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Traverse Systems Corner: The Foundations of Successful ASN Programs

Clarity, Detail and Sensibility

March 30, 2020

Dr. Brian Gibson
Auburn University

When deployed effectively, advanced shipping notification (ASN) programs facilitate shipment visibility, inventory control, and cycle time reduction. Retailers and suppliers collaborate for improvement because they both stand to benefit from ready access to accurate ASN information. Strong programs facilitate rapid replenishment and in-stock availability to drive revenues higher.

In contrast, ineffective ASN programs fail to elicit desired outcomes. Punitive, chargeback-based initiatives serve as wakeup calls for suppliers but don't necessarily alter behaviors or produce lasting improvement. Furthermore, an acrimonious relationship can emerge where the penalties overshadow the goals of insight and carton content accuracy. As a result, nobody wins.

Dr. Gibson Says...

Retailers and suppliers both have an obligation to pursue clarity, attention to detail, and sensibility in all matters related to ASNs.

From my on-going research on ASNs, it has become apparent to me that there are right ways and wrong ways to managing ASN programs.

After asking a number of retailer and supplier experts about their wish lists for ASN and inventory accuracy improvements, a foundational set of guidelines emerged.

Clarity is the base layer of the foundation. Retailers want to know how suppliers are delivering on the promise of information and inventory integrity. Suppliers simply need to share their ASN plans and pursue a logical path to error reduction. "Tell us what procedures are in place to guarantee accuracy of your picks and ASNs before shipping," one retail executive suggested.

Suppliers can only establish desired ASN capabilities if retailers clearly document and publish their ASN requirements. Retailers must also communicate ASN rules adjustments well before implementation. A supplier representative requested: "Provide more lead time on ASN mapping changes. We really have to act quickly, or we'll have a flawed EDI document."

Attention to detail is the middle layer of the foundation. Retailers need their suppliers to execute flawlessly which necessitates meticulous order fulfillment. One retailer begged: "Check one more time for 860 order changes before an order goes out. You could alleviate a lot of the ASN penalties."



Details are essential for understanding the nature and source of ASN inaccuracies. Unfortunately, many chargeback notifications lack specific insights to help the supplier make appropriate adjustments. Sometimes all it takes is a quick click on a mobile phone.  "Give supporting photos and documentation of errors to help us get to the root causes," one supplier requested.

The top layer of the foundation is sensibility. Suppliers must complete a reasonable level of shipment inspections to truly know their level of ASN accuracy and inventory integrity. One retail executive wanted to know: "How much auditing are they really doing? It's hard to get them to answer this question honestly."

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From a supplier's perspective, chargeback penalties must be rational and fair. The retailer's goal should be to grab attention and stimulate corrective actions, not to decimate the supplier's bottom line. Avoid being overzealous with penalties, a supplier recommended: "Is it a critical requirement to warrant that amount of chargeback? Sometimes, I think that it goes too far."

The foundations of a successful ASN program are not overly complicated. Retailers and suppliers both have an obligation to pursue clarity, attention to detail, and sensibility in all matters related to ASNs. Doing so will pave the way for greater inventory integrity and enhanced product availability.

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