The future of supply chain management technology, with AEB
Written by Claire Umney (pictured, right), General Manager, AEB (International) Ltd
As the UK emerges from the economic slump, overall investment opportunities and capabilities for UK businesses have improved. Companies are looking to manage their logistics and global supply chains more efficiently while preparing for future growth. Supply chain technology trends are continuously shaped by new business areas, production methods, outsourcing strategies, workflow changes, environmental impacts, globalisation, etc., just as much as by new technologies, platforms and communication standards.
Meeting the industry’s increasing demand for accessibility, mobility and visibility of business services and all involved transactions requires comprehensive IT support to provide all relevant supply chain information at the click of a button, connect all involved supply chain partners and integrate all relevant processes from procurement to fulfilment – ideally through one overarching platform.
End-to-end supply chain systems support various areas of global logistics, they go along the entire logistics process to pick up the ‘thread’ at one end - for example, at the order in the ERP system - and follow it through to the other end. They optimise both logistics operations and inventory management while also facilitating customs and compliance functionality as part of international movements. They provide even greater benefits in terms of process efficiency and cost savings - especially considering that the data flow from procurement to fulfilment can be used for logistics operations and regulatory compliance at the same time.
There are some key areas that, going forward, will increasingly guide decisions on implementing new supply chain technology:
Software must be capable of responding to the requirements of e-commerce and multi-channel sales. Due to the increase in online orders, international shipping and returns, today’s logistics systems must be able to react quickly to different order channels and process order distribution smoothly and efficiently.
Visibility is about making information e.g. orders, shipments, transport units, vehicles, etc. available to supply chain partners at any given time, for any given process, in any given area of the supply chain. Visibility solutions should include reporting tools, which strongly assist in managing daily operations (e.g. with weekly volume reports on inbound traffic for loading dock resource planning), as well as in strategic discussions, e.g. when negotiating annual carrier contracts based on on-time performance results. Improving supply chain visibility benefits all areas of the supply chain and provides the backbone required to achieve more efficient management of inventory and transport resources, which in turn improves responsiveness to requirements, including e-commerce and multi-channel challenges.
Transport and inventory management
This area represents a key component in annual operating costs. Implementing IT systems offers benefits including: streamlined operations, more efficient resource management, better on-time performance, loading dock transparency, effective inventory management, faster replenishment, freight cost transparency, consolidated transports, optimised routes and long-term carrier relationships, resulting in performance improvements, significant cost reductions and potentially lower carbon dioxide emissions.
Of course, with supply chain management IT, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. What represents a must-have for one company might be irrelevant for another. It all depends on the individual operations and specific business requirements.
However, companies are increasingly moving away from ‘patchwork’ system landscapes to discover the benefits of comprehensive supply chain management systems for managing both logistics and global trade processes - from initial sales order to final delivery - in one system. Powerful modular solution suites offer many options for businesses, allowing step-by-step implementation of required functions - one business area at a time - and providing smooth integration into existing system landscapes, or even replacing them altogether.
There are some technologies that, overall, are considered of high relevance for future supply chains, such as cloud solutions and mobile devices:
Even though security concerns are under consideration yet again, cloud computing has become an integral part of today’s supply chain management solutions portfolio and remains of interest. Their main benefit is that they address companies’ investment capability and functional requirements at various stages of their development, and apply to a number of business areas in global logistics. Mobile computing and mobile devices have gained greater importance in recent years due to their ability to efficiently support supply chain processes ‘on the go’. Their technical advancement has shown significant development in their scope of capabilities, but their most valuable feature continues to be the ability to integrate into ERP and operational systems to gather and share data in a variety of forms and formats.
Comprehensive, sophisticated supply chain management systems meet the requirements of supply chains in the twenty-first century: adaptability, collaborative ability, transparency, compliance and speed in all processes. Streamlining processes and cutting costs in the long run are all vital for future business growth. By choosing the right software solution, supply chain managers can future-proof their business and gain a competitive advantage.