The global electronics supply chain is not an easy environment in the best of times. It’s even more challenging as the end of the year approaches.
You probably remember the reports from last December splashed across the Wall Street Journal about UPS and FedEx struggling to keep up with order deliveries in the days leading up to Christmas. Winter weather no doubt affected the situation, but equally challenging was the tsunami of last-minute orders by online shoppers that engulfed the shipping giants. On Dec. 21, the on-time delivery performance for FedEx’s overnight service was 95.2%. Two days later, on Dec. 23, that dropped to 77% (though the carrier hit 96.2% on Christmas Eve). UPS’ numbers were similarly impacted.
For everyone up and down the supply chain, the approaching end of the year can be a harrowing time. The obvious culprit is the holiday season, with increasing numbers of people going online to do their shopping. According to the National Retail Federation, 59% of people surveyed this year said they plan to buy their gifts online. The shopping season also is getting longer – 41% said they planned to start buying gifts in October or earlier.
But don’t get distracted by all the tinsel. The end of the year for many electronics businesses means getting all the necessary paperwork in before one year turns to the next, while at the same time making plans for the coming year, all of which results in another surge in orders. All of this ordering is being done amid myriad challenges, from poor weather to predicting customer demand to disruptions in the supply chain.
One thing remains constant: the end of the year can make or break electronics companies, and order processing and fulfillment often can be what tips the scales. A customer whose order goes unfulfilled, is delivered too late or comes with an error—it’s the wrong product, for example—can be a customer lost. And right now, too many companies are relying on manual order processing. In the best of times, relying on such manual processes increases the risk of order entry errors, backlogged orders, poor order tracking, more product returns, late deliveries and compliance issues. The skyrocketing volume of orders that mark the end of the year can only exacerbate the issues, increasing the chances of orders being lost, late or done incorrectly. To get through this time unscathed, the supply chain must operate at its highest efficiency, but do so profitably.
That’s where automation comes in. With order processing automation technology, businesses can electronically process and track sales orders from the time they’re received to the time they’re fulfilled, and the process for following up to ensure customer satisfaction. Customer claims also can be electronically tracked throughout the lifecycle. All of this can be done with 100% accuracy and efficiency, with companies having complete visibility every step of the way.
So how can electronics business software help? There are a number of ways:
- Reduce errors and improve customers satisfaction: When you take the human element out of the process, you can eliminate a lot of errors, which in turn accelerates order processing and delivery and, most importantly, ensures customer satisfaction.
- Increased efficiency can save time and money: Manual processes take time, which can have a domino effect of slower order processing and fulfillment, more errors and returns, and poor tracking of orders. It also means that as orders scale—as they do at the end of the year—businesses must add people and infrastructure. Order automation software takes many of those dominoes off the board and makes scaling easy and inexpensive.
- Improve customer service: Customer sales representatives have greater visibility into the order processing and fulfillment data, which means they can more quickly and easily answer customer questions. They have dashboards for tracking relevant Key Performance Indicators throughout the order cycle in real-time, and demand in the supply chain can be anticipated earlier in the process. In addition, electronics business software gives customers self-service tools for more insight and better communication with the vendor.
Ultimately, companies with healthy supply chains are poised for long-term success. Resources that improve efficiency and expediency, despite the volume or cadence of orders, allow companies to maximize profits and maintain a solid reputation with suppliers and customers alike.