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Understand the supply chain

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If ever there were a time for a business to get a better understanding of supply chain management, it is now.

 With e-commerce expected to grow 15 percent to 20 percent in 2019, companies need to know how to get their products into the hands of consumers faster and more efficiently. Understanding supply chain also is more important as the retail landscape shifts away from brick-and-mortar stores and companies store and ship their inventory from warehouses.

The Greater Lehigh Valley, strategically located on the East Coast in a nexus of roads and other infrastructure, has become ground zero for warehouse distribution centers that can reach half the population within a one-day truck drive.

Jason Sindall, general manager of Landis Logistics, a third-party warehouse in Muhlenberg Township that serves about 10 clients around the country, said companies need to adapt to the new paradigm “because the ones that don’t are falling by the wayside.” Sindall said managers can learn about supply chain through associations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management, which has a Schuylkill Valley chapter, and the Warehousing Education and Research Council, which holds meetings and seminars in Berks County.

George Nisiotis, president of the Institute for Supply Management’s Lehigh Valley chapter and purchasing manager at Sands Bethlehem, said it’s important for companies to stay on top of the technology being used in the field.

“You must continuously look into streamlining or eliminating unneeded steps in your process to create efficiencies and, in turn, those will show up in the bottom line,” Nisiotis said.

Mid-level professionals can learn about supply chain management at Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research, which will offer a revamped certificate program in March.

DeSales University and Moravian College also offer graduate certificates in supply chain management.

 “The real advantage of understanding supply chain management is that it really is a form of long-term competitive advantage,” said Zach Zacharia, associate professor of supply chain management at Lehigh University and director of the Center for Supply Chain Research at Lehigh.

Zacharia said companies that understand efficient distribution, transportation, purchasing and warehousing can gain an advantage over those that only sell a unique product, as competitors can make a similar a product and sell it for less.

The field of supply chain management and logistics is changing and companies need to stay on top of the trends, such as using data analytics to target new customers or discover new efficiencies.

Zacharia said more companies are considering using drop shipping, which is using third parties to fulfill customers’ orders instead of stocking merchandise on site.

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