Supply chain management (SCM) has always been complex for big businesses. But a combination of rising customer expectations and increased online sales have taken that complexity to a whole new level.
Retail eCommerce sales have grown steadily over the past few years. The industry is set to reach $1 trillion by 2025, and the preference for online shopping clearly isn’t going anywhere. Add growing expectations for fast and free delivery on top of that, thanks to the massive influence of Amazon, and retailers have what can feel like a herculean challenge to overcome.
But there’s good news too. Businesses now have access to a growing range of SCM solutions that help manage network complexity. And as an added bonus, these tools provide meaningful insights to help you improve business operations.
5 Types of SCM Tools You Need To Consider
The logistics of SCM involve a lot of moving parts. It’s crucial to understand your key areas of improvement as you consider new technology partners, how well different supply chain management solutions integrate into your supply chain, and how different technologies may impact your teams.
Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry–there’s a way to break all this down. Here are five main categories of supply chain management solutions to understand:
1. Delivery Experience Management (DEM)
A Delivery Experience Management product gives you visibility into all your last mile shipments, aggregates that data into actionable business intelligence (BI) insights, and empowers you to take action to fix issues at scale. DEM enables you to better manage and track product deliveries, and provide more transparent communication to your customers. When you know where all your deliveries are and get real-time updates, you can step in faster to fix customer issues and delivery exceptions, or update the customer in advance. DEM helps SCM leaders deliver a better customer experience.
2. Transportation Management Systems (TMS)
Transportation Management Systems are an important tool for managing all the shipments your company makes. That applies both to shipments for internal purposes like moving inventory from one place to another and to the external shipments you make to customers. TMS products provide real-time shipment tracking, status updates, and analytics to help you improve route planning and overall shipment efficiency.
3. Multi-Carrier Parcel Management (MCPM)
To get every package out in the fastest time possible, you need the ability to identify the best carrier for the job every time. Most businesses with large-scale delivery needs require relationships with multiple carriers. That can increase the average speed of deliveries and reduce overall costs, but it means adding one more level of complexity to your SCM processes. MCPM products can help you keep up with delivery tracking across carriers, manage different contracts more efficiently, and organize any audits or claims you have with each.
4. Vehicle Routing and Scheduling (VRS)
A huge part of achieving efficient delivery is selecting the right route. And that’s far from a straightforward concern. You have to take into account weather and traffic patterns, typical road speeds, and how elements like traffic lights and left turns affect speed and fuel costs. VRS software is designed to help companies select the best routes to improve speed and save money.
5. Real-Time Visibility Solutions
Some of the tools described above are great for helping you analyze the SCM data you collect and improve your planning moving forward. But when it comes to improving delivery experience for an ongoing customer order, you need real-time data for real-time visibility. You can plan a route that’s perfectly optimized based on past data and hire the best carrier for the job, but surprise weather conditions or increased traffic you couldn’t anticipate change everything. Real-time visibility tools alert you to any unforeseen obstacles as they arise, so you can react right away.
It’s worth noting that there is some overlap between tools in these categories. But most companies will need to invest in a few products to get all the features needed for efficient operations and great customer experiences.
Why Your Toolkit Isn’t Complete without DEM
It may be tempting to think that once you have a TMS or VRS product in place, you’re set. But a DEM solution provides unique features you won’t get in the other categories of products.
In particular, DEM offers:
- Shipping visibility and advanced analytics – Most SCM products provide some level of visibility, but DEM offers both real-time visibility that allows you to understand issues and act in the moment, and analytics that help you turn the data you collect into tangible improvements.
- Connections to platforms that connect to SCM – This is one of the key ways DEM helps you connect SCM to customer experience (CX). A DEM product like Convey integrates with the products used by other departments. That includes Zendesk (customer service), Salesforce (sales), Magento (ecommerce), and many more SCM integrations. Those departments can use the insights provided to deliver a more unified, informed CX.
- Advanced customer communication – Many of the other categories of products primarily focus on helping companies better understand their SCM processes and how to improve them. That matters, but increasing transparency and communication with customers is crucial to CX. DEM software includes track and trace features and bi-directional communication to help you communicate with customers in real-time as needed, and understand their feedback.
- Branded tracking pages – Being able to monitor a package’s tracking keeps customers informed and sets accurate expectations. DEM allows you to provide branded tracking information to the customer, so they’re not redirected to your carrier’s website.
- Self-service scheduling – When a package is delayed, customers usually lose control over the rescheduled timing. That causes problems when someone’s moving, expects to be on vacation, or has to be home to sign for it. DEM provides a self-scheduling option, which puts control back in your customers’ hands and increases the likelihood that they’ll be happy with their delivery experience.
Complete Your SCM Toolkit
When it comes to supply chain management solutions, there are a lot of options to choose from, and it’s imperative to ask the right questions as you drill down into your needs. Which leg of your customer journey do you need additional visibility? Are you looking to obtain large swaths of data, or are you looking for quality and depth of data?
Even if you already have a great TMS or MCPM solution, there’s room for improvement in your SCM processes. A good DEM tool will help you gain crucial visibility, improve the delivery experience your customers have, and help you save money through better efficiency.