The future of furniture is connected: are your systems ready?

The shopping experience is collapsing into a single channel: the customer. Today people expect a seamless shopping experience whether it begins online, in store, or a mix of both, plus attentive customer service that's available whenever they need help.

The furnishings industry is no exception. Orchestrating the business processes for furniture manufacturing, distribution, and retail is notoriously difficult. Cloud-based ERP platforms like Dynamics 365 make it possible to integrate all of your business systems and create a seamless operational experience. With nearly 30 years of experience as an ERP implementor and systems integrator, we’ve helped our customers work through some of their trickiest friction points across their supply chains, production processes, and customer service.

We like to say that the future of furniture is connected. We have observed a few recurring pain points in the following areas — and helped our customers identify opportunities for improvement:

Configuration and embellishments | Shipping and logistics | Data and insights | Quality control and field installation | Siloed business systems

Configuration and embellishments

“Give the customer what they want!” Sounds simple enough, right? But every furniture industry veteran knows that giving the customer what they want is easier said than done. Coordinating custom orders across multiple systems and teams can lead to logistical nightmares, delays, and even costly errors.

The key to streamlining custom orders is to work smarter, not harder. Decrease manual workloads around customer orders by capturing configuration details upfront in your business systems and pass them along to every step of production that might have highly stylized processes. Capturing these details and passing them along can include automated notifications and reminders to ensure everyone involved in the production process is aware of the customization requirements.


Shipping and logistics

One of the most complicated moving pieces for furniture retailers, manufacturers, and distributors is, well, moving pieces!

Shipping furniture is a complicated affair, especially when it comes to items that are meant to go together. A dining table and chairs, for example. Or a bedroom set. But with multiple products, shipping destinations, and customer preferences, keeping inventory flowing while making sure customers receive all the pieces from their orders quickly can get overwhelming.

Many organizations rely on the knowledge of their long-time employees to define shipping processes and rules for sets of items. However, relying solely on this institutional knowledge is not sustainable, particularly if there are plans to expand your product catalog. It is crucial to provide clear instructions and guidelines to everyone involved in the shipping process. Partnering with the right experts can help define these rules within your business systems.


Data and insights

Even without the challenges of the past few years, managing furniture supply chains has always been difficult. We like to say that brands don’t compete – their supply chains do. Changes in terms, tariffs, and freight charges can have a significant impact on pricing and profitability. To stay competitive, you need to be able to quickly estimate costs and adjust your pricing and cost strategies accordingly. Taking it one step further, being able to project future costs saves you time and makes your organization more efficient overall. Your ability to quickly pivot could be the difference between you and your next closest competitor.

You should have a solution that can drill deep down into the actual costs for your products and see the cost broken out by physical dimensions, like weight or volume, and see how these different dimensions affect your freight bills. Such a level of detail makes it possible to quickly adapt – for example, say you discover a large, bulky item is so heavy it’s adding on undue cost. You could work with the manufacturer to find a lighter weight version to increase that item’s profitability

Ultimately, the key to success in managing your supply chain is data. Every input to your supply chain is producing data, but if you don’t have a solution for ingesting all your forecasts, lead time analysis, vendor scorecards, production capacities and turning it all into actionable advice, it’s doing you about as much good as a two-legged stool.


Quality control and field installation

Everyone from your sales team to your field service technicians to your finance team has a stake in quality control. Customers today have more choices than ever before, and they aren’t shy about sharing their experiences when something goes wrong. Returns and rejected deliveries cost time, money, and sometimes your company’s reputation.

First and foremost, you need to ensure that your current system can automatically track goods from production to delivery. The ability to quickly identify all inventory pieces that may be affected by a quality issue is crucial for delivering a great customer experience.

Second, your delivery process should meet customer expectations. Furniture retailers who also distribute have the unenviable task of having to manage large, complicated, expensive deliveries. No one is going to applaud that you got them their dining room table and chairs without any dings or dents – they just expect it. But we know how challenging it can be and it leads us to our third point…

Do you know your weak links? If you’re getting consistent feedback that the quality of a product is not up to standard, or you’re seeing repeated deliveries rejected, are you able to quickly determine where things have gone wrong? Is it something during manufacturing? The warehouse? Or maybe it’s a bad delivery service. Your ability to quickly parse this data and identify the weak link is key to nipping this problem in the bud.


Siloed business systems

A common theme we've noticed among many of the furniture brands we've dealt with is once they find a business system that works for them, they tend to stay with it. And stay. And stay…

Brand loyalty is a great thing. However, the reluctance to let go of legacy systems opens up your organization up to vulnerabilities like ransomware, falling behind due to manual processes, and maintaining expensive, dual-sided integrations.

For example, manual processes just can’t keep up when the rest of the world is moving digitally. And while having long-tenured employees speaks volumes about your corporate culture, relying on their institutional knowledge to manage your processes is a recipe for trouble. What happens when they retire or decide to move to a new opportunity?


What's the solution?

If you’ve identified with any of the above issues, we have good news! They are all solvable. A cloud-based business system makes all the data you’re already gathering work for you, not against you. As we already discussed, your customers expect constant visibility into their order status – shouldn’t you and your team expect the same from your business systems?

If you’re interested in how Dynamics 365 can work for the furniture industry, you can learn more here.


Schedule a call with one of our industry experts and today. We work with furniture brands, retailers, manufacturers, and distributors to streamline and modernize their operations on a single platform — Dynamics 365.