Experts of Katalyst: Can Companies in the Supply Chain Market Compete with Industry Giants?
Experts of Katalyst: An Interview with Lynn Smith VP of Supply Chain Management
“Organizations that understand consumer expectations for their industry – and take steps to meet these requirements will be the leaders in the next decade.”
Over the last ten years, the impact of technology has drastically altered consumer expectations, making supply chain management even more complex. As consumers, we want our packages quickly and conveniently. A 2- 3-week delivery time is no longer acceptable for us. To counteract this trend, companies like Amazon and Walmart offer expedited shipping, with options like 2-day shipping and free 3-5-day shipping respectively.
But, how do companies compete with the Amazons and Walmart’s of the world? We sat down with Lynn Smith, our Vice President of Supply Chain Management and discussed just that, along with other trends and challenges in the industry.
Nichole: Lynn, thanks for sitting down with me today. Can you give our readers some background information on yourself?
Lynn: Sure! In 1998, the apparel company that I worked for asked that I convert three warehouses from legacy applications to the Manhattan’s Warehouse Management product. I was intrigued by the complexity and versatility of the supply chain operation and the creativity required to provide the right solution to the overall process. The company was simultaneously converting to a new ERP, so there was a tremendous learning opportunity presented.
I later joined TNT logistics and moved into the 3PL vertical. This allowed me to work in multiple industries and with a number of tier one companies.
In 2005, I began consulting. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to work with numerous organizations and 3pls, designing and implementing solutions inside the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico, Central, and South America along with Europe.
Currently, I serve as the Vice President of Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Delivery for Katalyst.
Nichole: What are today’s challenges in the supply chain industry?
Lynn: Companies such as Amazon and Walmart have set the bar high for retailers, especially in the areas of e-commerce and last mile delivery. The market has responded by demanding reliable and more efficient solutions – not only in the execution of customer orders – but also in traceability.
Always important in any successful Supply Chain strategy is managing the labor and transportation costs. Both labor management and transportation execution systems have become key to the SCM portfolio.
Nichole: How do companies that are not the Amazons and Walmart’s of the world compete in this current market?
Lynn: What is happening is that these companies are beginning to adopt a lot of the methodologies that Amazon and Walmart are using, especially around e-commerce. These companies are moving to an e-commerce platform that will allow them to become more agile and efficient. Many companies are also moving to a batch picking methodology, which reduces travel time.
Other companies are looking to become leaner, and this is where managing labor and transportation costs come into play.
Regarding labor management, we work with Easy Metrics, which is a labor management system that gives companies visibility into their labor costs, the largest controllable expense for companies.
Transportation execution systems allow companies to plan out the execution of transportation down to last mile delivery. These systems will enable you to see when the order was picked, shipped, where it is with the carrier, and when it is being delivered.
All these features together make a more integrated system than what we used to have 7 or 8 years ago.
Nichole: What are the current trends in the supply chain industry?
Lynn: There are a lot of things trending today with e-commerce being the most well-known factor. E-commerce is important as everyone tries to meet the demands of the internet consumer. This normally involves improved workflows that utilize technology for speed, accuracy and provide ROI.
These technologies can come in the form of Robotics, ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrievable systems), MHE systems such as put-walls, sorters, conveyors, prints and apply systems, AI tools or pick to light systems.
It’s important to understand your business requirements and match it to the proper technology while simultaneously keeping an eye on the ROI.
Nichole: So where does a company even start when there are so many different technologies to choose from?
Lynn: Before a company makes any decision, the first thing I recommend is to perform an ROI Analysis. My question to them would be, “What exactly are you trying to accomplish?”
For example, we just finished a project for an Industrial customer. The Industrial industry is competitive which means the client must compete heavily for labor. Once you hit a peak season, labor is difficult to find and train quickly. This client’s goal was to increase volume while maintaining a solid labor force. From here, we analyzed many different technologies that will not only help them reach these goals – but fit into the scope and culture of the company.
Nichole: And by following this methodology you were able to increase the customer’s order by 63%; is that correct?
Lynn: That is correct, and they did not need to increase its workforce to attain this.
For more information, you can check out our Material Handling Equipment case study.
Nichole: Earlier, we talked about current trends. Can you tell me about the pros and cons of these trends?
Lynn: As with everything, the cons would be associated with cost and time. However, you must remember that distribution is now much more than just shipping products. Companies are now investing in tools that help them manage the network in its entirety – whether it is recommending a product to the consumer, managing inventory levels within the facility, controlling labor costs or increasing speed of the delivery.
Organizations that understand the consumer expectation for their industry – and take steps to meet these requirements will be the leaders in the next decade.
The new distribution network also comes with a level of integration complexity and introduces touch points that may not have previously existed. It is crucial that companies recruit the right internal talent or partner with vendors who can provide specialized skills and products to drive the solution.
Nichole: Lynn, this has been incredibly enlightening getting your take on the current supply chain market. But before you go, why don’t you share something about yourself that maybe our colleagues or I might not know. Do you have any hobbies or interests?
Lynn: My number one interest is my family, especially playing with my grandchildren. I surf, fish, golf, but you may not know that I play the guitar.
Nichole: What is your favorite song to play?
Lynn: I am a Blues man, so anything Buddy Guy is my go-to.
Nichole: I did not know that; I love Blues myself! Ok, any final thoughts before we wrap up?
Lynn: I think the takeaway here is that to better control costs and maximize potential, the industry, in general, is expanding distribution strategies to include other supply chain management tools such as demand planning, labor management, transportation execution systems, and distributed order management systems. These tools will help provide a clearer picture of your distribution network and enable you to manage your operation for maximum efficiency.
For companies of all sizes to compete in today’s supply chain market, they must start looking inward and adapt. What are your challenges and what are your goals? As Lynn stated, before you make any decision, begin with an ROI Analysis. And if you need any help with this approach, you know where to go.
You can reach out to Lynn with all your Supply Chain related questions by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lynn-smith-68763624/
About Katalyst Technologies
Katalyst Technologies Inc. is a best-in-class software, technology services, and solutions provider. Our business and technology experts are highly skilled and work seamlessly across multiple industries, geographies, and technologies. Katalyst’s core areas of expertise are in ERP, supply chain and logistics, engineering & manufacturing, digital & e-commerce, professional services, and publishing. Katalyst has offices around the globe with locations in the U.S, UK, Germany, and India. To learn more about Katalyst and the services we provide, visit https://katalysttech.com/.