Supply chain management is a critical function for organizations of all sizes. The many supply chain bottlenecks of the last year have showcased the importance of a functional supply chain. Over the years, supply chains have grown to be complex, global networks. This drastically increases the difficulty of supply chain management.
Here are the top ways technology can be leveraged to manage and optimize complex supply chains.
Supply Chain Optimization
Supply chain optimization is the act of increasing the profitability of your organization by optimizing supply chain functions. Supply chain optimization involves many steps that improve operational efficiency and reduce the costs of running a supply chain. It makes supply chain functions streamlined, reliable, and more resilient to outside changes.
Supply chain operations data is analyzed to identify avenues that can be leveraged to optimize supply chains. Regular observation of how supply chain functions are performed can provide insights into how various processes can be improved.
The major challenge for supply chain optimization lies in the increasing supply chain complexity. Many moving parts and multiple stakeholders make it difficult to change one small part of the supply chain without impacting the rest of the chain. But the benefits of supply chain optimization make it worth the challenge.
Some of the key benefits that you can expect from supply chain optimization are:
- Easier supply chain planning.
- Reduced cost of operating and maintaining supply chain.
- Enhanced collaboration across supply chain stakeholders.
- Reduced cost for maintenance, repair, and operations of supply chain equipment.
- Reduced shipping and delivery times.
- Improved inventory turnover and inventory costs.
- Better supply chain integration with suppliers and customers.
- Increased revenues and improved profitability for your organization.
How Tech Improves Supply Chain Flow
Modern supply chain managers have a power enabler helping them in managing and optimizing large complex supply chains – technology.. Both hardware and software tools are equally instrumental in supply chain optimization. Some of the major tech tools used in supply chains are listed below.
Tracking – Various technologies are used to track products, materials, and shipments throughout the supply chain. RFID, GPS, GIS, WLAN, and others, are some of the more commonly used tracking technologies.
Transportation – Automated guided vehicles (AGV), Automated forklifts, and drones, are becoming more widely used for the transportation of goods within the supply chain.
Robots – Robots that perform their tasks without any human intervention are used in various supply chain functions, more commonly for picking, sorting, and packing.
Cobots – Collaborative robots or cobots are robots that work collaboratively with humans to assist employees in warehouse tasks. They improve efficiency, accuracy, throughput, and reduce the workload.
Management software – Various software solutions are used to improve the visibility of supply chains and effectively manage supply chain functions. Some of the software used in supply chains are:
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) to integrate supply chain processes with the rest of the organization.
- Warehouse management software (WMS) to manage the complete warehouse operations of your supply chain.
- Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for managing the maintenance of supply chain equipment, warehouse maintenance, etc.
- Manufacturing execution system (MES) to track, record, and control all manufacturing activities in the supply chain.
Artificial intelligence – Artificial intelligence (AI) leverages a large volume of data to generate meaningful insights into supply chain operations. These insights can be used to optimize supply chains. Some of the ways AI can be used in supply chains are:
- Demand planning
- Production planning
- Route optimization
- Packaging optimization
- Cost optimization, etc.
The technological tools mentioned above can help supply chain managers optimize supply chain processes.
Benefits of Using Technology to Manage Your Supply Chain
It is not imperative to leverage modern technology to manage supply chain functions. To stay competitive in the current fast-paced, global economy, all brands must rely on tools that can help them optimize, scale, and move products faster and more efficiently around the globe. These are the top five reasons technology is more beneficial than other solutions.
Technology tools, especially software, help in the centralization and control of information. Operators can gain visibility over their complete supply chain, from manufacturing, to procurement, to assembly, distribution, and last-mile delivery. With greater visibility more accurate forecasting can be achieved, plus the use of historical data is imperative in making better business decisions.
Lower Error Rates
Accuracy is so important when moving products around the globe for ecommerce shipments. Many tech tools help automate processes and have proven to reduce human error rates. For example, picking robots have almost zero error rates, while warehouse employees show an error rate in the range of 1-3%. With less errors, your brand will have less revenue loss due to mismanaged shipments, damages, or lost items.
Ease of Implementation
Most tech tools are off-the-shelf and can be implemented with little to no coding. This is a far reach from analog and manual operations procedures which require tremendous experience to set up and implement.
Technology solutions help organizations be flexible and agile to dynamic market conditions. This helps to adjust to new market demands with ease helping your organization to increase market share, revenue, and profits.
Some technology solutions may seem very expensive, but most deliver a high return on investment. A primary reason for that is the low cost of implementation, especially software solutions. Hardware solutions are also becoming cheaper with improvements in technology, competition, and large-scale adoption. The exponential benefits brought about by technological solutions are another factor that helps it deliver a high return on investment.
Supply chain optimization is a complex problem with many moving parts. It is difficult to wrap your brain around such a dynamic problem. Technology provides the agility and flexibility that is impossible to match with solutions that do not have technological backing. The incredibly low cost and high return on investment for technological solutions make it an ideal way to optimize supply chain assets. Using technology with a goal-based approach can do wonders for the efficiency and profitability of supply chain operations.
After pursuing a career in opera and classical music, Katie Sullivan transitioned career paths into marketing for arts non-profits. As Marketing Manager for Limble CMMS, Katie takes that same passion for positively impacting lives by letting maintenance teams know that there is an easier way to manage–and get credit for–their amazing work.