July 2013 | Sponsored | Thought Leaders

Trading Partner Collaboration Yields Supply Chain Value

Tags: Supply Chain Management

Steve Dollase is President, Supply Chain, Inmar, 866-440-6917

Q: How can value chain partners collaborate to create and share efficiencies?

A: Retailers and manufacturers have made progress in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their individual supply chains. They have found savings and efficiencies, and implemented new processes. Now, trading partners must collaborate to find new avenues for improvement. The competitive retail landscape necessitates this collaboration to address challenges such as on-shelf availability, inventory productivity, shopper engagement, and unsaleables.

Many new tools and techniques are facilitating collaboration. Trading partners are willing to share transportation and distribution assets, even with competitors. Real-time, cloud-based technology platforms provide data and analytics to highlight opportunities—and do so quickly. Trading partners are sharing promotional, point-of-sale, and inventory data to support mutual benefits such as optimized inventory, productivity, and sales.

Technology and real-time data are allowing companies to better understand their inventory, and to optimize it through channel-specific fulfillment. Companies need visibility into their inventory across networks and across multiple SKUs to efficiently forecast and provide on-shelf availability to their brands.

It is also important to collect data on damages, packaging, and out-of-date products at all points along the supply chain to understand the root cause and work toward the reduction of unsaleables for the benefit of all trading partners. The ability to know where and when damages occur, and to share that information between trading partners, is key to taking preventative steps and making sure good quality product is on the shelf for their shared asset: the consumer.

Q: What innovative sustainability initiatives also increase efficiencies?

A: Supply chain technology with transportation analysis capabilities is becoming more important to ensure the most efficient distribution of product in the forward and reverse supply chains by using the appropriate optimization of a manufacturer's current network. As a best practice, manufacturers must validate that their returns process uses the most efficient routes and combination of facilities.

To help commerce operate more intelligently, sustainability must be at the forefront of new ideas. Looking at the entire lifecycle of a product and extending that lifecycle through returns and remarketing keeps viable product out of landfill, and can provide value to companies. Having end-to-end visibility to the supply chain—whether it is reducing unsaleables in the forward or extending product life in the reverse—is a necessity.

Remarketing and liquidating product is only one option to sustaining the life of a viable product. There is also donation and, finally, destruction—which does not have to be landfill, but can be processed to provide energy from the waste.