The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

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April 30, 2012

Online Grocery Retailing that too in ....India

We are familiar with the concept of buying online books, electronic goods, gift articles, apparels. Today we are able to browse the products many times, compare products and even call up the customer care executive to help us select the right product. But do we purchase grocery online (excluding the perishables) in India. I don't think so. Even I do the shopping of grocery through supermarket or hypermarket. Do we know any e-retailer who sells grocery online? Will the grocery received online be in good condition? Will the grocery prices online be cheaper than our hypermarket/supermarket? All questions asked do we really need to purchase grocery online when we can get it in a nearby supermarket. Few would also argue that they can get them from local stores available in vicinity. 

At present buying grocery online in India is not an attractive option, as compared to other categories. Among the top 20 e-retailers in India grocery is sold by just 28%. They would not be selling many items in grocery but keep it with other categories to have all products under one roof. Grocery includes Food items, Home and Personal care, Beverages, Staples etc which are the daily use items. This category alone has huge potential to garner higher revenues than any other category.

In our daily life, we do not get time to buy grocery in weekdays. It has become a habit to buy it on weekends and normally we purchase it for a month so that we do not take pain coming to hypermarket every week. We supplement it by buying few items from local stores in vicinity or nearby supermarket.

These are the activities we normally perform when buying from hypermarket. We have to drive down to get to the hypermarket store. We would look for the required product, have a look and feel of the product, look for good discounts, sometimes go for impulsive buying and check the expiry of product before keeping in the basket. Then go to the queue and wait for the turn to get the billing done. At peak time queue is normally longer and like us many purchase mostly on weekends hence it is bound to be there.

Well if the discount benefits for shopping at brick & mortar stores are available for us to shop online at the convenience of our home. Advantages of it  would be hassle free shopping, no queues for payment, less time to shop, have the monthly requirement list saved with option of quantity to be changed, product comparative features, savings displayed and fuel saved to go  to the store physically & return. If we are availing online facility we would require the grocery to be delivered at our home, as per our convenient date and time slot. The returns facility should be available without any inconvenience. If the above conditions are met I think so we would be more than happy to shop grocery online.

There are very few e-retailers who have ventured full fledge into selling of grocery online in India. Browsing the present e-retailer selling grocery online one can find   pictures for every product, home page mentions about the discount, shopping list saved with option to modify the item or quantity, savings displayed, points earned can be redeemed, free home delivery above certain order value, convenient return policy, and delivery on preferred dates and in standard time slot. They are catering to specific area within a city. Being a very huge initiative with manpower and transportation involved it would take some months to cater in whole city. Once the volumes grow up it would be feasible to deliver products below certain order value. But nevertheless the process has just begun. It may soon follow with a suite of e-retailer venturing into selling grocery online.

Let me know if anybody has shopped grocery online or will you like to shop grocery online with the above features and what is your take on it.

April 27, 2012

Best practices for defining Asset Register

During last couple of weeks, I had some discussions with few of my colleagues from our Utility practice. The reason for discussion was an Asset Management consulting assignment where these folks were helping a utility company to define asset management strategies for them.

This client of ours does not have a centralized asset centric repository and information is scattered in multiple applications - leading to substandard processes, data duplication and inconsistent data - to name few of the problems.  So, this team's focus is to suggest best practices for Asset Management which may ultimately lead to selecting an enterprise package for managing their assets.

The current task on hand is to suggest best practices for developing an Asset Register. So, this morning, when one of these team members called me to take my inputs on this, I decided to recall all my experience from various clients and have a list of best practices which I have generally seen clients following with respect to defining Asset Registers:

• Identify all assets - Many of the assets are hidden within the plants. Nobody knows about them. You should get all of those assets listed.

• Associate type, criticality, classification and attributes for each asset - Another important aspects here is to not to go over-board in defining attributes. Have only those attributes which you feel are important for managing your maintenance work, otherwise identifying assets based on attribute would become a difficult task. There should be a fine balance between data granularity & actual requirements.

• Build spare parts list (bill of material) for each asset - This will help in identifying the actual problem in case of breakdowns and also in maintaining inventory levels.

• Assign owners for each asset - This is very important as by having an owner you can have clear responsibilities identified for use and maintain.

• Define a failure hierarchy and associate with each asset for Root-Cause-Analysis - Again, do not go overboard here. Define only those failures which you really want to measure. A long list of failure codes would lead to suboptimal use.

• Associate warranty details with asset to get warranty benefits - This may always not be available due to old assets.

• Use intelligent numbering, wherever possible, so that Asset ID can give some sense about asset. For example, for fixed assets, you may want to have their location code embedded into the asset code.

And finally, review your asset data at-least once a year for any errors and changes.

April 2, 2012

Increase in Operational Efficiency through Voice Technology

One of the biggest time consuming and mundane activities in warehouse management is the pick up of inventory and the appropriate shelving of inventory.  Imagine picking up inventory from the warehouse without having any paper lists or even any barcode scanners.  Yes, voice technology enables hands and view free inventory pick up, stock put away and inventory management in the warehouses in real time. This enables the warehouse staff to work for long periods without any problems with just wearing lightweight, high-quality headsets. Today, voice technology integrated with a company's ERP systems provides extremely robust headsets that guide warehouse employees through the rows, aisles and bins of the warehouse and make inventory tracking, pick up and put away extremely easy and flexible.  Not only this but the devices are so robust that they even contain a noise-cancelling electret microphone and with a sound insulation up to 27 db allows it to be used in very noisy 'pick by voice' environments. Voice technology can also be effectively used in goods receiving and transfers to docks.

The voice system does not require an operator to even carry a bar code scanner and thus increases efficiency and speed in stock management. Voice systems also score over conventional barcode scanning since products occasionally arrive without barcodes and hence tracking and inventory placement becomes difficult. Also, since an operator with a headset enabled uses two hands as against a barcode scanner user using just one hand, voice technology users become more efficient. Also this technology does not require each user to 'train' the voice software before use for individual voice profile recognition. This is beneficial for new or interim operators as they can be up and running in no time which delivers important productivity advantages during peak time periods. Since the technology is also hardware independent, it gives the benefit to use it with any other systems to be used in future. Direct integration reduces the potential for data errors because there is no database sitting between the ERP system and the voice terminals. Improvements in the order picking accuracy are dramatic and in cases an accuracy of 99.9% has been achieved. 

Since the data is exchanged in real time whenever an item of stock is moved, synergies can even be leveraged in logistics, order management and shop floor manufacturing systems. This could help shop floor operators to know by voice as to which is the next department and which is the next operation to be done on the subassembly. Voice technology can particularly be leveraged in a highly MTO environment where each customer order is different and hence the Bill of material, routings, departments would drastically vary from each other. Voice technology can help in tremendously improving the operational efficiency of shop floor operators by guiding them accurately to each department. However, the question still remains to the extent to which this technology can be leveraged in logistics, inventory management and manufacturing.

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