This Valentine’s Day, Pause and Appreciate Flower Logistics...

Over the past few days, Boston has been slammed by multiple snow storms.  This causes challenges for my pending flight to San Jose, but another deadline looms:  some roses might not be able to make it to Boston on time for Valentine's Day. Only someone deeply concerned with Supply Chain and Logistics worries about delivery time on Valentine’s Day. But perhaps we all should:  it could very easily shape whether you get a kiss or the cold shoulder for Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

According to IPSOS floral tracking study, cut, fresh flowers take center stage for three holidays:  Christmas, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day[i].  The US imported 976 million cut flower stems in advance of Valentine’s Day last year, between January 1 and February 14.[ii] You might guess these flowers are from the Netherlands. However, the Netherlands supplied only 2% of all imported volume. Seventy-one percent of Valentine's Day flowers came from Colombia alone and 19% from Ecuador. 

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Turn Supply chain analytics to your Moneyball

I watched Moneyball over the weekend for the first time, and I really enjoyed it. As a nerd, I love all movies that demonstrate the power of mathematics and analytics (On top of that, Brad Pitt did a fine job).

But while everyone loves the of using statistical insight to overturn old ideas and revolutionize baseball, but why are supply chain managers reluctant to apply similar winning concepts? According to a Forrester Business Technographics Survey, only 27% of supply chain management professionals and 22% of logistics and distribution professionals are using or plan to use big data analytics or plan to. At Forrester, I frequently discuss supply chain analytics with clients and how to leverage supply chain insights to drive business growth or improve operation efficiency. Everyone knows analytics is important, but there are still plenty of myths related to what to measure, what tools to use, and what types of analytics to apply. I’d like to briefly summarize my thoughts on these three topics:

  • Focus on a few key measurements that matters the most. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of measuring everything in multiple ways. It wastes time and effort — and most importantly, it causes confusion. Define a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that accurately measure your top business priorities and stick to them. Your KPI could be perfect order percentage, on-time delivery, or perhaps percentage on base. Data will never be perfectly clean, but you need meaningful analytics, so clean it up as much as you can and establish an ongoing master program for data maintenance.
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NRF 2017 highlights the need for operations to support customer experience

This is the first National Retail Federation Expo I’ve attended, and I must say it exceeded all of my expectations and reshaped my view of retail. Over three days in New York, I met with more than 30 vendors and had many wonderful discussions about the changes revolutionizing store operations, hardware and software developments, front-end and back-end integration, and retail analytics. HPE generated a lot of buzz on the floor with demos of its machine-learning algorithm in reducing and preventing store inventory shrinkage. And Checkpoint showed me their new RFID tunnels that promised an impressive 99.9% accuracy[i].  As a supply chain and logistics management professional, I look at these latest developments from a different angle. My top three key takeaways:

  • Digital store operations have huge implications for planning and fulfillment. I was amazed to see how much technology has been developed to improve store operational efficiency and customer experience, such as Theatro’s voice-controlled wearable. But the hidden benefits of all this for supply chain managers are still under-explored. Take the latest in-store RFID application from Tyco Retail Solutions: Stores are primarily using it inside fitting rooms to track what items customers have bought or left behind. The same application and the data it captures could give retailers and their upstream suppliers unprecedented insights into what items are most or least popular and how fast they are selling, allowing far more accurate and deliberate replenishment and inventory.
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