January returns: avoid a New Year nightmare, by VSc Solutions
Report from VSc Solutions
Every year, gift returns and repairs in January are at an all-time high, while new sales tend to be at an all time low. “More than at any other time, the new year period is the time to work smartly in order to ensure that you don’t wipe out great December profits with poor return supply chain efficiencies,” says Grant Marshbank, Chief operations Officer of supply chain specialists, VSc Solutions.
According to Marshbank, a lot of money can be lost through poor route planning and theft during the return process. “But, with a top warehouse management system and a good route optimisation tool in your arsenal, 2014 could see the best January your company has had in a while,” he says.
Planning to succeed with a route optimisation tool
Maximising January profits starts with having a process in place to deal with return volumes.
“Not only will your vehicles be doing deliveries to stores – they’ll also need to do collections,” he notes. This has implications for one’s route planning, as well as the amount of stock that can be delivered at any given time, considering the fact that vehicles will also need to plan to take returns.
“A route optimisation tool can coordinate the best routes for vehicles considering all of these factors.”
Pilfer-proof your operation through greater visibility of stock
Reasons for returns range from damaged packaging to products that need repairs.
“And with greater volumes of stock returning on trucks to the warehouse, it’s easy to lose track of all of the items being moved around – which in turn increases the risk of theft,” says Marshbank.
Technology makes it possible to scan items being collected by each vehicle at various delivery points. This information may then be integrated into a warehouse management system that enables users to verify whether all returned stock has in fact arrived back at the warehouse.
“The real-time technology makes it possible for those receiving the goods at the warehouse to scan and check each item being returned, making it virtually impossible for items to go missing in transit.”
Aim for a quick turnaround time
Once the returned goods are back in the warehouse, companies need to aim to get them ready to sell again in as short a space of time as possible.
“This means assessing them to see if they need to be repaired, repackaged or simply moved to the front of the queue for saleable goods that are about to leave the warehouse,” says Marshbank.
This is particularly important considering goods that have a shelf life.
“Every day these goods are back in the warehouse, they’re impacting on your bottom line, so it’s important to get them back on the shelves as soon as possible. That is why a good warehouse management system is critical to streamline the process because it enables staff to allocate items to the correct bays, ensuring that they’re the first items that leave the warehouse again to fill orders.”
“It is clear that efficiency at each step of the returns process is key,” concludes Marshbank.
“Failing this, companies stand to see their December profits eroded in the month that they can least afford for this to happen.”
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.