As many business owners and managers have discovered since the global pandemic hit, it only takes one or two significant changes and disruptions to cause all sorts of issues with the supply chain, regardless of the types of items you deal with.
Plus, as costs rise and the environmental impact of logistics continues to be felt, it’s becoming increasingly evident that all entrepreneurs who buy and move goods need to find ways to be more efficient and less wasteful with their supply chain movements. Happily, technology can help us improve this area of our organizations and be kinder to the earth.
Real-Time Data for Better Decision Making and Communication
It’s vital to move goods around as quickly as possible and get items delivered to the right places on time, every time. Big data programs can help make this happen, as you can learn about weather and traffic conditions as details get updated in real-time. You’ll enjoy a clearer picture of when deliveries will arrive and if you need to make changes to delivery locations or inform customers of delays or other factors.
If your business makes, sells, or transports perishable goods, in particular, or offers express delivery options to your clients, this information will help with both decision-making and communication and keep consumers happier in turn.
Also, you can use analytics programs to help you decide which stock to order and when, since software can track the performance metrics of various product lines, the outcomes of different marketing promotions and other activities, and sales and pre-order tactics.
Another logistics decision organizations are faced with constantly is what goods to put on which trucks or in shipping containers, etc., and when. Happily, you can utilize tech tools to help you work out how to best streamline the movement of products by consolidating shipments. Rather than sending too many partially-full loads out, wasting delivery time, fuel, driver hours, and other resources, you can let consolidation programs determine the best way to combine purchase orders and pack truck beds and containers, etc.
On top of noting parcel weight, stackability, vehicle capacity, and the like, software can use algorithms to take note of empty pallet spots on trucks in nearby areas that might be able to pick up single inventory items as they pass nearby. This lessens wasted trips and reduces the number of times you “ship air.”
Increase Inventory Visibility and Management
When companies handle a tremendous amount of inventory, it gets time-consuming and stressful trying to find out which stock is on which truck or boat or train, etc., and then unpacking orders and ticking off deliveries to ensure orders are complete and correct. There’s also wasted time and money when searching for missing items or concluding that goods have disappeared. Technology can aid you in this area as well, though.
For example, place RFID tracking sensors on packages so you can check at any time exactly where a package is, whether in transit, at a warehouse, or elsewhere. When deliveries arrive at your location, you can also use RFID readers to scan whole boxes at once. This means stock can be unloaded and given to customers ASAP or otherwise used rather than waiting for each piece to be checked individually. This tech is also helpful if you use it in warehouses to locate items, especially those that seem to have gone missing.
Manage Supplier Networks
If you’re a retailer or wholesaler and deal with significant supplier diversity, managing all these relationships and the different orders you place at different times can get tricky. However, with the aid of technology, namely big data, you can use analytics solutions to understand which suppliers perform best for your needs and make changes accordingly.
For example, compare actual performance on things like breakages, correct deliveries, on-time shipments, and customer satisfaction against key performance indicators (KPIs) you set at the start (which could even be part of supplier contracts). Integrate analytics software into your vendor systems, accounting programs, social media feeds, and the like to keep updated on the cost of goods, delivery timeframes, customer complaints, and more. You can then have your tech tools send you alerts or prepare reports if KPIs drop below a specific range.
Other ways technology can help you improve your supply chains include enabling better forecasting and trend spotting, improved route planning in transit, driver behavior tracking, and warehouse inventory setup and management.
As you can see, there are all sorts of helpful ways digital systems can benefit your business, so it pays to start utilizing tech tools more today.