SCEA 2021 Winner – ‘Supply Chain Visibility’: Swoon with Zencargo

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Judges in the 2021 Supply Chain Excellence Awards decided that Swoon and Zencargo were made for each other in terms of their innovative practices – one as a manufacturer/retailer and the other as a supply chain management provider – and together they were a force to be reckoned with.

The pair claimed the Supply Chain Visibility Award on Monday 8th November at the Hilton on Park Lane and in declaring them the winners, the 33-strong panel of experts noted that this was a “really well thought-through entry, with true collaboration at the heart of the project”.

The award was presented to the teams by Nairn Foster from Akabo Media’s Robotics and Automation and IntraLogisteX exhibitions.

Swoon is an online furniture retailer that is pioneering a new approach to design-led homeware based on agile product development and lean inventory management. Instead of bulk-buying stock to store and selling throughout the year, the company opted to test and release new ranges in small quantities and move the successful items to large-scale production and sell on lead time. By selling products during the manufacturing and transport process, it could cut down on storage costs and clearance for excess inventory and offer lower prices across the board.

Naturally, with such a model, granular visibility of exactly where SKUs are in the ordering process is essential to manage stock levels, drive sales and deliver high levels of customer service and avoid delays.

Zencargo is Swoon’s supply chain partner and together they created end-to-end visibility across the entire supply chain, centralising data, stakeholders, manufacturers and documentation on a single bespoke platform tailored to Swoon’s needs and business model.

Not only did this enable Swoon to progressively optimise its supply chain to reduce costs, innovate on products, improve sustainability and improve accountability, it also helped reduce disruption during the pandemic.

As so much of Swoon’s customer promise relies on reliable service during the days around delivery, Zencargo created a solution to grant in-depth visibility over origin arrivals and processes – the so-called ‘Inbound Safety Net’. The platform is a custom dashboard that brings together all urgent information required to complete the final stage of origin delivery without issues and ensure a smooth transition from port to warehouse.

In its presentation to the Supply Chain Excellence Awards judges, Swoon explained that in its business model, waits for products are directly correlated with lower sales, so the target is to keep best-selling products under 35 days lead time, and all other stock below 60 days. In addition, delays after ordering often lead to cancellations.

The global pandemic inevitably extended lead times due to port disruption and equipment shortages, which led to a strategy that prioritised reliability and clarity. Through continual review of trade lane transit times and lead time buffers in line with changing market conditions, Zencargo was able to provide accurate (warehouse) EDDs that fed directly into Swoon’s website the expected delivery dates to mitigate disruption and perceived delays to end customers.

One recurrent cause of delays was late payments to manufacturers slowing down release of cargo at destination. Delayed Telex releases resulted in cargo being held for additional days, causing longer waiting times for customers. The Inbound Safety Net now stores all release documentation for manufacturers as well as tracking inbound shipments, while Swoon teams can plan for inbound shipments and ensure all documents are sourced and invoices paid before ships arrive in port so cargo is released immediately.

In selecting the project as the outright winner in the category, the judges decided that the partnership “demonstrated clear business benefits for the client but also the end customer”. This, they concluded, is a “benchmark for collaboration on supply chain transparency”.

What they said… Zencargo will focus on continuous optimisation of production and logistics processes, reducing lead times, dwell and streamlining communication. This data will be used by Swoon’s internal teams to better forecast inventory levels according to historical sales data, predicted demand and growth projections.

What we said… The proven reduction in buffer times, increased container utilisation, optimised lead times and elimination of destination delays resulted in reduced lead times for the end customer, driving up sales and growth for the business through smarter visibility. This is a true collaboration between Zencargo and Swoon, with objectives clearly aligned and understood at the outset. We were particularly impressed with how the Zencargo system has improved customer interaction with the Swoon brand and business, by increasing transparency on lead times and real-time updates on where the order is.

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