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That is the message of Part 1 of this series on high-tech product launches. Whether it's reviewing the plan for forward deployment or gearing up for efficient product processing and coordinated product delivery, areas covered in this post, developing a step-by-step, in-depth plan will give you peace of mind.
Stage two of the planning process, or product processing, requires more coordination across the organization than any other point in the process. Creating an adequate security and risk management plan, identifying the value-added services that will be needed prior to launch and developing the in-country distribution plan for each market requires input from many different stakeholders. Clear lines of communication are vital to flawless execution of the launch plan during the product processing stage.
For example, sales and marketing departments must clearly articulate all value-added services, such as assembly, kitting and labeling requirements, to the logistics department or 3PL provider, and the logistics department or 3PL provider must design a supply chain plan that can meet personnel and equipment demands to satisfy marketing's requests. Likewise, the finance department must be onboard with the overall design of the product launch supply chain and the speed of product processing, as inventory carrying costs must be balanced with the costs associated with speed-to-market.
Getting your products to the desired markets and ready for consumers is perhaps the most difficult planning stage of the product launch, as the activities in this stage can drastically change by geography. Overall, there are three key considerations of the second product launch planning stage: security, preparation and processing, and distribution strategy.
As we learned in the 4th Annual UPS Change in the (Supply) Chain survey, ensuring product security throughout the supply chain is the number one product launch challenge identified by high-tech executives. Product security does not begin or end during the second phase of a product launch, but security and contingency planning can become more complex during this stage since products are typically in the supply chain for longer time periods. Companies should not take a one-size-fits-all approach to product launch security. The security needs of a product launch depend on that specific product, the geographic market, as well as both the transportation and distribution method. However, the following general checklist can serve as a guide when developing the security plan:
"¢ Pallet security (e.g. wire mesh, opaque wrapping, security tape and RFID tags)
"¢ Origin & destination screening (e.g. weight check, photos and CCTV surveillance)
"¢ Route monitoring (e.g. GPS-equipped trucks, truck seals and security escort)
"¢ Secure warehousing (e.g. 24-hr CCTV, security staff monitoring and geo-fencing)
"¢ Daily / hourly security reports
"¢ Cargo / parcel insurance
In addition to keeping products safe, the supply chain must be designed to ensure that products are prepared for customer delivery in a timely manner, also known as processing. The plan may require a temporary movement of products to 3PL warehouses for quick distribution, ensuring consumers will get their highly-anticipated tech product on the day of the launch. This can also require on-site personnel for labeling and kitting or other preparations and processing; oftentimes logistics providers are able to perform these services, which can reduce unnecessary transportation costs. This type of activity can also reduce the number of days products are in the supply chain, getting the products to consumers as quickly as possible.
Lastly, this stage requires companies to think through their distribution strategy. First and foremost, key decision makers should determine whether or not to commit to a day-specific launch date and if that delivery date will and can hold true across all channels. In recent years, many high-tech companies have gravitated towards day-specific launches in an effort to build excitement, generate pre-orders and quickly capitalize on any pre-launch buzz their marketing efforts may have generated. However, day-specific launches across multiple channels are quite a complicated logistical task. Making sure your company or 3PL provider understands the product processing timeline and desired day of delivery is critically important. Likewise, 3PL providers used during a launch should inform you of any possible logistical constraints or concerns around the desired day of delivery.
Whether by freight or parcel movement, the plan for processing products during a product launch should be focused on flexibility, security and staying on schedule. In many ways, ensuring customer satisfaction begins with the execution of the product processing plan.
Final Stage: Product Delivery
UPS handles multiple product launches over the course of a year for some of the largest high-tech companies in the world, along with smaller product launches for start-ups and companies getting into new lines of business. The one thing that remains consistent across all planning discussions, regardless of company size, is that companies typically want to jump straight to the third, most exciting stage of product launch planning: the launch-day delivery plan. From the long lines at retail stores to the anticipation a customer experiences waiting for a package the day of the launch - it's all about the delivery plan. And, the delivery plan is all about having a satisfied customer. In today's connected world, where customers can provide instant and viral feedback, the pressure on high-tech companies to deliver is greater than ever.
As found in the latest UPS Change in the (Supply) Chain survey, high-tech logistics executives are moving toward prioritizing a customer-centric supply chain. This shift is clearly apparent in high-tech product launches, as day-specific product launches grow in popularity. It's critical to synchronize the product launch delivery plan to match the desired launch-day experience for your customers.
As previously discussed, meeting product launch deadlines is largely determined during the first two stages of the launch. However, when it comes to direct-to-consumer orders, many high-tech companies do not think about D2C "send-agains" and the impact they can have on the overall launch. Signature requirements and other restrictions, such as not being able to leave packages at a consumer's doorstep, can lead to a number of problems during the launch, as D2C send-agains can negatively impact a product launch in multiple ways. In order to ensure their retail partners are ready for the launch, high-tech companies should discuss special staffing requirements (during delivery and on launch day), kitting requirements and the ideal customer launch day experience with all their retail partners.
For orders that are scheduled to be delivered to a customer at their home, the primary consideration should be flexibility. In other words, the company launching the product should empower their customers during the final delivery to ensure the product gets to the destination on the desired day at the preferred time. Tools like UPS My Choice allow customers to reroute packages to alternate delivery locations or use online signature functionality to ensure their packages are left on the doorstep. Furthermore, the launch plan can dictate that all missed deliveries are rerouted to specified locations.
High-tech supply chains are changing, and the emphasis on customer-centricity should go beyond day-to-day operations to include special logistics projects, such as product launches. To bolster customer loyalty and satisfaction, companies should create flexible delivery plans and empower their customers during the third stage of the product launch by allowing for alternative delivery locations, online signature and automatic rerouting if needed.
To help master the last two stages of a global product launch, consider the following:
"¢ Security planning: Do you have any specific security concerns (region, part of the supply chain, etc.)? Have you developed contingency plans in the event that security is compromised?
"¢ Preparation and processing: Outside of the standard checklist above, are there any unique requirements for this particular product?
"¢ Distribution strategy: Based on your key markets, launch date and target demographic, what are your top markets and retailers for distribution? How do you prioritize these markets?
"¢ Ideal customer experience: As you plan for your product delivery, consider having a meeting with your teams across the company and partners to discuss the "ideal customer experience". Then, use this brainstorm and these priorities to develop your product delivery plan.
"¢ Retail channels: In the busy time leading up to product delivery, it's easy to forget about retail channels. Make sure that you have clearly communicated the priorities you identified regarding an "ideal customer experience" to these partners to ensure that stores and associates are on the same page.
Keeping these tips in mind, as well as the tips from Part 1, should help your company get ahead during a global product launch.
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