is a more visible and transparent supply chain that enables customers to more easily submit and track orders, for organizations to accurately gauge the performance and ROI of their supply chain automation tools and for CSRs to better serve their customers, all of which translates to a stronger relationship between the vendor and its customers.