Imagine the ten most populous cities in the world. Local economies are improving. Buying power is increasing. Retail is saturated with online customers. It’s a potential supply chain nightmare—one that Harbert expertise can help avoid.
Sharing research and potential solutions can improve outcomes for businesses and their consumers in countries across the globe. Rafay Ishfaq, W. Allen Reed associate professor of supply chain management, shared his expertise on retail supply chain strategies with professors and students from Asia and the Middle East during a trip to the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the premier business school in Pakistan.
“Solutions to supply chain problems are not just applicable in developed countries of the world, but in developing nations as well,” says Ishfaq, who co-authored “Evaluation of Order Fulfillment Options in Retail Supply Chains.” “What we do as researchers to find supply chain solutions for local US retailers—the same principles, the same dynamics, and the same knowledge—is applicable around the world.
“How are retailers in developing economies going to handle the pressure that comes with organizing omnichannel retail in a manner that you can make money while serving online customers, and doing it in a manner which enhances customers’ experience of purchasing, consumption, getting orders delivered to their doorstep?”
There are multiple ways customer orders can be filled on time while maintaining quality, Ishfaq says. These include filling and shipping online orders directly from stores, using dedicated fulfillment centers to process large number of online orders together, or ship items directly from vendors. “But you must know the strengths and weaknesses of each of these different fulfillment options . . . to help them see if what they are doing and the level at which they are doing it right now is appropriate for them,” he says. “When they grow and that scale increases to another level, what’s the right time for them to change strategies?”
Other nations can’t always take the supply chain strategies used by US retailers and apply them directly because of the unique elements of their economies. However, researchers in the United States can share experiences and help other parts of the world manage their supply chains.
“As a major research university in the US, we are in the business of creating knowledge and bringing it to people who can make use of it for the betterment of industry and society,” he says. “Being able to provide that service and do that outreach at the international level on behalf of Auburn University is a privilege.”