Omnichannel commerce is the Holy Grail for retailers. In response to changing customer expectations, brands are razor-focused on delivering a seamless experience across every channel, device, and location they serve.
But the benefits of an omnichannel approach aren’t limited to customer-facing activities. The SMB supply chain in particular stands to benefit from greater integration, which can help businesses improve the way they manage inventory and production, fulfill orders, work with partners, and collaborate internally.
For companies looking to work faster and more cost-effectively, it’s time to think in terms of the omnichain.
What is omnichain?
Legacy supply chain operations are often crippled by weak links and laborious step-by-step sequences. But an omnichain approach completely unifies these processes, making it easier to coordinate purchasing, production, inventory, distribution and fulfilment.
Diving a bit deeper into the technology behind an omnichain, this involves a modern approach to supply management whereby supply chain processes are conducted within a single cloud-based environment and using a unified data set. Put simply, this refers to a supply chain that is managed using a single, integrated platform.
Small businesses may be forgiven for thinking supply chain management software is exclusively for the large corporates, and while this may have been true previously, the cloud has made it much more accessible.
Moving past a legacy approach
A true omnichain approach isn’t possible using familiar (yet outdated) tools such as email, paper printouts, and even Excel.
These legacy practices are slow, clunky, and prone to error. For businesses that are already time-strapped and light on resources, these will do little to improve the way they work and will make it difficult to quickly check key metrics, like available inventory, production volumes, or fulfillment time.
Once upon a time, such inefficiencies could be written off as “the cost of doing business”, but no longer. SMBs face increased competition from larger rivals that combine economies of scale with a desire to protect their market share. Add to this rising customer expectations and the quickening pace of market change, and it’s clear SMBs must do what they can to level the playing field.
A cloud-based omnichain approach is the means to that end for small businesses, certainly when it comes to ramping up the speed and efficiency of their supply chain. Here are the five biggest benefits they can expect to see:
1. Unified real-time data
The merits of having a single view of data across the business cannot be understated, especially for time-strapped SMBs. Instead of spending countless hours piecing together outdated information, which invariably results in decisions made on gut feel, real-time data on supplier performance allows companies to optimise their inventory based on solid insight.
2. Global location access
A unified data warehouse also takes away the difficulties many businesses face when trying to determine the location of products, facilities, personnel or partners. This is particularly valuable for SMBs looking to expand to different global markets or develop new products, as it will allow them to maintain a complete view of their supply chain even as it becomes broader and more complex.
3. Partner collaboration
An omnichain approach also opens up new opportunities to work more closely with partners, putting an end to the hours spent on long phone calls or endless email threads. When housed in a cloud portal, purchase orders, specifications and complete records of interactions can be viewed and addressed by authorised partners in any location, at any time.
4. Internal productivity
A more integrated supply chain also improves productivity within the organisation, which also translates to cost-savings. With more of their time liberated from administrative tasks and the manual toil of consolidating data, employees have greater capacity to collaborate on core business priorities that will drive growth.
5. Speed and agility
We’ve all heard the adage that businesses should be proactive rather than reactive, and it’s no secret that the world’s most innovative and disruptive businesses live and breathe this mantra. An omnichain approach drastically reduces the complexity of a company’s supply chain operation, shortening lead times, making processes faster, and promoting the more efficient management of inventory. This is crucial in meeting customer demand for timely service and deliveries in a market where loyalty is hard won and easily lost.
Just as retailers understand that omnichannel is the secret to better serving shoppers, supply chain leaders are seeing the value of a more integrated view of their internal operations, and the cloud has put this omnichain approach within reach. It might be tempting for smaller companies to set this priority aside until they grow, but starting on an outdated foundation will quickly prove unsustainable. By establishing a flexible omnichain today, businesses will be prepared to master the opportunities that lie ahead of them.