What Does the Future of Supply Chain Management Hold?

Dustin Caudell
Wed, Dec 14, 2016
Today more than ever, companies are turning to mobile data solutions.
Today more than ever, companies are turning to mobile data solutions.

We're now a mobile culture. Years ago, some business leaders may have questioned the role mobile applications and devices would play in their workplaces. But today, that's no longer the case. In order for businesses to run efficiently, most companies have to use some type of mobile application, software or device. And even if they don't, their suppliers do.

But if mobile is today, what are companies going to use tomorrow?

First and foremost, mobile isn't going away. However, how companies use mobile devices to improve their supply chains will change. In fact, it's been shifting a lot during the past few years, said David Willis, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

"The mobile landscape has changed dramatically during the past few years; mobile is no longer a novel technology, but business as usual, for most organizations," said Willis. "The proliferation of mobile devices means that phones, tablets, laptops and wearables are now omnipresent within the business environment, reinventing the way people interact and work."

Companies Using Mobile Solutions to Address Internal Problems
Many of the supply chain logistics management changes within companies that Willis noted are likely shifts toward mobile to address major concerns in their supply chains.

For example, some businesses that don't have the right solutions in place struggle to manage and maintain their supply chains. A JDA Vision 2015 Supply Chain Market Study found that three out of 10 companies with revenues exceeding $5 billion don't have a defined supply chain management process where multiple teams or departments come together to generate an agreed-upon forecast.

Archaic communications and data processing are all too present in today's business culture, and these could negatively impact a company's bottom line in the form of lost sales and customers, stressed employees and inefficient processing.

The best supply chain management mobile devices help companies keep track of incoming deliveries so they know exactly how much raw material they need to order. They also help them understand where weaknesses lie so management can make adjustments and train and prepare staff. Finally, it can even help managers to better organize their warehouses or stores so companies can ship products to customers on time.

Many companies do understand how valuable complex supply chain strategies can be to their success. In the same JDA survey, most respondents said they're trying to employ inventory management best practices even if they're not currently using them: Researchers found that a mere 3 percent used any "algorithm-based technology" to help them predict how sales promotions would affect them. This of course happens for a variety of reason, but based on responses, it doesn't appear to have anything to do with how effective these solutions can be.

Systems Will Continue to Upgrade
Companies obviously need to use the most up-to-date supply chain management solutions. However, this is sometimes an event that happens outside of their control.

For example, consider the Windows Embedded CE operating system, which many mobile devices relied on. Windows is soon ending support for the CE 6 version, and while it has released versions 7 and 8, many companies didn't make the jump. Now they have to figure out whether their next step is to transition to the new Windows 10. And many don't know. A survey conducted by VDC Research showed that nearly 30 percent of organizations plan on taking a wait and see approach before adopting Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise.

This means two thing:

  1. Companies could be using outdated software that's only supported by the manufacturer for a limited period of time.
  2. They could fall behind competitors who do adopt newer mobile solutions.

It's critical that companies keep their software up to date and are able to successful adapt to the times as best as they can.

The future of supply chain management involves companies and manufacturers coming together to solve some of their greatest supply chain management problems through innovative, data-driven technologies. And today those are mobile data collection devices.

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