Digitalisation of Supply Chains: Supply Chain Resilience, Responsiveness and Renewal – LogiSYM August 2020
Taking a digital-first approach
Emerging retail logistics start-up blu, has moved into its brand new state-of-the-art facility. Dubbed the ‘blu eCommerce Hub’, the new facility spans more than 7,000 square metres, expanding blu’s operational capacity multifold. It functions as the base of blu’s operations, housing a technologically-enabled warehouse space, robotically-powered fulfilment systems, and an integrated last mile distribution centre.
blu has invested in a variety of new technologies to fulfil orders more efficiently and accurately. This includes a full floor outfitted with robotically-driven storage and retrieval systems, integrated conveyor belts, and an innovative ‘Put-to-Wall’ solution for high velocity order picking.
Leveraging on it’s supercharged digitally-enabled systems and best-in-class technologies, blu helps businesses get a head start on digitalising their supply chains to remain competitive in the rapidly changing business environment.
The importance of supply chain resilience and responsiveness
Traditionally, businesses prioritise efficiency over resiliency when building well-oiled supply chains. A huge emphasis is typically placed on lean manufacturing and just-in-time distribution, which helps firms save time and money by improving resource efficiency, reducing waste, and optimising their distribution networks.
However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and freight restrictions have thrown supply chains worldwide into disarray. Many businesses realise that their well-meaning yet single-minded focus on operational efficiency may have led to lack of resilience planning, leaving their supply chains vulnerable to crises.
Digitalisation plays an important role in achieving supply chain resilience and responsiveness. Firms using digital technologies to manage complex, multi-node supply chains would undoubtedly have benefited from having increased visibility across their network of suppliers and distributors.
This gives them access to valuable insights into market factors. Businesses empowered with powerful digital tools can forecast supply and demand. It enables them to make informed decisions to address market fluctuations, allowing them to recover quickly from initial supply shocks and scale up to meet surging demand as lockdown measures are gradually eased.
The rewards for building resilience and responsiveness are evident – companies can withstand major disruptions, react to the market fluctuations ahead of their competitors, and thrive even in challenging business environments.
Digitalising your logistics and supply chain
A good number of businesses are already embarking on digital transformation, in a bid to achieve a digitally-optimised and robust supply chain. However, it is a challenge for most organisations, especially large incumbents, to walk away from long-standing business processes in favour of new practices. Not to mention the vast amounts of capital investment digitalisation usually necessitates.
Digital transformation does not happen overnight – it is a process that requires time, effort, and capital, as well as cultural change throughout the organisation. Stakes are undoubtedly high, especially in fast-changing markets, and businesses need to discern where to channel their digital efforts. Depending on the firm’s size and operational complexity, digitalising an entire supply chain may prove to be challenging.
An option for businesses is to work with a single third-party service provider that has relevant expertise in the local logistics industry and access to pertinent infrastructure. Third-party logistics providers can provide customised solutions to best suit business needs.
Moreover, working with a single provider, instead of fragmenting the supply chain by outsourcing to multiple vendors, allows for centralised management of the entire logistical process. This serves to provide better visibility over the supply chain and streamline decision-making processes with more accurate insights.
Key benefits of digitalising supply chains with a third-party provider:
First, the ability to manage demand peaks and troughs. Businesses often struggle with maintaining a balance between accurate forecasting and actual demand. Excess storage space, stock and manpower represents an avoidable cost.
But without the extra storage capacity, firms may be hard pressed to fulfil orders in the event of a demand spike. When parcel volume peaks, it may not be feasible to scale operations in time as warehouse capacity can be limited by infrastructural space, workers, or vehicles available. Instead of bearing this burden, working with a partner gives businesses access to dedicated infrastructure and tools, empowering them with the agility and flexibility to react to demand fluctuations efficiently and cost-effectively.
Second, the ability to focus on core competencies. Inventory management, order fulfilment, and last mile delivery are time-consuming yet essential processes. Businesses should evaluate if they wish to nurture these skill sets internally as core competencies; otherwise, they should consider leveraging the expertise of trained professionals and their best-in-class technology to increase productivity.
Lastly, the ability to keep fixed costs low. Take fulfilment and delivery in-house entails significant time and effort invested in planning and development. It also takes tremendous amounts of capital investment in warehousing and distribution infrastructure, staffing and equipment.
Further, as technology advances, businesses have to dedicate resources into maintaining and upgrading their technologies and infrastructure over time. Choosing to work with a trusted partner helps firms save on these costs and maintain lower overheads. The capital can be channeled into developing other core competencies, to stay competitive in the long run.
Partnering for Success
Since 2015, Singapore-based integrated retail logistics solution provider, blu, has helped valued partners digitalise their supply chains and grow their businesses. The emerging start-up was recently named the “Best Third-Party Logistics Company” by the Logistics & Supply Chain Management Society (LSCMS) at their annual awards, in recognition of their demonstrated expertise and contributions to the development of the local logistics scene. blu was also an awardee in Supply Chain Asia Awards 2019, winning “Supply Chain Start-Up of the Year”.
From its inception, blu has pioneered new and innovative ways of thinking about logistics and supply chain management. Prashant Dadlani, founder and CEO of blu, is a strong proponent of applying systemic innovation throughout the value chain, instead of making piecemeal improvements.
To achieve new levels of efficiency, he integrated previously-disparate upstream and downstream operations and deployed next-generation robotics and AI to automate repetitive tasks and minimise manual handling risks.
Significance of Upstream and Downstream innovations
Upstream – technologically-advanced warehousing and fulfilment facility enables real-time inventory tracking – goods are securely stored and orders are fulfilled swiftly and accurately with piece-level precision – providing the necessary visibility to anticipate the operating environment and make better decisions.
Downstream – blu operates one of the largest automated parcel terminal networks in Singapore known as bluPort. The connected fulfilment and delivery processes facilitates same-day service levels for pick, pack, and deliver to bluPort, allowing partners and their customers to enjoy speedy, secure, and contactless deliveries.
Using bluPort, last mile challenges like unpredictability in transit and missed deliveries due to customer unavailability have been eliminated, yielding bonus cost savings. The extensive bluPort network also enables seamless parcel returns, helping businesses encourage sales and boost customer loyalty.
Partner with blu !
With the new and improved blu eCommerce Hub, blu is poised to become the eCommerce fulfilment and retail logistics partner of choice for businesses. By leveraging blu’s scalable, automated fulfilment and last mile capabilities, partners can work with blu to digitalise their supply chains – empowering them with agility flexibility, and stability to capitalise on the eCommerce boom, respond quickly to unpredictable shifts in the global economy, and stay ahead of the curve.