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The customer is always right

A new study by Intermec on mobile technologies in logistics has a lesson for those of us inside the DC
July 17, 2013

The customer is always right. We’ve all heard that saying hundreds if not thousands of times. When it comes to order fulfillment, it turns out, the saying is true.

That’s one of the takeaways from a survey of 375 companies representing 6 key countries released this week by Intermec. The surveyed looked at the potential savings from the deployment of mobile technologies across the supply chain and to what extent companies had re-engineered their processes to reap those benefits. You can read the key findings on Modern’s website. 

This particular survey focused on activities outside the four walls of the factory and distribution center. Intermec wanted to get a picture of how companies were using mobile technologies in their transportation and logistics, field service and direct-to-store delivery processes. What the survey discovered is that while many companies have deployed these technologies, far fewer have re-engineered their processes to take full advantage of their use. Location awareness technologies – what you and I would think of as GPS – is an example of one of the areas explored in the survey. “About 90% of the respondents said they were using GPS or some other location awareness technology,” says Jeff Sibio, industry director for transportation and logistics. “But, when we dug deeper, we found they don’t recognize the value beyond track and trace or navigation. For instance, they’re not using the technology to proactively let a customer know that based on their location, they’ll arrive at the facility in half an hour so that they customer can get ready to receive the delivery.”

What I was most struck by, however, is a comment from Sibio that relates to what we do inside the four walls of the DC and plant. “There has been a shift in power,” he says. “So much of the supply chain has shifted to e-commerce that the end customer is controlling order fulfillment processes and not the retailer.”

Sibio points out that five day shipping is now two day shipping with an increase on one day and same day shipments. “You have to ask if the technologies you’re using are up to speed to handle those rapid turnaround times,” he says. “The result of our survey was that companies that have done their homework and implemented technologies to work at the speed of business today are excelling.”

The corollary is that companies that aren’t willing to take a hard look at their processes are lagging behind. Because the customer is always right.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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