Navigating macro supply chain issues with technology

By Marcus Jefferey, UK & Ireland Territory Manager, Ivanti Wavelink
Marcus Jefferey explores how technology can help companies defeat supply chain disruptions and meet customer expectations through visibility and efficiency

Every so often the perfect storm arises, disrupting even the most stable system. This is exactly what has happened to the global supply chain in recent times. A combination of factors, both regional and global, have had an unprecedented effect on the ability of companies to manage supply chain disruptions – from the global pandemic and the impact of Brexit, to labour shortages and inflationary pressures.

It’s unsurprising that, according to Gartner,  68% of supply chain executives say they have constantly experienced high-impact disruptions over the past three years, with many saying they did not have time to recover from one event before the next disruption. 

Warehouse managers are constantly looking for ways to improve their bottom line, help them navigate these issues and keep up with customer demand. 

Fortunately, innovative technology can be introduced into warehouses to provide micro solutions to some macro supply chain issues. This is rapidly becoming a business imperative. Gartner discovered that 61% of organisations see supply chain technology as a source of competitive advantage in the industry.

Unlocking data for enhanced visibility and boosted efficiency

Warehouse operations have become more complex over the past decade due to technological change and the rising demand for quality products and services. Consequently, operational leaders have struggled with having limited visibility into operations due to a combination of too many devices to keep track of and poor data. 

Resolving this solution is becoming a key task for a growing number of organisations. With supply chains facing continual disruption, having 360-degree visibility over all relevant processes is vital to make informed decisions and effectively manage operations. 

Technology offers organisations the opportunity to unlock data, helping them to optimise operations and build workflow automation around certain processes. 

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) systems, in particular, allow organisations to oversee all warehouse devices in one place. UEM systems indicate which specific devices may need to be fixed or updated, allowing organisations to ensure all devices are working smoothly.

The combination of Covid-19 and Brexit has created the perfect storm for labour shortages across all industries in the UK, especially supply chains. According to The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK, more than 80% of organisations are experiencing staff shortages in the warehouse.

This should not be considered a short-term problem. With free movement of labour into the country off the table for the foreseeable political future, the UK is also facing a falling birth rate. Researchers, such as the Social Market Foundation, believe the UK may have a smaller labour pool over the coming decades.

As organisations continue to face labour shortages, it becomes vital that current and future employees are given the right tools to work as efficiently as possible. Adopting devices that use iOS, Android or Windows operating systems can help to accelerate task-screen navigation and ensure better accuracy when inputting data. With these systems already being familiar to employees outside of work, training time is significantly reduced, and new staff can start working as soon as possible. 

Keeping up with customer demand and overcoming supply chain disruptions

This efficiency boost is required too. Not only has online shopping changed the retail landscape by allowing customers to order products to their front door, but customers also expect these items to arrive quickly. In fact, 63% of online shoppers expect a three-day delivery as standard, while 40% say that taking more than two days for delivery would prevent them from making a purchase.

Customer loyalty is no longer a given either. McKinsey found that during the pandemic, for example, 77% of US consumers changed stores, brands, or the way they shop. Maintaining customer satisfaction is critical to customer retention and increasingly relies on companies being agile and responsive to fulfilling customer orders.

A positive customer experience now relies heavily on the accuracy and speed of picking and packing. Even in the face of labour shortages, fast order completion can be maintained through the correct technological solutions. Hands-free, voice enabled technology is becoming increasingly crucial, allowing workers to check they’re gathering the right items without stopping to check paper documents and enabling them to pick items at a faster pace. 

Supply chain disruption has become an uncomfortable fact of business over the past couple of years, with no realistic end to the problem in sight. Whilst the issues at hand cannot be solved directly, technologies can be implemented to ensure supply chains can still run effectively despite unexpected challenges.

By incorporating technology further into warehouse operations, both management and floor staff can complete tasks smoothly, easily and quickly. These are micro solutions to macro problems, but each of the marginal gains enabled act together to help bring about genuinely consequential change – maintaining customer satisfaction and ensuring business profitability in the long term.

 

Marcus Jefferey is UK & Ireland Territory Manager at supply chain software solutions company Ivanti Wavelink.

 

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