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The growing importance of track and trace

Customer service has become the new battleground for manufacturers and retailers as they strive for flawless fulfilment. The added complexity of multiple channels to market means that there needs to be greater visibility and agility in track and trace.

Consumers have multiple touch points at their disposal from which to order/buy goods ranging from traditional bricks and mortar stores to social media. And their expectation is now immediacy; same day or next day delivery. They want to know their chosen products are available, irrespective of their location, and they want to choose where they’re delivered to or collected from; in-store, home, work or somewhere else.

In order to fulfil this growing demand, manufacturers, retailers and distribution centres need visibility of stock across all channels and locations for both their staff and customers and to have the logistics in place to physically deliver on orders. Indeed 87%* of retailers agreed that a single view of inventory was good for driving competitive advantage and 71%* said it supported customer satisfaction.

Track and trace technology like label barcoding is pivotal to this process, and empowering staff with handheld mobile devices like scanners and printers gives them visibility of stock, better communication and connectivity and the means to be more operationally efficient.

The next generation of mobile printers like those developed by Zebra Technologies have been designed to meet the growing mobility needs of manufacturing, transportation and logistics and government organisations. The ZQ500 series are built to withstand the harshest, most demanding of environments and can be used for numerous applications including proof of delivery for couriers, shipping labels and till receipts. They’re easy to use, rugged, and the media (e.g. receipts and labels) can easily be changed even when the user is wearing gloves.

Such technology undoubtedly increases fulfillment speed, but maintaining connectivity is crucial. If mobile devices fail, users need to know they can either be quickly repaired or replaced by fully configured pool stock otherwise the link in the supply chain is broken and costs start accruing. One way to ensure minimal downtime of devices and reduce costs is to have a managed print services (MPS) contract in place. It can typically save retailers, manufacturers and logistics operators around 30% of their costs and ensure their fleet of devices is properly maintained and serviced on an all-inclusive basis (parts, labour and consumables).

Retailers and manufacturers, particularly of perishable foods are increasingly requiring fixes within very short windows – some as short as 4 hours – and, with fewer engineers on the road, many OEM printer solutions, for example, are ‘return-to-base’ which are time consuming and expose staff to an interruption in connectivity. An MPS contract that services machines regularly largely pre-empts such scenarios and a few industrial MPS suppliers like Datatrade can often remotely fix machines thus maximising uptime in stores or warehouses.

Customers increasingly expect brand experience to be unified irrespective of which channel they’re using and when their expectations aren’t met it can disappoint and damage trust, indeed 91%* of unhappy customers claim they wouldn’t return. Maintainiing connectivity is therefore very much part of keeping customers satisfied.

Datatrade, which has worked with retailers and manufacturers for over 30 years, understands the importance of keeping customers happy and the growing need for shortening customer journey times and its MPS and remote services play a crucial role in making operations more efficient through better stock visibility and communication.

* Source: The Connected Shopper survey and Flawless Fulfilment in the retail supply chain survey conducted by IDG on behalf of Zebra Technologies

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