Shelves stocked, costs cut:

Connectivity enables a breakthrough for Retail and FMCG

05/16/2024 | 7 min

Connectivity. Great word, great concept. But what does it actually mean and why is it so powerful for retail and FMCG enterprises?

Let’s get something straight from the start. This blog is definitely not about buzzwords. If it’s buzzwords you’re looking for, search elsewhere. If you’re in the fast-moving retail/FMCG sector at a tough time and you need to make sure your goods are on the shelves, in the right quantities and at the right time, you don’t want or need to hear buzzwords: what you need is connectivity.

Connectivity is the glue that binds a well-crafted supply chain. It enables and enhances communication, transparency, labour efficiency, warehouse processes and transportation flows. It’s an impressive list, especially when you save the best until last; it saves costs and allows you to achieve more profitable business outcomes with less. Most important, it makes sure the goods are on the shelves.

Connectedness is not new, of course. It’s as old as time itself, or as long as humans have traded goods and services. Businesses have always needed to communicate with each other to make transactions work: from the parchment and quills of Renaissance Venice, through the dark offices of downtrodden clerks in foggy Victorian London, via the telephones and telegraphs of the vast North American continent in the last century to the faxes, spreadsheets and emails of the early 21st century. History shows that the ways businesses talk to each other has always been at the forefront of the search for competitive advantage.

We are now once again on the cusp of such a moment.

So, what’s changed? 

First, the demands of consumers and the economic pressures caused by local and global headwinds are creating still bigger challenges for the retail and FMCG sector to confront. Consumer requirements – in their own minds at least – are pretty simple: faster and cheaper, please. Oh, and sustainable, too: carbon commitment = customer confidence. That’s still not all, though: I want personalised goods delivered exactly where I want them at a precise time of my choosing, please. You can’t manage that? No worries, I’ll go elsewhere.

In short, retailers, their suppliers and carriers are being set a very high bar to achieve a basic pass mark in customer service requirements. For those that cannot meet these demands, the future is set to be bleak, as sleeker, sharper performers sprint past them.

 

Game-changing combination

This is where connectivity comes in. It twins the revolutionary gains of digital transformation with a neutral platform network model. Combined, they make a staggering difference.

Connectivity joins the dots between all participants in a supply chain, providing transparency and up-to-the-minute data to each. By connecting retailers to their suppliers, carriers and customers, it brings recently unachievable levels of information clarity and reliability that serve faster and more efficient processes, allied at all times to the needs of customers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and state-of-the-art data analytics inform and refine your decision-making, forging business efficiencies and confidence.

 

The power of platform neutrality

The secret weapon is the neutrality of Transporeon’s platform model. The platform exists solely to bring together all parties in a business transaction with no fear or favour of one side over another. Transporeon is not working for buyer or seller (whether retailer, supplier or carrier). Our job is to bring both or all together to the mutual satisfaction of each party. Information flow is therefore impartial, reliable and 100% trustworthy.

It all sounds good, of course, so let’s dive deeper: what does connectivity mean on the ground, day-to-day, hour-to-hour in a retail/FMCG context? Let’s look at some examples.

First, all stakeholders are connected: retailer to supplier to carrier to customer (all modifiable to suit appropriate relevance). Consider your labour costs, for instance; likely to be a significant chunk of your overall costs, especially at a time when labour is hard to source and, more importantly, to retain. Consider the labour costs associated with a phone-led (or even email led) communication between those parties. Add the hours required for one person to compile and arrange, say, 100 orders in a time-precious, fresh-food retail setting. Those hours soon mount up.

Automation will do it all for you in, perhaps, 20 minutes. And everyone who needs to know will know what’s coming and when, without the need to pick up a phone or send an email. 

 

Step-change in retail efficiency

Those timings matter in any setting, but in a fresh food context, they are gold dust. They are your products on the shelves when they need to be – or not, as the choice may dictate. Retail and FMCG environments can vary widely – the delivery date of a trailer load of Scandinavian timber for construction is unlikely to be as sensitive as a temperature-controlled shipment of fresh strawberries for a supermarket chain. The timber might be going from one source location to one delivery location; the strawberries may be coming from multiple growers to multiple delivery points on a national or international scale, as well as requiring replenishment daily. 

In each case, the points of connectivity matter and both supply chains need to be served without a hitch if all parties are to achieve their optimum goals. Speed, communication, and accuracy are essential to all. 

The step-change in benefits includes digital, paperless transfer of all necessary documents, including eCMR and other regulatory requirements that can add unwelcome minutes – or hours – to a transit, also allowing the driver to concentrate on their core task.

Delivery times can be the difference between profit and loss in retail. Imagine a world where you (or your costly manual resource employed to do such things for you) no longer need to fret or endure uncertainty about a truck’s arrival time. Connectivity gives you the means to know exactly when a carrier’s truck is arriving at a given warehouse, with real-time road information included in the calculation. If there is a difficulty or a delay, everyone will know in advance (again, no phones or email) and can rearrange timings, dock appointments or onward movements to suit shipper or customer criteria. It is the difference between a driver/truck wasting expensive hours idling in a yard until a slot becomes vacant, and in optimising valuable driver hours to arrange a lucrative second run that day.

 

Unmatched market analysis

What about the rates agreed for that run or series of runs? Platform neutrality is vitally important here: Transporeon’s data analytics of Europe-wide lanes includes unmatched reliable rate analysis so that all sides can be comfortable that the rates agreed are the right ones. Procurement is now automated; you establish your criteria and the neutral platform matches shipper with carrier from the thousands reliably onboarded to the network. You have no need for brokerage or manual resources to make these links for you, either in-person, by phone, or by email. Autonomous Procurement acts fast and effectively; the slower you are in securing capacity, the harder it will be for you to snap up the best prices and the best suppliers available.

 

Connectivity closes the gaps 

Increasingly, retailers prefer to manage inbounds from suppliers themselves, rather than letting suppliers run the process. Retailers need the tools to do this, both to promise connectivity with suppliers and carriers, and to run inbounds and store deliveries in an optimised way.

It sounds like a no-brainer, because it is. The Transporeon platform is an add-on that will integrate fully with any TMS, WMS or other relevant software application in the marketplace. Implementation time is minimal and can be achievable without threatening or impeding existing operations or capacities. The route to full connectivity is faster and easier than you might think, with rapid ROI as a further bonus.

With full connectivity driven by Transporeon’s platform-based body of solutions, you are on the road to another new term: interoperability, the facility for your systems to work seamlessly with those of others for the mutual business benefit of all. 

No buzzwords here, remember.

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