As we head into peak season, the first quarter may seem like it’s a long time away, but from a planning and preparation standpoint, it’s right around the corner. If you want to deploy meaningful improvements to your inbound supply chain and have them in place by the time shipping picks up after Lunar New Year, you only have 20 non-holiday working weeks from September 1.
That means now’s the time to get moving.
Your team is likely focused on planning, prep, and execution across all nodes of your supply chain. A big piece of that focus relies heavily on your company's data and how it's integrated. Implementing new data integrations can greatly reduce your company’s lead times when and where you need it most. However, many companies are hesitant to start an integration project this time of year out of fear that new implementations will be too time-consuming and negatively impact their peak season performance.
The integration process doesn’t have to be a taxing one. Here are 4 things you need to know to start making your data work for you instead of you working for your data:
Focus On Achievable Goals
Given the chaos in the global supply chain, pick simple and achievable goals for next year. Instead of rebuilding your systems and processes from scratch, find focused areas to work on like container visibility, PO distribution, or automating your customs processes.
These narrower projects involve fewer stakeholders and can get moving while most of the company is caught up in peak season.
Within these initiatives, you can set your operations up for success by:
- Connecting existing software programs in your internal systems
- Connecting your internal systems to other SaaS platforms
- Connecting to your customer’s legacy systems to eliminate that emailed spreadsheet.
Once you’ve identified your specific goals, put a plan in place to achieve them. Partner with an integration specialist like Chain.io that works with your internal teams to ensure a seamless and efficient implementation.
Start Where You Are
Wish lists are fun, but real success starts by understanding where your supply chain operations are today. If you’re emailing spreadsheets and have no IT support, jumping right into the world’s most automated TMS is a recipe for failure.
Take careful stock of your internal realities and constraints. Understand what you want in “a perfect world,” and then draw up a roadmap so you can identify the next logical step.
For example, if you have absolutely no automation in place and are calling your forwarder on a daily basis, getting them to set you up with access to their web portal is a massive win that you can accomplish quickly.
If you are using multiple forwarders or customs brokers, having them all feed their data through a single network like Chain.io can get you a single stream of visibility data so you’re not managing multiple reports in different formats every day.
A Chain.io solutions consultant can help you take stock of your entire supply chain data landscape and create a Digital Nervous System roadmap to help organize and rationalize your projects. This will make sure that you get quick wins and also are moving in a long term strategic direction.
Meet Your Partners Where They Are
After you understand your own Digital Nervous System, make sure you also understand your trading partners’ capabilities and limitations. Approaching a large global freight forwarder or carrier and asking them to map to your team’s new API will put you at the bottom of a very long project list. Similarly, asking a local provider on a home grown system to match your latest generation TMS could result in a huge technical lift for both teams.
Instead, use a supply chain specific integration network to bridge the gap between your needs and your providers’ capabilities. Don’t ask that large forwarder to map to your new format, leverage a pre-built Chain.io connector to eliminate the mapping mismatch. For the small provider, use an email input to take their off-the-shelf report and convert it into the file format that your team needs.
Don’t Forget Your ROI
Improvements cost money, and in today’s inflated freight markets, you have a great opportunity to find some wins for your CFO that wouldn’t have been possible 2 or 3 years ago. Take a careful look at your freight spend, chargebacks, and lost customer goodwill. You may find that the project that you couldn’t justify at $1,500 per container is a no-brainer at $10,000. If your on-time, in-full delivery rates are dropping with the major retailers, your whole business may be at risk. Showing an opportunity to manage your supply chain better, could save your space on next year’s shelves.
Digitization, if done strategically, can propel your business forward and “future-proof” your operations. Ensure a successful integration implementation and give your peak season prep a life with a partner like Chain.io that meets you where you are, manages every step of the process, and works closely with your internal teams. Contact us today to get started.Book a Meeting