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Top 10 Supply Chain Management Tips for 2024

Supply Chain Top 10 Tips

Mitigating risks and overcoming challenges in complex supply chains is on the minds of most manufacturers and suppliers, especially as we prepare for a new year of business. Companies are making plans to enter 2024 with a strategy to keep their inventory shelves lean, while also minimizing the possibility of stockouts.

Effectively managing complex manufacturing supply chains requires visibility, accuracy, and strategic decision making. If the pandemic taught us anything, it showed us that waiting on crucial components costs more than just money. It also demonstrated the importance of collaboration among suppliers, distributors, consumers, and manufacturers.

Whether the disruption is a pandemic, a natural or man-made disaster, or the geopolitical landscape, when it comes to supply chain management the show must go on and only those who are equipped with a solid strategy and automation will survive.

Here are the top 10 supply chain management tips that will help manufacturers prepare for 2024.

1. Automate Complex Supply Chain

VMI platforms have evolved to being a useful tool for companies of all sizes. And thanks to the Internet of Things and revolutionary technologies like RFID, implementation is easier than ever.

Simply put, VMI platforms allow a third party to manage inventories for manufacturers and other companies. The vendor is responsible for ensuring that the right products go to the right places at the right time and that the inventory shelves are never empty. A digital VMI is much more robust. It manages complex supply chains, reduces labor and other costs, provides part consumption data and visibility, and reduces human errors.

Read this article to learn how to automate your supply chain in one day.

2. Use RFID Technology for a Magical User Interface

When busy operators need parts, it’s important to keep the process moving efficiently. If the process to grab the required parts takes more than 30 seconds, it can cost valuable uptime. If the process involves multiple devices or multiple steps, inventory management becomes chaotic and inaccurate.

Radiofrequency (RFID)technology is magical in the sense that it can reach out over a long distance and in just a few seconds it grabs massive amounts of information. It scans through substrates like boxes, plastic totes, wood shelving, and even through walls.

With a digital VMI like ShelfAware, the magic of RFID works with a custom checkout table to provide a small footprint (2’x2’). The table is simple to install and is operating within seconds. Just plug it into power and the internet. There is no mouse, keyboard, or screen—just a flashing light that changes colors when the parts are swiped. In seconds, the light changes colors and the operator can go back to work.

3. Focus on Accurate, Granular Inventory Data for Strategic Decision Making

Accurate and granular consumption data is a key ingredient for any effective digital VMI. ShelfAware collects the granular data by applying RFID smart labels to package quantities as opposed to bulk bin quantities.

A traditional VMI system will stock inventory using a case count or bin count of loose stock. This limits the ability to stock the smallest amount of pieces at any given time. Granular, highly-detailed consumption data can be collected by allowing suppliers to tag packaging in flexible quantities. In fact, it’s possible to stock down to only one piece at a time, which is the most granular data point possible. Analyzing accurate consumption data over a period of time allows suppliers to determine the lowest possible inventory required on the shelf without stocking out.

4. Keep Inventory Shelves Lean, but Avoid Stockouts

The shelf quantity includes everything contained within a package and unit bin. The package quantities are flexible and customizable based on your needs. The package quantities are designed to be consumable meeting your production needs. If a particular build requires 44 units, it’s possible to package the pieces in packages of 44.

With a robust digital VMI platform like ShelfAware, shelf quantities are designed to be lean, but without the possibility of stockouts.

The consumption data that is collected should be detailed enough to produce valuable analytics, forecasts, and trends. This keeps you stocked in the required parts but keeps your inventory lean. To collect that kind of data, it’s important to track smaller quantities that produce granular and accurate consumption data.

5. Perform Accurate Inventory Audits

Audits are a necessary evil of any inventory management system. Because many supply chains are complex, there are thousands of SKUs. In some cases, there are hundreds of thousands of square feet of actual physical inventory. In some scenarios, the inventory is wide-open with hundreds of users across multiple shifts interacting with the inventory. This can cause discrepancies in the data when managed traditionally.

With RFID smart labels attached to every inventory item, supplier sales representatives can perform accurate inventory audits at any time. Leveraging RFID technology allows for customization and accurate audits of complex supply chains in minutes

6. Create a Collaborative Supply Chain Network

Thanks to its unique use of Cloud SourcingTM, ShelfAware is a great fit for any business trying to remotely manage a complex physical inventory. ShelfAware was designed to automate industrial wholesale supply chains and provide a platform for independent industrial suppliers to collaborate and collectively supply the industry’s largest consumers on an automated omnichannel.

The biggest pushback to the idea of collaborative Cloud SourcingTM has been reassuring companies that their customer bases will not be poached by potential competitors. However, the upside outweighs the downside exponentially.

It’s natural to have the fear of sharing information about your customers. However, once you begin adding suppliers to ShelfAware, collectively the suppliers become very efficient and intrinsically valuable to the manufacturing consumer. By acting as one, the suppliers now become much more valuable to the consumer and less likely to lose market share to their individual competitors. The business is predictable. Long term stability means momentum can be built. Established business becomes concrete and stable.

Another advantage is that the collaborate business model offers a built-in referral system among suppliers. Suppliers can also approach other suppliers that they have relationships with and invite them to join their digital vendor managed inventory (VMI) network.

7. Implement Scalable Automation

For many manufacturers, technology adoption can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be that way. One $10 sensor can be placed on one pump in a facility and just like that—the facility is automated. The magnitude of the automation grows from there.

The same is true for a digital VMI platform like ShelfAware. Just because it has the capacity to track hundreds of thousands of SKUs across multiple product categories and multiple suppliers, the process doesn’t have to start with that kind of overwhelming, “all-in” adoption.

A manufacturer can begin digitizing its supply chain with 100 parts in one operating corner of one facility. As it experiences the simplicity of the process and the accuracy of the tracking, the manufacturer can begin to scale and use the platform throughout its entire supply chain.

8. Use Small Innovations for Big Disruptions

Through the use of collaborative innovations like ShelfAware’s CloudSourcingTM, small businesses are quickly becoming the new “Big Business” in industrial manufacturing. CloudSourcing empowers collaboration among multiple independent and specialized product vertical suppliers. It empowers all suppliers to work together with a single consumer on ShelfAware’s unified supply chain platform.

To all of the small businesses out there, take heart. There is hope—a chance to compete with the big boys. Welcome to the era of disruptive technology, in particular RFID technology and the Internet of Things, that can change the landscape of any small business. It gives us the chance to compete on a level we never thought possible.

ShelfAware’s story of innovation demonstrates several keys points of underlying concepts for profitable innovations—especially the disruptive kind.

9. Make Traceability a Part of Your Strategy

Fundamentally, an effective digital VMI builds on a complex and granular data foundation—automating the supply chain by tracking package quantities.

A robust platform like ShelfAware has the ability to push documentation material certifications, batch and lock control, heat numbers, CAD drawings, 3D print assembly instructions, etc. The system can push documentation digitally to an email address, and then directly to an assembler’s computer screen through an ERP system.

By leveraging an RFID scan of a physical part to trigger the associated documentation, a material batch code and reference documentation can be sent directly to a quality control manager, for example. That documentation can then be tied directly to an assembly station, providing accurate traceability.

10. Don’t Overspend on Automation

No matter the size of your supply chain, gross profit margin matters. Traditional VMI systems incur huge expenses for manual labor. Gigantic suppliers can sometimes afford expensive, high-tech digital VMI solutions but the huge price tags for those systems don’t make sense for small-to-medium sized suppliers.

ShelfAware provides a digital VMI solution that is robust, scalable, and affordable for any size supplier or consumer—small, medium, and large.

The ShelfAware digital VMI solution requires no money upfront and then less than $1000 per month, which offers an efficient, robust system with significantly low cost to the user. This makes ShelfAware a viable solution at all sizes of manufacturing facilities, including very small industrial consumers with smaller supply chains. Even the smaller users can experience a quick return on their investment.

Enter 2024 With a Strategic Supply Chain Strategy

Digitizing inventory doesn’t have to be an expensive or overwhelming task. In fact, with a platform like ShelfAware, suppliers and consumers can reduce their carbon footprint, make more money with less worries, and eliminate stockouts with an easy-to-manage, cloud-based digital vender management inventory system.

Try a digital VMI platform like ShelfAware for a sustainable solution to supply chain management.

Want to learn more about an affordable way to automate your supply chain? Request your free ShelfAware demo. 

Too good to be true?  ShelfAware is redefining the vendor-managed inventory industry. For this reason, we’re happy to talk to you about how our intelligent inventory platform can benefit your business. Contact us today for more information.


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