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How can retailers improve logistics and supply chain processes?

Retail companies looking to improve the efficiency of their supply chain and logistics functions should consider SAP Planner Workbench. Here's a look at how it can support business-critical functions.

Predicting consumers' tastes and behavior is tricky business, and retailers that make and sell consumer goods such...

as clothing and home furnishings have plenty of obstacles when it comes to logistics and supply chain management.

Indeed, CIOs working in such companies are intimately familiar with the challenge of improving inventory turnovers and reducing inventory transportation costs, while simultaneously ensuring popular (i.e., fast-selling) products are adequately stocked. Planner Workbench in SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) is designed to help meet these challenges and improve logistics and supply chain planning.

Planner Workbench is a custom-developed tool that functions more like an intuitive dashboard to enable business users to efficiently perform business-critical functions such as procurement, planning, warehousing and sales functions, so that companies can make the right flow of product at the lowest production cost. Here's how a few company functions benefit:

  • Procurement planners can use the Planner Workbench to improve materials sourcing by opting for vendors who offer the lowest price of a material and whose delivery dates are within the required timelines. Also available in the Planner Workbench are planning tools like forecasting, to predict a material's future requirements and stock, and a requirements list feature, to take timely actions on materials that face supply or demand bottlenecks.
  • Warehouse supervisors also benefit. Planner Workbench enables the supervisors to check the warehouse's capacity to receive goods by suggesting the receiving docks or doors that will consume the least time to unload and receive the delivered goods.
  • Materials planners can leverage Planner Workbench to gain a holistic view of an array of material's supply and demand situations and are able to take timely actions such as increasing or decreasing procurement or production quantities to prevent supply chain disruptions, reduce inventory and improve efficient delivery of product to customers.
  • Sales planners can promptly react to changes made to the sales order, such as to quantity or to the delivery schedule, by evaluating the impact of such changes on delivery planning, production planning or procurement planning. Not only this, sales representatives can temporarily block an order's delivery in Planner Workbench until all required shipping documents or export controls are in place.

Since SAP ECC is the core business application of almost all companies using an SAP system, Planner Workbench can be custom-developed for all companies and industries directly selling their products to end customers. To do so, ABAP programmers develop custom workbenches that cater to any specific business functions such as sales or procurement of the company, and in turn, logistics and supply chain functions can get a boost in the right direction.

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What tools have been most important to your company's logistics and supply chain management and why?
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I dunno. It seems to me that the first thing you need to do to improve your processes is figure out which processes you have, and then look for ways to make them more efficient. I've seen companies do that with Post-its. 
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Thanks Sharon Fisher for your thoughts!
I completely agree with your approach to consistently improving business processes by constantly evaluating areas that can be improved upon. When the 'constant improvement' mindset and the actual work is in place, it's the tools like SAP Planner Workbench that helps achieve the goal! 
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Okay, but that's actually not what I was saying. :) You need to look at the business process itself, not just assume that a tool will magically solve the problem. The tool has to assist the process, not create it. 
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