Infor: driving operational excellence in warehousing
Many organisations tend to view warehouse operations as cost centres due to the labor, equipment, and physical inventory. However, with business models rapidly changing through e-commerce, omni-channel, curbside pickup, 3D printing, and more, warehouse operations empower a company to gain a competitive advantage by ensuring customer loyalty and brand excellence stays intact as products enter the last mile.
Common warehousing challenges
Warehouse directors understand the challenges most, if not all distribution centres manage. These challenges cover a wide range of issues which include picking optimisation, inventory management, operational strategy, employee management, returns, and much, much more.
For example, a large amount of productivity is often lost due to insufficient item master data. Without the proper item and location slotting for concepts such as seasonality, promotional activities, and sales projections, poor inventory placement across the warehouse can result in increased costs and reduced productivity.
Furthermore, many companies lack visibility into inventory quantity and location accuracy due to a heavy reliance on spreadsheets, pick sheets, the absence of cycle counts, capacity constraints, or a lack of digital monitoring all together. No visibility into inventory quantities or throughput can result in declining fulfillment rates, stockouts & backorders, decreased service levels, and waning customer loyalty and sales opportunities.
E-commerce continues to change the game
While e-commerce has created numerous challenges and adjustments to warehouse operations for years, increases in e-commerce activity sparked by 2020 shutdowns and safety protocols have expedited the need for near-instant adjustments, scalability, and the introduction of new business models.
In order to match the speed of digital business, warehousing is expanding into localized areas as space previously utilised as storefronts is emerging as smaller, localized fulfillment centres. This allows the organisation to offer curbside pick-up, same day delivery, and more. As newly adopted customer behavior becomes permanent, more and more organisations will continue to explore and implement this model.
Persistent labor shortages
Prior to 2020, a warehousing labor shortage has been a consistent challenge. As a result, many organisations are increasing their headcount to meet demand and ensure enough employees are available if someone requires an extended absence due to illness or injury. To adapt, organisations need to implement advanced scheduling strategies, employee health checks, and routine sanitation schedules to ensure safety measures are maintained in order to keep the warehouse running smoothly.
Implementing a cost-to-serve model
As more customers expect specialised or customised services, the need to segment operations and evaluate cost-to-serve models can be the difference between sustainability and profitability. With more and more organisations seeking to outsource fulfillment operations to third-party logistics service providers, determining what to charge for specific services and requirements is critically important. However, many organisations have yet to adopt a true cost-to-serve strategy and continue to render “blanket pricing,” leading to higher fulfillment costs and lower revenue.
Increased need for streamlined reverse logistics due to returns and recalls
As online orders increase, so have returns. For example, a customer may order the same clothing item in multiple sizes with full intent on returning all but the one that best fits. The fulfillment costs, combined with the return management costs, will far outweigh the revenue associated with that order. In the case of returns, having a reverse logistics strategy to ensure items are properly marked for resell, repair, or recycle will maximise the product’s lifecycle and lower total cost.
While these challenges have been prevalent for several years, many organisations have yet to address them head on, or at all. For organisations looking to improve the warehouse operations to drive additional value, now is the time to explore the right strategies and tools to take the necessary steps.
Google and NIST Address Supply Chain Cybersecurity
As high-level supply chain attacks hit the news, Google and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have both developed proposals for how to address software supply chain security. This isn’t a new field, unfortunately. Since supply chains are a critical part of business resilience, criminals have no qualms about targeting its software. That’s why identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber supply chain risks (C-SCRM) is at the top of Google and NIST’s respective agendas.
High-Profile Supply Chain Attacks
According to Google, no comprehensive end-to-end framework exists to mitigate threats across the software supply chain. [Yet] ‘there is an urgent need for a solution in the face of the eye-opening, multi-billion-dollar attacks in recent months...some of which could have been prevented or made more difficult’.
Here are several of the largest cybersecurity failures in recent months:
- SolarWinds. Alleged Russian hackers slipped malicious code into a routine software update, which they then used as a Trojan horse for a massive cyberattack.
- Codecov. Attackers used automation to collect credentials and raid ‘additional resources’, such as data from other software development vendors.
- Malicious attacks on open-source repositories. Out of 1,000 GitHub accounts, more than one in five contained at least one dependency confusion-related misconfiguration.
As a result of these attacks and Biden’s recent cybersecurity mandate, NIST and Google took action. NIST held a 1,400-person workshop and published 150 papers worth of recommendations from Microsoft, Synopsys, The Linux Foundation, and other software experts; Google will work with popular source, build, and packaging platforms to help companies implement and excel at their SLSA framework.
What Are Their Recommendations?
Here’s a quick recap: NIST has grouped together recommendations to create federal standards; Google has developed an end-to-end framework called Supply Chain Levels for Software Artifacts (SLSA)—pronounced “Salsa”. Both address software procurement and security.
Now, here’s the slightly more in-depth version:
- NIST. The organisation wants more ‘rigorous and predictable’ ways to secure critical software. They suggest that firms use vulnerability disclosure programmes (VDP) and software bills of materials (SBOM), consider simplifying their software and give at least one developer per project security training.
- Google. The company thinks that SLSA will encompass the source-build-publish software workflow. Essentially, the four-level framework helps businesses make informed choices about the security of the software they use, with SLSA 4 representing an ideal end state.
If this all sounds very abstract, consider the recent SolarWinds attack. The attacker compromised the build platform, installed an implant, and injected malicious behaviour during each build. According to Google, higher SLSA levels would have required stronger security controls for the build platform, making it more difficult for the attacker to succeed.
How Do The Proposals Differ?
As Brian Fox, the co-founder and CTO at Sonatype, sees it, NIST and Google have created proposals that complement each other. ‘The NIST [version] is focused on defining minimum requirements for software sold to the government’, he explained, while Google ‘goes [further] and proposes a specific model for scoring the supply chain. NIST is currently focused on the “what”. Google, along with other industry leaders, is grappling with the “how”’.