What’s the biggest challenge retailers are facing in the supply chain right now?

Tell us about you and your role at Advanced Supply Chain Group

I work closely with our executive and senior leadership teams to ensure we’re meeting and exceeding the expectations of our customers and employees. We move over 250 million products around the world each year for some of the country’s largest retailers and brands. This involves a team of more than 1,300 people working across multiple sites internationally, as well as many different moving parts and variables. My role is focused on making sure our leadership decisions and plans help everything to run like clockwork so that we’re constantly achieving satisfaction, whether that’s amongst the customers relying on our services, or amongst our team who work to keep products moving on time and budget.

What’s the biggest challenge retailers are facing in the supply chain right now?

We recently surveyed 100 retailers across the UK and found that supply chain efficiencies rank highly as a challenge, or an opportunity, depending on which way you look at it. 40% of retailers are reviewing supply chain operations to reduce costs, and to help protect margins from being squeezed by the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis.

Finding efficiencies can be a real challenge, as it requires granular detail about every element of stock inventory management. Sometimes, because of outdated or not-fit-for-purpose supply chain software, this data isn’t always readily available, up to date, or accurate. However, seeking efficiencies can also prove an opportunity as it encourages retailers to question just how data-driven their supply chains are and just how much visibility they have from the point of product sourcing right through to the point of sale. Interrogation of data often ends up being a first step towards eliminating hidden problems that can lead to improved performance and profitability.

Can retail’s supply chain be sustainable? If so, how?

I believe that supply chain sustainability starts with optimisation. We work closely with retailers on continuous improvement to minimise errors and waste. Although this helps avoid margin dilution, it is by its very nature a more sustainable approach.

How can technology help boost supply chain sustainability?

Software and data can be used to inform smarter route planning. This can minimise supply chain mileage and optimise transportation capacity to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Bespoke software can also support retailers in improving the sustainability of customer returns. The salvaging of returned products can be increased through better coordinated and organised returns channels, which increases selling opportunities and lowers the disposal of products.

Supply chain costs have jumped over the past two years. Will these come down or is this the new normal?

Whilst we’ve started to see record shipping costs drop and return to pre-pandemic levels, there are numerous other global factors impacting just how much it costs to source and move goods. Volatility and uncertainty are likely to continue to impact supply chains shortly, and retailers must prioritise flexibility and agility. Data-driven modelling, scenario planning, and forecasting will help with this.

What is going to be the biggest trend in the retail supply chain in 2023?

I think one of the biggest trends will be outsourced warehousing. Big sheds are a big expense for retailers and brands, whether rented or owned. Warehouses weigh heavily on balance sheets and outsourcing to utilise shared, third-party space can deliver immediate and significant savings, without negatively affecting stock inventory and supply chain management. It’s because of this that ASCG research found that warehousing ranks as the top priority for retailers looking to reduce costs to protect margins in 2023.

5 minutes with Claire Webb, Managing Director, Advanced Supply Chain Group. – Retail Gazette

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