Modern supply chains have access to more information and technology than ever before, creating a new, digital supply chain. However, the digital supply chain has grown increasingly reliant on the use of “smart technologies,” such as those involved in automated data capture, analyses and the Internet of Things (IoT). In addition, these technologies can introduce a new level of visibility and improve overall operations, asserts The Manufacturer magazine. Therefore, supply chain companies need to understand how these smart supply chain technologies can be deployed, how to ensure value in data analyzed and how smart technologies can benefit decision-making.
Deploying Smart Supply Chain Technologies.
Smart technology is ineffective when not deployed across all operations. All possible points of data should be connected to transportation management system, ranging from warehouse management to customer relationship management. There are many ways to provide data collection, such as Bluetooth-enabled devices, radio frequency identification (RFID), automated scanners and robotics.
Obviously, small to mid-sized shippers may look upon increasing use and deployment of smart supply chain technologies with fear. To newcomers, the investment costs can seem high, and staying competitive can appear impossible. However, the rise of third-party logistics providers (3PLs) is also changing the game.
An increasing number of 3PLs are abandoning tradition in favor of becoming more than just a provider of logistics. They have created software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms that can effectively replace existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) technologies with intuitive, adaptable and smart technologies. Meanwhile, the mountain of data gathered by the 3PL from the deployment of a cost-effective transportation management-as-a-service (TMSaaS) system, like the Cerasis Rater, can provide insights into operations not previously possible.
An afterthought of deploying new technologies may be cyber security. But, dedicated TMS systems and their parent companies have already taken steps to create a secure environment with advanced cybersecurity measures in both the system’s servers and within the cloud. As a result, shippers can improve cyber security simultaneously.
How Do Companies Prevent Bad Data From Causing Issues?
Okay. It is time to think about the difference between good data and bad data. Good datasets give companies greater insight and visibility, but these insights can be lost without proper data aggregation, cross-checking, and analyses. Essentially, bad data is the conglomeration of incorrect data capture and application. In other words, systems that have a proven record of accomplishment and success can eliminate these pitfalls and risks.
For example, companies needing to know their average fuel costs should also know the miles driven per vehicle, the weight of each load, the average cost of fuel per gallon, the speed driven, the number of trucks on the road, traffic patterns and idle time, reports Supply Chain Digital. If a company analyzed this information by hand, it would take days to derive an average fuel cost for a day’s worth of shipments. Fortunately, the IoT can collect and cross-reference information instantly, giving companies the information they need without the hassle. Thus, true improvements can be implemented.
The Benefits of Smart Technologies in the Digital Supply Chain
Considering the evolution of robotics, these smart supply chain technologies also have the power to improve supply chains where skills and workers are missing.
For example, smart technologies can be leveraged to reduce wait times and delays for fleet drivers. Thus, more product can be moved within shorter time frames. Similarly, automated systems in warehouses can reduce the problems caused by labor shortages, as explained by Supply Chain Dive.
Meanwhile, politics, changing business practices and the emergence of new markets are increasing focus on visibility across supply chains. Information collected from smart devices and technologies can be leveraged to create new key performance indicators and identify trends or possible issues within the supply chain. Now, some may argue that increasing advancements in technologies are replacing human jobs. But, these opponents of advancement should consider how such advances improve human capacity, asserts Matt Davis, Gartner Managing VP, reports Forbes magazine.
Davis notes how traditional applications of technology in the supply chain, such as automation are changing in the wake of new technologies. The Uberization of freight, robotics and additive manufacturing are giving supply chains new ways of operating that go beyond automation, redefining the standard operations found in supply chains.
For example, manufacturers can now reach larger markets by positioning product parts closer to end users and regional centers. While the role of the distribution center is not going away anytime soon, more supply chains will look for ways to eliminate overhead and wasted storage space, cutting manufacturing to end-user lifecycles to record-lows. Applying this concept to the use of Big Data can also dramatically change how supply chains review and process information.
Disconnected systems and the breakdown of organizational silos will give supply chain managers more ways to address potential issues in less time. Consequently, the amount of time needed to process an order and its costs will decrease.
The Big Picture
Thinking about your operating and deploying smart supply chain technologies may seem overwhelming, but the potential costs of not utilizing smart technologies could easily outweigh investment costs and result in bankruptcy. Rather than avoiding smart technologies, you can implement them in your operation today, and see real benefits translate into savings and higher levels of operation. Ultimately, your company must become part of the digital supply chain if you hope to stay competitive through data-driven decision making.
(Publishes with the authorization of the author)