Having been in the supply chain and logistics management field my entire career, whenever I hear it mentioned on national TV (e.g., UPS’ “I Love Logistics” commercials) or, as was recently mentioned by a sitting president (“Globalization is a fact, because of technology, because of an integrated global supply chain, because of changes in transportation”), I can’t help but get excited about the future.
The latest quote from President Obama above ties nicely with my forthcoming book, “Lean and Technology: Working Hand in Hand to Enable and Energize Your Global Supply Chain” (Pearson), which I think is a timely and important topic now for the coming years.
Technology is pervasive in today’s supply chains in every possible area, ranging from processing and tracking transactions to planning, scheduling and managing. It enables a truly integrated, visible and efficient supply chain that benefits from collaboration.
For example, software technology is used in areas of the supply chain such as:
- Transaction processing—resulting in a reduction of manual work and costs, improvement of information quality, speeding up of information transfer, and volume of transactions used to drive the use of IT for transaction processing.
- Supply chain planning and collaboration—information is used for running processes such as demand forecasting, production and distribution planning, procurement, sales & operations planning (S&OP), as well as VMI and CPFR initiatives that benefit both a company’s internal and external supply chains.
- Order tracking and delivery coordination—for tracking the progress of orders or deliveries or in providing this information to interested parties.
- Supply chain analytics—provides supply chain members with improved data accuracy, clarity and insights, which can lead to more contextual intelligence to be shared across supply chains.
Hardware technology is used in areas such as:
- Distribution and fulfillment operations—automated equipment ranging from forklift trucks and carousels to Kiva robots move material quickly and efficiently through a facility, and other tools such as bar code scanning and RFID improve not only increase speed of processing but also accuracy.
- Transportation—GPS and telematics are used to improve the efficiency of delivery of product on traditional vehicles along with other potential forms of delivery, such as air and land-based drones.
Not to mention that there is also the emerging use of social media to interact with customers, respond to questions, report accidents or weather conditions that may impede delivery schedules, and create automated updates about your inventory, which is especially useful in today’s omni-channel marketing and distribution environment.
So it is clear that technology can help the supply chain to bring companies and people closer together in today’s global economy.