Leveraging Technology in the Retail Supply Chain
Companies in the retail sector are looking to automation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advancements to augment various sectors of their business. Savvy businesses are deploying new technology solutions everywhere from their supply chains to their storefronts.
Technology is assisting retailers with creating a complete picture of their business operations, from the back-office, to the production center, to the sales floor. Platforms like enterprise resource planning systems help companies report their earnings accurately. Businesses using these information-rich reports are making smarter decisions.
By adding in more technology, retailers improve not only their reporting abilities but also their customer’s experiences. Retailers using technology can deliver products faster and easily account for where a product originated. Technology is helping retailers build smarter and more efficient supply chains.
New Technology Being Used in Retail
Retailers have a wealth of technologies at their disposal. From today’s current offerings, such as RFID tags, to down-the-line solutions like self-driving trucks, companies face a future where their daily operations will be increasingly handled by machines.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Retail companies currently using AI are seeing an influx in consumer data. Right now, AI is gathering and collecting data on consumers, which retail companies are sharing with their manufacturers. This data is then used to help companies produce the right amount of product, thus reducing waste due to overproduction.
One company using AI solutions to its advantage is Trendalytics. Trendalytics’ AI solution is aiding retail companies by collecting and analyzing consumer data from social media, shopping patterns, and other areas to provide actionable business insights. Retail companies using this information make informed, data-driven decisions to target customers at the right time and with the best promotion or deal.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT encompasses any device or object linked to the internet. The IoT’s ability to help companies track every product or item assists leaders with making quick and informed decisions. By connecting all the steps of a supply chain, from creation to a product’s appearance in the store, retail companies can better allocate resources and reduce lost time.
Tive, a supply chain software company, uses IoT-connected devices to alert users to any problems with tracked products. The cellular-connected Tive device alerts businesses with real-time updates on the condition of a shipment. If damage happens to a shipment, companies are quickly informed and can schedule a replacement delivery, if necessary, using this software.
Radio-Frequency Identification Devices (RFID)
RFID tags assist retail companies with monitoring product components or individual products. At the store level, employees can quickly restock items after checking the number of tags left for a product. At the production center, tags aid in order accuracy and tracking a product’s shelf life.
Inditex began using RFID devices in 2014 for their garments. By including tags on each item, the company was able to ship items to stores only twice a week and provide the correct amount of product based on generated data.
Blockchain helps retailers by providing a secure, time-stamped, and immutable record of a product or transaction. This technology provides businesses with an overview of a product’s lifecycle, which aids in decision-making and process improvements. Through blockchain, retailers can track how a breakdown or mishap occurred and learn from it.
Sawtooth uses blockchain technology to maintain integrity in its seafood supply chains. When seafood is caught, it’s immediately tagged with an IoT sensor, which transmits data about where the seafood is in the supply chain, as well as the type of animal and origin of catch. In the end, Sawtooth is aiding companies by tracking where a product originates, verifying its integrity, and getting that product to a consumer in a timely manner.
From restocking robots to drone delivery service, autonomous robots have a big opportunity to help retailers. The benefits companies see from using robots can include speeding up operations and generating tracking data.
Large retail chains are using robots in their warehouses to speed up inventory management and product delivery. Walmart is using drones for tracking products in need of a restock or finding a misplaced product.
In the future, retailers will increasingly automate product creation and distribution. For now, retailers are looking for ways to adapt these solutions for their current operations. From the warehouse to the store floor, businesses are incorporating AI-powered assistants. These improvements aid in a retailer’s overall business goals and processes.
Abbey Young is a technology and marketing enthusiast who’s always looking for what’s happening next for businesses and their operations.