With over 30 years of existence and global presence in over 80 countries, Hamilton India provides complete attention at every stage of production, logistics, supply and delivery, carving a niche for themselves amongst esteemed customers across the globe with their best in class homeware products. Rajat Sharma, Head- Supply Chain Management at Hamilton Housewares Private Limited – India, informs Upamanyu Borah about the consistency and quality of their offerings, putting into action the sheer prescience in delivering technology throughout their manufacturing units and end-to-end logistics and supply chain management.
Since inception, Hamilton has been producing high-quality goods under the brand name Milton, addressing the targeted needs of customers. Until now, we have religiously maintained high product quality and banked on the fact that consumers today are far more aware and quality conscious than before. Thus, we have been the go-to brand in certain market segments for decades. This commitment to quality has enabled us to gain trust. This endeavour to solve customer problems, addressing their seen and unseen needs, with quality products that they can trust, has helped us gain and establish high brand value. Today, we are associated with attributes like ‘trustworthy’ and ‘dependable’.
Supply chain practices
We have worked on all aspects of the supply chain- Process, People, Infra and Technology. It is no surprise that each zone has undergone transformations for the supply chain to adapt to the new Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA) world and its demands. The use of IT tools/platforms and products across the value chain in order to create visibility and allowing data to be shared for better planning and improving response time, has been a critical differentiating factor.
Organisations must start investing in the right kind of infrastructure and people. The least prioritised element is people, and this often turns out to be the most crucial. With a lot of organisations venturing into Value-added services such as kitting, re-packing and E-commerce operations; skilled manpower, and ready leaders will become a clear winning strategy.
Visibility and availability of data paves the way for lean planning and optimisation. Proven technologies such as Warehouse Management System (WMS) and barcoding have helped boost our space estimation, management, and retrieval, allowing first-in, first-out (FIFO) without slowing down operations. We have also experimented with storage solutions and Material Handling Equipments (MHEs) customised to specific operations and product categories, and witnessed some worthy results.
Iimportance of logistics
Gone are the times when sales pitches, strategies and marketing campaigns alone won the game for companies. With today’s consumers spread across so many channels, and the speed/quality/variety of delivery as well as returns expected by them, it is the speed, diversity, and flexibility of the supply chains that is emerging as a key contributor. Logistics is the backbone of emerging channels that now contribute to about 20 per cent of the country’s sales. The fact that the recent government has decided to put up a body specifically for addressing overall concerns of Logistics in the country, itself speaks of its importance in the contemporary economy.
Today, warehouses are assets that play key role in business strategy and speed to customers. Warehouses need to be designed for speed of operations and not just stocking of goods. State-of-the-art storage solutions suited to the product characteristics and the best retrieval systems must be designed altogether. This is what we have been doing; planning and putting in place the most suited storage solutions, best in class MHEs, a good WMS backed by a strong Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Besides, SOPs need to keep evolving to address speed without losing process discipline and for that, it must be constantly integrated with technology innovations. Post-GST, we’re all looking at optimising our networks and consolidating warehouses. However, this is putting considerable responsibility on the fewer warehouses that grow in size and need to deliver more and faster.
Today, businesses across industries face an upward cost movement of input materials, also partly driven by fuel. And, lots of industries could be dealing with price erosions on the top line, but for us, innovative products hold the fort. These two forces make it imperative for supply chains to keep evolving and get more efficient.
Coordination between suppliers and transporters has the element of stage-gate visibility, alarm for spikes and data cum documents management. We have in the past, standardised processes and data sharing modes and formats in order to ensure clear demand is available for all vendors along with clarity on specifications and delivery expectations and payment terms. We collaborated to use software products and then extended those into platforms for managing documents and raising alarms. At the moment, we are planning to integrate financial systems to complete the loop.
For internal partner functions, a strong ERP and complementing Business intelligence (BI) has made things easier for us than before.
Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) play much larger roles today, starting from consulting and designing of networks and storage-retrieval strategies and eventually, operations speed. LSPs contribute to infra and people that represent companies, creating a considerable impact on their behalf. Also, it is LSPs in their own sectors that are driving many innovations, in order to drive efficiencies and also cater to the scale provided by multiple clients. This, when synced with the offerings of companies, becomes a very interesting source of collaborative innovation. It is time LSPs use backward integration and increase their span of services offered as well as use the scale to generate efficiencies there too, making the 4PL model more effective.
We expect LSPs to be experts in their field and able to align their infra, people and processes, optimally. The best built-to-suit infra, effective and trained people, IT solutions aligned to processes– creating good visibility for the companies through timely reports/alarms, etc. are basic requirements. Whether it is sea freight, air cargo, in-land movement, warehousing, trucking, value-added service/contract service, companies expect LSPs to drive innovations, and therefore partners with them for cost and service optimisation. Valued LSPs also provide inputs from industry trends, local market updates and end up becoming partners in the long run.
Post-GST, inventory consolidation at larger warehouses, without losing the time to market has opened up a whole new world of optimisation. Faster logistics for customer reach with lower lead times is adding a new dimension to this panorama. This is sure to continue and give rise to some very new and unique structures in the times to come. Multi-client warehouses shared spaces/services/operations will all emerge sooner than we anticipate. Digitalisation of non-value adding, monotonous and repetitive tasks not only within the organisation but within the supply chain is enabling companies to offer more visibility, transparency and speed in operations. Though, much of it is yet to be achieved. Use of Internet of Things (IoT) for monitoring and tracking shipments in real-time or upgrading WMS to manage batch level FIFO, etc. are creating dependable supply chains. Further, benefits will accrue by combining this with automation to address some physical processes.