Inbound Logistics: What Is a Continuous Delivery Experience and How Has COVID-19 Increased Its Importance in the Supply Chain?
By Adam Compain, CEO, ClearMetal | May 27, 2020
As the country and global economy begin to recover, the question on everyone's minds, is “what will re-entry into the business world look like?” More specifically, how do companies fortify their supply chain, fulfillment functions and relationships with logistics providers to bring everyone back online smoothly? It’s difficult to imagine going back to business as usual, when so much has changed nearly overnight.
In 2020, customer expectations have outpaced the supply chain and COVID-19 only amplifies this fact. In a recent report by Salesforce Research, 51 percent of those surveyed say that most companies fall short of their expectations of a great experience. The issue is that in this fast-paced world, current supply chain solutions are too static – trying to capture a continually changing reality through point-in-time snapshots. Imagine if a consumer purchasing an item from Amazon could only track where their package was a week ago, or the customer only finds out after they placed their order that the product was out of stock. This is exactly the dilemma B2B supply chains are up against.
In a world where change is the only constant, the category of a Continuous Delivery Experience (CDX) uses a continuous methodology and machine learning technology to learn, adjust, and drive constant improvement in freight delivery and experience for corporate customers. CDX focuses on enabling companies to deliver their products on time and continuously improve upon their existing delivery processes—as well as giving customers an "Amazon-like" digital experience in the global freight transportation space.
As companies transition into the “new normal,” implementing a CDX solution is of the utmost importance, because not having enough ventilators for patients or Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers will be unacceptable the next go around. Below are four reasons why a Continuous Delivery Experience is critical for the future whether facing everyday challenges or unexpected ‘Black Swan’* events.
Once considered “back-office” operations, supply chains have become front and center and, in the B2B world, so is the customer experience. If you work in supply chain, it’s likely you have fielded myriad questions from your customers about where their materials and goods are and how they are impacted by COVID-19. And most importantly, how they can make the best decisions about how to ensure product delivery and a positive customer experience.
A good CDX solution offers a customer portal to provide a real-time and continuously updated view into the status of a shipment, so rather than having team members burn time investigating issues and responding to tracking requests, customers are able to self-serve (think of FedEx’s online tracker for consumers or a shared-access Google document). According to the Harvard Business Review, “transparent supply chains reduce operational risk and enhance the company’s standing as a trustworthy enterprise.” Supply chains that have accurate data at the fingertips allows its customers to remain agile and informed during uncertainty.
PLAN BETTER AND INCREASE ON-TIME DELIVERY
Bad weather used to be a supply chain’s number-one headache. Now with COVID-19 and potential future pandemic disruptions, customers need to know if their raw materials and products will arrive on schedule in order to determine how to plan and procure freight for a reliable delivery. The shipping industry is so affected when black swan events occur because most supply chains are static and not built to dynamically respond nor react quickly to these situations. Deloitte recently published a report citing COVID-19 as the event that will finally prompt supply chain leaders to ditch their traditional models and implement the necessary technology to modernize their supply chains.
A CDX planning application can help assess current and accurate lead times, the most reliable mode (“is there enough time to go by ocean?”), and the appropriate carriers/lanes by comparing routes to find the “best” journey. It can help answer questions like which trans-shipment ports should be avoided and which lanes have a high incidence of roll rate to help make the best freight procurement decision based on what’s right, right now. Transit-time APIs can also be used to pipe information back into a company’s TMS, ERP, or other systems, ensuring planners, logistics teams, and other organizations are all on the same page.
PROACTIVELY MANAGE CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
Without a CDX solution in place, companies have to rely on front-line customer service representatives and logistics teams who are working overtime to solve problems, while leaning on 3PLs and carriers to provide visibility into why a shipment hasn’t moved, the reasons behind a delay, and what to tell a customer.
A good CDX solution provides a visibility application with adjustable filters, views, and alerts so teams can have what they need right at their fingertips without having to sort through raw data. Filters such as delayed orders for a particular customer, delays in regions particularly impacted by COVID-19, and shipments an individual warehouse manager, salesperson, or customer service representative is managing, can help narrow down exactly what is important and pinpoint the issue. And the critical prerequisite for this is a continuously self-learning data platform that automatically cleans, makes sense of, and canonicalizes transportation data.
PROVIDE REPORTING AND INSIGHTS
Having access to actionable, AI-powered insights from a birds-eye view of the supply chain utilizing past and real-time data to analyze a situation and plan for the future is a top priority. Especially during times of uncertainty, having insights at your fingertips can help to better manage purchase orders, predict future inventory trends, and make smarter transport allocations. A Capgemini survey revealed that 83% of supply chain executives believe that lack of end-to-end visibility is a barrier to growth. A CDX solution can provide custom reports instead of spending hours and days digging up data manually to come up with answers.
One of many things the pandemic has taught us is this: Static data and static visibility are antiquated. Companies need to ensure their supply chains are equipped with a continuous methodology—where highly accurate and self-healing data, dynamic transportation planning engines, and real-time information is served to customers through a unified portal—all allowing for a true CDX. Organizations that move forward to digitize their supply chains with these continuous capabilities are the supply chains that will be able to adapt and thrive when the next crisis hits.
*A "black swan" is an unpredictable event beyond what is normally expected and brings potentially severe consequences.