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Top 10 Trends in Supply Chain Logistics and Inventory Management in 2022

By Read Time: 6 min.

For 2022, the pandemic will continue to disrupt supply chains worldwide. Transportation capacity will be at a premium, and labor shortages will continue to be a challenge across the board. In the meantime, companies continue to shift their fulfillment and replenishment strategies in response to changing customer demands.

Given the ongoing impact of COVID-19, excellent field service and remote support will be the foundation of service management going forward. Customers are shifting from an ownership mindset to a service orientation for many products and technologies. Consequently, business outcomes and realization of value are becoming more important than product features.

As a result of this transition, end-user customers are realigning from a CapEx model to an OpEx model by purchasing capabilities rather than assets. Field service organizations (FSOs) are moving from a break-fix-repair service model to becoming a strategic partner entrusted to deliver the uptime and service capacity the organization requires.

To keep these capabilities operating, service level agreements (SLAs) has become a critical factor in successful relationships. FSOs that rely on forward stocking locations (FSLs) to support inventory are seeking partners that help them be agile and responsive like never before.

To help position your logistics and field service inventory management for success, we'll review the Top 10 trends you should monitor.

Same-Day SLAs

Companies are stepping up to require same-day service level agreements. Service parts and replacement equipment must be on hand to meet those expectations without wasting time traveling long distances to pick up the necessary items, or using expensive expedited shipping modes. Forward stocking locations that pre-position inventory close to the customer's point of use and/or demand points are vital in meeting those demanding SLAs.

Field support companies are re-thinking their inventory strategies to take advantage of the FSL concept. There must be either more inventory on hand or inventory positioned at locations closer to the customers' demand points to meet the SLA to ensure responsiveness. More sites with less inventory at each one could help meet the requirements for responsiveness.

24/7/365 Accessibility

Today, there's no time for downtime. The world has developed 24x7, 365 service expectations. Logistics providers must offer the capability for service around the clock. For forward-stocking locations to support field service management, self-pickup and drop-off (PUDO) capabilities provide the level of responsiveness you need to serve your customers.

For unstaffed storage locations, Bluetooth-enabled locks can be fitted that allow employees to access the site via mobiles apps. That way, keys can't get misplaced and allow for transportation agents to pick and deliver materials on demand. Managers can track who comes and goes from the warehouse to monitor employees and manage inventory.

IT Flexibility

The days of cookie-cutter solutions are over. Remember, One-size-fits-all never fits anyone very well. Look for solutions and logistics partners that offer IT flexibility. Your organization requires solutions with the ability to scale up, scale down, custom configured for your needs. Look for easy implementation to avoid disrupting operations. Look for software that integrates with existing ERP systems critical to avoid technical difficulties.

Real-time Inventory

Understand the value of real-time inventory tracking, particularly when there's a need to increase inventory or locate inventory in select markets. Your organization must be able to track each item to know what's on hand and when it's on hand, especially from a replenishment standpoint. Technicians don't have time to waste hunting for inventory when the SLA clock is ticking. With the right partner, RFID technology provides inventory tracking in real-time so service engineers can grab the right parts without taking the time for a manual update. Partner with a provider that supports just-in-time replenishment with local couriers so your team can manage critical deadlines.

Quality Assurance / ISO

Quality assurance is vital for organizations looking to do business with a mature quality group, such as medical devices, finance technology, or any large service provider required to follow ISO 9001, ISO 13485 or other certifications. It's an essential factor in hardware and software cyber security across all industries.

Systematic Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics shouldn't be an afterthought. Your supply chain should include a plan to move items from the forward stocking location back to the distribution hub or other destination. Parts may be needed elsewhere. Or you can extract value from used or damaged items through repair or refurbishment, resale, or recycling. Trying to handle reverse logistics in an ad hoc way can lead to higher costs and inventory control issues.

Multi-warehousing efficiencies

Regional hubs don't offer the flexibility and responsiveness that you can achieve with multiple warehouses for forward-deployed inventory. Decentralized logistics using multiple FSLs allows your business to store products for sale or use by field service technicians, sales teams and many other uses.  Field service and healthcare companies, among others, are using FSLs, particularly in a self storage environment to store parts, medical devices and consumables in locations closer to the install base of machines and customers.

With a centralized hub, your organization may have to pay expedited shipping fees that drive up costs and could lead to SLA penalties. Multiple forward depots allow you to be responsive with your inventory management and move products as demand changes. You can have the flexibility to move inventory where it's needed and always have the right products available at the right place.

Inventory forecasting

To maintain SLA compliance, it's critical to develop agile inventory management. With a data-driven forecast, you can optimize your inventory for each location to ensure stock is on hand in areas of highest demand. You can easily redeploy products to other locations as demand shifts. Historical data can inform decisions about stocking up for seasonal needs and identifying cost-effective replenishment rates.

Work with a provider that can develop a detailed analysis of parts usage based on historical data and the customer base to determine the inventory and most efficient stocking locations to meet anticipated demands. Anyone in the organization can view the inventory situation via mobile apps and Web access, displaying real-time information from the inventory control systems.

Advanced inventory control

With an unstaffed forward stocking location, advanced inventory control is critical for success. Continuous tracking will reduce errors and inventory write-offs. With the use of RFID, the system cuts down or even eliminates time spent scanning stock in or out while providing greater control and insight over inventory. It also makes the real-time inventory status possible to ensure service parts are available to the technicians.

Chain of custody tracking is critical for regulated industries such as medical devices. A mini warehouse equipped with the right technology can monitor the location of each item to ensure complete accountability.

The accuracy of RFID inventory control supports expedited Sarbanes-Oxley compliance checks with cycle counts, helping build client trust while reducing the administrative burden on employees.

Sustainable supply chains

A more efficient, forward-deployed supply chain can help your company reduce its environmental impact and fuel and tech downtime costs. With inventory stored closer to customer sites, technicians can complete more work orders with less driving. Your field support teams can accomplish more in less time, supporting SLA compliance with less labor and fuel expenses and fewer SLA penalties.

To tap into these supply chain logistics and inventory management trends, connect with an experienced field service management logistics provider to turn your supply chain into a competitive advantage.

For strategic insights into your field service supply chain, contact Warehouse Anywhere today.

About the Author

Alex Ullrich | Warehouse Anywhere

Alex Ullrich

Alex has over 10 years of experience driving results for Fortune 100 organizations. As a leader in the supply chain space, Alex takes pride in building resilient relationships and providing tailored solutions for businesses that reduce costs, scale revenue, and create innovative logistics efficiencies. His expertise includes life sciences, field service, technology, automotive, and e-commerce companies. Alex earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science as well as an Masters in Business Administration from Canisius College.

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