3 Major Concerns About the Global Supply Chain

Meagan Douglas
Fri, May 8, 2015
Supply chain disruptions can be mitigated with mobile data collection software
Supply chain disruptions can be mitigated with mobile data collection software.

Manufacturing organizations thrive in an environment where technology, infrastructure and culture come together to limit the potential damage done by supply chain disruptions. Risk stems from a variety of sources, from inefficiency due to outdated processes to natural disasters that, when not prepared for, can severely inhibit the flow of goods and materials. Without the ability to track and trace items as they enter the supply chain - through suppliers to manufacturing facilities and later through distribution channels - it's increasingly difficult to manage risk and disruptions. This is a big reason why mobile data collection plays such a crucial role in capturing data throughout every step of production until items reach customers.

However, many organizations continue to depend on data management systems that fall short, whether it's a manual, paper-based process or overly rigid enterprise resource planning software that isn't flexible enough to deliver real-time data capture. Therefore, it's not surprising that manufacturers have recurring concerns about the integrity of their supply chains. Here are three big concerns and potential solutions driven by mobile data collection:

  1. Complexity
    According to an article in Apparel magazine citing recent research jointly conducted by BSI Supply Chain Solutions and Business Continuity Institute, 35 percent of companies have expressed high levels of concern about disruption to the global supply chain. In fact, 77 percent of them indicated complexity is the No. 1 worry and the most rapidly developing risk overall. In reality, complexity is an umbrella term that comprises everything from natural disasters to national and international conflicts, as well as infrastructure that doesn't respond well to disruption. One example of conflict can be seen in the way that raw materials are mined in regions of political instability, making it difficult to ensure a steady supply of resources for manufacturing. Apparel went on to explain that strikes in Belgium and Brazil have also caused delays in shipments, which put a drag on the flow of goods.
  2. Regulatory Challenges
    BSI also highlighted the fact that there are more compliance issues that manufacturing organizations have to deal with than in the past. For instance, just recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced a proposal that would bring down the current ozone standard from 75 to 65 parts per billion, explained Industry Week. While the move has the support of health care groups like the American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Manufacturers expressed their concern over the proposal, citing heavy financial losses as the primary problem. Another common issues that manufacturers have to face, especially those the deal with consumable goods, is making certain that products can be traced to their origin and tracked throughout the supply chain.
  3. Cyber Security
    Nearly 7 in 10 manufacturers in the joint BSI and BCI study also explained they had worries about Web-based attacks from hackers. A separate article for Industry Week emphasized the fact that data security priorities will likely vary based on the industry in which a company operates. However, manufacturing organizations generally have the most to lose when it comes to intellectual property, which includes patents, designs and processes. Trade secrets are vulnerable when companies don't have the right processes in place to restrict hackers from happening upon information that could enable them to duplicate a product or machinery. According to Information Week, the most likely targets will be research and design documents. As a result, it's critical that everyone in a manufacturing organization keeps digital files for these types of items in a secure location or placed behind encryption protocols.

With the benefit of mobile data collection software, manufacturers can develop more flexible and efficient systems for keeping track of materials and products every step of the way through the supply chain.  At the same time, barcode labels and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags allow businesses to affix labels as needed to individual products or bulk items like packages and pallets. This will improve warehouse operations by not only improving accuracy, but also increasing the speed at which staff can accept and move orders to distribution. In the event of a supply disruption, a manufacturer can see in real time the precise amount of materials and inventory it has on hand and better handle resourcing issues, while also communicating everything to customers. Also, organizations can easily meet traceability requirements.

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