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Putting consumers at the heart of the supply chain

As consumer habits change, supply chains need to adapt to reflect the surge in online shopping
Rupixen Com Q59hmzk38eq Unsplash

The way we shop has changed, with people increasingly looking to the convenience of buying online rather than making a trip to the shopping centre or high street. And with this shift has come a parallel move towards direct-to-consumer (DTC) selling, a model which cuts out intermediaries and calls for a more consumer-centric supply chain.

“Traditionally, the supply chain ended at the retail store – that was where people went to shop,” explains Will Lovatt, general manager at fulfilment solution specialist Deposco Europe. “But in a consumer-centric world, that has changed, with shoppers now able to order through their chosen device and at a time that suits them.”

Of course, if retailers, manufacturers and third-party logistics (3PL) companies want to service consumers via these DTC channels, the underlying fulfilment technology must be able to handle unfamiliar workflows and volumes, as well as coping with a range of technical complexities. “Modern fulfilment technology has to be able to accept orders from all of these channels, all of the time, and have a real-time view of inventory across the whole supply chain network,” says Lovatt.

Deposco has therefore developed a purpose-built, web-based platform to support global businesses operating their own fulfilment centres, as well as a growing number of 3PLs who take Deposco’s solutions and offer them as a service to their end customers. The software helps firms to intelligently route their orders, giving a real-time view of the inventory across the whole business. This can help the company to optimise orders and bring products together efficiently from different locations.

Many ecommerce systems have grown as their customers have grown, says Lovatt, but this can be restrictive and often means they lack the IT architecture needed to support a truly global enterprise.

Retail and ecommerce are fast-moving and fast-changing. We need to offer a service that is agile enough for companies to react and take advantage of new channels

And while other traditional legacy solutions may offer a similar level of order and warehouse management as Deposco, he says, they can’t react as quickly and help customers take advantage of the rapidly changing retail landscape.

“Retail and ecommerce are fast-moving and fast-changing,” continues Lovatt, “and we need to offer a service that is agile enough for companies to react and take advantage of new channels. Who, for instance, would have predicted a few years ago that from a sales perspective, TikTok would have become the biggest social media ecommerce gateway?

“This is one of the reasons we do a lot of work with 3PLs, because when they pick up a new customer, they need to start servicing them as soon as possible, and that’s our specialism.”

Lovatt also has an eye on boosting warehouse productivity. Traditionally, fulfilment processes were set up for bulk delivery to retail stores, and wholesalers didn’t have the scale or flexibility to allow single items to be selected. Deposco offers a solution to this, with multiple strategies able to react to different warehouse scenarios.

“There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence about people walking 20km a day around a warehouse in order to fulfil orders. That may be good for their fitness, but it’s not good for company productivity,” says Lovatt.

Some systems only allow for a single picker at a time to fulfil an order, but if that involves hundreds of different items, that’s not efficient, he says. Deposco can introduce zonal strategies, with individuals looking after certain areas of the warehouse, and software that will help to pick and sort across multiple users, with the final order being consolidated into one customer-specific packed order.

Deposco can also help clients meet their sustainability targets. “A well-managed supply chain means less waste and a smaller carbon footprint,” says Lovatt. It’s also possible to achieve reduced overstocks, fewer emergency orders and fewer products going out of date.

“We also understand the dimensions of products, so we can pack intelligently into an appropriate sized package, which means vehicles aren’t carrying fresh air,” he adds. “Helping companies to make these small incremental changes can really add up.”

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