Warehousing and Distribution
Article | July 11, 2023
A sector which has been heavily disrupted in the last years is the mobility sector. Following decades of "car being king", we have reached a saturation and mentality shift. People want to be more healthy and more ecological (sustainable) and also avoid losing precious time in traffic jams. As a result a whole eco-system of companies has been created to find solutions for this.
This article tries to provide an overview of the trends in this market, with a focus on the Belgian market.
First of all when looking at mobility and the offers on the market it is important to make a distinction between private and professional displacements. This last category can additionally be split up between the daily commute and professional displacements during working hours.
When looking at private mobility (the so-called B2C market), the car remains an important pilar. Especially for families with (young) children it remains difficult to do everything without a car. Obviously, there is a trend to be more sustainable, which is reflected in more sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, more usage of (e)bikes and (e)steps and an increasing usage of shared mobility options (like shared bikes, steps or cars).
Statistics from China, which is already the furthest in the post-Covid era, show that most mobility options have lost terrain (compared to pre-Covid), with the exception of the car and bike. The car, although still not very sustainable, is still the most flexible and has the least chance for contamination. Especially the flexibility will become more important as office hours also become more flexible. Additionally due to the increased home working, in some cities traffic jams have considerably reduced, making room again for more people to switch back from public transport to their car.
Additionally there is the bike. This is a very flexible, individual, healthy and sustainable mode of transportation that many have discovered during the crisis. Furthermore with ebikes becoming more and more common, bigger distances can be covered without needing to be in excellent physical shape.
The professional mobility (i.e. B2B(2C) market) is however even more in evolution, as governments provide all kinds of fiscal incentives to change the mobility habits of employees and employers. Furthermore employers want to offer more flexibility (in working hours, in working location and in mobility options) and less administrative burden to their employees, allow them to profit from those fiscal incentives (resulting in an increased buying power) and become more sustainable.
As a result a variety of new offers to be more flexible and optimally profit of those extra-legal advantages has come to the market. This makes it very complex for an employer to find his way in this tangle.
Obviously, every company is unique, with multiple axes determining which mobility options are possible and best suited for the company:
The location of the company, i.e. Is the company situated in a city with a lot of mobility difficulties (traffic jams)? Is the company situated near public transport options? Is the company situated in a city where a lot of shared mobility options are available? Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? Which kind of parking facilities does the company have? Does the company have multiple offices geographically spread over the country?
The type of work done at the company, i.e. Does the work require physical presence at a specific location (i.e. time- and location-dependent work)? Is remote work possible? Does the work require a lot of displacements to customers (and/or partners, suppliers…) during working hours?
The type of employees working at the firm, i.e. Are the employees typically living close or far away from the company? What is the age distribution of the employees within the company (e.g. lot of young people, lot of employees with children…)? How strong is the war for talent for the desired employees, forcing the employer to offer a lot of extra advantages to attract people?
The size of the company, i.e. a bigger company has the means to setup more complex mobility plans/options, as they often have dedicated people within HR specialized in these setups.
This makes it difficult to define a "one-solution-that-fits-all" approach, but rather a more tailored approach is required, with some degree of customization per customer.
Promoting commuting by bike via bike leasing and a bike allowance is mainly interesting for companies with employees not living too far away from the company and not requiring doing customer or other professional displacements during working hours. Additionally it depends on the profile of the employees and the safety of the trajectory between the home of the employees and the office. Note that 54% of Belgian employees does not want to use a bike to come to work, with the main reason people finding it too dangerous. At the other hand a similar percentage of employees indicates they would be very interested in options like bike leasing and bike allowances.
Shared mobility options are of course only interesting in the bigger cities, where those options are also strongly available. As a result incorporating those options in a mobility plan does not make much sense when the employer is situated in a location where those options are (almost) not available.
The same applies for "multi-modal transportation" (and the associated multi-modal route planners), which are also only interesting in the larger cities where multiple mobility options are readily available. Furthermore a company introducing this multi-modal mobility concept should be able to put a whole change management trajectory in place, as it requires discovering new mobility options and changing existing commute habits (for most employees the commute is a routine activity, which they do in "auto-pilot")
Setting up a Cafeteria plan or Mobility budget can be quite complex, making the costs and effort, especially for smaller firms, not always outweigh the benefits. New digital solutions can provide a (partial) solution to this, but they typically do not take away the uncertainties for employers to deal with something they do not fully understand.
Electric cars are still difficult for people doing large distances on a regular basis, due to their limited action radius and the too low number of charging stations (especially in the South of Belgium). On the other hand for companies where employees come to the office the whole day and that have the required space to setup charging stations, this can be a very interesting option both fiscally and ecologically.
Collective organized transport is typically only economically viable for large companies, for which a large number of employees are coming from the same region. Platforms exist to manage this cross-employers, but this raises a number of other concerns and reduces the added-value.
Options like "no-mobility" (i.e. home working) and "less-mobility" (flex-offices / co-working places) depend on the work culture and the type of work to be done. For some companies the shift to homeworking during the Covid-confinements was already a serious stretch, which will take years to get fully absorbed. Introducing new concepts like "flex-offices" (co-working places) is probably a bridge too far, especially as there is still a lot of unclarity of who will be paying (and what the fiscal implications are) for the office space (employee paying out of his mobility budget or employer paying) and even more for the added-services like drinks, snacks, catering…
In general employers have a big interest to do something around mobility, but when having to deal with all complexity (fiscal and operational concerns like policies, load administration…), many employers drop out. Employers fear especially all exceptions, as they often represent hidden costs and lot of extra effort. E.g. what happens if an employee leaves the company? What if someone is fired? What about the liability in case of accidents/theft/vandalism? What will be the exact total cost for me as an employer? How do I need to manage VAT? What is the exact value of benefit of all kind for the employee? Which proofs do I need to collect for the tax authorities? Does it fit with the agreements made in the collective labor agreement of the joint committee?…
These questions mainly originate from the existing unclarities in the fiscal regime, which is due to the fact that many HR managers are not yet acquainted with these new offers, the fact that new mobility offers are created continuously (making it impossible for the government to stay up-to-date) and the continuous change in regulation (e.g. "Mobility Budget", "Company Car Legislation"…).
This lack of maturity in the industry puts a break on the adoption and this maturation might take years to unfold. E.g. meal vouchers took 40 years to arrive to a market penetration of 50%, while this is a much simpler HR product than most mobility options. Until this maturity level is reached, resulting in more well-known, better integrated, more frictionless and cheaper offers, the traditional company mobility options of reimbursing public transport subscriptions and salary cars will remain mostly used. Those are still most widely known by HR managers, are fiscally still very interesting and fit well the needs and desires of most employees.
This last argument is important, as no mobility option will become mainstream unless employees are happy with it. This means the mobility option should not only give a solution for "Professional displacements" but also for the "Private displacements" (in evenings, weekend, holidays…), often with the whole family.
Nonetheless we see the market is maturing and transforming, as millions of euros of VC money are invested in promising new start-ups. Almost all of those start-ups are not profitable yet but given the market potential a few of them could grow out to become unicorns. Today’s students are more acquainted and open for these new mobility services, so likely some of them will become mainstream in the next decade.
Today a whole eco-system of young start-ups and existing incumbent players are offering mobility services, like
Car leasing companies: Alphabet, ALD Automotive, ING Lease, KBC Autolease, LeasePlan, ARVAL…
Car rental companies: Sixt, Avis, Dockx, Hertz, Rent a car…
Car sharing companies (in the form of cars that can be easily used for individual trips up to platforms facilitating sharing your private car or co-driving): Cambio, Poppy, Partago, Zipcar, Cozywheels, Getaround, Dégage, Share Now, Stapp.in, Tapazz, BlaBlaCar, Klaxit, TooGethr, Carpool (Mpact)…
Taxi services: Uber, Wave-a-Cab, Taxi.eu, Heetch, Bolt, Free Now, Allocab…
Bike leasing companies: Ctec, O2O, Joulebikes, KBC-Fietsleasing, B2Bike, Cyclis, Lease-a-bike, Cyclobility, Cycle Valley…
(e)bike, (e)step and scooter sharing & renting: Lime, Dott, Bird, Felyx, Scooty, Villo!, Billy Bike, Mobit, Blue Bike, Swapfiets, Spinlister…
Fuel card and Electric charging card issuing companies: Network Fuel Card, Modalizy, Fleetpass, Belgian Fuel Card (BFC), XXImo, EDI (Electric by D’Ieteren), New Motion, Plugsurfing, Blue Corner, Luminus, EVBOX, Cenergy, Eneco, Dats24, EV-Point,…
Parking companies (either companies providing public parkings or platforms to share individual and company parkings): Yellowbrick, Indigo, QPark, BeMobile, BePark, Pasha, ParkOffice…
Companies helping to define mobility plan and manage setup of policies and mobility plans/budgets: Social Secretariats (SD Worx, Partena, Securex, Acerta, Liantis…), Payflip, Mbrella, MaestroMobile (Espaces-Mobilités)…
MaaS (Mobility as a Service) players: Modalizy, Skipr, Optimile, Olympus, Be-Mobile, MyMove, Vaigo (Eurides), Moveasy…
(Inter-modal) Route planners: Google Maps, Coyote, Waze, Mappy, Jeasy, Skipr, Stoomlink…
Co-working place companies (either companies providing co-working places or platforms allowing to reserve spaces over multiple co-working places): Bar d’Office, Workero, Cowallonia, Burogest, Regus, Welkin, Meraki, Frame 21, Fosbury & Sons, Start it, Coffice, Spaces, House of Innovation, Ampla House, WeWork, Betacowork, Startbloc, SilverSquare…
Expense management solutions for local and international (mobility) expenses: Rydoo, XXImo, MobileXpense, N2F, Certify, SAP Concur, Travel Perk, Trippeo, SpenDesk, Splendid, Declaree, SRXP, Dicom, WebExpenses, Notilus, Expensify, ExpensePath, Abacus, ExpensePoint…
It will be interesting to see which of those companies will still be around in 10 years (i.e. which of the start-up have sufficient funding to bridge the long-time gap to profitability) and to which form they have evolved. Clearly regular pivoting will be required as this market is in full evolution.
Warehousing and Distribution
Article | July 17, 2023
Enhance operational efficiency by implementing industry-approved methods for multi-channel inventory management. Taking a holistic approach to control inventory helps multiple sales channels grow.
Multi-channel inventory management is a crucial aspect of the supply chain process that ensures the goods are available to customers through different sales channels. However, with growing penetration of ecommerce technologies and the increasing complexity of supply chain networks, managing inventory across multiple channels has become daunting for businesses. The ability to accurately track inventory levels, ensure stock availability across channels, and optimize fulfillment processes has become critical to achieve success in today's competitive business landscape.
Managing inventory across multiple channels require real-time visibility and tracking of inventory levels which further streamlines the complex process. Inaccurate inventory data can lead to stockouts, overstocking, and lost sales, negatively impacting the business's bottom line. To combat these challenges, businesses must implement a robust multi-channel inventory management system to track inventory across all channels, synchronize stock levels, and automate order fulfillment processes.
An inventory management system can offer businesses a consolidated view of inventory at various locations, such as warehouses, stores, and even online channels. An organized approach is crucial while managing multi-channel inventory or keeping track of moving inventory. Implementing an effective inventory management procedure, managing multi-channel inventory becomes more streamlined and simplified, as well as provides a comprehensive overview.
In addition, as businesses continue to expand their sales channels, multi-channel inventory management has become a vital component of supply chain management. By adopting best practices in multi-channel inventory management, businesses can ensure on-demand access, accurate inventory data, and seamless order fulfilment processes. Additionally, implementing the right procedures will allow organizations to observe an increase in customer satisfaction and experience significant business growth.
The article takes an in-depth look at key benefits, potential challenges, procedural considerations, and the significance of multi-channel inventory management. It delves into the impact of this approach on supply chain performance while providing valuable insights into best practices.
1. Centralize Inventory Management Process
Centralizing multi-channel inventory helps manage supply chain businesses across various channels and locations. Businesses can gain better visibility and control over their inventory processes by consolidating inventory data. However, centralizing inventory management is not without its challenges. One of the major obstacles faced by organizations is ensuring the accuracy and consistency of data across different locations and channels.
Another barrier is integrating various inventory management tools and technologies into a single system. Despite these challenges, centralizing inventory management offers significant benefits, including improved efficiency and reduced costs. In addition, businesses can leverage cloud-based inventory management software and standard operating procedures to centralize and optimize inventory management processes effectively.
2. Adopt Lean Inventory Management Approach
The lean inventory management approach is adequate for managing multi-channel inventory in supply chain businesses. This approach involves reducing excess inventory and only stocking items in demand. While implementation of the approach is complex due to the need for accurate demand forecasting and inventory tracking, it offers multiple advantages, such as reduced inventory carrying costs, improved cash flow, and increased customer satisfaction. To implement a lean inventory management approach in the supply chain business, follow these steps:
Conduct inventory analysis
Categorize items based on value and demand
Implement just-in-time (JIT) replenishment
Leverage forecasting tools
Establish cycle counting and monitoring procedures
Strive for continuous process improvement
This approach helps businesses achieve better inventory accuracy, increase operational agility, and meet customer demands across multiple channels.
3. Utilize ABC Inventory Analysis
ABC inventory analysis is a widely used best practice for multi-channel inventory management in the supply chain. This method categorizes inventory based on its level of importance to the business. ABC inventory analysis categorizes goods into A, B, and C categories based on their impact on overall inventory cost. Category A consists of the most valuable products, category B includes items that fall in between, and category C covers small transactions that are vital for overall profit but have less individual impact. Supply chain businesses can prioritize their resources and make informed decisions by focusing on high-value inventory.
However, implementing this method can be challenging, especially when dealing with extensive inventory data. To successfully address challenges associated with implementing ABC inventory analysis for multi-channel inventory management, businesses must focus on accurate data classification, utilization of advanced analytics tools, and fostering effective team collaboration.
4. Optimize Order Management Process
Optimizing order management involves automating and streamlining order fulfilment for efficient and accurate processing across sales channels. The process ensures optimal inventory control, minimizes fulfilment time, and enhances customer satisfaction, providing a competitive advantage. Aligning inventory levels with actual demand prevents overstocking and reduces holding costs. Additionally, businesses can efficiently allocate inventory from various sources to fulfil orders, reducing the need for excess storage and transportation. The optimization is achieved by adopting automation, system integration, and data analysis. In addition, comprehensive multi-channel order management system offers multiple benefits, including native e-commerce integrations, flexible order fulfilment options, multi-location inventory management, integrated POS capabilities, data-driven inventory planning, and workflow automation, among others.
5. Integrate Sales Channels
Integrating sales channels provides businesses with a unified view of inventory, sales, and customer data, enabling informed decision-making based on real-time information. It helps accurately track products across channels as well as adjust inventory levels based on individual selling rates. The process involves synchronizing channels through a centralized system, ensuring seamless data flow and consistent product information. It includes setting up API integrations, mapping inventory, and conducting thorough testing for smooth order processing. To implement the integration, businesses must utilize technology solutions like inventory management software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Additionally, it establishes clear communication channels among teams managing different sales channels.
6. Set Cross-Channel Metrics
Cross-channel metrics measure and analyze each sales channel's performance, including online & offline sales, and identify areas for improvement. To set cross-channel metrics for multi-channel inventory, businesses must identify relevant metrics, establish benchmarks, and regularly monitor and evaluate performance. Implementing cross-channel metrics allows businesses to make data-driven decisions based on actual performance rather than relying on assumptions or incomplete data. In addition, supply chain businesses can leverage technology solutions, such as cloud-based inventory management software, to manage and consolidate their data sources effectively. Enforcing cross-channel metrics in multi-channel inventory management helps overcome several challenges, such as lack of visibility across sales channels, difficulty in identifying slow-moving products, and inefficiencies in resource allocation.
7. Automate Supply chain
Automating the supply chain and implementing advanced software systems helps businesses to optimize supply chain processes. Automation reduces manual errors, enhances efficiency, and improves overall productivity. It enables real-time inventory tracking, seamless order processing, and accurate demand forecasting. Businesses can easily overcome manual inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and data discrepancies by automating the supply chain process. The process includes integration of automation tools like inventory management software, order management systems, and warehouse management systems. The systems integrate with sales channels, suppliers, and logistics partners to automate order processing, inventory tracking, and shipment management tasks. Ultimately, businesses achieve better inventory control, faster order fulfilment, and increased customer satisfaction by automating supply chain operations.
As the supply chain market evolves, businesses must adopt innovative approaches for multi-channel inventory management. Incorporating additional sales channels into conventional brick-and-mortar operations presents a valuable opportunity to expand customer reach, boost sales, and enhance the overall customer experience. To effectively implement multi-channel sales and inventory management within a retail organization, acquiring a robust retail management system capable of efficiently monitoring inventory levels and facilitating business growth becomes essential. The adoption of an effective system can assist businesses to ensure seamless inventory control and propel sustained success in the competitive market.
Software and Technology, Transportation
Article | December 7, 2022
1. Accessing The State and Federal Benefits
2. A Learning Portal to Educate Rural Communities On EV Charging
3. The Significance of an Equitably Relevant EV Charging Network
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are making waves in cities and are more than just the latest trend in transportation. With the advancement of the EV charging network and its deployment across urban areas, experts are asking what’s next and how this growth can be replicated in rural areas.
1. Accessing State and Federal Benefits
Based in Oregon, Forth is an EV research and advocacy group that recently announced a partnership with General Motors to build grant templates that can help rural communities win and access state and federal grant money to build EV charging networks. The templates will be provided free of charge and cover 80% of a complete grant. Geoff Gibson, the senior program manager for Forth, believes this will give rural communities the impetus to seek out the grant money and get over the initial hurdle of framing a grant proposal.
2. A Learning Portal to Educate Rural Communities on EV Charging
Forth also announced the slated launch of a learning portal that will address the lack of know-how on deploying a charging program for EVs. The portal will empower communities with not just the knowledge of implementing charging programs but also their significance and long-term impact on the community. The learning portal will tentatively go live in 2023 and will be free for local communities, counties, cities, and states, as well as community organizations. The program will be accessible for a year and could be further extended.
According to Steve Lommele from the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, he reiterated the importance of building a national EV charging network. He states that this is the first time a major program has been put in place that covers all 50 states in the U.S., including Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.
3. The Significance of an Equitably Relevant EV Charging Network
Deploying EV charging stations in rural areas has to be meaningful for the communities that will be using them. Forth’s Geoff Gibson emphasizes that the needs of the communities need to be given priority when designing the charging network. For instance, DC charging or charging that is publicly accessible should be preferred at trailheads.
EVs as part of our transport in the future is inevitable and charging networks and program need to be prioritized to ensure all communities are able to access its benefits equally.