Paul Miller, Director of MSB Supply Chain Services
Paul Miller, Director of MSB Supply Chain Services and former Head of Logistics at Shop Direct knows what a healthy supply chain needs to remain consistent for the consumer – big data and collaboration. Here he reflects on his panel debate at this year’s Multimodal, and how these two key elements work hand in hand to deliver positive outcomes for the man on the street.
The way in which we, the consumer, buy goods and services has changed a huge amount in recent years. Indeed, the vast majority of the UK’s high-street retailers are undergoing a massive shift in order that they can cater for consumer demand for online shopping.
Regardless of where consumers buy their goods, making sure the entire supply chain is responsive to changing patterns in demand is something that the industry is working hard to make happen.
Working collaboratively across the North West’s supply chains can unlock real value not just for the end consumer but also the cargo owners, shipping lines, and freight forwarders, making them faster, more efficient and more intelligent.
This sort of collaboration works best when retailers can access and utilise their customer data effectively. This ‘big data’, which profiles consumer demand, plots trends and anticipates gaps, can be used to inform the entire supply chain about what to expect in the days, weeks and months ahead.
I am still of the opinion that many businesses still don’t recognise the real value of what they have in terms of data and, more importantly, how that data can become a source of competitive advantage. Accurate data is crucial too, but retailers cannot be expected to gain a benefit such as, for example, an insight into the peaks and troughs of demand in the wider supply chain if that data is not shared strategically and constructively.
It is no secret that retailers face a skills gap when it comes to recruiting expert data analysts, and those in the industry who have invested in big data and attracted the right people will be the players who flourish in years to come.
It is my belief that the responsibility for using data successfully lies with retailers. For instance, if a customer doesn’t receive their new TV on time, the blame can’t be shifted to the factory, freight forwarder, shipper, haulier or courier. Instead, retailers have a responsibility to meet their customers’ expectations and demands. Therefore, they have to make sure that every single element of the supply chain is working towards the same customer-centric goal, and plays its part accordingly. Big data and collaboration are key to retailers meeting the needs of their customers. Mutual planning, at every touch point in the supply chain requires a real partnership where trust is fundamental.
A good analogy would be the aircraft engine market, where you no longer buy an engine but rather a service. By this you buy a guarantee of service hours, the amount of time you can expect that engine to deliver you an output and keep your planes in service. Supply chains using data is the same principle: we should measure and use our data in the same way, seeking options to guarantee customer service by managing the data we have to ensure a successful delivery to the end customer.
Of course for this to be realised you need to have the right partners throughout your supply chain, both directly and indirectly utilising that data. Through Peel Ports’ successful Cargo200 initiative, it’s clear that there is a shared demand across the North West to revolutionise the UK’s logistic sector. Liverpool2 has put the city and the North West back on the global shipping map and will provide viable new alternatives for cargo owners in the North. This is how we should be operating, as a group of experts, moving as a unit for the benefit of the end user – the man on the street.
Importantly for retailers and distribution centres in Liverpool’s wider hinterland, the new terminal underlines the arguments around introducing direct, deep-sea calls via the city. They will now be able to take their cargo closer to consumers without having to ship commodities via long overland journeys. This removes costs, carbon and congestion from the supply chain to the benefit of the entire supply chain.
As we watch the changing dynamics of retail and logistics unfold, we can be assured that Liverpool and the North West are well attuned to global shifts, and are equipped with the infrastructure and skills to continue satisfying customers as well as nurturing an intelligent supply chain that works for all. As a collaborative team, we are well on our way to becoming a global beacon of best practice.
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