August 2003 | Commentary | 3PL Line

Orchestrating Successful Product Launches

Tags: 3PL

Successful product launches are like a well-orchestrated symphony. Each instrument must work in harmony to produce the melody, and every musician plays a critical role.

As the conductor of a product launch, you want flawless orchestration, but getting products to the retail market presents many challenges. In today's economic environment, companies cannot afford any missteps, and on key product launches, the stakes are even greater. From customization requirements to the sheer volume of products, a rock-solid logistics solution can significantly impact a product's debut.

Creating Supply Chain Harmonies

Orchestrating product launch logistics can create either a harmonious culmination or a cacophonous end to pre-launch marketing investments. For large-scale product launches, manufacturers have several logistical obstacles to overcome:

  • Thousands of products must move to hundreds, sometimes thousands of locations in days or even hours.
  • Retailers demand customized product packaging with labels, kits, and displays that match proprietary systems.
  • Even a minor manufacturing glitch can dramatically impact operations and disrupt marketing and advertising plans.
  • Displays must be flawlessly built and shipped—faulty displays won't get placement in stores.
  • Allocation issues and product manufacturing shortages can lead to logistical nightmares.
  • Launch or street dates cannot be missed or retailers will impose costly fines.

10 Checkpoints for Successful Retail Product Launches

3PLs offer tremendous benefits that help manufacturers get products to the retail market. In developing an outsourced retail logistics solution, manufacturers must ensure that a truly collaborative environment exists with their logistics partners.

The following checklist can help manufacturers generate the best results from their logistics providers, while establishing a seamless operation for launch day.

1. Collaboration. Hold pre-planning sessions with your logistics partner to clearly outline the launch services required and identify performance expectations and ROI measurements. Collaborative communication will maximize supply chain and logistics performance.

2. Transportation and Staff Planning. Ensure your logistics partner is negotiating the best possible transportation carrier services and rates based on your needs, as well as mobilizing staff for pre-launch ramp up.

3. Co-location. Determine any co-location opportunities with your logistics provider to help cut transportation costs and trim valuable time out of the launch equation.

4. Technology. Explore opportunities for systems integration with your third-party logistics provider to enhance supply chain visibility. Whether it's EDI or an integrated web solution, technology can automate the process and give manufacturers and retailers the intelligence they need for monitoring and future planning.

5. Partner Communication. Maintain communication to keep all parties apprised of developments. Manufacturers should discuss production status; logistics providers should provide an update on systems and staffing progress.

6. Retailer Communication. Ensure the 3PL, as well as the internal account team, maintain daily communications with retailers regarding product updates and schedules.

7. Merchandising. Determine the logistics provider's systems for developing displays and kitting. Can the 3PL accommodate customization needs of each retailer?

8. Tracking. Establish systems to guarantee orders are properly tracked for retailers. If a problem occurs, your customers will want immediate information and resolution.

9. Returns. Establish a reverse logistics solution that provides the best service to retail customers, yet remains cost effective for your business.

10. Reporting. Solidify the reporting processes for proof of delivery on launch day. Make sure your 3PL can deliver the information you need to keep your customers happy and your products where they need to be.

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