Common Problems in Supply Chain Management Processes and How Mobile Data Collection Software Can Solve Them

Dustin Caudell
Wed, Feb 1, 2017
Supply chain management procedures aren't always smooth. Mobile data collection, however, can help solve roadblocks.
Supply chain management procedures aren't always smooth. Mobile data collection, however, can help solve roadblocks.

Managers are always working to solve a unique assortment of challenges that threaten to disrupt the flow of their supply chains. As you might imagine, a kink in the supply chain can cause product shipments and other warehouse operations to come to a halt.

For example, if one supplier is preventing a company from developing a product because they're failing to deliver certain items, this can damage the latter's bottom line and disrupt other suppliers that are relying on product shipment orders.

Why do these hold ups - as well as other supply chain and supply chain management problems - occur? They happen for a number of reasons. Let's address a few issues that rattle supply chain and supply chain management strategies and how mobile data collection software can help solve them. 

1. Cultural Differences or Changes
Scott Swartz of Inbound Logistics brought up an excellent point when he noted that when companies expand into new markets, they could face a number of supply chain and supply chain management obstacles.

Take, for example, an American company that works with international third-party vendors and suppliers. The former has to adhere to the latter's legal processes and business procedures, and respect its cultural norms. The American enterprise must understand international employees may work differently than American suppliers because their foreign counterparts follow their own values and ideologies. The latter may, for example, work a different set of hours which could change how fast products are shipped and delivered.

It's not easy to adjust to cultural changes, but mobile data collection software can help your managers easily update their enterprise resource planning solutions in real time to keep track of shipping times. These statistics can then be broken down further by location. This mobile software ensures managers are always viewing and analyzing the most accurate, complete set of data, which allows them to make more well-informed high-level business decisions about their supply chain operations.

What kind of decisions are those? 

By using mobile data collection software, managers could determine which ports ship their products the slowest or fastest based solely on tracked data from mobile data collection software. Equipped with a robust system, these superiors can then change shipping facilities or ports to improve supply chain efficiency or dedicate more resources to help these locations increase productivity and efficiency.

Free White Paper: Supply Chain Visibility

2. Ethics and Compliance Issues
Just last year, Amnesty International, a non-profit leader in human rights, found that Sony, Microsoft, Samsung and Apple used cobalt in their products, which were mined from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The problem, according to Amnesty, was that DRC workers - children and adults - extracted this element with little protection, thus exposing them to cobalt's harmful substances.

Cobalt is a metallic chemical element that companies often use to develop products. While versatile, it can also be highly toxic, especially when it's smelted. As you can imagine, workers who are taking part in this process are exposed to nasty fumes, and without the proper equipment they can become sick. 

Here's how supply chain management comes into play: At what point do these company's supply chain managers evaluate and address their supply chains for violating basic human rights?

Not solving this problem after key stakeholders find out - like investors or customers - can irreversibly damage a company's brand in at least a couple of ways. First, it could drive some customers away from the company's product entirely. Second, it could cause other suppliers to end the business relationship due to concerns about their own public image. 

Of course, if the business does comply with regulatory agencies, and end their relationship with the supplier in question, this could bring about an entirely separate issue: Where do they find a new vendor to supply the parts - in this case, cobalt - at a cheap price?

While supply chain management software isn't designed to specifically solve ethics issues, it can play a vital role in helping a company better evaluate the impact of these ethical problems if it were forced to drop one of its suppliers.

How exactly?

...Through the use of automated data collection, extraction and information management. Companies that have to change suppliers will need to analyze the operational, and thus financial, impacts the move could have on their enterprise. That could be very difficult and time consuming to accomplish if they're trying to pull data manually from spreadsheets. A system such as RFgen's Mobile Foundations for SAP can be a useful tool for managers who want to easily input supply chain data while out in the field

 

3. Poor Employee Collaboration
More than ever before, employees are under pressure to adapt quickly to always-changing business environments. Professionals must be able to collaborate with suppliers around the world - many of whom operate much differently than they do - and they must know how to work well with their own colleagues.

This often leads companies to look for well-rounded employees who have a range of skills that can improve collaboration and enhance workflow. These traits include:

  • A high intellectual acumen to quickly take on complex processes and tools.
  • An ability to work with others from various backgrounds and cultures.
  • A blend of different professional qualities including finances, data analysis and even people-skills.

As you can imagine, hiring employees who possess all of these qualities can get expensive. However, the right automated data collection systems can actually help managers employ highly-skilled workers for two reasons:

  1. The Solutions Reduce Supply Chain Management Costs: Lowering operational costs can help companies hire more qualified workers that possess traits like the ones we just mentioned. This can improve internal and external collaboration among employees because these experienced professionals should be able to work more efficiently with their international colleagues or business partners, which can speed up supply chain processes.
  2. The Systems Improve Collaboration: Supply chain management software - especially mobile solutions - eradicate damaging office silos that interrupt the flow and exchange of information from a company to its suppliers. Working with foreign employees or suppliers can be difficult enough due to cultural differences and language barriers. Automated data collection tools ensure employees all over the world have access to the same data points. In a way, supply chain management software acts like a common language everyone can understand. This helps operational processes run smoother. 

Employee collaboration is the driving force behind any company, especially ones that have multiple branches located throughout the world or that work with foreign suppliers. Enterprise mobile solutions can cut down on supply chain costs, allowing companies to hire more skilled workers, and also ensure all employees have access to the same data, which ultimately improves supply chain processes. 

 

Read More about Supply Chain Management:

BLOG: Tesco Improves Supply Chain with Big Data, Automated Data Collection

BLOG: What Does Supply Chain Innovation Look Like in Action?

WHITE PAPER: Supply Chain Visibility Best Practices

WHITE PAPER: Warehouse Automation Trends

 

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