The fourth installment in our MH&L Roundtable Series focuses on Channel Changes--the how's and the who's of data sharing, and dealing with logistics service providers.
ANDEL: Ann, how do you manage differences in scale between clients?
CHRISTOPHER: If you have a customer who understands logistics, you are going to be one up. It's challenging to find good logisticians who understand this industry and can talk the talk.
ANDEL: What about on your side, is it harder to find talent to join the 3PL world?
CHRISTOPHER: I think supply chain really has come into its own, at least from when I started in the industry, and you are seeing a lot more professional people coming out of school. But that doesn't always translate to really understanding the day-to-day operations. I don't think we can discount the practicality of people on the floor. I have been in this industry for several years now but I am constantly learning from some of our GMs saying, "did you think about this? Did you think about that?" And you just can't replace that.
Listen as Ann Christopher addresses the need for and the challenges of dealing with temp labor in the warehouse.
TOMPKINS: It's the same in industry. Someone trying to run omnichannel is sitting in the same seat the 3PLs have been in, saying, "the way we do planning, merchandising, ordering, transportation, warehousing and delivery here is not consistent with what we do in store ops." We are finishing up a several million-dollar project to get the distribution systems to talk to the fulfillment systems to talk to the store systems, and it should be easy. It is close to impossible.
HILL: Many companies have difficulty with big data, trying to analyze what is really happening with a family of almost a million SKUs going to disparate delivery points at different times of the year, and they spend quite a bit of money analyzing that data. But nobody can forecast yet. I mean, they are getting better, but they recognize that they can't forecast down to the fifth decimal point. I am hearing a lot more about demand sensing and people spending time and money trying to develop tools that will take the data out of demand sensing devices and do a better job of predictive analytics.
MILLER: I kind of laugh a little thinking about omnichannel. It is obviously much broader than, say, 15 years ago, but we can go back 15 years and find companies that were distributing pharmaceuticals, animal health, consumer products, all out of one DC, multiple divisions. These companies were leveraging their collective supply chain assets and capabilities then. In some sense, omnichannel today is no different; it is an attempt to effectively utilize all of a firm's supply chain assets to serve the customer. And today's enhanced data and supply chain network visibility enable this process.
This increased visibility also creates additional challenges. For example, 15 years ago a concern would have been, are the warehouses of P&G and Walmart data synchronized so they can ship effectively? Now, data synchronicity is more important than ever, but you are not talking about one lane or one set of locations or echelons; you are talking about a much more expansive supply chain.
Ann Christopher discusses the importance of 3PL Relationships