What exactly does it mean when we hear “yesterday’s supply chain just wasn’t built for today’s customer?” Suppliers understand the outdated supply chain part, but “today’s customer” can mean two things:
First, there’s the shopper buying your product. Your product isn’t just facing them in a store aisle. They’re researching you online and asking for home delivery or curb-side pickup. Your supply chain has to meet this need, both in terms of withstanding the challenges of shipping to minimize damages as well as ease in picking up or moving the item once it arrives at its final destination.
Second, there’s your retailer. Is your supply chain versatile enough to handle a special request from the retailer – especially a big box or discount retailer who might have very specific requests? A unique display, holiday packaging, or multi-product assortment are just a few of the potential requests which require special packaging, shipment, and logistical challenges. One-off requests are becoming more frequent and the versatile supply chain will rise to the top if they can quickly fulfill these special requests, especially with ease of setup for the retailer’s associates in terms of refilling items.
For a closer look at the issues and solutions for suppliers, we visited with Kerry Bailey. The team at Menasha does more than packaging and displays for clients facing these issues. They also help suppliers with supply chain customization covering seasonal requests and branding at the doorstep.
New Solutions for Seasonal Customization
Menasha has been working with large retailers in preparation for holiday. We began by getting a taste of what’s new (and disruptive!) in seasonal customization. When a supplier has a process in place, then gets a unique request from the retailer outside the norm, how is the industry responding?
“What you’ll see in some of the holiday representation is how to bring multiple things together,” Kerry explains. “In a house of brands, it’s how to put two or three complementary products together to make a basket solution for the consumer. Part of it is putting things together in a speed-to-market fashion. But it’s also to deliver it in a complementary form and in packaging (bright, colorful, complementary packaging for the season).”
While the challenge sounds logical, it does go back to the old supply chain process. The question facing suppliers is: how do you get that in line with your regular supply chain on your everyday goods? As Kerry illustrates, that’s where the disruption comes from.
“What we’re talking with suppliers about today is how do you make this disruptive process a more normal process and not treat it as a one-off,” Kerry continues. “Look at partners who can bring mixed resources, mixed materials, and who have agile supply chains of their own. Partners with pack-out and fulfillment facilities that can take that burden out of the suppliers’ realm of execution and move it to somebody with that focus; not making product, but actually delivering product to the marketplace.”
A Fresh Set of Eyes on the Old Process
How does a supplier update the old supply chain to serve today’s customer? A partner like Menasha observes the existing process to find the need. Kerry explains what happens in the first meeting with a supplier and why change is needed.
“The number one thing we look at is the mapping process inside the supplier’s organization,” he says. “Where are the silos that are causing you lost time? Today you need to move product efficiently. Nobody’s sitting on an inventory on-hand element as we did in years passed. When you’re working in that fluid of an environment, you’re looking for those silos that have blocks of time where things aren’t moving successfully forward to the marketplace.”
Those silos become huge concerns when retailers make a request outside your norm. Menasha looks at a supplier’s entire process to pinpoint what areas need to be more fluid. It’s a first step in updating the old supply chain process.
“When you talk with suppliers today, it’s really about where does your product reside, how does it move to the market, what are the necessary components that you want to complement together to bring to the market as a new product or in this case a seasonal product,” Kerry illustrates. “Some of the things we see in holiday are in gift packaging. How do you put things together that make a very nice gift package? It’s probably out of the norm of your everyday execution. Those are the things we look at in those pockets to see where lost time is occurring.”
The Brand Experience at the Doorstep
When trying to adapt to an e-commerce supply chain, there are more issues than just logistics. The team at Menasha works with suppliers struggling to maintain brand in delivery.
“One of the things we think about is the ‘at the door experience’ or that ‘to door’ experience for the consumer,” Kerry explains. “We see a lot of folks really spending time now thinking about how that loyalty can be established at the door. We no longer look at just a brown delivery box. When that delivery box is opened, what’s the experience for the shopper?”
Kerry concludes with an observation about quality. The brand experience goes beyond marketing and design. For the online shopper, it expands to quality of travel and arrival.
“We’re seeing better governance and better time spent in design for safe delivery,” he says. “A package has to move through a supply chain that’s pretty rigorous. We also talk about how it survives; the survival rate of that package and the product. Then what’s that experience like when they open it. That’s where you can invest in your brand.”
As personalization becomes much more important to brands, remember the part companies such as Menasha play in delivering on your brand promise to your customer – whether it is the retailer or the ultimate consumer in their home. With millions of items to choose from, ensuring your customer has a positive experience in your engagement and interaction is key to ultimate success.