What is Supply Chain Efficiency & How Can Retailers Improve it?


Supply chains across the globe are once again being challenged and fundamentally altered. Ongoing challenges around political, economical and societal issues have had a lasting effect on many retailers with energy prices heading skyward and a rise in inflation still having damaging effects on the industry. In Deloitte’s recent annual survey, only 15% of chief procurement officers believed they had good visibility into risks in their tier 2 suppliers and beyond. Altogether, this highlights the growing importance for retailers to improve their supply chain efficiency.

With supply chain disruption and geo-political tension increasing pressures among retailers, they must be prepared to manage its impact. What’s more, the long-term effects of a lack of inventory visibility combined with raw material shortages, continue to be felt, complicating the process of scaling up to meet demand. While some retailers have now found solutions, many are still searching for ways to improve their supply chain efficiency, streamlining operations all the way from the manufacturer to the shop floor. One such solution can be found through RFID technology.

Deploying RFID & Tracking Items

By implementing item-level RFID, retailers can significantly improve operational flow while minimizing costs. Items can be tracked all the way from the production line to warehouses, and everywhere in between. Stock levels can be managed appropriately, and retailers can optimize their revenue streams effectively. Utilizing RFID tags, retailers can track items at every touchpoint across the supply chain in near real-time. Retailers are able to utilize RFID software to gain access and visibility over all tagged items in all locations. They can also effortlessly track, manage or redirect inventory at the touch of a button.

The Supply Chain Efficiency Formula

According to SML’s 2022 State of Retail Insight Report Part 1, employees spend an average of 14.6 hours per week carrying out manual inventory tasks such as counting, finding and transferring, with some respondents recording up to 36 hours per week on similar tasks. RFID allows retailers to complete this task in a fraction of the time so that high levels of inventory accuracy can be achieved and maintained.

By placing RFID-enabled tablet-based workstations within distribution centers and warehouses, retailers can quickly and seamlessly perform shipment carton audits – including both outbound shipping and inbound receiving. They can also perform quality checks, packing functions and shipping verifications, as well as facilitate the execution of click-and-collect purchases. These features can be automated and configured in order to retain or improve upon current throughput levels, while also increasing accuracy.

As a result of this, retailers can move items along the supply chain and into the store as quickly as they need to. Overall, item-level RFID technology increases the speed and accuracy of supply chain processes significantly, and retailers can make smarter decisions about their supply chain faster. Labor efficiency also improves, with employees aided by RFID terminals or mobile devices that streamline omnichannel business processes and execute tasks.

Optimizing Revenue & Minimizing Environmental Impact

Implementing item-level RFID technology doesn’t only result in optimized efficiency throughout the supply chain, it also enables retailers to maximize revenue. With enhanced visibility from production through the supply chain to retail stores, retailers can better understand their operations.

This means they can re-direct stock and allocate it throughout the supply chain at the most effective cadence. It also allows them to identify areas where they have excess stock to optimize the allocation of items. They can order only what they need, potentially lowering manufacturing, storage and transportation costs by a significant margin as bloated inventory is eliminated. Furthermore, not only does this provide a financial cost saving, but it also helps retailers to minimize the CO2 emissions produced throughout the manufacturing and transportation process and empowers sustainable business practices.

A New and Improved Supply Chain

As retailers continue to search for ways to create supply chain efficiency, RFID technology can play a pivotal role in enhancing the supply chain. What’s more, this allows retailers to accurately and effectively track inventory along every touchpoint, while reducing costs and negative environmental impact. Partnering with an experienced RFID provider in the supply chain will create long-term sustainability and business growth as retailers optimize operations to meet the growth of omnichannel selling and position themselves to adapt to future supply chain disruptions.