Despite the improving economy, supply chain management professionals cannot not become complacent about the other pressures on their organizations. While growing consumer confidence means more sales, it also means a greater need for supply chain technology to meet increased demand and volatility.
"Operational resilience will come to the forefront and underpin manufacturers supply chain strategy moving forward," Simon Ellis, director for global supply chain strategies for IDC Manufacturing Insights, told Fleet Owner. "It will no longer be enough to be 'fast' in terms of supply chain response; they will need to be 'accurately fast.' That is clearly dependent upon being demand aware and data driven, but it is also about digital execution: leveraging data to broaden and extend supply chain 'intelligence.'"
Ellis also explained that the supply chain will become more demand-oriented, which may not be interpreted the same by all managers. While it means manufactures and distributors will need to be closer to their consumers, it won't necessarily lead to an increase in near-shoring or manufacturing returning to North America. He said it is more likely to lead to increased local production and assembly near the site of demand.
New Tools Needed to Stay Ahead of Consumer Demand
Fleet Owner said that supply chain managers will also feel the squeeze of tighter margins and a push to provide multiple channels of delivery. More delivery channels will also mean more points for potential failure on a daily basis - avoiding this calls for greater communication. For companies that intend to offer consumers the ability to purchase products online and then return or exchange them at a brick-and-mortar location, tracking and inventory control grow in complexity.
Successfully implementing an omnichannel operation, or merely providing more delivery options, will benefit from improved barcode scanning technology. Proper data collection begins with barcode scanning and the ability to log SKU information at multiple locations within a company's supply chain. Keeping track of products that are moving through many warehouses and brick-and-mortar locations could become a nightmare.
Heather Ashton, research manager at IDC, explained to Fleet Manager this will alter the focus among supply chains to not just provide more accurate data more often, but also to do it with greater speed.
Improving the Speed and Accuracy of Data Collection
While proper data collection begins with scanning, or even voice technology, gathering information from the shop floor is only the first step. Without software solutions that easily integrate with existing ERP systems, the data will not reach supply chain decision-makers quickly enough or in the form that they need. This is especially important in the case of inventory control.
- Safety Stock: While carrying extra stock is essential to prevent excessive out-of-stock scenarios, the holding costs are proportionately high. With automated data collection, inventory movement is updated in real time, greatly improving accuracy and reducing costs.
- Reduction in Labor: Workers performing repetitive tasks that can be automated easily, such as data collection for inventory, are taken away from more important jobs. Freeing up workers from these processes allows them to be more efficient and productive, increasing yields and thus reducing labor costs.
- Other Benefits: Automated data collection systems improve the overall efficiency and competitive advantage of the company. This will in turn lead to an increase in sales and greater profitability.
Automated Data Collection Solutions are Not Created Equal
Keeping pace with the changing supply chain described by Fleet Owner clearly calls for solutions that are also mobile. According to the RFgen white paper, a lack of mobility with automated data collection solutions will severely hamper their effectiveness.
RFgen's solutions are mobile, integrate with multiple hosts and provide superior scalability. The solutions also put the enterprise in control, providing connectivity among mobile phones, tablets, speech recognition devices and barcode scanners. The mobile workforce will have accesses to on-demand enterprise data that is available in real time. Automated data collection is necessary to connect a growing and complex global supply chain.