How to Control Uptick after Your Shelves Have Been Empty

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Aptean Apprise, Importers & Distributors, DTC, Covid-19

 

You don’t need us to list out all the ways the world has changed. What looked good and normal four months ago, looks quite different today. You likely feel the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in both your personal and professional lives. We can make that assumption safely because we feel those same effects. And though we may not all be in the same boat, we’re certainly all weathering the same storm.

For some of you, business is good; you have product flying off the shelves in an unprecedented and unanticipated way. New York City’s Vintage Grape Wines & Spirits, for example, can’t stock its shelves fast enough. For others, this has been a trying time. Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penny have both filed for bankruptcy, as have many others. Mom and pop shops are struggling to stay afloat and are waiting eagerly for life to return to a new kind of normal.

And eventually, it will.

When that happens, we want to help you prepare for the inevitable demand from consumers. Because stores have closed to ensure the safety and health of the community, more and more consumers are ordering items online to be shipped directly to their homes. This means that many consumer goods importers and distributors are now fulfilling and shipping more direct-to-consumer (DTC) than before the pandemic. This factor also changes how warehouses function in terms of picking, packing and shipping orders.

As shelves are emptied, those shelves need to be restocked and filled. The higher the demand, the more quickly those shelves need to be restocked. You want to be able to do this efficiently and effectively without having to add labor. Ordering the right amount of inventory is key; you don’t want to order too much and risk increased costs without realizing profits quickly, but you don’t want to order too little and risk disappointing customers either. The ability to leverage historical data to ramp up or slow down with a balanced inventory approach to meet demand is critical. Additionally, because your suppliers may soon ramp up, as well, it’s essential to understand your suppliers may also have altered timelines and longer lead times than before the pandemic.

To manage this inventory uncertainty, in addition to everything else in your consumer goods warehouse, you must be equipped with an industry-specific ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution that’s built to help manage fluctuating demand volumes and smart long- and short-term financial decisions about what to reorder, when, and how much.

Basically, as volume ramps up or down, you want to be able to handle it as if it were just another Tuesday. Mainly if demand is high, it’s great that you’re busy, but you want to be able to manage your inventory appropriately and responsibly. An ERP that has built-in inventory planning and warehouse management tools could be invaluable in times like these.

An integrated ERP can specifically support your enterprise in the following ways:  

  • Mobility – This means the use of handheld devices to scan products into and out of the warehouse. With each scan, the system digests the data, makes it instantly visible and actionable within your ERP to all and stores it in a centralized system to have actionable and accurate real-time information. Not only does it make working on the floor easier and more efficient, but it makes it easier to move orders through the warehouse quickly.

  • Inventory Tracking and Management – Companies can increase profitability by 20-50% through careful inventory management. It’s all about having the right balance of inventory: you don’t want to have too much because that could lead to shelves filled with expired or obsolete products, expensive inventory holding, or the need for a facility larger than what is necessary. Similarly, you don’t want too little inventory either, which could result in product shortages, unfulfilled orders and unhappy customers. In short, you need just the right amount of stock to effectively fill customer orders but also to stay as lean as possible. To master the balancing act, you must track your inventory. Whether it is through the use of bar codes or radio frequency identification (RFID), a detailed transaction history of inventory flowing in and out of the warehouse can improve visibility and reduce errors. Real-time data within your ERP means the system and the warehouse are never out of sync, ensuring better checks and balances with audits and cycle counts.

  • DTC – With the rise of online orders shipping directly to consumers, you’ll need to be able to efficiently allocate, pick, pack, replenish, and track your inventory and orders, and do this consistently and in real-time as those orders come in. And as time goes on, you’ll likely end up working with more retailers and carriers to meet DTC demand, and you’re going to need a way to manage all of those orders. A centralized ERP system, particularly one that has built-in electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities, can better meet the requirements of ecommerce retailers, and the challenges of minimizing shipping costs, chargebacks, and the cost of using different software systems. To have access to real-time inventory information is invaluable. With the right ERP solution, you can get information on orders as they’re being created: Is the product available? Can we commit/allocate inventory to it? If not, when will it be available? With DTC shipping, this means automated Purchase Order Acknowledgements back to the ecommerce retailers you service.

  • Labor Management – Labor is undoubtedly the most expensive variable cost in your warehouse. A robust ERP with built-in WMS (warehouse management system) is an invaluable tool, enabling warehouse managers to engage actively, monitor and measure employees as they go about their shifts. While it’s relatively simple to track productive time (based on product input and output), it’s the labor involved in everything in between those monitored processes that could negatively impact your bottom line. The right ERP with built-in WMS tools allows supervisors to use real-time labor analytics to track and compare employee performance. 

  • Supplier Monitoring – An ERP that’s integrated with robust supplier production monitoring tools enables you to monitor, manage and track your products with your various suppliers—whether overseas or more local. By leveraging supplier monitoring tools, you not only gain deeper visibility into those tasks but also ensure that you’re meeting compliance mandates and informational requirements for all your supply-side activities. You’re no longer in the dark about what’s being done and if it’s being done on time. With this tool, you can more easily monitor and track the status of samples, quality assurance outcomes, production dates, shipping schedules, retailer compliance mandates and more. 

  • Longer Lead Times – The warehouse is a busy place; no one knows that better than you. Between all the products and suppliers that need to be managed, tracking long lead times can be challenging. Without an ERP, most lead times for specific products are, at best, good guesses. And may now be even more uncertain during the impact from the coronavirus. But with an ERP solution, you’re better able to track your products. Using historical data and patterns, the exact lead times for each product become more accurate, thus ensuring you know when the reorder point should be and how much of each product you should order. Your ERP then becomes a single source of truth because all of your data is running through one integrated solution. The robust forecasting tools in an ERP allow you to leverage long-lead-time information and supplier-specific requirements to create accurate forecasts and successfully plan your inventory.

Aptean Apprise ERP is an all-in-one system designed to handle everything consumer goods importers and distributors need to run and grow their business. If you’d like to talk more about how Apprise can help you control uptick after your shelves have been empty, reach out to us. We’d love to talk.