Why supply chain transparency matters and how to get there

Why supply chain transparency matters and how to get there

Why supply chain transparency matters and how to get there

In our world of interconnectivity, businesses can no longer hide from their consumers who are demanding more insight where their goods come from. Developing transparent information systems and processes to communicate sustainable supply chain practices to stakeholders, government organizations, and especially consumers—is vital.

Considering this, the relationship between sustainable retail supply chain visibility, traceability, integrity, and transparency is clearly linked.

The concept of supply chain integrity builds on this by enabling companies to embed ethical and sustainable decision making into their corporate and supply chain strategies. Instead of creating false trade-offs between being profitable or being sustainable, a management philosophy of integrity enables companies to find mutual successes along with financial, environmental, and social performance criteria. This is important when considering the many challenges in retail supply chain management.

Supply chain visibility has a direct impact on the quantity and quality of supply chain traceability and transparency capabilities. The ability to follow individual products through the distribution network; from raw materials to end products to the front door—is at the very heart of providing high levels of transparency to consumers.

 

  • Traceability has a direct impact on supply chain recall management capabilities. While supply chain visibility is important for providing a transparent supply chain, companies must also be able to provide traceability for products. This means it is often necessary to retrace the steps of a product’s evolution and manufacturing, including sources of supply and knowledge about the actual content and material in a particular product.
  • Transparency has a direct impact on consumer trust and a company’s sustainability performance. Good supply chain visibility and traceability not only allow companies to recall and recover products if of problems, but they also enable companies to transparently provide information to customers about products. This transparency builds increased levels of trust with customers about the sustainable performance of the company’s supply chain.

Companies with high levels of supply chain integrity, visibility, traceability, and transparency competencies will mitigate supply chain sustainability risks, leading to competitive advantages in the marketplace. Companies face several supply side risks including slave labor, product contamination, and environmental damage at supplier locations. Building a transparent supply chain will proactively ensure consumers that the company is achieving high levels of sustainable performance.

Getting There

Embrace it as a major driver

As part of a company’s practice of knowing its customer base, it has become clear that younger generations have a higher awareness of environmental impact and social issues, and how the products they purchase influence them. They are attracted to companies with sustainability information included on product packaging or as part of their brand mission statements. Because of this, social media has become a form of consumer-created marketing that can be used to a companies gain or complete ruin. Providing clear and honest information readily available for your supply chain management can help mitigate and guide these conversations.

Develop a culture of transparency

Transparent companies don’t just talk about it; they have it as part of their culture. This starts internally with a clear and compelling strategy and vision. Executive leadership must support the vision and show how it fits within the existing business strategy. Buy-in must be driven at all levels. Individual goals should be set within various functions, such as procurement or product design. All employees should know what their role is within the sustainability vision. This daily, personal involvement in sustainability as a part of ongoing work drives the desired culture. There also must be a recognized transparency commitment to customers and consumers. It must become part of the company’s ethos to conduct itself transparently. 

Partner with sustainable suppliers

In choosing suppliers, supply chains traditionally have used cost, reliability, and quality as the major deciding factors. Having a sustainable practices profile is another criteria that must be considered for evaluation when choosing suppliers. A good first step in testing suppliers is to request a self-assessment of labor, safety, environment, and business practices. It is important to carefully determine the parameters by which the company would consider a supplier for partnership. This is also true for current suppliers with a history of specific violations.

The company must be clear where there is a zero-tolerance for audit shortfalls. It must reinforce visibility at the beginning of a supplier partnership. Ideally, the supplier would allow access to their material sources and to take part in company or third-party audits related to sustainability practices. Even better, if chosen suppliers have already committed to sustainability and take part in, or even lead, initiatives to improve the environmental and social impact of their products. 

Ensure traceability to enable transparency

Companies must ensure traceability to create transparency. Knowing where materials come from and how they are produced is critical for quality assurance against sustainability standards. Implementing IoT solutions easily achieves this. Lack of traceability in the face of a safety or environmental violation can be a brand killer. While the company is scrambling to trace particular products, consumers may have already bought another brand.

Making transparency work for you

Social and environmental responsibility for an organization begins with leadership. A hurdle companies must overcome is the fear of sharing too much or too little information, both internally and externally. By finding the transparency sweet spot they can communicate what is important to consumers without creating information overload or muddling their brand message. By working with their retail supply chain insights and a concise vision, this should be an easy sell that will be rewarded with serious brand loyalty

Key Takeaway


The more companies work to listen to the consumers of their goods, the more they will understand the importance of visibility and what transparency means for their business and customers. By openly sharing what the public and regulatory groups are asking for, while also having data and detailed analysis readily available for an in-depth examination is how the architecture for organized transparency is created.

Interested in how you can influence your bottom line by implementing mobile technology to make your supply chain transparent?

Laura Pierce Little

Laura Pierce Little

Digital Marketing Specialist

Laura graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds a degree in Creative Advertising. She’s passionate about authentic narratives, finding what a brand believes in and figuring out how to best translate that to consumers. She feels fortunate to have worked in and have experience in just about every part of the advertising and marketing world. In her downtime she can be found going on outside adventures with her dogs, enjoying local breweries, or doing experiments in her kitchen.

Shoptalk 2019: It Takes More Than Tech

Shoptalk 2019: It Takes More Than Tech

Shoptalk 2019: It Takes More Than Tech

As ten thousand people gathered in Las Vegas this year to talk about retail and e-commerce, Shockoe met with companies small and large to talk about one thing: how to make shopping better. A booming US economy has set a high bar for vendors and retailers to innovate — evident by the sea of vendor tables delivering SaaS products and new technologies to optimize everything from communication to sizing, supply chain to retail display. Innovation was ubiquitous — eight-foot-tall robots could read name tags and spurt out a “hello Jaime” (granted, with improper pronunciation), and Roomba-like product can now sweep the aisles of a store to ensure stock numbers are up to date. It’s an extraordinary and competitive time for retail, but in a large way, it feels like a technology arms race.

Digital technology is still the largest influencer on the industry but simultaneously poses as one of the largest hurdles for retailers to overcome today. Virtually no brick and mortar store is immune to the impact of digital tools and the way in which people consume and explore products. Stephen and I had a chance to meet with vendors focused on analytics, returns, fulfillment, reviews, packing, sizing — and that is naming a few. Every nook and cranny of the supply chain and retail process seemed to have a way to improve an existing process and provide better business results.

What should retailers care about?

For as many vendors that were present, talks seemed to take a step back from the many products in the exhibition room. Speakers focused their concerns on the customer, and rightfully so. It was easy to forget as you roamed the jam-packed exhibit hall at the Venitian that the ultimate focus is not about the retailer, but about the customer. Omni-channel, Gen-Z, and Brand Loyalty were king when it came to speakers — how can you provide a better shopping experience to today’s informed and able consumer?

Which takes us into our table talks. Shockoe had a chance to meet with a dozen retail companies to discuss an array of digital needs — but the one thread emerged consistently in every conversation: to provide an impactful mobile experience.

How can I better engage my customers?

Shopping has always been about providing a brand experience, and with transformative tools such as mobile and voice, companies are scrambling to win their digital market share by extending that experience into customer devices. What we shared with representatives from Nintendo, Levis, Lagunitas and other is that you should always think of digital three ways:

The quick and Infrequent interaction: What time does this restaurant open? Does this store carry? Look to responsive and mobile web — when a customer needs a simple and quick answer from your company, ensure they are met with little resistance and can walk away with the desired information and increase the chance of a later exchange.

Transactional interaction: Did my mortgage payment post? The last thing people want on their phone is a dozen apps for information that is sought a handful of times per year. Yet, when it’s needed, you must ensure they can access it — Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are a popular way for brands to deliver the right result at the right time — without the pressure of installing an app.

Utility: Did John reply? Do I have enough in my checking? I’ll add it to my shopping cart. Shockoe’s bread and butter — creating apps, voice skills, and AR tools to deliver a regular and impactful experience to users. Apps can be a dime a dozen, which is why people are becoming more critical of what lives on their phone. For Shockoe, it’s not about creating an app, it’s about solving a problem and improving the way in which someone operates — this can be tricky to pin down even for the most established companies.

So what’s next?

As more SaaS tools, hardware, and emerging technologies come into play, companies should be cautious of getting swept up in a sea of tools — the most critical consideration should always remain to provide a brand experience to customers that is on par with their expectations of the company.

Future years of Shoptalk will focus on this: consolidating and bringing tools and innovations into an ecosystem of technology that aims to optimize the customer experience, from the mobile store interaction down the way items are picked, selected, and delivered. Shockoe can be that partner today — our team focuses not on delivering mobile, but rather, identifying the right use cases that can deliver the business cases to help your business grow and your customer delight in their experience. Whether optimizing a warehouse, driving repeat business through loyalty and application features, or improving the omnichannel experience for customers, we’ve got your back.

Want to learn more about what we were speaking about at ShopTalk? View some of our case studies 

Jaime De La Ree

Jaime De La Ree

Jaime De La Ree is the acting business development lead at Shockoe with five years of experience in mobile technology consulting. Before joining Shockoe, Jaime worked in supply chain distribution management and later as a non-profit technology partner. When he’s not helping Shockoe build partnerships, Jaime spends his time with his wife and son, and in the remaining time is an avid carpenter, photographer, and astronomer.

How to Align the Right Supply Chain App With Your Needs

How to Align the Right Supply Chain App With Your Needs

How to Align the Right Supply Chain App With Your Needs

Prioritizing the strategic importance of technology that supports your supply chain is essential. Mobile Solutions are an integral and expanding component of the technology landscape that support all steps of the manufacturing process. Organizations that have mobilized solutions such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise asset management (EAM) or field service management (FSM), warehouse management system (WMS), Inventory Management System (IMS), etc. are more prepared tackle the overall digital transformation. By 2018, mobile has served as the key to unlocking the “supply chain digital transformation.” Shockoe is creating supply chain apps that are designed to support new production strategies, reduce time to manage and log resource and production activity, bring greater accuracy to tracking and analyzing data, and support the automation of production centers. Within the supply chain, more specifically warehouse management, manufacturing, and distribution, there are several opportunities for leveraging mobile in the workforce. In working with our clients, we believe the list below is the starting point for mobile solutions. These supply chain app options are aimed at supporting the overall manufacturing and sales process through an ecosystem of inventory apps, customer-facing apps, and order fulfillment apps. supply chain management diagram

Mobile Apps to Consider by Point in the Supply Chain

 

Planning & Production Apps

  • Managing parts and resource staffing requirements
  • Production workflow management
  • Inventory and asset management apps
  • Logistics and supply chain coordination

arrow supply chain app

Production Planning Apps are not only used for the manufacturing business, but also across the entire supply chain.  Production planning apps allow users to manage the overall process in three primary ways:

  1. Augment your Production Planning System:  A Production planning solution is only the first step in transforming the planning process from a manual process based on spreadsheets to one based on integrated sales history-based forecasting and confirmed sales orders/release schedules, Mobile Apps allow your team to make real-time decisions based on information obtained through a Mobile App
  2. Managed Strained Resources:  What happens when you find out that there will be a 10 percent increase in demand next month but you have no idea if you’ve got the labor, warehouse space, or raw materials to fill these extra orders? What happens if your demand shifts mid-cycle? Master scheduling can be controlled via a computer, but why not get the insights to do it on your mobile app.
  1. Disconnected Plant Floor:  Errors mean waste, unhappy customers, and non-compliance. As your business grows, mobile becomes the only way to ensure your team can “be there”, on the plant floor, to know what’s going on at any given moment. Operators and Managers need to focus on the task at hand, not on managing issues.  Mobile Apps give Managers and Operators a complete view of the manufacturing operation that is available to the entire organization but on the shop floor.

 

Order Management & Accounting Apps

Mobile Apps that fall into this category include:

  • Order management apps, pricing, and fulfillment
  • Real-time quote generation

ac moore order management app

There are two types of helpful applications that support the order management and accounting process.  Order Management and Fulfillment Apps will support users with:

  • Two-way transmission of orders, inventory, shipping, & Invoices
  • Track process of fulfillment orders real-time and close the fulfillment loop
  • Enable shippers to track order progress

Real-time quote generation also has some great benefits.

 

Order Fulfillment and Compliance Apps

Mobile Apps that fall into this category include:

  • Order status and delivery
  • Product traceability and quality
  • Logistics and supply chain apps
  • Machine level compliance and intelligence

Much like the production & planning stage, order fulfillment falls apart due to inefficient operations, a lack of integration, and a lack of inventory knowledge.  Mobile Apps can relieve the following key pain points experienced:

  1. Automate Entry for Order Fulfillment: We see our clients continue to use a manual process for order entry as their go-to option. This leads to all kinds of inaccuracies in the order, from the items needed to fulfill it, to where it is being sent. Mobile apps can equip operators with the equipment necessary to eliminate manual entry errors on things like product SKUs, quantity, and shipping addresses
  2. Resolve Inventory Inaccuracies & Inefficiencies‍: Having the right inventory is only half the challenge, operators need to know where it is and how to get to it.  Mobile is not the only solution for this, there are two things your team needs to do, (1) Make sure to have a floor layout that makes inventory visible first, from a Mobile Perspective, track inventory as it enters and leaves the warehouse in a centralized system, mobile apps enable employees to do this quickly and efficiently, real-time.
  3. Team Communication in Fulfillment: Miscommunication can cause shipping delays just as much as a disorganized warehouse. If the entire team isn’t on the same page and has no direct access to managers, too much time is spent “chasing” down the right person.  As a warehouse manager, you may have all the vendor information you need – but that won’t help your team unless you communicate the information that they need, with a supply chain app in hands, your team can be in constant communication.

When prioritizing and considering mobile supply chain solutions to support the manufacturing, administrative, and customer engagement process, Shockoe suggests using three key metrics to prioritize supply chain app development versus alternative mobile applications or the overall technology portfolio.

Reduce Manual Labor and Increase Productivity

Delivering a successful customer experience and subsequently driving more revenue requires mobile leadership and prioritization activities to go beyond the building of apps for customer-facing roles (i.e. Work Order Management or Sales). Back-office workers, technicians, and managers need mobile access to enterprise systems to better perform their jobs and service customers more efficiently. Think about creating a better mobile experience by integrating with ERP or WMS systems for, example, giving employees more freedom to do their jobs wherever and whenever. Critical features for a mobile supply chain functions are scheduling, measuring, and dispatching the workforce. Leveraging the mobile context for such, will allow organizations to accurately measure and improve the productivity of each individual. Which finally in turn will allow organizations to accurately measure and improve the productivity of each individual. Going beyond technology and mobility, an app that enables the workforce can also collect data essential to future planning. The organization can better analyze how much more work it can take on and whether there are enough people to support the forecasted workload.

Revenue

Historically speaking, revenue was only accounted for from a customer standpoint. Integrating new technologies to create a mobile supply chain allows monitoring and assessing revenue percentage at the process level. Being able to quickly obtain the percentage of revenue contribution at each step in the order to cash process is valuable information for real-time decision making and forecasting. Mobile solutions can track performance at each step which gives both locations with context. These values help indicate whether a measured process is underperforming or contributing significantly to the overall revenue. Whether it’s an investment in an asset management app or an inventory management app, whatever it is, a more granular overview of information through your processes can help target your areas of growth, need, and reward in the supply chain.

Automation

Automation, IOT, and Machine Learning are popular terms. What manufacturing companies really need to worry about and set goals for is the extent of the automation planned and how these emerging technologies can help. Once the business understands its goal, mobile solutions can embrace IoT devices to enable the desired automation. Allowing employees to monitor automated processes on mobile devices can decrease error rates, speed fulfillment processes, and ultimately settle cash faster. The continuing development and availability of newer and better technology imply that processes can be made to work faster, repetitive work can be automated, FTEs can be reduced, operations can be systemized, and customer handling can be improved. Tackling automation, IOT, or machine learning require a set of tough decisions:

  • To what level will I automate the process?
  • What aspects of the process will I automate?
  • What tools will my employees use to monitor and be alerted of the process?

The mobile supply chain is the next era of communication, collaboration, and responsiveness to the customer, driven by the ability to meet ever-more-stringent deadlines and delivery dates. Start from your key challenges and business objectives, use the right metrics to prioritize, and plan your journey for successful implementation of mobile, IoT and emerging technologies. Shockoe works in the supply chain to prioritize manufacturing apps and technology that support essential business processes. Mobile Solutions are at the forefront of all digital transformations and can support all areas of the manufacturing process. The right mobile app can help manage several areas of the manufacturing process and beyond.

Alejandro Otañez

Alejandro Otañez

COO

Alex has more than 10 years of international experience in Strategic IT Transformation and Custom App Development. His expertise in various industries ranges from Consumer Goods to Retail to Finance while assisting clients in the areas of Business Strategy & Development, Security & Compliance, and Technology Transformation. As one of Shockoe’s founding members, Alex is focused on business strategy, security & compliance, digital innovation, mobile management, and operational transformations.