The 7 Questions Interview Series: Logistics and Supply Chain Data Integration
“The 7 Question Series” is an investigative content series where we seek out key leaders in a specific industry and/or subject matter expertise area and ask them 7 key questions that “enquiring minds want to know”. There is a twist however to these questions. We provide the person being interviewed with a hypothesis for each question. This helps to frame and set context for their answer.
Logistics and Supply Chain Data Integration Series Objectives:
The objective of this series is to establish direct connections with Logistics and Supply Chain experts across the globe and ask them the same set of 7 questions regarding e-commerce data integration in the supply chain. We want to derive insights from their direct experiences and expertise that will help e-commerce companies, both B2B and B2C at all stages of their evolution. We are also curious to see if their answers are similar or different. These interviews will be featured on this website as a series.
Interview with Dan Cence of Sprocket Express
About Dan Cence
Dan is a former Supply Chain/IT executive with over 30 years of distribution experience in multi-national companies. He has designed, developed and implemented successful fulfillment systems and processes in 26 countries. Dan serves on the board of the Southern Massachusetts chapter of APICS, the Association for Operations Management, is a former board member and guest speaker of the New England Chapter of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals CSCMP, previously known as the Council of Logistics Management, and has presented papers at the annual meeting of the Society of Logistics Engineers (SOLE).
Dan is a graduate of Northeastern University and is currently the CEO and founder of Sprocket Express, an ecommerce fulfillment company located in Massachusetts, USA.
Robin Smith: I hear the terms B2C, B2B and now omnichannel retailing. How are the changes taking place affecting the supply chain and logistics providers?
Dan Cence: Improvements in technology, the presence of mega marketplaces, and the ready availability of product and pricing information has enabled a shift in a buyer’s approach to purchasing from one of searching for product in subject specific channels to that of searching for their needs in general “trusted” marketplaces such as Amazon, Ebay etc.
While this shift is taking place, the retailer needs to insure a presence both in subject specific web channels, private websites, physical retail locations and general market places. On the physical inventory side, there’s the challenge of spreading inventory across multiple locations. On the internet side, there’s the challenge of being able to take and process orders from multiple sources, each with their own set of information requirements and standards.
In addition, one needs to be able to manage and promise inventory across multiple channels in near real-time. These shifts put pressure both on the capital investment of inventory and in the investment of cross-channel Information Technology capabilities.
Robin Smith: When would it be appropriate for a web based retailer to think about the benefits of integration?
Dan Cence: Integration should be a primary consideration in any channel strategy. Consider it as important as having a blueprint before building a house. You simply can’t keep up with omnichannel evolution without a well-planned integration strategy.
Robin Smith: How important is the Logistics provider’s investment in technology and how does it affect the omnichannel customers’ ability to scale?
Dan Cence: While it may appear to the outsider that Logistics providers are focused on storing product and filling orders, the reality is that they are first and foremost in the information technology business. Without a focus on information technology, scaling is slow and ultimately unsustainable.
Robin Smith: I hear many web retailers are small businesses. What have you seen as indicators of success and the ability to scale versus those that can’t.
Dan Cence: I see that having a pureplay website is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Success is going to come in having an infrastructure that can quickly move to the next “hot” channel while continuing to serve existing channels as long as they are profitable.
Robin Smith: As a web retailer’s supply chain gets more complex as they scale, how do they transition to more complex platforms to handle the growth without killing the business, what do you see as the pitfalls?
Dan Cence: One pitfall is hubris in believing that you can do it all yourself. Look for integration partners who can specialize in the technology. Another pitfall is to allow your internal information standards/ disciplines to stray from commonly accepted practices in the industry. Doing so makes it more difficult to “plug-in” and leverage on new technology.
Robin Smith: How complex can the integration requirements become as a web retailer scales?
Dane Cence: It’s bordering on rocket science. Leverage the experts.
Robin Smith: Any advice on the logistics implications?
Dan Cence: Make sure that your supply chain is agile. Be careful of getting caught with channel-obsolete inventory or vendors with long production lead times. Place a high value on your manufacturing vendor’s ability to customize packaging for channel specific requirements or find a packaging/fulfillment partner who has an agile postponement capability.
Sprocket Express provides Ecommerce, Order Processing, Fulfillment and Back-Office services for companies that conduct business on the web. We have the expertise, staff, technology and strategic partnerships necessary to address the majority of the challenges facing both new and established web merchants. With over 30 years of experience in the Supply Chain industry, Sprocket Express is your one-stop provider of fulfillment and support services, freeing you to focus on growing your business.
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