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In 2019, Retailers and Suppliers Will Need Each Other More than Ever

Posted By RCVF Admin, Monday, October 29, 2018

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In 2019, Retailers and Suppliers Will Need Each Other More than Ever
by RVCF
 

It’s no secret that many retailers and suppliers are facing serious challenges as they adapt to a quickly changing retail landscape. You have significant consolidation among both retailers and suppliers. Many companies have replaced seasoned professionals who knew how to achieve progress through collaboration with inexperienced folks who are forced to learn on the job, all in the name of cost-cutting and reducing headcounts.

Many retailers that were at one time among the most successful and respected in the industry no longer exist. They failed to adapt to new competition, new order fulfillment models, and new customer demands. Consolidation has made organizations on both sides larger, but the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

That said, retail is ripe with opportunity. Those who are willing to do the work to evolve and grow aren’t talking about survival. They’re talking about taking their success to new heights.

As we prepare for 2019, retailers and suppliers need each other more than ever. And RVCF membership creates more opportunities for collaboration than any organization in the industry.

This was evident at the 2018 RVCF Fall Conference. With more than 35 retailers in attendance, 30 educational sessions, more than 530 one-on-one meetings between retailers and suppliers, and peer-to-peer discussions about supplier relationship management and customer relationship management, collaboration was constant – and productive.

We plan to carry that momentum into 2019 and provide our members with the information, resources and collaborative opportunities they need throughout the year.

We’ll cultivate the concept of unified commerce in which there are no separate shopping channels with separate inventories and customer bases. Rather than brick-and-mortar commerce, e-commerce, mobile commerce, social commerce, etc., there is simply commerce. Unified commerce.

We’ll focus on the importance of data and how to use it. We’ll continue to look for ways to enhance drop ship strategies and develop best practices. We’ll advocate for the Perfect Order – on-time, in-full, damage-free, with accurate documentation.

Everything we do is designed to accelerate the error-free flow of goods through the supply chain, while controlling costs, and improving margins for both retailers and suppliers. RVCF members benefit from our initiatives, events and educational content, as well as our technology solutions and consulting services, throughout the year.

But you can’t sit on the sidelines. You have to get involved. You have to show up. You have to participate. You have to work with your peers and trading partners to find solutions and create competitive advantages instead of waiting for them to fall onto your lap.

2019 will undoubtedly be a rough year for some retailers and suppliers. For others, it has the potential to be the best year ever. What kind of year will it be for you?

I ask that question because I believe the answer is a choice, not a predetermined outcome. I hope you’ll choose success and become a member of RVCF to put your organization in a better position to succeed.

Please visit the RVCF website to learn more about membership, and feel free to contact any member of the RVCF team with questions or ideas about what we can do to better serve the retail community. Remember, RVCF exists to bring retailers and suppliers together to solve problems and grow profits. We hope you’ll join us.

 

Tags:  Collaboration  Membership  retailers  RVCF  Suppliers 

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What’s the Impact? Translating Scorecard KPIs into What Users Need to Know

Posted By RCVF Admin, Monday, October 29, 2018

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What’s the Impact? Translating Scorecard KPIs into What Users Need to Know
by Victor Engesser of RVCF

Almost every retailer provides their supplier community with a scorecard measuring supply chain-related performance. With quite a few KPIs (key performance indicators) on the scorecard measuring so many different order-related activities, these data points can quickly become overwhelming and confusing to both internal and external users.

Our goal is to see scorecards evolve to better support the needs of various users so they can see past the data and gain a clear picture of real-world impact. Let’s look at three examples of how retailers are, and can be, working to drive improvement by enhancing the relevance of their scorecarding programs.

The Retailer Merchant Community

First, consider the merchant community inside the retailer, from Buyer to Merchandise Manager to Chief Merchandising Officer. These merchants determine who will be part of their company’s supplier community. They effectively “own” the overall relationship.

The merchant community’s understanding of and engagement with the supplier is critical to improving supply chain performance. However, most scorecard KPIs don’t translate well to what matters most to these folks.

When this group asks, “What’s the impact?” they really want and need the scorecard to offer perspective on the actual impact that poor supplier performance has on lost sales dollars and margin dollars. These are arguably the two most important company goals they answer for.

Does the scorecard help the merchant understand the direct impact of poor supplier performance on Speed to Shelf and Out of Stocks? If so, this data can be used to calculate the approximate revenue lost, as well as lost margin dollars when the product is not available for purchase.

When you arm the merchants with this dollar-stated calculation from the current scorecard, they’ll have a direct line of sight into how their supplier’s performance delivers, or falls short of, the retailer’s budgeted objectives. Merchants learn to fully appreciate how seemingly small improvements to metrics such as “on-time” and “fill rate” directly relate to sales and profit objectives. When merchants understand this impact and the critical role supplier performance plays, their involvement and support can reach a whole new level.

Supplier Senior Management

Let’s change perspectives and think about senior management on the supplier side. These individuals deal with large numbers of retailers, each with different scorecarding and compliance programs. It is not reasonable to assume suppliers have the time to seriously study all the various KPIs on all the different scorecards used by their retailer customers. Senior management in the supplier organization would benefit from a simple overview that tells them if their attention is needed, and why.

To fill this need, retailers have started grading supplier performance, using the letter grades we all grew up with in school to indicate if performance is above, at, or below expectations. For the supplier, the impact of a scorecard grade is simple, straightforward, and effective. They may not know if a 94 percent on-time rate is good, or if an 82 percent fill rate is terrible, but everyone knows a “B” is above average and a “D” is not. Letter grading allows the supplier to immediately know if overall performance is acceptable or problematic.

With this perspective, middle managers and senior management can focus attention where and when it is needed. Think of the overall grade as their GPA, with individual grades for each major area of importance. If one area needs attention to raise their GPA, make it easy for the supplier to spot on your scorecard cover page.

An added benefit is that grading supports the retailer internally. Now, the merchant and the sales side of the supplier can tailor their discussion, positively or negatively, and easily identify what areas need their attention. Plus, over time, retailers can raise the bar and decide that performance that once received a “B” is now a “C,” thus, working towards continuous improvement.

The Retailer Inventory Team

A third group, and one that probably gets the least consideration with regards to how scorecard enhancement could help them support supplier improvement, is the inventory team. This team inside the retailer is responsible for maintaining a high in-stock level, while at the same time keeping overall inventory levels as low as possible, resulting in increased inventory turns.

As the inventory team works to take down safety stock levels, the optimal approach is to order more, less often, with great on-time and fill rate. However, supplier performance related to on time and fill rate is often highly dependent on the availability and quality of the retailer's forecast.

To improve forecasting, retailers need to first measure their forecast accuracy and forecast volatility. They should be looking at the degree to which their forecast is affecting supplier fill rate. That brings us back to, “What’s the impact?”

There is potential for fill rate improvement if the supplier is provided with a more accurate, dependable forecast. The low-hanging fruit is found when forecasts are consistently lower than actual purchase order need, resulting in poor fill rate. As a first step, placing these metrics onto the retailer’s internal scorecard would help the merchants and their inventory partners spot the largest error relationships so they can work together to develop an appropriate improvement plan.

In summary, there are always opportunities to expand and enhance supplier performance scorecards. Here at RVCF, we are committed to helping retailers and suppliers identify these opportunities. Start by looking at each area of the trading partner relationship and asking two simple questions:

“Do they understand the impact that performance is having?”

“Can we do more to educate, engage, and support?"  

 

Tags:  KPI  KPIs  scorecards 

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Is Data Indispensable for Retail Industry?

Posted By RCVF Admin, Monday, October 29, 2018

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Is Data Indispensable for Retail Industry?
by Pulakesh Barua, dataZen Engineering
 

Let’s see what opinion the Retailer themselves have. However first, what influence does Data actually make in your Life?

It’s quite simple! From the time your Alarm goes OFF in the Morning to the time you put it ON the Night before, you are surrounded by Data, which are little bits of Information all over. But it is downright impossible for any human to consume all the Information and process it at the necessitated time, especially if you are considering a purchase decision for everyday use.

Importance of Data in Retail  

Let’s talk about how a business that deals with its customers face to face and their relationship to Data. Some mastered it better than others. Promotions were involved and presented via brochures, handouts, direct mail, catalogs, trade shows, channel publications etc. The data you seldom provided were the most valuable asset for them.

Today, Data is the retail industry landscape changer since consumers began to research and buy products online.  It is now part of any business decisions: a valuable commodity.

WHAT DRIVES BUSINESS CASE EFFICIENCIES TODAY?

A new term has evolved called e-tailer. This is generally towards growth, a competitive advantage for improved item availability, buy, pick-up or delivered, return anywhere for a unified customer experience. However evinced, time and again an improved execution warrants good Data. Better inventory control with enhanced cost control so to speak.

Then comes promoting products and services now for the NEW – The Digital Customer

Examples of Raw Data needed for e-Commerce Digital experience included pricing, logistical and technical information. Essential value proposition includes: WHAT – Find and aggregate Data from multiple sources of truth, HOW - Speed up Data aggregation with simple tools in real time and WHY – It is for this very new consumers whether buy online and get delivered, picked up at the store or some location with access code at a floor space in close proximity.

It is more of selling your Data about your products and Services than the product itself. You want to keep track of your sales, your profit and loss, information on units of the products and account details involving all your Business Transactions; Data is involved through and through. Yes, including supply chain and all the associated intricacies involved with it comply as factors.

Be it large transactions, partnerships, advertisements or even promotions… Data plays a huge role whatsoever. Industries of all sizes realize that Data Loss is an information loss. Whether it be a humungous record or the tiniest information, everything has an importance when it comes to running a successful business.

Thought about what Omni-Channel Retail really mean?

It is actually a cross channel Data, which content approach businesses are starting to leverage for their customer or user experience. All aspects of the channel work in tandem to cooperate. And in return, businesses have a direct relationship with a consumer.  

For example, you can find a particular brand in various websites and applications via which you can make a purchase. That’s good but not good enough, right? We want a detailed knowledge about the specification of the product or its service. And we want ourselves to be heard in case we want to share any opinion on it. And that is exactly what Unified Commerce World brings to us - Full Transparency. Not only has it a dedicated web presence but it can be approached from anywhere, anytime. Now, that’s Data in work behind the scene whether it is a traditional Database system approach or with more sophisticated like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.  

E-tailers have comparatively grown in modern days and they are successfully running their operations since they have a committed line to their customers. They receive raw Data and utilize it in various forms be it in their advertising, publications or simply sending a dedicated thank you note.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF ANY BUSINESS TODAY?

Hands down it is the Customer Satisfaction!

According to a Survey held in 2016 by BRP (Boston Retail Partners), Unified Commerce prioritizes Customer Feedback the most; the outcome being that majority of the Retailers plans to implement a Unified Commerce platform by the end of 2019.

Now that’s Awesome!!!

You and I can now directly be involved in any purchasing affair we take part in. Our Feedback will be valued and as time goes by results will only get better. Again, undoubtedly it is the Data that clearly drives all this.

However it will only happen when our Feedbacks receive a Retroaction and that action or response in turn will only materialize when proper Data management is involved. Keeping a record of Customer Feedbacks and taking requisite actions will lead to a better and Prospering Retail marketplace. Believe it or not, the new digital customer more often than none reads the response to a customer satisfaction or dis-satisfaction as part of his/her purchase decision.

Tracking out any particular information in time takes up a lot of effort and initiatives. Our brains can process almost 400 Billion Bits of Information per second but then we are just average people doing day to day activities every second too. Just imagine our Brains working every fraction of a second without stopping for once to deal with this massive amount of Data.

So, let’s not put ourselves into merciless conditions and rather take help of one of the Brilliant Inventions of a Human Brain. Babbage gave us the Computers; Alan Shugart gifted us Storage Devices. Store away bits of Information you get lawfully with consent and it’ll certainly prove fruitful someday.  And these Important Information forms the basis of Data that drives everything in any industry. Considering these aspects, one can only conclude that we can see significant importance of Data in retail from a brick and mortar to unified commerce. With the help of many technology options to choose from, go ahead by taking your Retail Business to the Peak and Zenith.

Data as a must currency to invest instead!  

 

Tags:  analytics  Data  ecommerce  e-commerce  Technology 

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From the Desk of Kim Zablocky ... 2018 RVCF Annual Fall Conference Recap: The Energy Was Contagious

Posted By RCVF Admin, Monday, October 29, 2018

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From the Desk of Kim Zablocky ... 2018 RVCF Annual Fall Conference Recap: The Energy Was Contagious

“I got more accomplished in five minutes face-to-face than I would in 50 e-mails.”

“Just wanted to say thank you for the conference. It was great. I enjoyed the sessions and one on one meetings. You guys put a lot of effort into it and it was visible to everyone.”

“I wanted to thank you for a great conference. I know that it is challenging to continuously find relevant content that speaks to the majority of the attendees, so wanted to let you know that there were quite a few takeaways and food for thought that made it worthwhile. As always, the retailer roundtables were a hit. This segment continues to be a winner.”

These are verbatim comments from retail professionals who attended the 2018 RVCF Annual Fall Conference in San Diego. As exhausting as it can be to plan and execute an event of this magnitude, I always feel energized when I head back to the office.

One can’t help but feel inspired while absorbing the energy of collaboration and seeing the faces of people who have met with peers and trading partners to bring specific issues to light, share ideas and solve problems.

Educational programs presented by industry thought leaders, academia, service providers and authors… more than 530 one-on-one meetings between retailers and merchandise suppliers… retailer breakouts bursting with enthusiasm and fresh ideas… this is what RVCF events are all about.

RVCF conferences are not “trade shows.” People don’t come to RVCF conferences to be entertained. Sure, we know how to blow off steam, whether at a golf outing or on a sunset cruise, but RVCF is a solutions organization. RVCF conferences are “roll up your sleeves and get work done” events. Our purpose is to improve trading partner relationships and correct issues that slow down the flow of goods through the retail supply chain. This can only happen if all sides come to the table to collaborate.

When I see attendees leave the event with information that can be immediately applied when they get back to work, and with stronger relationships than they had when they arrived, it makes me proud of RVCF’s mission and accomplishments.

Admittedly though, I also feel some level of frustration, sensing that many CFOs and COOs still don’t fully grasp the importance and bottom-line impact of having a highly trained order management team. Rather than focusing on reducing costs and headcounts, merchandise suppliers need to build teams that understand all facets of order fulfillment. More suppliers need to send representatives to RVCF conferences, where they can collaborate with retailers and peers, and benefit from educational sessions.  By doing so, suppliers will improve relations with retailers, reduce friction, and prevent unnecessary receivable dilution caused by deductions.

Suppliers have long complained about deductions that retailers assess for failing to comply with requirements for order fulfillment. These chargebacks can cost tens of thousands of dollars in diluted sales dollars. RVCF was created specifically to address this problem. By meeting your top retail customers all in one place, you will save time, money and resources that would otherwise be spent traveling around the country for individual visits.

One final thought… how valuable would be to have a working, personal relationship with each trading partner? How valuable would it be to have a peer who you could call upon as a resource of ideas and solutions when potentially costly situations arise? Wouldn’t you prefer to be able to pick up the phone and call someone you trust instead of exchanging dozens of emails with a faceless name from a list of contacts?

RVCF conference attendees have these relationships. At the very least, they create a foundation for building such relationships. Ask any retail industry stakeholder to identify the key to solving problems in a way that benefits everyone, and they’ll put better, more frequent communication at the top of the list.

I encourage all retailers and suppliers to start planning for the RVCF 2019 Spring Conference, May 5-19, 2019, just minutes from Manhattan at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe in Teaneck, NJ. These are challenging times in retail, but there are also tremendous opportunities. Get involved, and join us in doing the necessary work to position the industry for a successful, profitable future. 

 

Tags:  RVCF Fall Conference 2018 

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Supply Chain: Cost Center or Sales Enabler?

Posted By RCVF Admin, Wednesday, October 24, 2018

 

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Supply Chain: Cost Center or Sales Enabler?
By Richard Wilhjelm, VP, Sales & Marketing, Traverse Systems
 

As I work with many senior supply chain executives, a common question I hear is: how can we be viewed more as sales enabler and less as a cost center?

The question isn’t surprising given the current economic environment. While as a whole the economy is performing extraordinarily well, there are underlying challenges the industry faces including intense competition, rising inflation, labor shortages, and soaring transportation costs due to capacity constraints and fuel increases. Add to that pile the uncertainty surrounding tariffs and it’s easy to see why senior financial executives remain cautious about future profit forecasts.

In this ever-dynamic industry, what’s the role that supply chain plays and how do we shift the conversation from cost center to sales enabler?

The Past

I think it’s safe to say that in the past supply chain’s role was to get the product from point A to point B as quickly and – more importantly – as economically as possible. Most retail organizations – particularly merchant organizations – believed that “if you buy it, they will come.” With money being cheap, the path to profitability was simply a factor of opening as many stores as possible, stocking them with as much inventory as you could, and letting top line growth lead the way.

Meanwhile, wholesale distribution organizations were rallying to a similar cry: “if you stock it, they will come.” The idea was that you beat the competition by stocking more lines than they did, as all customers seemed to care about was price and service levels.

For both retailers and wholesale distributors, supply chain’s marching orders were similar: get it there quick and get in there cheap.   You were measured by cost as a percent of sales. Supply chains were architected around how senior executives were incentivized, resulting in long, slow, and typically unresponsive supply chains.

Now

So how did we get to where we are now? We’re seeing record store closings while digitally native vertical brands are popping up all over the place and experiencing unprecedented growth. Does that mean retail as we know it is dying? Far from it. As astutely conveyed in a recent webinar conducted by IHL Group, retail has actually grown at a rate of 4.5% in 2017 and through July of 2018, has increased 5.5%. This is a far from the “retail apocalypse,” as noted by the IHL Group in “Retail’s Radical Transformation/Real Opportunities“.

In the wholesale distribution space, we are witnessing organizations configuring their operations to offer more retail-like fulfillment capabilities to their customers. Apparel brands are bypassing retailers altogether by opening their own stores and by selling directly to consumers on exchanges like Amazon and Walmart. Retail isn’t going away; in my opinion, it’s fragmenting as the traditional lines of retail are being blurred by other providers.

So, what has changed and how did we get here? While there are a multitude of explanations from technology to competition to the well-publicized Amazon effect, at the end of the day I think it comes down to the fact that consumers’ expectations and consumer behavior has changed.

The Future

Today’s fast fashion is a perfect example of changing consumer behavior and demand. The typical fast fashion retailer’s products are relatively inexpensive and they change their assortment frequently.

With lower price points, the consumer, typically a younger demographic, can change their style frequently and not break the bank. The impact to supply chain, however, is dramatic. In the fast fashion example, the typical lead time from idea to shelf went from 6+ months down to 3 weeks as noted by IHL Group.

Fast fashion isn’t alone as all supply chains are seeing pressure to compress lead times. The days of the long, slow, low cost supply chains are no longer sustainable for most industries. At one end of the supply chain, you have consumers demanding products cheaper and faster than ever before across multiple platforms. At the other end, lower price points combined with rising transportation costs and the end of cheap money are leading to the potential erosion of profits. I believe therein lies the opportunity for supply chain.

The Opportunity

With the days of the long, slow, cheap supply chains coming to an end, supply chain professionals are suddenly thrust into the spotlight to perform what seems – on appearance alone – to be impossible. They must not only improve service levels while reducing costs but also contribute to top line revenue growth through in-store and in-stock availability. Gone are the days when procurement and merchant organizations alone competed for market share. Nowadays, supply chain organizations are also sales enablers in a fierce battle for consumers’ hearts and wallets.

They are fighting the fight by ensuring stock is on-time and complete. And while there are countless tools to improve visibility, execution and inventory integrity, at the end of the day it will be incumbent upon the supply chain professional to traverse across these various systems to produce the winning combination of speed, low cost and higher margins. And now I insert the requisite cliché, “within every challenge lies opportunity.”

Side Note

As I wrote this article, Gartner just announced its top 25 Supply Chain Graduate programs. It doesn’t seem that long ago there weren’t 25 supply chain undergraduate programs, period, much less 25 graduate programs. I believe human capital, along with technology will be a big part of the equation moving forward.

 

Tags:  Supply Chain 

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A.I. Doesn't Always Mean the End of the World

Posted By RCVF Admin, Sunday, October 21, 2018

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A.I. Doesn't Always Mean the End of the World
By Kirk White, Yusen Logistics

Continuing our Supply Chain Futurist series but segueing off our Blockchain exploration to visit with another component of the coming revolution:  A.I.  Sometimes referred to as “artificial intelligence” and sometimes called “augmented intelligence”, A.I. is most commonly referred to as…OH NO SKYNET IS SELF AWARE AND THE TERMINATORS ARE COMING AND THEY WON’T STOP UNTIL WE ARE ALL IN THE MATRIX…simmer down.  It’s easy to get lost in the pure dystopian speculative fiction of it and it certainly doesn’t help that every single sci-fi book or movie that concerns A.I. (Haley Joel Osmet notwithstanding) usually ends up with some rag tag band of freedom fighters using homemade rockets to go…fight…win, and it is certainly of concern that our best Jeopardy and Chess minds have already fallen to our PC Overlords…but before we all hide in the desert, let’s remember that, presently, computers aren’t even able to recognize squiggly letters or discern which of these ten pictures contains an image of a car; so let’s not call John Connor just yet, okay?;

A.I., in its simplest form, is computer learning—An application with the ability to analyze anomalies and errors in performance and adjust for the next time around.  Imagine a young boy. He is learning to speak but has trouble with a few words.  He wants the tennis ball can interactive portal to the ether named after an ancient Greek library to play his favorite song, “raining tacos” (do NOT look this up…you will never get it out of your head). So he goes to the tennis ball can and says, “playsrainntacos” and the tennis ball can says “sorry I don’t understand” and he says again “playsrainntacos” and again the can says “sorry, I don’t understand” and so the boy’s father steps in and says “Play it’s raining tacos” and the can complies.  “Raining Tacos” fills the air.  And this cycle goes on a few times, because “raining tacos” is quite catchy.  And then suddenly, the boy says “playsrainningtacos” and the can says “Playing Raining Tacos” and the airways once again are alive with shells, meat, lettuce and cheese cheese cheese.  This is A.I.  The program “learned” by making an error.  Every time the request was misheard, and the adult voice provided the clearer correction, the application inside the tennis ball can took that information and made a new connection. “playsrainnintacos” = “play it’s raining tacos” and, just like a human brain (albeit way way way less complex) a new path was formed. 

Learning. 

Not so much.

Adapting based on anomaly is more like it.

But then again, isn’t that what learning IS?

There are three stages of A.I. and we are in the very early chapter in the very first book.  It breaks down like this:

Stage ONE:  ANI—Artificial NARROW intelligence.  We can train a computer to be an expert at ONE thing; better, faster, stronger at ONE thing.  Chess computers. Poker computers.  That random time some program wrote that Harry Potter Book.  Analyzing a bunch of data and identifying patterns and adjusting their programs to accommodate without the need of external assistance. This is what’s happening in our tennis ball can example above.  So yes…we have this NOW. This is the level of A.I. currently available in our world and it’s taken the entire history of computers to get to this point.

And we are working (but haven’t gotten there yet) towards:

Stage TWO: AGI—Artificial GENERAL Intelligence.  This is where it gets a weeeeee scary. This is human level intelligence.  And before you say, “well I’d say my phone is already smarter than Uncle Jerry”, it’s not. Because we’re not talking about math or memory skills here. We’re talking processing of data in CONTEXT.   If you think a moment about the last time you interacted with a friend or coworker and just “knew” he/she was having a bad day. Or maybe the last time your spouse or significant other was mad at you; how did you know?  Perhaps you picked up on a facial expression, a furrowed brow, a grimace, certain downward glance that elicited a “what’s wrong”.  You analyzed and processed based on physical indicators that a computer couldn’t even begin to process.  Computer would say “that’s a face”.Again, computers can’t even click a box that says “prove you’re not a robot”.  But it’s coming…that is the next level of A.I.  A computer with the ability to process based on random data sources and “intuit” based on non-logical indicators.  And then we will have true Artificial Intelligence. You can even make a new friend…until…

Stage THREE:  ASI—Artificial SUPER Intelligence. This is Skynet. This is when computers will surpass human processing and enter into the realm of…actually, that’s the scary part…no one really knows what that will be like.  Or what the programs will be like.

And here’s the final boil to your noodle. Many believe that, even though it’s taken DECADES to get from the first computer programs to ANI,  once AGI is achieved, ASI will happen like 20 minutes later. Because…computer stuff.

And then maybe the Matrix.

But for NOW… the world is beginning to see some serious plus-sides to ANI, especially in the world of supply chain. The immediate benefits are in the realm of analysis. The sheer speed at which data can be collected, examined and broken into patterns is astonishing.  Imagine a report that can predict potential disruptions in your product flow AS you’re uploading the P.O.  Oh, this shipment may be delayed because there is a 98% of a tropical storm happening the month it is supposed to ship based on 100 years of weather reports and there may be issues at the port because historically when these certain conditions happen, a month later there are labor disputes and oh,  the history of every order from this particular vendor tells us that October is their highest month of employee turnover—so may we suggest changing factories or marking this as a hot shipment?  And this is instant?  And it’s more than likely on the horizon.

Other benefits include “teaching” the supply chain. An SOP could be uploaded into the system and used to build automatic logic-based variances to conditions (+/- 5% quantity is okay to ship as long as it’s not #BR549) and communicated throughout the order process to pre-screen exceptions. 

The list is endless and many companies are already looking into this and it’s predicted that within one to two years, as many as half of all companies will be using some form of A.I. in their processes.

Next time, we’ll continue this journey into the future.  Any topics you’d like to see covered, please leave in the comments.

Until then, follow the white rabbit, Neo…

Author’s bio:

Kirk White is a corporate creative and a supply chain futurist. He has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen’s Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

 

Tags:  AI  Artificial Intelligence  Supply Chain  Supply Chain Systems 

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The GTIN Rules Are Changing!

Posted By RCVF Admin, Sunday, October 21, 2018

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The GTIN Rules Are Changing!

As you may have heard, the GS1 System of Standards will no longer support GTIN reuse in any industry, effective December 31, 2018.

The standard for GTIN Reuse will be changed in December 2018: a GTIN allocated to a trade item SHALL NOT be reallocated to another trade item. The only exceptions include:

  • If a GTIN has been assigned to an item, which was then never actually produced, the GTIN may be deleted from any catalogue immediately without first being marked as discontinued. In this exception use case, the GTIN may be reused 12 months after deletion from the seller’s catalogue.

  • Trade items that have been withdrawn from the market and are reintroduced may use their original GTIN, if they are reintroduced without any modifications or changes that require a new GTIN, as specified by the GTIN Management Standard.

To learn more about the change in the Standard, view an on-demand webinar regarding the topic, and have access to FAQ’s, please visit https://www.gs1us.org/what-we-do/standards/gtin-no-reuse

 

Tags:  GS1  GTIN  Standards 

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Sears Holding Corporation Transformation Case Study

Posted By RCVF Admin, Saturday, August 4, 2018
Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2018

 

Sears Holding Corporation Transformation Case Study
By Peyman Zamani, Logicbroker

Challenges

Sears Holding Corporation (SHC), the parent company to Sears, Kmart and the Shop Your Way Loyalty Program, is a leading integrated retailer focused on seamlessly connecting the digital and physical shopping experiences to serve their members - wherever, whenever and however they want to shop.

Over the past several years, SHC has undergone massive transformation and was looking for new ways to engage with their members and customers. Specific challenges included the high cost of doing business for drop ship vendors and themselves, the lack of integration flexibility, and the team at Sears realized they needed to look for something that was more flexible and adaptable.

During this review, Sears carefully evaluated the lengthy onboarding time their legacy provider was taking to onboard new vendors, how Sears would be measuring vendor performance management, and how to optimize the vendor base, allowing them to work with Sears in a simple manner to bring on more assortment and do a better job of offering a wider range of products to their customers.

“Utilizing Logicbroker allows us to offer our vendors a cost effective, technologically flexible approach to the drop ship business, addressing key issues for both SHC and our vendor community. Their experience in this space and dedication of the account team is allowing for a rapid migration with negligible business impact during the transition.” -Beth Ligenza, Sr. Director, Online Operations at Sears.

Results

In working together,  Logicbroker, Sears, Kmart and their vendors were able to migrate off of Sear’s legacy EDI platform and embrace new technology. Vendors enjoy the no-cost model Loicbroker offers them as well as the flexible integration options. Due to fantastic support, both from the SHC and Logicbroker teams, all vendors were quickly migrated and up and running within a few months. This efficiency was unparalleled to the legacy provider, and much less complex than SHC having to build a new solution in house. By leveraging Logicbroker’s prebuilt connections, a seemigly painful process was made much less complex and a successful EDI migration happened in a mere 60 days. 

Solution

Logicbroker is helping to guide SHC through this transition. It has been at least 15 years since the Sears team has made any changes to their drop ship business model. Logicbroker’s ability to apply learnings from other integrations provides Sears with recommendations based on the changes in industry technology that have been key in their ability to make this a simple transition.

For Sears, one of the biggest benefits from the Logicbroker partnership, and what will help drive business, is the no-cost model to their vendors. Vendors do not need to have a separate contract or pay fees directly to Logicbroker, as all transactions are done through Sears. Logicbroker facilitates the connections and provides ongoing support for vendors.

The Logicbroker team has helped existing Sears and Kmart vendors migrate off of the legacy drop ship platform and maps them to a variety of communication standards including XML, EDI, and API based connections. In addition, Logicbroker will facilitate onboarding all new vendors that elect to do business with Sears and/or Kmart.

 

About Logicbroker

Logicbroker provides EDI & drop ship technology that unites brands, retailers, and the systems they rely on. With Logicbroker, leading retailers, including Sears, Kroger, Rite Aid, Zebit, and HiTouch can harness the latest in cloud and supply chain automation technology with unrivaled speed and integration flexibility. Our proven platform eliminates the complexity of running a successful drop ship program.

Our customers enjoy a high level of supply chain data automation, including inventory, orders, acknowledgments, shipments/advanced shipment notices (ASNs) and invoices while creating stronger partnerships with suppliers by lifting rigid technology demands. Logicbroker offers a variety of options to ensure fast supplier onboarding, including EDI, XML, CSV, JSON, and the Logicbroker vendor portal. We do not charge any additional fees for AS2, SFTP, or our API communication.

For more information, visit www.logicbroker.com or call 203.929.7633

Tags:  Drop Ship  EDI  Kmart  Sears  Transformation 

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UNDERSTANDING BLOCKCHAIN PART 1: Blockchain is neither a Block nor a Chain

Posted By RCVF Admin, Saturday, August 4, 2018

 

UNDERSTANDING BLOCKCHAIN PART 1: Blockchain is neither a Block nor a Chain…discuss
By Kirk White, Yusen Logistics

There’s been much buzz about the nascent technological buzz-wonder known as Blockchain.  To hear folks talk, it’s either the salvation of humankind OR the seeds of our destruction. It’s going to revolutionize the way we secure and transfer data by being completely HACKPROOF which is something we desperately need in today’s modern society where it seems like each new day brings a fresh disaster of somebody clicking the wrong link and suddenly the entire corporate machine is quarantined…a big metaphorical bug tent covering the entire operation for the foreseeable future…OR it’s going to insidiously infiltrate our daily lives with malicious dark web Day of the Triffid-esque whip stingers (look it up) that will poison us all and steal our kids’ college funds and birthday card money.  It’s either the safest thing ever OR the most dangerous thing ever.

So what gives?

As a certain 90’s comedian might say:  “what is the deal…with Blockchain?” (you did the voice in your head, didn’t you?)

We can start by simply answering: What IS Blockchain?  And before we do that, let’s answer what is NOT Blockchain because a lot of the skepticism and fear surrounding the concept stems from a common misconception that can be dismissed now:

BLOCKCHAIN IS NOT BITCOIN

Cryptocurrency is complex enough to deserve its own article (let me know if you want this article in the comments below) and, like Blockchain, it’s maliciousness or benevolence largely hinges on your own personal experience with the mania.  You may see it as a ponzi scheme bubble that is going to leave a bunch of people high and dry or you may see it as a safe anonymous way to pay for things without a centralized banking platform and the requisite fees therein or you may have used it to buy a Sherman Tank on the deep web and in that case, nothing to see here, folks…

However you feel about it, Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin and the rest) is an application.  Blockchain is the system upon which the application runs.  So, we can debate the integrity of Bitcoin until the digital cows come home but let us not throw the digital baby out with the proverbial digital bathwater.

Blockchain has much potential value beyond anonymous untraceable asset exchange.

We’re not there yet.  That must be said.  Everything we are talking about in this series is FUTURE WORLD stuff.  Even though there is much buzz about the concept of using Blockchain for supply chain applications, a real practical implementation is nowhere near ready.  But make no mistake, it IS in the pipeline and somebody is going (to get super rich when they) crack it.

SO WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN?

The twenty-five cent answer to a five dollar question is this:  Blockchain is an immutable universal shared common ledger for business transactions involving asset exchange built upon a peer to peer network…okay that was not really a twenty-five cent answer but do an internet search of “what is blockchain”, that is pretty much in line with the responses you’ll find, right above “Snake-Oil”.  And once again, there is the rub:  as it’s new and for the most part, people are reticent towards change, there is theoretical pushback as strong as the potential. And this article is NOT a sales pitch. The verdict has not been rendered as to Blockchain.  But, again, people are working on it, not just as a means of potential improvements in data efficiency and validity, but also as a bona fide revenue generating value added service…but this is cart before horse.

So what IS Blockchain? Well, since you were so patient:

Blockchain is a big spreadsheet.

Blockchain is a big MAGIC spreadsheet.

Blockchain is a big public MAGIC spreadsheet.

Blockchain is a big safe public MAGIC spreadsheet.

 And we could get more complicated (ie. Computer stuff) but that is Blockchain in a nutshell.

Think about your job; your paycheck.  Let’s assume, for the sake of universality, that you work for a company, use some form of time card (either electronic or punch version) and are paid a weekly or bi-weekly check (either direct deposit or physical) by a payroll company and not by your boss whipping out her checkbook and writing a personal check (but even if that is your case, this will still work).

So, for a moment, think about the components involved in your getting paid.  First, you have to do the work, ‘natch.  But beyond that, you have a timesheet (DATA) that is stored on your company’s platform (LEDGER1) you enter your time into or have it entered automatically if you are salaried.  At the end of the pay period, this data is sent to a payroll company and used to process payment (LEDGER2) and that payment information (DATA) is sent to a bank (LEDGER3) to have funds distributed. The bank sends funds (TECHNICALLY STILL DATA) electronically to the state (LEDGER4) and federal (LEDGER5) governments to satisfy withhold requirements and then the rest is sent to your bank (LEDGER6) and then you may or may not take that deposit info and enter it into your personal budgeting software (LEDGER7) or even hand write into an actual ledger (ALSO LEDGER7).   So, the simple act of your getting paid for doing your job actually involves five to seven completely separate data repositories.  

Let that sink in.  five to seven SEPARATE spreadsheets that hold basically same info for your labor to wage ratio that work to get you paid, and isn’t it great that there has never any time where something goes wrong and one of those databases ended up with the wrong information?  Isn’t it wonderful that, in the history of the known world, NEVER has the wrong amount been transferred? 

Sarcasm aside, five to seven separate databases, means five to seven opportunities for something to go wrong. Data can get corrupted. There are viruses, phishing, system glitches, upgrades that cause delays and let us not forget, good ol’ fashioned fraud.

But what if there was only ONE DATABASE.  A central repository for all the users:  your labor (you), your pay rate (your company), your taxes and withholding (the government), your bank account number for deposit (your bank), and everything goes into this ONE DATABASE, a “big magic spreadsheet”, if you will and each person is, through business logic and crypto keys (computer stuff), only allowed to interact with their specific applicable data. For example, YOU could see all data, but your company can only transmit your pay rate and withhold info and would have no access to your deposit information or bank balances.  The payroll company can only transfer into your bank, but couldn’t see your balance.

And instead of five to seven separate repositories of that data, there is ONE common ledger and the ONE common ledger is not centrally located in a building somewhere where someone could hack the data. It’s, through MAGIC (okay, more computer stuff), broken into components (think Mike TeeVee in Willy Wonka) and distributed across multiple peer servers in encrypted data BLOCKS and each block is linked (CHAINED) to the next with a specific key that replicates as new BLOCKS are CHAINED and so on and so forth and it’s impossible to hack because even if you could grab the data from one block, it’s not complete and without the entire chain code, the information is unrecognizable.  (It gets more complex and, if you are interested, please leave a comment below and we can co a full unit on the HOW BLOCK CHAIN WORKS technical specs.)

This is how blockchain works, or COULD work; remember this is all in development at this point. But hopefully you can see the potential. Lots of other people can and do.

Next time, we will delve into the practical (potential) supply chain applications of blockchain, including vendor compliance and regulatory uses.  The pharmaceutical industry is already working on this in earnest. 

Until then, if you would like to know more technical aspects of the blockchain process (HOW the blockchain connects and all the “computer stuff” bells and whistles), please leave a comment below and I’ll address in a future article.

Author’s bio:

Kirk White is a corporate creative and a supply chain futurist. He has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen’s Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.

 

Tags:  Applications  Blockchain  Future  Ledger  Payment  Systems  Technologies  Technology  Transactions 

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New Members Spotlight: Colosseum Athletics

Posted By RCVF Admin, Saturday, August 4, 2018
Updated: Saturday, August 4, 2018


New Members Spotlight
Established in 1992, Colosseum Athletics is a privately owned collegiate apparel manufacturer holding over 400 licensing agreements with colleges and universities across the nation. Ranked as the 4th largest collegiate apparel company in the US, Colosseum Athletics has become a name brand and industry leader.

 
DSV provides warehousing, fulfillment and distribution services in key geographies around the US.  The company focuses on operating inbound logistics for brands that ship into North America’s largest retail supply chains.  Our key competencies include B2B shipping/replenishment in addition to direct to consumer e-Commerce solutions.  Our consumer goods sector focus includes toys, outdoor and home goods, apparel, footwear, appliances, automotive parts and other product categories. We have 8 multi-client “campus” locations in key distribution points within North America. Our broad portfolio of services includes numerous value added processes specifically designed for our customers who ship their products to retailers. 

DSV operates over 400 warehouses globally in approximately 54 million square feet across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South Africa. DSV is capable of integrating both international and domestic transportation services with our other logistics services to enable a seamless global supply chain.

 

 

Tags:  Colosseum Athletics  DSV  New Members Spotlight 

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