Architecting a Successful Supply Chain Transformation

By Jim Hourigan, Chief Supply Chain Officer, BuildDirect

Jim Hourigan, Chief Supply Chain Officer, BuildDirect

Don’t Just Deliver a Package—Deliver an Experience

It’s no secret that operational planning is fundamental to running any business efficiently and effectively. What’s not so commonly considered, however, is the integral role that logistics solution providers play when it comes to customer service and (more importantly) the overall customer experience. At BuildDirect we pride ourselves with having a team of knowledgeable, world class customer service representatives, but we also acknowledge the integral role our operations team plays in satisfying our customers as well. Often pigeonholed as mere service providers, operations teams are consistently overlooked as customer experience advocates in the e-commerce and Marketplace realms. Consider for a moment consumers that place their orders online, without ever speaking to a customer service or sales representative. Without a sales rep on the phone (or in person at brick and mortar retailers) to provide customer service, the only opportunities e-commerce sites have to wow customers is through their digital experience (interaction with your website) and their delivery experience. So, when you step back and look at the big picture, it becomes abundantly clear just how important it is to leverage both online customer data and stellar logistics operations.

"Supply chain and logistics is not just moving some box from location A to location B"

Big Shipments, Bigger Data

Although the current market has plenty of logistics services like UPS and FedEx that handle the delivery of lightweight products, when it comes to the heavyweight e-commerce arena, businesses have few choices. What’s more, when selecting a customer-obsessed logistics provider that also offers insight into warehousing solutions and inventory optimization tools fueled by predictive analytics—the choices are even fewer. Enter BuildDirect.

When it comes to marrying old fashioned ground and ocean logistics with machine learning and state-of-the-art predictive analytics models, we are uniquely positioned in the heavyweight e-commerce space.

Traditionally, when businesses seek to improve their operations and attempt to optimize them towards client and customer needs, we look back on historical sales information. Although this kind of information sheds light on previous customer behavior, it offers little insight and no guarantees with regard to potential future behavior. This realization has been trickling across the supply chain industry in recent years, and has been followed by a shift in focus, from past to present—specifically on the diminishing role of historical sales information, and the increased focus, instead, on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics when shaping operations plans for businesses.

Predictive analytics are particularly integral to operations planning for heavyweight supply chain businesses because of the way they identify optimized warehouse locations and simplify inventory management. By basing operations decisions on a forward-looking data model, you can ensure that inventory will be in the right place at the right time, significantly increasing the likelihood of customer conversion.

Integrating New Features

Like most online retailers and marketplaces, we’ve taken one or two cues from the evolution of Amazon’s logistics operations and Amazon Web Services (AWS), which were built to support their marketplace. Of course, we had to make a few modifications to their lightweight delivery model to suit our heavyweight needs.

Inspired by the ease of ordering and delivery of lightweight goods, we’re determined to replicate the peace of mind Amazon customers feel knowing they can track the entire journey of their package to their doorstep. When it comes to heavyweight goods, this process is a little more complicated and piecemeal. Instead of a single book being transported on a single truck, from a single warehouse, directly to a delivery address—fulfilling and transporting heavyweight good orders requires orchestrating numerous moving parts and inventory from many different warehouse locations. That being said, the customer should never bear the brunt of these complications. In fact, we believe they shouldn’t experience any complication at all. We firmly believe that contractors ordering 1,500 lbs of decking online to their job site in Missouri, or a hotel GM ordering 10,000 lbs of commercial flooring to their hotel for a renovation, should be just as easy as ordering a semester’s worth of books to a dorm room in New York.

Streamlined Operations

It is a challenging task for heavyweight e-commerce companies to cope with customer expectations in the wake of changing customer preferences such as online buying. While at the same time, people like to touch and feel the product, and sometimes opt for an in-store experience. In tandem with our strategy of knowing customers and connecting with them, we look to anticipate our customers’ next move or intent about what their next purchase might be. To get ahead of customer expectations, we take heavyweight delivery one step further by offering more high-touch services that eliminate pain points that the customer may not have even considered. We deliver to the room of the customer’s choice, provide assistance with assembly or installation, and assist in unpacking the delivery and removal of the packaging in an environmentally friendly way. We don’t want customers to worry about the truck double parking, reserving appropriate elevator access, or having enough people to carry their delivery inside. By leveraging technology to optimize routes and services, we are bringing the flexibility of making simple online purchases into heavyweight e-commerce. We are already seeing the benefits of our optimized routes and pricing. Our green quotient has increased as the trucks are not making the same trips twice. As customer expectations for full service continue to grow, we will continue to bring on new technologies to maintain our high level of service and customer experience. Autonomous vehicles will grow in scope as analysts have predicted that there will be a shortage of drivers in future. This will cause a pivot in the industry as we see the infusion of technology in the final mile of the delivery. Delivery will be a much simpler task to streamline and operate the heavy e-commerce cargos and shipments.

Ushering an Era of Opportunities

Historically, supply chains have been the focus area of technology firms and now there will be an impetus on product development that is oriented towards supply chain management. I realized early on that the best companies in the world are the ones that have the best supply chains. Amazon and Walmart are at the top due to their efficiencies and facilitated supply chain services. Supply chain being a great driver for any business organization, I would encourage people to directly look at how supply chain and technology work together to enhance their businesses.