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.


July 12, 2016

Be ready for the drone invasion @ warehouse!

We have seen a burst of new technologies in supply chain area. Drones, advance of robots in workplaces, Internet of things (IoT) are becoming a reality. Time is ripe to induce more technology into core operations of supply chain like warehouse operations, yard operations and so on. Here I would like to discuss on how to capitalize advances made in drone technology can add value in warehouse operations. Drones are also personal interest of mine as we had experimented with a small drone in our home few years back.

Traditional warehouse managers have always been looking for ways to improve productivity of the operations and people in warehouse. Drones can significantly improve warehouse operations in the area of inventory management, yard management and safety of the warehouse. Drones can be put into use in
1. Annual stocking: In a warehouse the storage locations and pallets are bar coded. Drone which has a scanner can scan the location to confirm its position then scan the pallet label to confirm the item and quantity. Frequency is yearly and involves the entire warehouse.
2. Cycle counting: Its similar to annual stocking as the operation involves going to location and confirming the item and quantity. Cycle counting involves fewer locations in a warehouse and the frequency is few times a day.
3. Track Trailers in Yard: In large yards its time consuming to identify trailers, drones can be of big help here. They can sent out for "search operations" in a yard and using the camera in the drone operators can hunt for trailers.

Pros for using Drones:
• Increase productivity in physical counting and cycle counting. Productivity can be improved by a factor of 2X or 3X.
• Overcome safety challenges, as taking physical counting in high rack locations involves using both forklifts and humans which increase chances of accidents.
• Drones can perform the work faster and also be more accurate.
• Drones can also be used for searching and finding inventory.
• Drone can also be used for searching trailers / trucks vehicles in large yards of the warehouse.

What type of warehouse can be early adapters for Drones?
Retail, Third party logistics warehouses are ideal for Drones usage. These warehouse are typically large sites, with high rack locations which are bar coded. The warehouse layout is like typical street block with aisles and locations marked.

4 Steps to put Drones in Action:
In order for the warehouse to take advantage of drones following things are necessary
1. For Drones to move independently within the 4 walls of warehouse, the key requirement is to have physical warehouse map with details of all the aisles, rack locations and other details.
For this the crucial input is to have warehouse map which has the co-ordinates of each location. A geodesic survey of the inbound and outbound areas of the warehouse needs to be done. Warehouse map is created with x, y, z co-ordinates of all the locations. Site survey can be accomplished by civil surveyors by working in non-peak or non-work days in 6 to 8 working days. Warehouse physical map is fed into drone software. Drone can navigate using the warehouse co-ordinates. In my previous project implementing Locanis WMS we had enabled Forklift guidance system in a large warehouse.
For Indoor referencing  to increase the positional accuracy of the drones we can use beacons. The way I envisage this is we place beacons in aisles and pathways of warehouses. So whenever drones pass these beacons it will publish the exact positional co-ordinates which can be then be used for navigation.
2. Drone needs to be equipped with a scanner which can scan various bar codes stickers of different bar code standards like EAN, UCC.
3. Once the drone scans the data it needs to communicate to the WMS system or a custom software which can capture the location and inventory.
4. Drones need to communicate using a different frequency, as warehouse have other equipment's like forklift terminals, Hand held terminals, RFID devices using Wi-Fi.

Challenges for Drone usage:
• Drones can be used for inventory management functions in Full pallet areas. Using them in Carousels, multi deep pallet locations, Pigeons holes are going to be challenge.
• Warehouses which do primarily Cross docking, Break pack are also not suitable for drone operations. As the inventory is fast moving and mostly in ground locations.
• In order for drones to work in warehouse operations we need to have robust "anti-avoidance" technology. This is an important factor when drones and humans have to work in the same environment.

4 steps for inducting drones  as discussed above can form the basis of inducting drones into warehouse operations. In the near future we would be seeing more drones in warehouse working along with humans. Pretty soon I think we will see "Drone operator" as one of the job titles in warehouses across the world. Welcome to the world of warehouse drones!

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June 27, 2014

Oracle Fusion Distributed Order Orchestration - The Next Gen Supply Chain Intelligence

Oracle Fusion application is the next- gen suite of enterprise resource planning from Oracle, leveraging the features and functionalities taken from Oracle E-Business Suite, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft and Siebel product lines and the suite is built on top of the Oracle Fusion Middleware.

Oracle Fusion Distributed Order Orchestration is an integral part of Fusion Supply Chain Management, which performs the Centralized decomposition/disintegration to itemize intricate orders into separate, interconnected fulfillment design targeting the multi- network, division and partner fulfillment networks.

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February 3, 2014

E-retailers exploring same day delivery


You ordered a product online and it gets delivered to you by end of day. Surprised!! But you would simply say WOW!!! We as consumers would feel delighted, lot more excited and confident about e-shopping. 

In US many retailers have started experimenting with same day delivery option. Few such examples are: Google is inviting its employees in the Santa Monica area to try out its Google Shopping Express service for same day delivery pilots. Walmart exploring same day delivery option for fulfilling their online orders from physical stores. E-bay launched a similar program with shoppers who spend more than $25 at local store can pay additional $5 for same day delivery. Amazon getting closer to reduce delivery lead time with their patented 'speculative shipping' model. This blog articulates about how e-retailers can get closer to same day delivery.

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December 18, 2012

Indicators from the 2012 Holiday Buying Period Point to Significant Change and Fulfillment Challenges

Guest Post by

Bob Ferrari, the Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

This commentary is an interim follow-up to this author's previous Infosys Limited guest commentary: Headline for the 2012 Holiday Buying Season- Overcoming the Challenges of Fulfillment Complexity.

Thus far, initial indicators reflected in individual consumer actions during the current 2012 holiday buying season provide for some perspective as supply chains reach the peak of activity this week. 

Continue reading "Indicators from the 2012 Holiday Buying Period Point to Significant Change and Fulfillment Challenges" »

November 16, 2012

Headline for the 2012 Holiday Buying Season- Overcoming the Challenges of Fulfillment Complexity

Guest Post by

Bob Ferrari, the Founder and Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

As was the case last year, the 2012 holiday buying season will be very much about the continued leveraging power of consumers in exercising multi-channel buying preferences and technology-enabled online tools.  An equally important test as we swing into the 2012 surge will be how online, brick and mortar retailers, along with their respective direct ship suppliers, exercise capabilities in multi-location stocking and fulfillment capability.  From this author's lens, expect the 2012 holiday buying surge to yet another stress test for managing fulfillment complexity among online, retail and B2C goods providers.

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October 18, 2012

Mapping Your Way To Faster Shopping

"Google's Indoor Maps" have opened a whole new opportunity to retailers whereby they can enable their in-store customers to get quick and easy access to the products that they're looking for. In brief, "Google's Indoor Maps" can allow in-store customers to find their way within this indoor location, similar to how they would have used a GPS to navigate while driving on road.

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September 13, 2012

Making 'Cash on Delivery' attractive to E-Retailers

It is still early days in India for the 'Online Retailing' industry. Right now the industry is fragmented as there are many players in this space. Hence there is a stiff competition among the players. One of the ways by which  E-Retailers are attracting people to buy on the net is by offering 'Cash on Delivery' (CoD) payment option. This is helping them overcome the reluctance of customers to shop on internet. This payment option tries to overcome the trust barrier which prevents customers to shop on internet.

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August 21, 2012

Enabling individual item picking in tomorrow's warehouses

Warehouses of today are facing increasing challenges in their picking operations. On one hand, they are required to support the growing e-Commerce sales where picking happens by unit (individual item or each picking). On the other, they continue to support existing store operations, where items have to be handled either in eaches or cases. Also, they are now forced to strike the right balance between the high-order-volumes-and-less-order-lines scenario of the e-comm world and  less-order-volumes-and-high-order-lines scenario of stores.

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August 10, 2012

Rapid Innovation will Differentiate the Future of Retail Industry

Guest Post by Bob Ferrari

Bob Ferrari is the Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

In an Infosys Supply Chain Management guest commentary in March, I commented on the fundamental reinvention that is underway in the retail industry, which comes with significant implications to current and future supply chain organizational, process and information technology capabilities and investments. Online sales have been growing at double-digit rates and the implications profoundly point to the reality that consumers prefer online tools and have shifted their shopping and buying preferences. The "Clicks and Bricks" business model is rapidly unfolding as retailers counter the juggernaut of online retailers such as Amazon.  Online providers are disrupting the retail industry because of innovation, in the true spirit of the Clayton M. Christensen book, The Innovators Dilemma.

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June 12, 2012

Multi - channel commerce in Europe - the next frontier for Retailers?

Retailers worldwide have tended to move steadily towards a more integrated and unified strategy around Multi-channel from the Bricks and Mortar model, moving through a Multi-channel Operations mode with channels in silos to a more integrated Multi-channel Commerce mode. The only issue has been the speed of adoption by retailers globally.

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May 2, 2012

Supply Chain Control Tower Readiness- Part Two

Joint Post by

Gopi Krishnan GR, Practice Manager - Business Application and Services, Retail CPG, Logistics and Life Sciences, Infosys

Arun Kumar, Principal Consultant - Business Application and Services, Retail CPG, Logistics and Life Sciences, Infosys

In part 1 of this interview blog series with Supply Chain Matters, we have already analyzed the readiness of both IT and supply chain functional industries for the need to go for broader visibility, more timely and accurate decision-making, and predictive process capabilities which are more frequently expressed in the context of supply chain control tower (SCCT) capabilities.

In part 2 we have shared our views on the mode of expression of SCCT and our view for the best approach for adopting SCCT. Please read part 2 here.

Supply Chain Control Tower Readiness- Part One

Joint Post by

Gopi Krishnan GR, Practice Manager - Business Application and Services, Retail CPG, Logistics and Life Sciences, Infosys

Arun Kumar, Principal Consultant - Business Application and Services, Retail CPG, Logistics and Life Sciences, Infosys


With the current scenario of rapidly increasing base of business in terms of geography, customer base, varied suppliers and voracious line of products, the complexity of the global supply chain is becoming more difficult to manage.

In lieu of this, modern organizations are spending a lot to re-define the needs for broader visibility, more timely and accurate decision-making, and predictive process capabilities in their supply chain methods. These needs are more frequently expressed in the context of supply chain control tower (SCCT) capabilities.

We have expressed our views in an interview with Supply Chain Matters and posted it as a 2 part blog series on "Supply Chain Control Towers Readiness". In part 1, we have analyzed the rationale for SCCT in the IT industry as well as supply chain functional areas; and whether the readiness is coming from specific industry sectors. Please read Part 1 here.


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. 

Continue reading "Online Grocery Retailing that too in ....India" »

March 30, 2012

Challenges Faced By E-Retailers in India

In my previous blog, I highlighted the factors which helped e-commerce retailing develop in India. Today consumers are powered with loads of choices for selection of the product they are looking for.  They are actually able to compare the products, look for availability of the product, get detailed information about the product, check prices at various online websites selling the specific product and also look for attractive offers. Consumers get their choice of goods as well get satisfied with the price they pay. Now from e-retailers perspective, above are the must have in order to be competitive and increase sales. But for e-retailers to survive they also need to maintain healthy profitability month on month by creating awareness among customers to visit their website and convert visits into sales. There are some of the major challenges which e-retailers face in India to be competitive in their business.

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Preventing Failed Deliveries...

Soaring demand for home delivery is not in dispute, but doing it profitably still remains the elusive golden chalice - much to the frustration of consumers, retailers and carriers alike. The major reason of higher home delivery cost for retailers is the number of orders that are not delivered in first attempt. Failed deliveries have always been a cause for concern but recently it has become more significant due to the increase in the number of people shopping from home. According to IMRG press release, retailers in UK alone loose nearly GBP 1 billion due to failed home deliveries. Of the total number of home delivery orders, about 17% orders are not delivered successfully in the first attempt, simply because there is nobody at home to collect the delivery.

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March 28, 2012

Bricks and Clicks - The New Business Model and Supply Chain Capability for Retail Industry

Guest Post by

Bob Ferrari, the Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

The Economist featured an article in its February 25th print edition with the title: Clicks and Bricks. The gist of this article is one that many business and industry analysts have been frequently dwelling upon, namely that retailers are feverishly trying to reinvent themselves for this rapidly changing new age of online shopping and multi-enterprise commerce.  The stark message delivered by the Economist was: "To build a profitable online business, retailers must integrate it seamlessly with the bricks-and-mortar operations.  Many keep them separate, increasing the risk that they fail to communicate or work together properly".

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March 20, 2012

What does the future hold for brick and mortar stores?

A few months ago, I was looking to buy a laptop to replace my old desktop at home. I researched prices on most Indian online websites for the laptop configuration I wanted. I then walked into some of the stores near my house to compare prices in the stores for similar configuration, but more importantly, to "touch and feel" the product I was about to buy. Having inquired in 4-5 different stores, I returned home and ordered the laptop online. Compared to the stores, the price online was atleast 10% lower and the online retailer also threw in a free laptop bag and free 1 year subscription of an anti-virus software.

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March 12, 2012

Flying Robots in a Warehouse?

Well, this may appear strange but having watched Vijay Kumar and his team's innovation on flying robots in TED - , it struck to me that these little robots can do wonders in warehousing operations. Let see how...

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February 29, 2012

Mobile Gift Cards

In my previous blog , I had highlighted various mobile payment options and their importance in retail industry. Another payment method which has recently gone mobile is gift card. Thanks to the growing popularity of doing everything we possibly can on smartphones, the shift from plastic gift cards to smartphones is inevitable, as the industry tries to keep up with consumer demand and preferences. Mobile gift cards are the newest innovation in gift cards for retail industry. Instead of using plastic gift cards, consumers are allowed to store their gift card numbers on their cellphones and smartphones and then redeem their gift card by presenting the stored information on their phone at checkout.

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February 14, 2012

Get,Set,Go-Agile Implementation of Multi Channel Commerce Solution

Retailers across the globe have realized the importance of Multi Channel Commerce (MCC). They understand the benefits derived from a unified view of customer orders and inventory across different fulfillment types. In early 2000 Retailers used to have 3-5 year road map for MCC solution implementation. The prevalent model of implementation then was Waterfall. Retailer had the luxury of time and resources then to work on long term projects

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Factors which helped e-commerce retailing develop in India

It has come back and it's back with a bang. After the downfall and internet bubble burst in year 2000, this time e-commerce sites in India have come with a full swing. This time it is for real. Compared with the population of India in year 2000 there were limited people having access to internet. Now the scenario has changed and easily available internet connectivity has made this change.

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January 31, 2012

Mobile Payment Options

In his previous blog, my colleague Amit Ambekar had talked about various payment types such as Cash on Delivery, Layaway and Buy Now Pay Later. Another payment method which is gaining the importance of late is Mobile Payments. A mobile payment is any payment where a mobile phone is used to initiate, authorize and confirm payments. The widespread uses of electronic commerce and ubiquitous mobile devices have made mobile payments an interesting alternative method of payment for customers and merchants. Currently mobile payments are prevalent in 5 forms -m-wallet, m-banking, contactless card systems, online payment systems, and carrier billing.

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December 30, 2011

The Real Headline for the 2011 Holiday Buying Season- Need for Balancing Retailer Online and Fulfillment Process Investments

Guest Post by

Bob Ferrari, the Founder and Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters Blog, and a periodic guest blogger on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog.

In late November Supply Chain Matters penned a guest commentary on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog that outlined our belief that retailers should anticipate different supply chain fulfillment capabilities for the upcoming 2011 holiday buying season. Because of the reality of a rather challenging year of supply chain disruptions in 2011, we warned on the possibility of retailers not having the most popular and desired products the consumer wanted because suppliers would fall short of meeting holiday demand spikes.  We further noted that the upcoming 2011 holiday buying season would once again drive home the premise that MCO and responsive supply chain inventory management are often the best complement to effective multi-channel and online commerce plans.

Continue reading "The Real Headline for the 2011 Holiday Buying Season- Need for Balancing Retailer Online and Fulfillment Process Investments" »

December 29, 2011

Scheduling 'Order Release Process' Intelligently

A standard retail sales order goes through four main processes during its fulfillment cycle. They are order sourcing, order scheduling, order release and finally order shipping & delivery. Order sourcing process finds the optimal node from which order can be sourced; whereas scheduling determines when the order can be shipped or delivered. Order release process releases the order to warehouse management application in order to allow its processing in warehouse. In other words, order release process transfers order control from order management system to warehouse management system. Hence, timing the release process astutely, is extremely important. A mistimed release process can lead to undesirable outcomes and may prevent realization full OMS implementation benefits. Today, I would like to share one such experience with you...

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December 23, 2011

Fulfillment Options - Recent Trends

Typically, retailers have provided their customers a standard set of fulfillment options i.e. the different ways in which the order could be delivered to the customer. E.g.: Standard Delivery (2-5 day delivery), Expedited (Next day delivery), Store Pickup etc.

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December 9, 2011

Delivering the Goods in Online Grocery Business

A number of grocery retailers are enthusiastically embracing online initiatives. Some enable a buy-online-in-store-pickup approach while a few expand their reach to include home deliveries and the usage of dark stores. But one look at the online grocery landscape reveals that a successful strategy is not really linked to any of these.

In a recent blog on Supply Chain Matters, I lay out the true platform for successful adoption of online operations by grocery retailers. I argue that what is needed is an understanding of linkages across the true view of consumer desires, alignment of retail grocers, and perspective of solution providers. The entire blog can be accessed here.

December 8, 2011

Fraud vs Customer Centricity - III

In my earlier posts Part - I here and Part - II here, I discussed about how we could utilise the features provided by payment gateways intelligently to reduce the exposure against credit card failures.In addition to that, another key area in the battle towards reducing exposure against non-payment is the optimisation of the Order Lifecycle itself.A good business process should always have control points and a proper feedback loop. This applies to the Order Lifecycle too.Let me elucidate.

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November 29, 2011

Layaway and Buy Now Pay Later Payment Options!

In my previous blog, I had talked about the Cash on Delivery payment option. A couple of other payment options, which were in vogue earlier and are now making a comeback due to the recession, are Layaway and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL).

Continue reading "Layaway and Buy Now Pay Later Payment Options!" »

Retailer Multi-Channel Operations Capabilities Get an Early Test in the 2011 Holiday Buying Season

Guest Post by

Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive editor of the Supply Chain Matters blog

Today is Cyber Monday and we provide our first update to our previous commentary on how retailer multi-channel operations (MCO) capabilities will be challenged in the current 2011 holiday buying season. We noted previously that while overall holiday shopping sales will not increase significantly overall, the real story will be reflected on how both online and physical retailers capture the interests and buying motivations of far more tech-savvy and mobile empowered consumers.

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Factors Influencing Delivery Address Amendment

Sometime in 2005, I had ordered a birthday gift hamper for my friend from one of the web based retailer in US, to be delivered on her birthday, which happened to be a couple of week later. When I placed the order, my friend was staying in Chicago, so I chose Chicago as delivery location. However, during that two-week time frame she moved to New York. Learning this, I thought of delivering gift to her New York address. So when I called customer service executive of online retailer to change the delivery address of my order, I was surprised to learn that I cannot change delivery address my order. Instead, I had to cancel the existing order and place a new one, if I wanted my gift to be delivered to another address. Unaware of supply chain complexities involved in changing delivery address of customer order, I was wondering what a big deal changing delivery address is. Is it really difficult for retailer to provide option of changing delivery address? What are the various system requirements to carry out this process? Let's discuss it...

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November 2, 2011

The Upcoming 2011 Holiday Buying Season will again Test Retailer MCO and Supply Chain Capabilities

Guest Post By
Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor, Supply Chain Matters blog

Just about a year ago,I penned a guest posting on the Infosys Supply Chain Management blog that commented on the pending 2010 holiday buying season and how consumers would test retailer multi-channel operations (MCO) and synchronization. In our commentary, we cited three trends that would manifest themselves in 2010, namely.
1.Far more value-oriented shoppers would embrace just-in-time shopping techniques, balancing perceived best price with product availability.
2.A more empowered consumer who would gain the information advantage by deeper utilization of online shopping and research tools.
3.The state of product demand planning and inventory management among retailers becoming more advanced.

Continue reading "The Upcoming 2011 Holiday Buying Season will again Test Retailer MCO and Supply Chain Capabilities" »

October 19, 2011

Will "Profitable To Promise" be Viable In Retail Industry ??

Retail order management is a relatively new concept. Till late nineties, majority of the retailers depended on supermarkets for selling various goods. Since, there was only one channel of selling, most of the retailers managed their IT needs by having some home grown applications which were able to perform very basic processes. Proliferation of computer technology and arrival of internet have completely transformed retail industry in the last decade. Development of multi-channel commerce, has helped retailers to sell their goods via internet, call centers, mobiles etc. Number of orders delivered to customers' home is ever increasing and now almost all online retailers have home delivery option.

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September 17, 2011

Order Fulfillment From The Dark Stores

Grocery segment is one of the most challenging sectors of the retail market today. Some of the reasons why an increasing number of consumers buy groceries online are convenience of shopping and / or Home delivery of purchased items. Growing interest by consumers to buy grocery online; has made retailers to launch internet based grocery selling channel. Since, almost all big retailers have entered into online selling, the competition has increased many fold. Seating at home, customer can browse through different web-sites to get the best deal in terms of price. Since groceries come under commodity segment, the only way retailers can attract customers is, by the services they offer to customers. In short, retailers are trying to attract customers by their method of order fulfillment and delivery.

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The 'Cash on Delivery' Payment Option!

Cash on Delivery (COD) as a payment option has existed for a long time, but is fast becoming a popular payment option in some countries such as India. A customer places an order online and chooses the COD option. The order is fulfilled and the customer makes the payment in cash at the time of delivery.

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September 8, 2011

Multi-Channel Commerce: Not viral yet, but definitely diffusing

Yesterday, I, along with a couple of my team members, had the opportunity to present the progress on our Distributed Order Management (DOM) solution to Kris, our Executive Co-Chairman (and CEO till last month). Kris's objective was to understand the solution innovation in what we have done - i.e, building a Reference Implementation on the foundations of Sterling Commerce's base DOM product offering.

This Reference Implementation has been our answer to clients increasing need to get onto the Multi-Channel Commerce (MCC) bandwagon. We've had some good successes of late focusing on the merits of starting off the blocks with a reference implementation in an agile-like manner (I use such terms carefully!) as against blue-sky sessions with a bunch of assorted business analysts and their managers with highly varying interest levels with the finished product looking nothing like what each person there had envisaged in his/her mind.

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August 23, 2011

Catch Me If You Can.... the continuing evolution of catch weight items

We are familiar with the subtle and distinct shifts in item handling and pack sizes as products move from suppliers to customers in a retail supply chain. For example, apparel sourced from India or footwear from China is packed in boxes and loaded on to shipping containers. Subsequently, these boxes move on trailers to warehouses from where they make their way to retail outlets or directly into customer homes. While I acknowledge the complexities in this supply chain, I would also argue that there exists significant predictability. Shipments are ordered in container sizes, suppliers are paid for units purchased, items are stored inside boxes for easy transportation, and at the 'last mile', items are sold as discrete units.  Contrast this with an industry that is traditionally more fragmented, has elaborate storage conditions, is prone to spoilage, and yet is attempting a game-changing attempt in its push online. This blog is about the changing dynamics within retail grocery in general, and catch weight items in particular.

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PCI Compliance - An Expenditure or Investment ?

Retail industry is highly competitive industry. With the advent of multi-channel commerce competition is stronger than ever. Multi-channel order fulfillment has provided retailers a platform to stay competitive. However, keeping fraudulent transactions in control has become one of the biggest challenges in recent past. Retailers are facing increasing pressure to protect customer data and build customer loyalty. Customers want to be confident that their credit information is safe and that business computer systems are reliable. Recent data security breaches have compromised tens of millions of customers' financial records. Hence, credit card and payment companies have standardized on Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements to protect data, control access, and defend against cyber-attacks. All retailers who want to process credit card information must adhere to these standards. Thus, PCI DSS is a collection of rules that promote IT security processes and aims to reduce financial fraud through heightened network security capabilities of all organizations processing payment card information.

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August 18, 2011

Fraud vs Customer Centricity - II

In my earlier post, I discussed the need to manage fraud separate from managing defaults while charging the Customer's card.

Generally, the strategy to charge the Customers' card can be based on two parameters. One is to utilise the various features provided by payment gateways intelligently and the second would be the modelling of the Order Management process itself to minimise exposure.

I will cover the first part in this post.

Continue reading "Fraud vs Customer Centricity - II" »

August 9, 2011

Order management solutions for the grocery business - Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I had described some of the differences in the order management /fulfillment process for grocery (food) retailers' vis-à-vis non-food products and also highlighted the opportunities and challenges faced by retailers. I will continue the discussion below.

Continue reading "Order management solutions for the grocery business - Part 2" »

July 11, 2011

Going Lean and Staying Agile

The emerging trend a few years ago was the adoption of lean warehousing principles in organizations. In most cases, these initiatives were rolled out as pilots. So far, their success and adoption have been mixed. In this blog, I will focus on a key - yet often missed - element critical to the success of lean warehousing, viz. the alignment between operations and systems.

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June 17, 2011

Fraud vs Customer Centricity - I

In my current engagement at a large retailer in the UK, I came across the seemingly paradoxical requirements between the Fraud Management team and the Business team. This has become an almost common theme across the various Multi-channel Order Management implementations that I have been involved in.

Continue reading "Fraud vs Customer Centricity - I" »

June 13, 2011

Growing significance of Drop Ship Business Model Part II

In my previous post we discussed about when Drop Ship business model is used in retail industry. Now we will discuss about the benefits Drop Ship business model offers to the business.

Continue reading "Growing significance of Drop Ship Business Model Part II" »

May 30, 2011

HazMat in SCM Needs to Worry About New Tech Impositions!

During the last couple of weeks, I have been associated with the brainstorming around how best to manage Hazardous Waste or Material (HazMat) for a major US retailer. The client management team is focused on having a solution that covers HazMat of all kinds across the enterprise since that is the core KPI of the department. Most of our initial discussions have been around two threads:
1. Understanding our Point of View on Reverse Logistics (RL) since HazMat typically need to flow in the opposite direction of the regular product supply chain flow
2. Figuring out whether SAP EHS solution is the best bet versus IBM Sterling Commerce RL capability and IBM Maximo's work management capability.
Personally, I wasn't too keen on going for either of these approaches.

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April 11, 2011

Crossdock Warehouse - What drives its necessity?

Sometime ago, I had visited a warehouse in New Jersey which took me by surprise. From the outside it looked like a long barrack with a large number of dock doors and from the inside, it was a lot strange. There were no aisles, bays, levels or locations for storing goods. Instead there was a conveyer system that was used to receive goods from the receiving dock door and to move them to a work area where the pallets were de-palletized. The resulting cartons were then loaded into smaller trailers stationed at the shipping dock doors. This was not a warehouse in the true sense, but what warehousing science would call it a 'Crossdock Warehouse'.


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December 11, 2010

Distributed Order Orchestration implies channel reduction?

The other day, a colleague of mine sent me the brochure of Oracle's fresh pitch to the multi-channel world titled "Oracle Fusion Distributed Order Orchestration - The New Standard for Order Capture and Fulfillment". While the DOO terminology is a slight tweak on the more popular Distributed Order Management (DOM), I read through and noticed a fundamental difference in the pitching of the offering. The text goes thus:

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November 8, 2010

Order Management: Deeply rooted in Supply Chain

In this blog I would try to put forth my understanding on the point as to why Distributed Order management is deeply rooted within the supply chain function and why to me it turns out to be a founding member of the SCM club.My thought process strated here.  This is an attempt to draw parallels or bring out the core SCM areas Order Management addresses and also talk about few classic supply chain concepts from which the OMS way of problem solving has emanated from. I believe manufacturing is the genesis of all Supply Chains so excuse me if my points/cues are skewed and towards planning in Manufacturing.

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August 26, 2010

Why Centralized Inventory Data is critical for effective Order Management Platform

Of late, my interactions with regional and global business community, colleagues and ex-colleagues bring out immense interest in the next-gen Platform BPO solutions. While some speak about Cloud computing and some talk about SaaS, etc., many who prefer looking at Business relatively holistically, combining people, process and Technology aspects together, are using this term 'Platform BPO' frequently - they don't mind calling it Business Platform summarily, this is my observation.

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July 12, 2010

Virtual Locations in a Warehouse

Have you ever thought of a location in a warehouse which has a physical pallet, but actually the location does not exist? Strange, isn't it? Well, let's dig into this.

A  few years back I had been to a country in the Far East to carry out business process study for multiple warehouses for a marine food processing plant. Here the raw material was mainly fish which were of all kinds of varieties; these would arrive in trucks and unload the lot in a sorting area where they would be segregated based on the weight and size. They were then placed in large steel containers and then putaway into a large cold storage at sub zero temperatures around under -40 degree Celsius.

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July 8, 2010

Would SCM be a differentiator in your Apps Portfolio?

Dennis Gaughan of Gartner in his blog dated 29-Jun-2010 wonders whether its time for corporations to rethink their enterprise applications portfolio strategy ( Well, I think organizations are thinking about it all the time, sometimes when they do their annual planning and are reminded of the morass in their application landscape and sometimes thanks to M&A (esp for financial institutions) forcing them to look at what to sunset and what to fold in.

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July 1, 2010

Sell-side Supply Chain and the importance of User Experience

Of late, I've been trying to think through the root cause of some of the customer specific expectation mismatches we faced on the web-commerce side in a couple of our accounts. Around two years back, fueled by Sterling Commerce's acquisition of Comergent in the B2B e-commerce space (Order Capture offering, later re-christened into Sterling Commerce MCS or Multi-Channel Selling) and by a few opportunities in ATG Commerce, we at SCM Practice moved into the front-end of sell-side supply chain, both B2B and B2C. Among the most important of all the learning we've had since then have been the important of user experience at this end of the supply chain.

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June 10, 2010

Sterling Commerce folds into IBM - an Infy perspective

Ever since the IBM acquisition of Sterling Commerce (, the standard questions I get asked is essentially variations around the theme of suitability and impact on our practice - Wasn't this acquisition purely for the BIS B2B integration piece which suddenly gives IBM access to 18,000 customers? Was the SCM piece of Sterling Commerce some kind of an afterthought or collateral benefit, if you may? If at all, it would fit in, where would it be? And most importantly, what happens to Infosys next, being by far (by a few light years, if I may say so myself) the leading player in Sterling SCM package related services in the SI space?
Let's get to the last question first. 

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April 7, 2010

WMS ROI - Points to Ponder

Understanding what ROI a WMS can provide before deciding to get one implemented in the warehouse is the foremost exercise that needs to be carried out. You need to look at your current efficiency levels are and set expectations once a WMS is put in place.
Some question that are worth considering:

- Is your stock traceability accurate?
- Are there frequent miss-picks?
- Do you have excess manpower that is not utilized efficiently?
- Is the warehouse space efficiently utilized?   
- Is the right Material Handling Equipment(MHE)selected to picking? 
- Do you have a well defined inbound and outbound operational rules being followed?

If your answers to these questions are not overwhelming, well then you need to look at how a WMS would bring about increased level of performance in your warehouse.

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April 5, 2010

Fighting Gift Card Fraud

Last week I had a meeting with the Director of Loss Prevention at a leading retailer. I was giving him a brief walkthrough of the proposed payment processing process for the new OMS being designed for implementation. In course of discussion a few surprising statistics, on the extent of gift card fraud and how easily the scammers got away with it, prompted us to investigate possible loop holes in the whole gift card fulfillment and redemption process.

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April 2, 2010

Blog 3: Retail Customer Order Management Blog Series: Part 3 – Merchandizing

In my previous blogs, I have provided an introduction to Retail Customer Order Management (RCOM) and the reasons why store organizations are increasingly looking at a retail order as a viable construct to manage new product categories and processes to ultimately enhance the store business model. I would now like to address the item or merchandizing aspects of enabling RCOM.

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February 26, 2010

Augmented Reality and Multi Channel Retail- Unifying the Customer Touchpoints

Most retailers have three primary channels: stores, catalog, and online. A catalog offers a great selection of products in a medium that customers are comfortable with and providing service through a contact center allows ample opportunity for cross-sells and up-sells. The online channel has even greater selection plus integration with social networks, user reviews, easy comparison shopping with other retailers and the convenience of shopping at convenience. The traditional brick and mortar stores let the customers handle and play with products, return items in person, carry them home with you that day and talk with a salesperson if they have questions. The advent of Mobile commerce and growth of the convergence phenomena across the digital world through 'augmented reality' and 'ubiquitous connectivity' has led to unique opportunities for retailers to leverage in developing another channel for commerce as well as enhance the capabilities of existing channels.


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February 23, 2010

The Imperative for Retailers to Assess Multi-Channel Operations Capabilities as a Prelude to Multi-Channel Commerce

The 2009 holiday buying season in the U.S. and indeed worldwide, presented two important learnings for the retail industry.  First, more consumers turned to online channels to perform price and feature comparisons as well as to execute their purchases.  Online channels were reported as being up 4-5% through mid-December of 2009.  One of the most significant takeaways from this year’s National Retail Federation (NRF) conference was that cost and value conscious consumers have discovered that online shopping and integrated merchandising are becoming a far more attractive option, and these same consumers demand more of these experiences.  The ability to research products, place orders online, pick-up or return purchases at the nearest local retail outlet have captured enormous interest, and consumers demand that these experiences occur without a glitch.

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February 15, 2010

Retail Customer Order Management Blog Series: Part 2 – The Retail Order

My last blog finished with Joe Shmoe finding out that despite all his research and time spent deciding on which TV to buy, the store is out of stock for that particular model. The retailer is now in the unenviable position of losing the sale despite having invested a lot of resources in advising the customer and facilitating his Find, Decide and Buy decision. 

The ultimate objective of the retailer is to provide an environment and processes which facilitate the customer in buying products they want i.e. convert the need or intent to buy into a sale. Product availability is one of the key drivers for making this happen. However the supply chain mantra of keeping it 'lean and mean' implies that ensuring product availability is always a balancing act where the retailer juggles with the conflicting principles of lowering inventory carrying costs while preventing loss of sales due to unavailability of stock.

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February 2, 2010

My sale wants to grow up and become an order

I currently consult across multiple clients. They all are retailers, in different segments. At one retailer, we are defining a roadmap for a order management solution. In the course of our discussions, a question keeps getting raised about the sale made in the store: Is that an order?

You walk into my store, you pick something up, want to buy it, take it to the register, pay for it and take it home. In this entire transaction, you interacted with my company. You took something out of my inventory and paid me cash. In retail lexicon, this would be called a sale. However, if you were a business, and sent me a purchase order, and I responded by creating a sales order and then shipped it to you and invoiced you, the sales order is what would be called a order.

So, a customer transaction in store is a sale, and a B2B transaction is obviously an order. What about an e-commerce B2C transaction? Other than the fact that the customer's ship to address, payment information, and bill to address is available with me, how is this different from a sale? Should I encourage my sale to grow up and become an order?

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February 1, 2010

Retail Customer Order Management Blog Series: Part 1 - An Introduction

This blog got triggered by a series of events that I experienced recently. We were asked recently to analyze a 'simple' retail and online integration for enabling the order management and fulfillment process for kiosk orders which were placed and paid for in the store. Lack of existing documentation forced us to go to the store multiple times to place 'test' orders for elaborating the various scenarios. Some of our experiences have been documented in a previous blog by my colleague Sameer.
This actual 'cross channel' experience combined with a similar large implementation for an earlier client convinced me that I should spend some time providing an introduction to Retail Customer Order Management and its specific nuances and challenges. My focus is not to describe the traditional order management process typically associated with a single channel i.e. the steps required for managing the lifecycle of an online order or a retail replenishment order but instead highlight the cross channel benefits and challenges of managing a customer order from a retail stores perspective. 

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January 30, 2010

Multi Channel Order Management Go Live: How early should you plan Cutover/Rollout?

Last month, I was in UK for one of our retail clients to conduct a short workshop to assess the impact on existing system landscape, as they plan to implement Sterling Commerce order management suite to replace legacy order management. Multi channel order management programs typically end up as highly integration intensive solutions.  In such a solution, cut over and the rollout planning tends to become complex.

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January 27, 2010

Decide where you integrate: MCO does not equal MCC!

It’s the beginning of the year and our campus here at Bangalore is abuzz with client visits, with sometimes the Bangalore campus alone hosting 4-5 client visits in a single day. Budgets are being cast, everyone is looking for the right drop box to put their IT dollars and wait for maximum magic for the amount spent. While I am not involved in a majority of these visits, there's one industry vertical where SCM practice consistently gets invited to present their point of view, viz., Retail. My reasoning for this is that there’s really no other industry where one encounters so many best-of-breed SCM packages strung together by each of these retailers in a collage uniquely their own.

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November 7, 2009

Being Unique with MCC: Can Something Buried Under The Hood Be A Differentiator?

Earlier this week, I was in a dinner meeting with the VP of e-commerce at a large general merchandise retailer along with some others from his management team. This was an all-hands meeting of vendor managers whose teams are helping the retailer string together a viable online retail channel. During the course of the dinner, I and another collegue got to spend a surprisingly uninterrupted 20-or-so minutes with the VP (considering the clamour there, it certainly was surprising and may be it helped that none of us were smoking!). Among various things we discussed, one comment he made caught my ear. He felt that in the entire supply chain transformation that's being conceived, differentiation can only be realized via the e-commerce front-end application. Rest of it, order management included, are just supposed to fulfill pre-ordained roles in a predictable fashion.

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November 5, 2009

Developing a Multichannel Reverse Logistics Solution - 2

In my last post I touched upon the key aspect of developing Return Channel strategy. That is easier said than done and needs extensive data analysis. This brings us to another key step in developing an effective reverse logistics solution: Analyze and Avoid.

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November 4, 2009

Evolving Models in Customer Order Servicing – Supply Chain Implications

Retailers of late are embracing the ATB model to maximize order promising, reduce inventory holding and to provide near-to-accurate delivery dates, thus providing improved serviceability to customers.

So what is ATB all about? How does it transform ones business? How should a business gear up to run in such a model?

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October 4, 2009

Carton Allocation During Warehouse Outbound Process

Getting the right size carton to pack an order would be a daunting task during an outbound process in a warehouse. There maybe various sizes of cartons available, but which size and how many of such cartons would accommodate the entire order would be a challenge.

This could be simplified by applying a carton allocation logic that can be built within the WMS system managing the warehouse in case it does not have such a feature. This logic would need to revolve around the fact that items need to fit in the right size cartons with the minimum space wastage and using the minimum number of cartons. Let’s look at how this logic can be formulated. This logic must be used soon after all items have been picked and ready to be packed.

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October 3, 2009

Solution definition..or Requirements Refining..or Both?

The key to successful requirements is to be true to the project goals, to define a requirements strategy and to stick to it as I mentioned in my last entry. In a package implementation the trinity of the business owner, the implementation team and the package vendor need to be aligned with the program vision and timelines.

However, quite often project teams treat requirements as etched in stone. The requirement by itself is just a means to an end. In a package implementation, it is not easy to state the requirements in terms of the package being implemented. We were implementing SterlingCommerce MCF(Multi Channel Fulfillment) and SterlingCommerce Call Center application to replace the client's legacy OMS and call center application. The business requirement owners were new to the package. For the first few sessions, we played an attritional game of "This is what the requirement wants, but this is what the package does". It wasn't going anywhere. There was heartburn and conflict.

At this juncture, as a project team, a decision was taken that the implementation team would also explain what the product does and the why behind that. This led to a longer timeline, but better utilization of the time. Slowly this became a game of "If this is what the package does, how does it meet my overarching requirements". And while the solution was being given shape, the requirement owners restated their requirements in terms of what the package does. 

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July 6, 2009

The Perfect Order – The Danger of Aggregate Metrics

The term “perfect order” has become a well-worn metric for anyone with a supply chain.  Typically, most people think in terms of the basic measures of “on time, in full, in spec,” which means have the customers gotten what they wanted when they wanted it, in the full amount ordered and with the expected level of quality?  Over time, the metric has expanded to specifically call out subsidiary metrics like Right Product, Right Packaging, Right Documentation, delivered to the Right Location, etc.  And all of these metrics make perfect sense.

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June 10, 2009

Road ahead for Sterling MCS & MCF Product Suite - An insight from Sterling Customer Connection 2009

The major theme of the Sterling Connect event for 2009 as expounded in great detail was around connecting and collaborating. The launch of the Sterling BIS suite was an obvious manifestation of that idea. However for those of us working with the Sterling MCS (erstwhile Comergent) and Sterling MCF, I picked up two key ideas which seemed to be of great interest and impact to practitioners and customers working on these applications.

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April 6, 2009

Designing optimal customer order allocation by taking into account of inventory fluctuations can be quite complex....

In the recent times, many multi channel retailers are increasingly focusing on designing the systems that help them manage variable supply and demand situations.  Hard tying demands to incoming supplies will make system very rigid. Customer demand management in multi channel commerce requires a well thought out pro active response to handle such fluctuations.


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March 16, 2009

Warehouses of the future - What it takes to reach there? Part I

I was wondering how would the warehouse of the future look like? Say even 10 to 15 years from now. Well not all of them would have transformed by then, but some of them might have definitely. Maybe, some of them have already had, or are in the process of doing so.

So what is the transformation we are talking about? And how would it affect the way we operate these warehouses? Well, we are looking at how warehousing will be transformed into a highly automated environment. There would be no labour required in the first place, in fact they will be no space for humans to walk (except for service engineers). There will be rails and tracks all around on which automated pick Robots would move to pick and putaway pallets and cases around the warehouse. These robots would move on horizontal and vertical tracks and can reach every location within each zone where they operate. There will be sensors all over the warehouse to guide robots, round the clock.

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February 15, 2009

What a 3PL Warehouse contract needs to include

Well, continuing from my previous blog on Warehouse Costs and Margins, let's now touch upon the components that needs to be included in the contract between the 3PL Warehouse service provider and the Client who will be using the services of the warehouse.

The contract includes, at a broader level, the terms and conditions on usage, rate and billing contract, payment terms, warehouses contracted, billing period, space utilised, the client's customers and warehousing activities agreed upon.

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February 4, 2009

Sell through comparison across stores and DCs

I was recently part of a set of workshops to identify improvements for a certain client's store experience. The key considerations where generic in nature; enhance the customer store experience, enhance the employee store experience with positive impacts on the company's bottomline.

As part of the discussions we talked about sell through based fulfillment optimization for direct to customer orders. The question that cropped up is whether sell through optimization can be applied uniformly across stores, and whether DCs should be considered at par. Can we just apply the classical sell-through formula or do we bias it?

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January 6, 2009

Capturing Warehouse Costs and Margins - Part II

This is the second part of my blog on warehouse costing. 

In my previous blog, we touched upon activity based costing. Now let's look at storage based costing. 

As I had mentioned earlier, just to recap, there are three types of costing which comes under storage, they are Storage Unit of Measure (UOM) based costing, Package UOM based and Fixed rental based costing. These are the three types of costing that can be defined, tracked, captured and billed to the customer.

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January 4, 2009

Will there be impact of economic downturn on eCommerce platform investments?

The answer is an obvious yes. In eCommerce or in multi channel retailing the focus is on cost of effective fulfillment options, reducing working capital and inventory.  In the last 6 months there has been no extreme step such as eCommerce program put on hold due to the ongoing crisis. While long term strategy will be intact but eCommerce investment is likely to be spread over longer horizon. There is definitely much more emphasis on prioritizing eCommerce platform technology investments

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November 26, 2008

Capturing Warehouse Costs and Margins

This is my third blog which is an extension of my previous one, "Channels to Leverage Warehouse Revenue". In this blog, I will explain what a WMS software needs to scale up to in order to capture revenue related information.

First, it must be able to capture costs for warehousing tasks carried out or space utilised. Having said this, tasks carried out will be treated under activity based costing, wherein each activity carried out within a WMS transaction will have an certain cost associated to it.

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November 13, 2008

Five 'I's' of Supply Chain Visibility

While reading a thought provoking blog on a speech by David Allen, famous author of “Getting Things Done”, I could not help but find a corollary between capabilities, what he calls as five “I’s” , of  personal productivity software and an ideal supply chain visibility solution. A day in life of an executive is a quite interesting corollary for Supply Chain. There are constraints, demanding customers, reluctant suppliers and unforeseen meetings/happenings that continuously disturb the meticulously planned schedules. Executives pay a lot of attention to their personal planning gadgets and hire great assistants who help them maximize their day’s worth. Just goes to explain how much would be the worth of a supply chain visibility solution that allows the supply chain managers similar control over their processes.

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October 3, 2008

How distributed is DOM?

The other day, I had someone requesting me on package comparison in the DOM space on “key” functionalities.  The so called “DOM”  or “distributed order management “ can  be misunderstood, generally because it can be confusing to demarcate the DOM process boundary! Interestingly, even package vendors interpret and draw their own boundaries, often overstate when it comes to DOM package functionality. 
The first and the foremost, people confuse DOM offering as the process that covers the entire functionality from customer (or partner) “Inquiry for the product or services” to “Cash” business process. However, what I have seen in the past, the product leaders in this space always focus on providing functionality that compliments the existing infrastructure that supports customer order lifecycle process.  Anyone implementing DOM will encounter the question - do I really need DOM?

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September 22, 2008

Warehouse consolidation: managing effectiveness

Consolidation has been traditionally looked as a mechanism to bring in economies of scale. Of late, organizations that operate across geographies are investing to standardize processes, execution models and technology in the warehouses. The context of warehouse processes and information resident in there, has changed in the supply chain architecture. Warehouse level information now is being "consumed for efficiency and better customer response" correlating to order/demand and inventory position information in more real time. Consolidation programs that embed process, technology and operational standardization therefore can greatly simplify journey towards this "enhanced warehouse awareness" in their supply chain and help differentiate the fulfillment execution.

As an architect, I have been involved with a number of such programs and have seen that warehouses being execution centric, a standardization approach needs to consider factors specific to every warehouse like working policies, use of automation and robotics technologies, handling of specific goods and delivery of value added services apart from warehouse layouts. Given such local dependencies, WMS consolidation initiatives must allow reuse or adoption of local mature practices while conforming to the template of global practice and design.

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September 1, 2008

Considering Warehouse as Profit Center

Warehouses have come of age. So have the technologies that run them.
Not so long back, warehouses were treated as cost centres, always taking the back seat when it came to formulating business strategies for revenue generation. But times are changing.

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