CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 16, 2019
Forward Thinking

Retailers to focus on supply chain strategies in 2019

Retailers, manufacturers say automation is a top priority, supply chain visibility needs improvement, industry survey says.

Retailers are looking for ways to speed operations in 2019, and they are increasingly focused on automation strategies and supply chain visibility as key ways to improve, according a survey by supply chain intelligence firm EyeforTransport and supply chain software provider Quinitiq, released in late January.

The companies' D3 State of Retail Supply Chain report surveyed more than 200 retailers, e-tailers and manufacturers on a range of issues, including the changing retail store, the rise of e-commerce, and customer communication and interaction.

A key finding centered on supply chain automation, revealing that companies are less focused on forecasting capabilities and more focused on implementing automation in 2019, especially in the warehouse. Half of retailers and manufacturers reported that warehouse automation is an "advanced or immediate priority," according to the survey:

  • Warehouse management has consistently risen as an area of investment, from 40.6 percent of respondents in 2016 to 63.2 percent in 2018;
  • Sensor technology is now an investment focus for 35.5 percent of respondents, and returns management for 27.8 percent.

The survey also showed that supply chain visibility will need to improve in order to support the growing requirements for speed and supply chain integration:

  • Retailers and manufacturers continue to struggle to get visibility over their supply chains, despite it being a priority area (36.1 percent report it as an immediate or advanced priority);
  • Although there was a slight rise in the percentage of respondents reporting they had full visibility over inventory—from 22.6 percent in 2016 to 27.8 percent in 2018—there was also a rise in those reporting limited visibility or visibility of only their warehouse stock.
  • Just 2.8 percent of retailers and manufacturers said they have full visibility over suppliers and 38.9 percent report they only have visibility over some of their immediate suppliers' operations.
  • Even technology providers see room for improvement; just a quarter rate their ability to provide customers end-to-end visibility as "excellent."

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