Peak periods can be stressful for retailers but it shouldn’t be that way. This article explores why supply chain visibility software and cloud technology are a winning combination to help the retail industry cope with the busiest times of the year.

Planning for peaks in demand can be stressful for retailers; analysts will be making predictions, HR will be looking at hiring temporary workers and IT managers will be looking at the technology and systems in place to ensure the business is as prepared as it can be. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s not as cost effective or efficient as the combination of using agile supply chain visibility software with the advanced cloud technology.

Voice picking solutions: a must to managing peaks

It is however, important that retailers do not focus the majority of their attention on just the busiest times. Upon reviewing processes that are in operation throughout the year, the entire supply chain should be agile enough to automatically react to increased demand efficiently regardless of whether it is going through a peak in demand or not. When attempts are made to simply rebuild solutions, specifically around potential peaks, retailers risk things going wrong as they’re not necessarily likely to get the same consumer response year to year, and can’t guarantee their systems will cope.

Flexibility and enhanced visibility

Together, cloud technology and end to end supply chain visibility have the power to revolutionise retail solutions. As a result of its wider adoption, it has been made easier for retailers to flex appropriate capacity and capability in the warehouse, on the road or in the store.

Not being so heavily reliant on the use of a particular device, or number of devices allows retailers to introduce a mix of solutions as and when needed. However, this can only be achieved if the right systems are put in place to allow complete flexibility and visibility throughout the entire supply-chain. For example, a key trend that is emerging within supply chain operations, from the warehouse right through to the shop floor, is the rental of handheld devices. These can be brought in at very short notice and if a retailer has invested in a cloud based solution it will be able to scale up with extra devices and have these added to an existing system almost instantaneously. If they were to overhaul or implement an entire Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to absorb important peaks this would introduce long term fixed assets, which would not only be costly but could take long periods of time to install.

Retailers ready for seasonal peaks with supply chain solutions

When it comes to planning for peak, agility is key. Retailers need to have the flexibility to react not just to peak times but also to the quieter periods throughout the year. Importantly, this can be done without a rip and replace approach to existing legacy systems or the need to permanently increase hardware capacity that may not be fully utilised throughout the rest of the year.

The way in which planning for peak has traditionally been done by retailers needn’t dictate how it can be done in the future. If retailers invest in scalable and agile systems that offer real time visibility of key events and extend the capabilities of their connected supply chain, they will be able to competently react to peaks as and when they arise.

By Sebastien Sliski, General Manager Supply Chain Solutions, Zetes.

Together, cloud technology and end-to-end supply chain visibility have the power to revolutionise retail solutions.

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