2017

What’s a Bimodal Supply Chain Strategy Anyway?

What’s a Bimodal Supply Chain Strategy Anyway?

              If the latest hype is to be believed, a bimodal supply chain strategy will be the only way (for larger companies especially) to secure supply chain success in the future. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. What it is apparent is that entrenchment in the conventional principles of linear supply chains just won’t do anymore. The supply chain environment has too many new challenges, driven by dramatic changes set in place by globalism, digital commerce, and increased consumer/buyer empowerment. So just in case, the bimodal concept proves worthy of the hype, it will at least pay to understand what it’s all about. The objective of this post therefore, is to clarify the meaning (in a nutshell) behind what may become the supply chain buzzword of 2017.   A Brief Explanation of the Bimodal Supply Chain The bimodal supply chain concept has nothing to do with shipping by air, sea, road or rail, although you could certainly be forgiven for thinking so—until you know better. In fact, bimodal supply chain strategy involves the simultaneous, side-by-side management of two distinct modes of operation, appropriately known as Mode 1 and Mode 2:   Mode 1: This is your traditional supply chain operation, based on efficiency, value-addition, and waste reduction, and eminently suited to what we now know as the old world of predictable demand. Let’s face it, even demand fluctuations used to be predictable compared to the current environment of volatility.   Mode 2: This is perceived as the new supply chain prerogative—a need to be flexible, agile, to take big, bold risks and experiment to find ways of adapting to rapid shifts in market forces (think natural disaster, economic upheaval, and political issues).   Two Into One Must Go If it helps, you can think of the two modes in a bimodal supply chain as being analog (Mode 1) and digital (Mode 2), but really the difference is more than merely technological. It’s also about the way your company promotes supply chain thinking, and as such, needs operational management teams comprised of both convergent and divergent thinkers.   Another way to visualise the concept is to consider Mode 1 as being traditional, while Mode 2 is exploratory.   If this sounds like a surefire way to promote, rather than discourage the silo mentality that so often pervades supply chain organisations,...

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What Will Pop Up in Your Supply Chain in 2017?

What Will Pop Up in Your Supply Chain in 2017?

New Year is traditionally a time both to look back at what has gone on, and to anticipate what the coming 12 months will bring. In logistics especially though, it’s always wise to keep a keen eye on the future horizon, so I thought I’d put together a few lines on something that might just crop up … or rather “pop up” on your supply chain innovation radar during the year to come. “Pop-up fulfillment” is the catchy, if unoriginal term (borrowed as it probably is from the retail “pop-up store” concept) for the use of third-party warehouse (and perhaps logistics) assets to service a seasonal or similar short-term need for inventory storage and transportation.   Pop Up Fulfillment: The Uberisation of Warehousing? The concept of short-term inventory storage is nothing new. With the staggering growth in ecommerce though, and the need for supply chains to compete more effectively (for example by putting inventory as close to end-customers as possible) it is being utilised in a more dynamic way by companies prepared to break with warehousing convention. As innovative shippers lock onto the pop up idea, equally innovative service and software providers are ready to capitalise on the demand for warehouse real estate. Take U.S. based warehouse marketplace, FLEXE for example. The FLEXE platform has been likened to an AirBnB for warehouse space, since it connects shippers needing short-term space (with no strings) with companies looking to utilise excess warehouse capacity.   3 Ideal Uses for Pop-up Fulfillment Aside from the FLEXE offering in the United States, it’s not too easy to see how or where the market for on-demand warehousing will be serviced, but given the evident gap that it fills, the concept is likely to spread globally. It’s certainly not inconceivable that pop-up fulfillment will be accessible for your company (should you need it) before 2017 draws to a close. Why would you need it? Well, there are at least three possible ways a logistics operation can make use of a pop-up warehouse or fulfillment centre:     1: A solution for seasonality: This can work in one of two ways. If demand for your products typically spikes significantly at certain times of the year, you can “pop up” one or more warehouses to accommodate your inventory build. This can be especially useful for putting your inventory closer to customer concentrations, thereby improving availability and ensuring customers...

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