Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Eddie Capel, CEO of Manhattan Associates. During our conversation, Eddie and I spoke about the changing nature of global supply chains in the face of the ongoing Covid pandemic as well as the continuing surge of e-commerce. I asked Eddie to give his insights on a few key points. First, what is the current state of supply chain technology? Second, how does a company prioritize research and development efforts? Third, what are the big trends in warehouse and transportation management? Fourth, what makes order management technology dynamic? And fifth, what are you seeing in terms of supply chain sustainability?
Below are some key points from our discussion as well as the full video interview.
Global Supply Chains
Over the last two years, there have been ebbs and flows in the first phase of the pandemic. Specifically, there were spikes in demand, and even though there was a lot of inventory available, the demand was surging. Then we moved into a phase where we had stationary, stale, and suspended inventory because we couldn’t get to it; retail stores and distribution centers were closed, and seasonal inventory was very challenged.
Now we have moved into a time where supply challenges are at the forefront, and we need to look at nimble and agile solutions. This includes everything from providing great visibility into the inbound supply to being able to move inventory very quickly to the right locations to service customers when the supply hits specific bottlenecks.
The last thing that has become apparent over the last twenty years is the digital transformation when it comes to consumer buying and consuming habits. The last two to three years has accelerated this pattern based on necessity.
Research and Development
Deciding where to focus research and development dollars is always a challenge. Developing and deploying a solution goes hand in hand with conversations with customers. The goal is to be half a pace ahead of where customers need to be; you don’t want to be too far ahead of where customers need to be, but you don’t want to be lagging to where the technology is irrelevant.
WMS and TMS Trends
For the warehouse, the biggest trend is to maximize the pace and speed to meet customer service level agreements. Automation and stand-alone robotics are a big component to meet this speed. But these technologies are a blend of man and machine together.
In the world we are living in today, with labor shortages, the motivation for the gamification of processes within a warehouse is another big component. Finally, a real focus on cubing – not shipping lots of extra air and packaging – is all focused around sustainability.
From the TMS side, the biggest trend is to focus on being as efficient as possible when it comes to shipping. This means not shipping air or having excess room in boxes and pallets.
However, the single biggest supply chain trend is the unification of WMS and TMS. This means bringing both transportation and fulfillment together in a unified flow that creates the greatest possible efficiencies across these two functions.
Distributed order management (DOM) is at the heart of any omni-channel strategy. There are so many potential points of order fulfillment, whether it be a distribution center, dark store, retail stores or third-party vendor, to name a few. So, the question becomes how to best fulfill the order in the most efficient way, while meeting the SLA of the customer. This includes the added question of how to ensure the order will be fulfilled without dealing with split shipments and other inefficient shipments.
Manhattan calls the system “adaptive network fulfillment” capabilities for bridging the gap between customer demands, delivery requirements, and profitability for the manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer.
Sustainability has clearly become a top-of-mind topic for the supply chain. For Manhattan, the path to a cleaner and more sustainable future starts at every decision they make. For example, Eddie poses the question: “do we ask for every order to be delivered overnight? Or do we aggregate our order demand on a weekly basis?” These small decisions can make a huge difference on the overall impact of the world.
Looking at sustainability from a supply chain standpoint, the beauty is that sustainability ultimately results in savings. For a manufacturer, installing “green” building and shipping materials costs money. However, for supply chains, it is symbiotic with profitability. It can take miles out of the transportation journey, air from a carton or box, or reduce trips to a specific neighborhood or house. This means money can be saved. At the same time, these “savings” can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprints.
Manhattan Associates is a thirty-plus-year old company with an exclusive focus on supply chain management software. The company has 15+ offices globally, with a focus on supply chain technology leader in supply chain and omnichannel commerce. It unites information across the enterprise, converging front-end sales with back-end supply chain execution. Their software, platform technology, and experience help drive customers’ top-line growth and bottom-line profitability.
Manhattan Associates designs, builds, and delivers leading-edge cloud and on-premises solutions so that across the store, through your network or from your fulfillment center, you are ready to reap the rewards of the omnichannel marketplace.