Sizing up the critical path

In today’s digital world, everything is getting faster and retail is no exception to this. As retailers try to keep up with the new ‘see now, buy now’ economy, speed to market has become a priority. But without a structured process in place, it becomes tricky to manage product deadlines and ensure items reach the consumer’s hand on time. 

In order to stay ahead in a competitive market, brands need to size up their critical path to understand what milestones they need to meet, when they need to meet them and, importantly, how they’re going to meet them. A retailer who has greater visibility of their product development and supply chain will not only be able to quickly eliminate faulty products and better manage risks but also identify bottlenecks in a product’s lifecycle. 

Duncan Grewcock, Chief Operating Officer – APAC, Adjuno, explains how many retailers are struggling to standardise their critical path with so many moving parts, but why sizing up the critical path is essential for any retailer looking for a collaborative approach to managing the end-to-end supply chain.

Wave goodbye to spreadsheets

Step into any sourcing office or buying department and you will see granular and complicated critical path displayed all over the walls. Most retailers will have some form of critical path management tool in place typically spreadsheets; however, the maturity and accuracy of some of these tools isn’t making the process as seamless as it should be. Developing and assessing the critical path is far from straightforward, with hundreds of moving parts to coordinate and many dependencies to consider. But attempting to generate an accurate end-to-end view of the workflow and the milestones that need to be met by using an unsustainable spreadsheet makes the process much harder. 

Without software to create a holistic overview, sizing up the critical path can be a nightmare for any team to navigate. However, centralising critical path tracking into a single, collaborative system will remove the need for cumbersome spreadsheets and help retailers to have an exact understanding of the end-to-end product journey. Retailers get overwhelmed with multiple versions of the truth as spreadsheets are passed backwards and forwards between multiple parties. By implementing software, organisations can also save on administration cost by integrating with other product development solutions.

Improving sample management

Sample management is a vital part of any supply chain workflow, especially for hard goods, but it is often undervalued. In an age where consumers are flooded with so many product choices, quality is often a key differentiator; especially given the rising consumer interest around sustainability and ethical sourcing. 

To ensure only high-quality materials are used, tests are often required to make sure that regulations are adhered to, standards are met and that issues won’t be experienced further down the line once manufacturing has begun. Having a clear understanding of each stage of the critical path enables the process of sample management to be standardised, ensuring these important tasks don’t fall behind schedule and giving consumers greater trust in the retailer. 

Assessing the entire retail ecosystem

The critical path is just that - critical - and getting the process right or wrong will have a big impact on the entire supply chain ecosystem. From suppliers to manufacturers, everyone will benefit from having greater visibility and a centralised place to view essential information about a product’s lifecycle. This collaborative and efficient way of working will be key to ensuring that an item is available by its agreed launch date. After all, no retailer wants to let a loyal customer or partner down when a much-anticipated product can’t be delivered on time; especially if the sales and marketing teams have been working around the clock to advertise the product and generate sales before it even hits the shelf. 

From buyers to shippers, manufacturers to carriers, merchandisers to the Distribution Centre, there are hundreds of partners involved in keeping the critical path on track. But, sizing up the critical path doesn’t have to cause a headache. Using it as a way to understand the supply chain and the gaps that might be in it can improve efficiency, guarantee accuracy and mitigate risks from arising further down the line when it’s far harder to make corrections. 

In such a complex environment, it’s essential for everyone in the retail ecosystem to look at and work from the same version of the truth. The retailers who track what matters in order to get the right product on the right shelves, virtual or otherwise, at the right time, will win the retail race. 

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