How important is it to meet the expectations of a promised ship date?
The answer, to most, is complex. Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and thus, the importance of promise-ship dates is also. Just recently, a distributor's primary concern was big-box retailers. In the 21st century, however, you need to include next-day shipping orders based online play just as big of a part.
Not meeting your promise dates can be a reason your company loses its edge. If you're working with promise dates with distributors like Target, Wal-Mart, or Amazon, there are severe penalties if you don't get your product there in a timely fashion. So, your business needs to focus on specific pick orders and the importance of allocating products to those.
Naturally, the other issue is shorting. You don't want to short orders, which in some ways also means you can't meet that promise to ship just because you have an outage in your inventory. Both are problems within themselves.
But can you imagine now how hard it would be to not only allocate and worry about focusing on just a tiny subset of your customers—but now expanding that to tripling and quadrupling your number of customers that you have to meet promised ship dates?
Now, of course, you can use all kinds of techniques to avoid even providing a promise to ship date, like presenting information on the e-commerce user interface or website that indicates when they can expect to receive the shipment. We remember a story many years ago, where a distributor was hiring new forklift drivers, and the guy on his first job took out a forklift and destroyed pallets of product. Those are the kind of products that were required to be used to fulfill orders right then and there. You cannot do much about that other than try to react as quickly as possible, which is what we consider the worst-case scenario.
What steps you're willing to take to address those worst-case scenarios? You have to think about how much money you're ready to put into a problem. It could even mean you're not making any money on this order.
Ultimately, in today's world, keeping a customer happy seems to have more importance in some cases—than actually making money on each order—as crazy as that sounds. It's like the old saying, "the best offense is a good defense."
In other words, you'd love to be able to prevent problems from ever happening in the first place. And, there are certain activities you could do and strategies to minimize those scenarios, like keeping more inventory in stock. But unfortunately, taking time, money, and effort to bear these expenses is not feasible.
You can also help your business by ensuring that you're putting accurate inventory information right on the website when people are ordering. Often, people won't be as upset if they see that you're out of stock as opposed to if you try to tell them you can ship it, but then you can't.
There are tools right in our system that can benefit you if you're looking to plan out when you expect to run out of stock, based on forecasts and incoming PO's and outgoing SO's that give you an end-of-day view into what to expect.
What about retail stores? When an online order is created, and somebody drives to a retail store to pick up their order and sees that a product was out of stock, that's another problem. Huge. Only superior inventory visibility can find you a solution, which is the core issue in some cases around not being able to hit promised dates.
For large retail stores, often one of the solutions to dealing with that worst-case scenario is quickly, dynamically allocate picks and transfers to other retail facilities using Inventory Platform technology. Introducing intelligent transfers is an approach that can be very useful in large retail chains.
We're always happy to help people deal with vendor and supply shortages. And in this scenario, being able to dynamically pull products in purchasing from vendors other than your standard go-to providers is another key to minimizing those shortages. One simple but essential aspect of being ready to do such a thing is to have multiple bar codes that represent your internal items. That way, when a new vendor who sends in new SKUs hits the dock, you're able to continue to scan and use those products throughout your fulfillment, and receiving, and so on.
We could spend days talking about these kinds of optimizations because we've spent days planning, building, and creating resources to help businesses work better. If you're curious about what WithoutWire can do for you, get in touch with us. We're here to make inventory management more manageable.