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Overcoming challenges with flexibility

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. With supply chain rising up the executive ranks, MHD catches up with Archival Garcia, Vice President at Microlistics to find out about the major strategy shifts across the industry.

“The first interesting thing we started to notice when COVID initially sent shockwaves through the global supply chain was that logistics became front and centre of an organisation and any strategy it was considering,” Archival says.

With fewer containers and trucks on the road and shops largely closed, efficiency and speed to market became even more critical than before. “Some businesses used to place accuracy and completion above speed, but we saw a lot of businesses change their way of thinking. With the fear of restrictions being placed on how businesses could operate at any minute, we saw organisations much more inclined to move goods out the door as soon as possible,” Archival says.

Pressure points were largely around maximising any stock that was available and getting it out the door asap rather than waiting to fulfil an order in full.

Archival Garcia, VP at Microlistics.

Another COVID-induced shift was that the front end of the supply chain became a major priority for many retailers. “With physical stores largely closed, people’s focus shifted to the online customer and delivering that promise, “Archival says.

Cross Docks Australia, a leading logistics service provider and one of Microlistics’ customers, experienced this shift firsthand. “Some of our customers were experiencing a 500 per cent increase in online sales, and most were at around that 100 per cent mark,” Shan Manickam, Owner at Cross Docks Australia says.

This sea change has also had an impact on the kinds of roles involved in supply chain, with Archival seeing more COO roles or CIO roles playing critical roles in projects. This has also been evident in remote or virtual deployments for Microlistics.

“There is a challenge when we deploy virtually or remotely about who to involve. It’s hard to make decisions with 15 people in the room but we help our customers map decisions to the right people so that the project runs more smoothly,” Archival says.

Since COVID-19 forced people to work from home, Microlistics has deployed more than eight projects remotely and has adapted its implementation process accordingly.

What would originally take a full day onsite, is now spread across a number of different meetings. “We’ve recognised the importance of taking a disciplined approach to the project when you do this kind of thing remotely. As a result, we’ve mapped out the roles we need from a customer and the tasks and responsibilities that fit in those individual roles. We’ve found that this has really helped set our customers up for success,” Archival says.

Furthermore, Microlistics has invested heavily in its e-Learning platform to transfer knowledge to its customers. “Our parent company are big proponents of education and sharing knowledge. Before we even start deployment, we educate our customers on terminology and definitions,” Archival says.

At this early stage, Archival says there is usually a lot of excitement about the software and what it can do. “We hear a lot of conversations along the lines of ‘great, now we don’t have to do that work around,” he says.

According to Archival, the issue with manual work arounds became even more apparent during COVID. “As volumes spiked, the kind of work arounds operational staff had been putting up with for years just didn’t work anymore,” he says.

Furthermore, Archival says businesses are starting to view the supply chain holistically, rather than in a silo. “We’re really seeing a holistic view of the supply chain rather than it being a strictly operational discipline. Rather than solving issues such as warehouse to store or warehouse to customer, we’re seeing a more holistic approach and an understanding of what and how many steps are required to get a product to a customer,” Archival says.

Across all of these shifts is a need for more data and visibility, something which the team at Microlistics has their head around.

Coping with demand

With consumer behaviour driving demand to record heights across fashion apparel, DIY and grocery, many logistics processes had to be adapted quickly to keep up with the new pace.

In a largely unpredictable and unstable environment, many businesses are reluctant to invest in large-scale projects. But demand was continuing to rise.

“When there is a lot of uncertainty in the air, it doesn’t make good business sense to start investing in say large-scale projects such as automation, but the pressure is there nonetheless, so a key deliverable is phased benefits,” Archival says.

This is where visibility and data play a critical role. “Unless you have visibility or easy access to information to drive improvements you will really struggle to meet the rise in demand with the assets you have,” Archival says.

Shan Manickam, Owner at Cross Docks Australia also agrees. “By utilising Microlistics’ software, if you are experiencing 100 per cent increase in volume, you don’t need 100 per cent more labour. The data allows you to adjust your picking paths and processes accordingly to run more efficiently,” he says.

Daniel Allison, Logistics Manager at Brand Collective, a leading apparel and fashion retailer and Microlistics customer, also saw a huge spike in demand when the nation went into lockdown. “We saw record peaks in demand, but we used the Microlistics platform to be agile and pivot our business to cope with this increase,” he says.

The Microlistics dashboard and data insights gave Brand Collective a good view of what resources they needed and where. “It gives you an understanding of where the volume is coming from and where to allocate your resources to accordingly on a daily basis,” Daniel says.

Microlistics provides a robust tier of analytics across its offerings. So, when there isn’t the time to start a 12-month supply chain transformation project, businesses can benefit from the tools they already have and can use accurate data to modify processes accordingly.

“We know this level of visibility saved a number of our customers through this unprecedented time,” Archival says.

Investing to meet the challenges of the new normal  

According to Archival, the pandemic has been a good time to reflect and improve on Microlistics’ offering to the market.

“We’ve been quite introspective about what we do and how we deliver and deploy our solutions. It’s been a good learning opportunity for us,” Archival says.

Microlistics dedicates time and resources to improving its products, and COVID-19 has uncovered new opportunities for its solutions.

“We’re going to have a lot more out of the box solutions coming up this year. We’ve taken some of the big-ticket issues we see our customers face again and again and have invested into research and development. We’ll have new functions to roll out this year that reflect the needs of the market,” Archival says.

This year will see years of development work come to fruition and Archival is pleased to report that Microlistics’ customers are set to benefit from all of its learnings over the past year. Furthermore, a lot of the higher-end functionality will be available to customers at a more entry investment level this year.

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