People who work in small to medium-sized technology companies wear a lot of hats. Who has time to figure out how to “streamline” their supply chain? What does that really mean in practice?
By using very simple (and often free) solutions, you can reduce costs, save yourself time, and make yourself look like a star. Here are three simple tips for streamlining your SMB supply chain:
- Automated inbound visibility
The arrival of a bunch of packages or pallets at your dock can be a hassle. Will you have enough staff to deal with the unknown influx of inbound shipments? Did you receive everything that the supplier promised? Did that snowstorm in Denver hold up your shipment? Will you be able to turn the product around to your end-customer in time?
Recommendation: Set up a visibility solution through your carrier, your third-party software supplier, or your logistics provider that shows when and/or if the shipment was sent. Proactive email notifications will let you know in advance if a shipment is delayed, so you can notify your customers in advance. Finally, use this visibility solution to determine when the shipment will arrive and plan staff accordingly.
- Brisk order processing
Let's say your firm processes 20 shipments a day. If you could save one minute of time per shipment, that would save you a whopping 84 hours in a year. That's more than two weeks worth of time saved.
Recommendation: Use a shipping system with an address book and integration capabilities, thereby reducing key strokes and manual entry. Saving one minute per shipment is entirely feasible since you don't have to continually type in addresses. In fact, one minute per shipment is on the low-end of what I've seen at UPS customer sites.
In addition, for an even more streamlined order processing system, work with your carrier or a third-party software provider to link up your order entry database with their shipping systems. Imagine the satisfaction you'll enjoy when labels automatically print once an order is entered into your order entry system.
- Customer-enabled tracking
Every supply chain needs glasses. Giving your customers visibility into their orders on the outbound side of the supply chain is as important as your need for visibility on the inbound side. This outbound visibility helps in two major ways. It lets your customer plan for receiving the shipment(s) and helps you avoid WISMO (where is my order) calls.
Recommendation: Use a shipping system (your carrier’s or a third-party software provider’s) to set up proactive transportation notifications for your customers. First, capture your customer's email address during the sale. Then, during the outbound shipping process, set up outbound shipment notifications to the customer-supplied email address. Your customers will appreciate the advance notifications.
By using these three simple (and often free) solutions within your supply chain, you can look like a hero and save your SMB time and money. It’s as easy as ABC. I'd like to hear whether your firm uses these solutions, or has any other tips that are making your supply chain run like a “well-oiled machine.”