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There is no sugar coating it. The supply chain is feeling the pain of being stretched to its limits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like a marathon runner, getting to the last mile of the supply chain requires resiliency.

This is achieved through a combination of strength and importantly, flexibility. What currently ails the supply chain has a cure, but during the current crisis, executives can take solace in the adage of “no pain-no gain.”

First, the Pain

Historically, supply chains have had to adapt to changes in manufacturing and distribution. We’ve come a long way from the Sears catalog and the Pony Express, but many basic challenges remain. COVID has accelerated the way consumers want to buy goods, with a seismic shift to online purchasing, but the basic fact remains: Consumers want to get what they want, when they expect it.

As 2021 begins, 20-25% of goods are now bought online, and that percentage will continue to rise, placing continuous pressure on supply chains to meet the rising demands of accelerated last-mile delivery. Along with the recent exponential rise in online shopping, supply chains are now challenged with the volume of product expected to be delivered in the time-windows that consumers have grown accustomed to. Consumers expect that their purchases will show up on their doorsteps within a day and even the same day.

Supply chain executives should consider building best practices to alleviate these key pain points:

  • Goods are moving through supply chains that were not built for the increased volume of D2C parcel-level fulfillment they now must handle.
  • With the need to shift much of the B2B operations to D2C, this has meant warehouses are doing less bulk shipping to stores and more individual shipping to residences.
  • D2C necessitated a huge increase in parcel volume, which in turn has put more focus on the role of the last mile.

Next, the Gain

Like an athlete stretching before a competition, stressed supply chains must develop best practices that focus on flexibility. First, supply chains must focus on resilience, agility, flexibility and sustainability. Second, but no less important, they must optimizing last-mile fulfillment.

End-to-end supply chain transparency will enable the last mile to meet the future. More and more, supply chain leaders are adopting a total RFID solution to optimize supply chains and provide end-to-end transparency for each parcel — its location, its contents, its destination and when it is expected. Automated data-driven approaches in the supply chain are essential to keeping goods moving quickly and accurately.

The first step is understanding just how complex supply chains have become and discovering RFID as a solution to optimize infrastructure and human resources.

Alleviating the supply chain’s current pain and gaining on the competition at the last mile will require a constant eye-on-the-prize: meeting and exceeding consumer expectations. 

RFID becomes the core of supply chain best practices because:

  • From manufacturing to end destination, RFID is taking on a more prominent role, ultimately enabling supply chains to meet the rising demands of e-commerce.
  • A total RFID solution has the capability to maintain intelligence as well as interpret it throughout the supply chain. 
  • RFID can enable additional functionalities throughout the supply chain — specifically, intelligent automated sorting in last mile.  
  • Accuracy is essential because merchants can’t afford to send the wrong thing to the wrong person. Fully automating the movement of goods drives accuracy, and RFID offers a new level of automation that goes way beyond the conveyer belt.

And Finally, the Finish Line

Alleviating the supply chain’s current pain and gaining on the competition at the last mile will require a constant eye-on-the-prize: meeting and exceeding consumer expectations.

Supply chain executives need to revisit best practices that strengthen their capabilities in four key areas: velocity, sustainability, efficiency and accuracy. Implementing an RFID solution will give supply chains the ability to flex, stretch and win.

Ryan Yost is vice president/general manager for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) of Avery Dennison Corp. He is focused on building partnerships and solutions within the food, apparel and fulfillment industries.