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  December 4th, 2017 | Written by

The Visible Supply Chain

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  • Learning to succeed on a global playing field is the most significant challenge for global organizations.
  • The globe is now retailers' selling floors and inventory is no longer limited to warehouses or shelves.
  • Global organizations must offer servicing specialized products for local customers.

Global trading is always in flux as ever-evolving trade policies make for a less predictable supply chain process. Learning to succeed on a global playing field is the most significant challenge for global organizations, particularly retailers. To trade and ship around the world, global organizations must contend with local legislative restrictions and tariffs, servicing specialized products for native customers and work with locally-based trading partners.

Retail brick-and-mortar stores have been challenged by a world where the globe is your selling floor and inventory is no longer limited to what you keep in the warehouse or on the shelves. Amazon, a company that has mastered the global supply chain, now finds itself more valuable than Wal-Mart despite only a third of its rival’s revenue earnings. The reason: Amazon has more than 300 plus million products available online while Wal-Mart only offers six million.

Still, mastering the global supply chain is rife with challenges. The potential challenges include bad data, price fluctuations in different countries and poor communication between buyers and sellers. A recent the University of Tennessee and Global Supply Chain Institute study concluded that businesses must solve an “information governance” problem. That problem is responsible for the cancellation of 60 percent of reported transactions per month because of data anomalies. As a result, the study said, properly navigating and governing the supply chain information flow is a critical priority.

Accept the New Supply Chain

Global organizations need to accept a new model to survive: one where there are essentially no limits to the products they offer, and few limits on where they can send items. Learning how to expand your product line intelligently boosts competition and business. Amazon, for example, has been aggressively pursuing vendors from India to its warehouses to serve bargain-hunters in North America.

At the same time, businesses with a global imprint need to master the challenges that a lack of borders creates: the need for compliance; varied shipping rules and correct fulfillment, packaging, and labeling to both domestic and foreign locations.

Better Visibility Needed for Global Business

If you handle global business, you must constantly monitor transactions, including shipping and trading data. Business is now conducted in real-time and global organizations need real-time supply chain visibility to identify problems and bottlenecks.

Supply chain dashboards can help businesses identify suppliers who can’t meet guidelines and fulfillment thresholds and provide insights into which products are in demand, in many cases by country or location, as well as view merchandise flow.

In an age of next or same-day shipping, shipment-tracking time is paramount. Supply chain managers must have complete visibility into what items have been shipped on time and what orders are still unfulfilled. Global supply chain visibility should enable supply chain and merchandising managers to identify trends based on order variances within a specified timeframe; continually update product information such as pictures, colors, sizes, weights and other specifications and support frequent synchronization of inventory with customers’ e-commerce platforms.

To enable global management of logistics and warehousing, electronic information must be shared securely with carriers, customs officials and freight companies including the capabilities to track items in warehouses, located in foreign sovereignties, and determine when supplies are low or overstocked.

Support Real-Time EDI Transactions

This is a critical step. To handle global business, visibility into the EDI (electronic data interchange) process is a must. An ERP (enterprise resource planner) adapter can help integrate transaction flows from your customers in your ERP system. Keeping a close eye on EDI also ensures you are correctly handling purchase order acknowledgments and invoice and advance shipment notices.

Package Logistics: Crucial for Global Trading

Ever receive a package from an exotic location that looks like it arrived via pony express? A lot can happen to a package that makes its way via drop shipment to a customer on the other side of the world. To support global trade, companies need to adapt processes, procedures, and relationships with vendors and be sure that their web services mesh with the major small parcel carriers in different locations, both foreign and domestic. The ability to monitor and adjust order flow is critical to the success of any e-commerce fulfillment process.

A compliance management system anticipates shipping problems using preemptive alerts when incomplete activities approach a violation threshold. These notifications help retailers keep customers happy by removing service-level issues before they become customer service complaints.

Thrive in a Changing Market

If you are a retailer, it is time to prepare for a world of limitless inventory–buying and selling products around the world–often shipping directly to a consumer’s home. The more companies use the tools available to them to solve recurring issues with e-commerce, the more they will be able to thrive regardless of borders or trade policies. Make sure you are taking the appropriate steps to not just compete but get ahead in this changing marketplace.

Peter Edlund is Senior Vice President of Global Product Marketing and a founding member of DiCentral, responsible for leading the company’s global marketing initiatives.