Somewhere near the heart of the supply chain sits the distribution center. Ranging in size, the distribution center is the physical space within the supply chain where orders are fulfilled, new items are received and shipments are prepared for delivery. As advancements in supply chain tools and data collection systems emerge, organizations are more efficiently changing how distribution centers and related logistics operate.
"Distribution centers have always had a central role in operational efficiency but, with new processes such as warehouse management systems and, in some cases, automation brought in to help reduce operating costs, investment in existing and new distribution centers is increasingly required," said Dino Rocos of the London-based John Lewis department store chain.
Automated data collection tools that function across multiple channels within a supplier's network allows for faster movement of materials without the need to substantially alter a distribution center's size. In essence, this means that integrated supply chain systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions have the ability to assist in identifying real-time disruptions and allow the organization to adapt to those interruptions accordingly. According to Aviation Week, systems such as ERP, inventory optimization and parts planning help organizations decide how much inventory to carry and what modes of transportation to use to ship products. From there, the supplier then creates a comprehensive plan.
In a world where even the smallest problem in the global supply chain can disrupt an entire industry, those companies employing integrated supply chain management tools could be the differentiating factor between falling behind or staying ahead.