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Increasingly we are seeing distributors being pinched between spiraling shipping costs and rising customer expectations. Orders are getting smaller and customers are demanding faster and faster delivery methods, all without expecting to pay anything extra to cover the additional costs of the shipping. I thought it might be interesting to reach out to a market-leading regional distributor and discuss what they are doing to figure out this last mile transportation problem.

 

4 Werner Electric Supply truck drivers standing in front of Werner Electric Supply transportation trucks and warehouse

 

I interviewed Rory Mueller, Logistics Manager at Werner Electric Supply to see how they took this increasingly complex problem and turned it into a market advantage and a key differentiator for doing business with them.


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Not that long ago, distribution networks happily and conveniently operated through strategically-placed distribution centers, delivering, say, a pallet a month through LTL (less-than-truckload) carriers. Things might have seemed complex at the time, but there was no real thought about what could possibly happen next.

 

Courier in the driver's seat of truck searching map routes on his smartphone

 

Now, many regional distribution centers (DCs) are being driven to try and take on the task of customized distribution services and customer delivery themselves. Why? Because of higher-than-ever customer service expectations and the increasing cost of using commercial carriers.


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I was recently interviewed by Modern Material Handling for the article Health Care Embraces E-commerce Trends. In the article, it is clear that supply chain practices in healthcare have come a long way in the past five to ten years. Historically, the margins in this specialized industry have compensated for lack of advanced healthcare supply chain capabilities. Now, though, the industry is no longer standing still due to the increasing pressures on margins, traceability and customer demands.

 

Healthcare professional in hospital inventory room using healthcare supply chain management device and supply chain management software to find stock
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Warehouse worker using warehouse management systems to scan and organize inventoryA new era of buyers has arrived, and they are focused on the customer experience. It’s not enough to simply deliver a product into a buyer’s hands. No matter the industry, today’s savvy consumers expect a seamless, superior experience that delivers on a company’s brand promise. They want faster service, higher value, and 100% fulfillment. They want to feel good during the buying process. And they want this across all channels wherever they touch the brand.

 

With that in mind, everything a company does from its messaging to the sales process to what occurs after the sale is part of the customer experience. If a company has deficiencies in any area, it could result in a customer having unmet expectations and a poor experience. If they are left unsatisfied, the company – and brand – could suffer detrimental effects.


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Packages on a conveyor belt under TECSYS logo and Top 100 logistics IT provider stamp

Each year, Inbound Logistics researches the supply chain challenges of business logistics managers and measures those against the capabilities of technology providers across the industry to develop a list of the Top 100 Logistics IT Providers.

 

Inbound Logistics’ editors place value on choosing providers whose solutions are central to solving transportation, logistics, and supply chain challenges, and whose customer successes are well-documented.

 

TECSYS is honored to once again be included in this prestigious list, selected for its supply chain platform which is designed to flex to the demands of highly-regulated healthcare logistics ecosystems, omni-channel complex distribution landscapes, and tightly-run 3PL operations alike. As supply chains are gaining their foothold as strategic assets and competitive differentiators in increasingly globalized economies, we, as providers, should not underestimate how the data we synthesize is used to support informed decision-making that drives business performance objectives.


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Image of empty operating room overlaid with healthcare cloud solutions software filterI recently wrote an article for Becker’s Hospital Review Health IT & CIO Report titled “Offloading IT Headaches to the Cloud is a Win for Healthcare”.

 

It is remarkable how far we have come in the last two years. If I would have written this article then, it might have been titled “Overcoming the Fear of Cloud in Healthcare”, because not too long ago, the benefits enabled by cloud technology were also shrouded in fears over perceived security risks; concerns such as “Where’s my data?“, “Can someone steal it?“, “How do I know it is safe?“. We have all heard and read the stories in the news. But clouds are secure (arguably even more secure than on-premise deployments) because they are deployed, monitored, and managed with security by design.


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Business leader showing employee how to use supply chain and business intelligence analytics softwareIn the January-March 2018 issue of APICS magazine, APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi contends that if supply chain leaders bring business success then that makes them business leaders. Mr. Eshkenazi goes on to state “organizations that consider their supply chains as strategic and competitive assets outperform the market”.

 

Indeed, superior supply chain performance does drive business success in very measurable ways.  How can supply chain justify and measure process improvement initiatives using a metric that finance can relate to?  As cash management is a top priority for finance, sharing the Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC) metric allows supply chain and finance to speak a common language when measuring business success.


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I just read a blog post entitled How do you feel when someone mentions predictive analytics? Well, I feel like it’s a good thing. How about you?

 

Employee analyzing and predicting data on a desktop computer

One commenter replied that predictive analytics = forecasting and that it’s just a different label for the same thing. Well, true enough, given that the verb predict is synonymous with the verb forecast.

 

I submit to you two other synonyms: examine and analyze. An analysis of your historical demand will lead to a better understanding of the numbers. When one understands the elements that drove demand in the past then one can review these elements and assess their validity going forward. The result is a forecast achieved using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This is a very good thing!


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Different sized trees with green, red, orange, and yellow leaves aligned to  shape an increasing function
Seasonal variations in consumption occur for many reasons; summer, back to school, various holidays. In fact, most industries experience annually recurring spikes in demand — even healthcare as they prepare for the dreaded flu season. Furthermore, the duration of a season differs depending on geography and demographics.

Having recognized the existence of a seasonal pattern, one must anticipate its future effect on inventories. To understand seasonal differences in consumption, forecasters look at an item’s seasonal index. The calculation of an item’s seasonal index is quite simple. The first step is to calculate the average monthly demand for a given year. The second step is to divide the actual demand by the average demand. The result is the seasonal index.


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Metallic globe on grass plane shaped as the infinity symbolThere has been a lot of focus on optimizing the supply chain for order fulfillment.  The on-going efforts to perfect the ‘order to cash’ process have yielded great rewards.  But what about returns?  Automation has reduced the number of returns due to errors however the world must move from a linear to a more circular economy and this will impact the entire supply chain.

 

The notions of a circular economy and green distribution are really quite wonderful.  Imagine an industry that produces no waste or pollution, and where products are designed for safe and non-intrusive disposal.  Imagine an industry where 100% of unconsumed or partly consumed products are returned for re-use.


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