Author: Rob Cheshire, VP Business Development
Delivering On Time, In Full (OTIF) Just Became Easier
We are all drowning in “digital” and there’s a mis-placed belief that anything digital (a.k.a. new) is better than its analog counterpart. But the trap many of us fall into is digitizing broken processes, instead of the heavier but worthwhile lift to first determine where and how digital can change your processes to then help improve them, dramatically in many cases. More than ever before, such possibilities include your supply chain and order management function.
It’s no joke that there are hundreds of moving parts in a global supply chain among the various eco-systems players – buyers, suppliers, 3PLs, customs, and other intermediaries, all with the ability to impact the end customer to some degree. While some of your internal business challenges can be shielded from your customers’ eyes, there are still far too many issues which they are likely to see and experience, often before you even realize something is wrong.
For example, one of those instances is an incorrect order, whether it be the wrong product, place or person… for whatever reason. Whether it’s a missed booking slot due to poor route planning (the number of possible routes in the global supply chain adds up to around 15 septillion, according to Goldman Sachs), a last-minute change in the delivery address, sending the wrong stock, or sending too little or too much of something… in all those cases, your customer will be on the phone in no time to let you know there’s a problem. Not only will you be trying to figure out where it went wrong and how to fix it, you will also be watching the cost-to-fix ramp up as your brand and customer satisfaction go down in lockstep.
Here are 3 reasons why digitising your order management process the right way can improve your OTIF and keep customers happy:
First, intelligent automation reduces the likelihood of errors occurring during the processing stage. Manual data entry is one of the biggest causes of delivery errors and getting a single digit wrong when it comes to order entry can result in significant stock ending up in the wrong place. One company we recently began to support accidentally shipped a large order via ocean freight instead of air, costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention customer loyalty. Most supply chain operators have “been there and done that” at one time or another. Intelligent automation actually keeps people in much needed oversight roles, while tracking and effectively learning through AI technology where and how to minimize entry errors over time, so that a batch of entries that once took 8 hours might only take 2-3, thus liberating your customer service staff to actually focus on the customer!
Second, intelligent automation stops the problem at the root. Suppliers and their customers both struggle with exceptions management, which characterizes more orders than anyone cares to admit. AI tools can help collect, normalize and match up data to proactively enhance your ability to see and deal with exceptions in near real time. This is a game changer away from the normal reactive fire-drills that plague many order fulfilment teams dealing with thousands of products and customers each day. Intelligent automation in exceptions management enables you to see where a problem has occurred and then inform you as how best to fix it. Do you need to book a new slot? Do you need validation to ensure the quantity is what both parties were expecting? Putting data-driven safety checks in place throughout the order management process allows you to stop problems before they escalate.
Third, automation through artificial intelligence helps to build real human trust and confidence between you and your customers. Nothing says, “we know what we are doing” more than delivering on time, in full, every time. Even small mistakes that reach customers can diminish their confidence and trust in your ability to deliver and in your product. As the Gartner Group states, “Poor customer service is almost a distraction to hide the even deeper issue of bad business practice.” Furthermore, this is not a problem down inside the business: 76% of executives see “faster order fulfilment times” as a lead customer demand in the future according to a recent Accenture report, and 89% of CEOs believe their businesses will compete “mostly on customer experience,” according to Gartner.
The 80/20 rule applies in order management, where 80% of resources go to 20% of the problems – manual processing, master data validation, disconnected processes, etc. Digitizing your order management process can be a means to future-proofing your business. The latest AI tools – from RPA to machine learning and cognitive computing – represent new technology that does not help us do the wrong things better; rather it can help us see the right things to do and then allow us to do them better, faster, and cheaper.