Throughout the year, organizations must overcome countless supply chain-related challenges, many of which directly affect customer experience, sales, and revenue. With unprecedented competition, demanding customer expectations, and a fear of failure, retailers and electronics manufacturers need to make a change.
There are myriad reasons contributing to the increasingly complex retail ecosystem, and a breakdown in the supply chain is at the crux of many problems. One example that is plaguing the industry this year includes the severe truck driver shortage. Inefficiency plays a major role in trucking; trucks are making cross-country trips with thousands of empty miles. A maturing fleet of drivers is another reason for the shortage, but at the helm are stringent regulatory changes imposed on the trucking industry, including a law that limits the number of hours drivers can stay on the road, directly impacting capacity, driver independence and compensation. Finally, turnover in the trucking industry stemming from job dissatisfaction is at an all-time high, with an estimated driver shortage of 60,000 and forecasts of a number three times that size by 2026.
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The lack of drivers is delaying orders and making goods more expensive as freight rates climb. However, consumers who are willing to spend money on top electronics like drones, gaming systems and sound bars are not interested in hearing about in the logistical issues preventing them from getting what they want, when they want it.
Technology & supply chains
Technology that drives supply chain visibility – the ability to monitor events across connected supply chains – has been touted as the foundational technology to align and optimize supply chains. But even the most high-tech, forward-looking digital supply chain is powerless against fixed capacity. No matter how digitized your supply chain – without a driver, the cargo isn’t moving.
In the face of an intense driver shortage, logisticians need to invest in intelligent technologies that optimize the lives of their current drivers while allowing them to tap into flexible networks of additional drivers. They must adopt intelligent technology into their current operating strategies, like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT), to drive increased efficiency and optimization of resources.
Predictive analytics has become extremely valuable for addressing common issues in the freight industry that are directly impacting electronics manufacturers and retailers. Managing capacity problems stemming from mandated regulations is simplified with data, enabling a more accurate assessment of contributing factors to future performance, such as weather, job type, driver availability and day of the week. This information powers schedule optimization, the tracking of shipments, routing and job prioritization. The end result is greater efficiency which can have a positive impact on the various challenges and provides relief for industries whose businesses rely on a smooth supply chain, even when facing challenges like weather or lack of drivers.
For every problem, there is a solution, even if it’s not immediately evident. Intelligent supply chain management technology also enables retailers and freight companies to be more agile by connecting trading partners with truck drivers and other carriers, and optimizing return trips. There’s a not-so-secret trend of truckers dropping off a shipment without having the next one lined up. Instead, they wait for an appealing job to reveal itself, or drive for several hours to get the next shipment. Automation could solve this problem if drivers had tools that notified them of their next job near or at their destination, before they even arrive.
Solving supply chain situations
Automation has transformed most business processes, especially those that are routine and repeatable, and don't require human intervention - including within the retail supply chain. Still, not all retailers or supply chain providers are on board. Where once it was enough to track business activity using pen and paper, this economy demands that every part of the retail supply chain, not just the more complex transactions, is automated.
With countless logistics inherent within the retail supply chain, automation is a must-have for retailers looking to simplify details - like contract management - by offering a repository of information that stores and automatically populates details such as contract-based rates. Automated processes lend to creating auditable records, eliminating manual communication and streamlining the payment process.
No matter the challenges, the bottom line is a successful selling season in the electronics industry. Technology is critical for solving this problem, especially considering the vast inefficiencies driving the shortage of truckers. Electronics manufacturers and retailers can reduce complexity and increase data-driven decision making with technology, arming them with intelligence prior to execution, leaving little room for error.