With ever increasing expectations for faster, more tailored buying experiences, the pressure is mounting for businesses to invest in technological developments to remain competitive. In 2019, we will undoubtedly witness the supply chain reacting to these demands by integrating digital solutions throughout the business.

BI meets AI

The question is no longer how do we digitize data, but rather how do we derive strong insights to drive accurate and purposeful business decisions?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being integrated into areas across the supply chain in order to advise of current processes, weaknesses and areas for improvement with increased accuracy that the decision is a good one. This trend will gain traction in 2019 as its ability to offer predictive analyses will aid in improving business intelligence and decision making.

Just in time delivery

The term “lean” in relation to business practices has been widely spread across manufacturing as well as distribution. Previously, businesses were forced to hold large quantities of stock in order to manage incoming requests and reduce order risks for customers. However, these practices are beginning to shift. As such the larger question comes into play: how do businesses respond to customers and meet their order requirements in light of these lean operation models?

The “just in time delivery” appears to be the answer. While risks can still arise, distributors now rely on sophisticated customer service in order to maintain the balance of deadlines and geographical requirements for deliveries.

Lead time friction

In correlation to the concept of lean processes, businesses are experiencing new challenges relating to customer communication when delays or interruptions to deliverables are experienced. Having clear and established communication processes between distributors and end users is vital for a smooth customer journey. In the case of order exceptions or friction, companies need to implement solutions within their ERP systems in order to document delays and order issues.

Managing this can be a challenging task for CSRs and the most effective solution is to automate the management of lead times and delivery schedules. Doing so would ensure customers, suppliers and distributors have access to accurate date delivery and buyer information. It would also allow for better allocation of employee time, reducing friction caused from delays by offering a more personalized service along with insights into product selections and alternative solutions to resolve order issues.

 Digitization of old data

How can businesses digitize previously unorganized sets of data?

The supply chain is considering means to digitize previously unorganized sets of data in order to track and record business processes and offer insights into improved operations. Taking email data as an example, 70% of orders are still being placed via email today, yet many distributors overlook the value that resides in this unstructured format. Unstructured email data can offer a true view of customer activity. This can be achieved through the implementation of digital solutions like sales order analytics. Once unlocked, data that previously resided in unstructured formats can be utilized to help businesses make informed decisions on best practices and determine future strategies for business success.

CSRs of the future

It’s quite simple, in the wake of digital transformation; relationships will be the key to survival. In the distribution industry, much value is placed on the role of the CSR. One-on-one relationships are vital to business success and are an integral piece to any business strategy. CSRs offer much more than customer service, they are ultimately product experts, a knowledge base and the customer’s touchpoint to the business. As more companies implement digital transformation projects throughout the supply chain like order automation, it can reduce administrative and time consuming tasks for the CSR team. Ultimately permitting them to focus on the value added task of relationship building and maintaining your loyal customer base. So while we are experiencing a shift in the role of the CSR, the core values for business success remain.