When the pandemic hit in 2020, we were forced to start thinking about which business processes in our supply chain could be run remotely. We soon discovered that the investments we have made in automation, digital platforms and data visibility in recent years meant that we could easily shift many of our business processes to a remote work model.

There are, of course, many roles that cannot be done anywhere besides the warehouse. We still need some people to pick, pack and dispatch orders onsite. Yet when we reviewed our processes to limit the number of people in our warehouses for social distancing purposes, we found that many customer service, administrative and management staff did not need to be physically present in the warehouse.

Behind the scenes, it’s the significant investments we have made in warehouse and inventory management and warehouse automation that makes it possible. The solutions that we have put in place have not only enabled us to vastly improve productivity and accuracy in our business processes over the past five years, they also provide us with real-time, online visibility into every order and process.

From receiving and grouping sales orders to creating waves of work for picking, packing, quality control and handover to a courier, we have complete line of sight into everything that happens in the warehouse – without the need to be there to supervise the colleagues responsible for sorting, picking and packing.

Remote work is not a compromise 

As we’ve found over the duration of the pandemic, remote work is actually not a compromise for customer-facing members of the team. It’s a vast improvement since they can spend more of their time focusing on customer engagement and less worrying about what is happening inside the warehouse. The time savings and boost to customer service are substantial.

Now, it’s important to stress that any supply chain company that wants to make this pivot needs to have the right infrastructure in place. For example, we have achieved an accuracy level of 99.7% in processing orders. In a warehousing environment running below 90%, going remote is more challenging because there is more supervision required.

Supply chain and ERP software, preferably cloud-enabled, is also a must. It allows paperless, remote management of the business, and offers transparency into the progress of each order. With the right foundation in place you can move away from hands-on command-and-control towards trusting in systems and processes.

The sophistication of these platforms means that IT resellers, e-commerce retailers and other businesses that rely on third-party logistics (3PL) providers can also move towards remote management of their supply chains. No longer do they need to concern themselves with what happens in a warehouse or manage inventory themselves.

They can instead tap into a 3PL provider’s systems for complete visibility, or depending on their digital sophistication, let their customers view and track order status themselves. As a 3PL partner, we are excited to be working with our clients to unlock the full benefit of digitalisation – efficiency, transparency, and the removal of friction from their business process and customer experience.

[Photo bHalfpoint on Adobe Stock]