Speed, scalability, and synchronicity – the currency of the future
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Murphy’s law famously states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. This is very true in the supply chain and logistics field, where many variables influence operations on a minute-by-minute basis. The unpredictable nature of the sector, combined with increased delivery demands, has significantly constrained supply chain managers and operators. The need for innovative and revolutionary solutions to alleviate complications in supply chain operations has never been greater.
The ability to deliver and perform tasks at an unprecedented pace, in addition to having systems in place that can be amended and scaled up when required are indeed the future of supply chain management (SCM). Technology has proven to be one of the key avenues through which this has been provided.
It’s safe to say that 2016 was the year of key technological advancement for supply chains, with a strong combination of new technology being introduced and old technology being enhanced. Here is an overview of four key technologies and techniques, adopted and/or enhanced in 2016, that have helped elevate supply chain operations to meet current demands:
Enhanced collaboration through SaaS (Software as a Service) systems
Contemporary logistics and supply chain operators currently utilize Transportation Management Systems (TMS) to manage operations. These systems are available in three separate ways: on-premise, hosted, or offered as Software as a Service (SaaS).
SaaS has increasingly become popular with users preferring the lack of R&D expenditure, and physical, & in-house maintenance requirements that come with on-premises or hosted software. SaaS TMS systems, like ShipX Portal, are supplied by third-party service providers who maintain, update, and upgrade the respective systems to match the needs of businesses.
By combining a customizable interface with technological adaptability, SaaS systems provide users with the ability to streamline and simplify existing operations. Whether you are a shipper, customer, or carriers, SaaS systems give you the ability to be a part of a comprehensive and integrated network of data-sharing, which can be used to further enhance operations
Reducing costs and hindrances through cloud computing
Let’s be honest - cloud computing has been around for over two decades, but it is more of a household name now than it has ever been. The role of the cloud today, combined with its implications at any level of society, was unforeseen and once seemed impossible to predict. This reality about cloud computing is very much applicable to supply chain management.
Operating costs are rising alongside delivery demands every day. This, combined with an unpredictable economic climate and a push towards a more globalized world, leaves the burden of finding cost-efficient and performance-enhancing solutions very much on the shoulders of supply chain managers. So how does cloud computing play into this?
The cloud provides managers with an option of utilizing a ready-to-use solution, customized to their needs, without the burden of having to host and maintain an in-house solution. According to a recent study by Cerasis, four out of five new buyers prefer and/or are looking for cloud solutions simply to avoid the burden of having to manage and maintain the infrastructure, labor, and additional layers of responsibility and risk that come with an internal solution.
Next generation supply chain management with wearable technology
A few months ago, we highlighted several instances where wearable technology was enhancing the rail industry by supporting inspection mechanisms. Across the board, both inside and outside of supply chain management, 2016 has been a big year for wearable technology. Powered by the ascension of virtual and augmented reality technology, wearable technology has proven to be one of the most exciting game-changers to look forward to. Still in its infantile stages of implementation, in the context of supply chain management, wearable technology has shown a lot of promise.
Use of wearable technology has helped significantly improve productivity and efficiency among users who now have the ability of focusing on more intensive tasks, as opposed to menial and routine tasks like data entry or product identification. Simply looking at an object through smart glasses could provide the user, or wearer, all the details she/he would need to know.
Simultaneously, wearable technology is also providing managers with the ability to monitor and maintain the safety and health of employees. Think about this example for a second. Long-haul drivers log extremely tiresome and overwhelming hours that, in the long run, results in fatigue and the inability of drivers to perform their respective tasks to the best of their abilities. Through wearable technology, managers are now able to track the condition and health of their drivers with the option of pulling anyone unfit to complete their tasks. The result? Greater assurance of freight being delivered safely and on time to the intended destination, increased safety for other commuters, and, most importantly, the increased safety of drivers.
Catalyzing speed of services through mobile technology
As we highlighted earlier, operating in supply chain management is becoming increasingly difficult with a vast network of players. Synchronicity and communication is therefore key. Being able to link up and communicate with all participants in the operative network means that depending on conventional means of working with paper or on large and bulky computers is insufficient. With everyone constantly on the move, mobile technology has become vital.
Take for example an inspector operating in a yard. The feasibility of her/him conducting activities in the field and having to liaise with managers and operators through paper documentation or large devices, like a laptop and computer, is very poor. Mobile technology has significantly addressed this.
Users now can work and conduct important tasks in the field, while remaining in the loop and in constant communication with their supervisors and/or main office. Mobile applications, like the ShipX Crude Portal app, allow users the exact same functionality they would get in a web application on a desktop. The only difference here is that in this scenario, it is made available to users through the convenience of a palm-held device. Mobile technology will continue to increase in importance as supply chain networks expand in the years and decades to come.
2016 was another year of technological advancement that paints a bright picture for supply chain management going forward, it is important, and exciting, to note that this is only just the beginning. While some of the aforementioned technology has existed for several years, recent developments over the past 12 months have propelled their applicability within supply chain management to even greater heights and, with more investment and focus pouring in, exponential enhancements in SCM technology must be expected.
For more on the latest news regarding the exciting advancements of the industry, stay tuned to this feed. As a leader and facilitator of simplifying supply chain operations for businesses across multiple industries, the team here at ShipXpress, a GE Transportation company, looks forward to your continued engagement in the coming year. Happy holidays!