Spry Chain Management
Guest contributor: Donna Fritz
The impact of mobility on the enterprise continues to be a hot topic of discussion, especially within the global supply chain where the demands for real-time decision-making are exposing deficiencies in existing systems and processes. Adopting a solution that supports the necessary real-time visibility and control requires a holistic look at supply chain operations—implementing expanded mobility both within and outside the four walls to create a smarter supply chain.
Expanded Mobility Inside the Four Walls
Optimizing supply chain operations within the four walls has become an increasingly critical component in meeting customer demand and maintaining customer satisfaction. As a result, companies are now looking to extend mobile technology further into the enterprise to improve accuracy and delivery; i.e., beyond mobile data collection into automated workflow management. Activities historically managed through manual paper processes, or transacted in the ERP separately from the physical task, can now be delivered to a wireless device (such as a hand scanner) for real-time completion. In addition, controls can be instituted within the workflow screens to prohibit task variances. Not surprisingly, the benefits derived from the increases in visibility and accuracy can quickly extend into delivery improvements.
Expanded Mobility Into the Supply Base
In addition to optimizing their supply chain within the four walls, manufacturers and distributors are faced with the need for greater collaboration and faster decision-making capabilities. Most notably, this is coming in the form of extending supply chain mobility to business transactions, such as PO or invoice approvals, which can now be performed with smart devices. While improvements in accuracy and delivery are still the end goal, the primary focus here is on providing continuous communication and accessibility to foster expedited transactions such as PO approvals and change orders. The positive impact this is having on collaboration and decision making is enabling buyers and suppliers to respond in real-time to changes in demand.
Challenges in the Mix
The rapid growth of enterprise mobility outside the four walls is bringing with it new security challenges. The issue is not so much keeping pace with smart device technology. It is ensuring there is appropriate control over the business transactions that run through the devices. This is especially true when extending mobility into the supply base. Unlike enterprise managed networks and equipment within the four walls, ensuring that the person executing the task is the person with the smart device in their hands is a more complicated issue with outside networks and the growing trend of utilizing personal smart devices for an expanding number of work activities.
What to Look For
As the demand for supply chain mobility increases, supply chain solution providers are responding by continuously redesigning their solutions to incorporate a greater depth and breadth of mobility. Improvements in mobile app development and cloud security will likely produce an emergence of custom field apps that allow for most, if not all, supply chain operations to take place via a smart phone or tablet.
In the not-so-distant future, everyone from buyers and suppliers to warehouse and manufacturing managers will be able to keep business moving, without the need to be at their desks or inside their four walls.
Mobility has already played a significant role in increasing visibility and real-time decision-making across the enterprise. Companies that maintain a holistic approach to mobility within and outside their four walls will be in a much stronger position to manage the growing complexity and time constraints of their global supply chains.
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.