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Mobility: The Critical Link in the Digital Supply Chain

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The logistics industry has been implementing mobile strategies for years, but with the rise of the “digital supply chain,” investing in technology that effectively manages the end-to-end supply chain without wires has become a strategic imperative for many organizations. Growing complexities, increased competition, and changing customer demands are all pushing companies to leverage mobility in a way that helps to streamline their supply chains, speed up delivery times, more efficiently route and schedule their shipments, and gain real-time visibility of their assets.

“The area outside the four walls is a place where we’re seeing significant levels of [mobile] adoption, especially among mid-market organizations that want to mobilize their workflows and operations for the first time,” VDC Research’s David Krebs told Modern Material Handling.

Investing in digital supply chain improvement pays off; Industry Week cites a Center for Global Enterprise (CGE) white paper finding that companies can see a 20 percent reduction of procurement costs, a 50 percent reduction in supply chain costs, and an increase in revenue of 10 percent. Digital does not exist today unless it is mobilized, which means that a successful digital supply chain is built upon mobile devices and technology.

What is a Digital Supply Chain?

Defined by the CGE as a customer-centric platform model that captures and maximizes utilization of real-time data coming from a variety of sources, the digital supply chain enables demand stimulation, inventory efficiency, as well as improves workforce and asset management to optimize performance and minimize risk. It doesn’t matter whether the goods or services are digital or physical; rather, it refers to the way that the supply chain process is managed.

“Supply chain leaders have done a good job of optimizing results by managing suppliers, moving manufacturing to low-cost locations and increasing the efficiency of logistics,” CGE points out in Digital Supply Chains: A Frontside Flip, “but these steps are insufficient in the world that is being reshaped by big data and analytics, new technology, new people skills, and an increasingly risky operating environment.”

Three Ways Mobile Makes a Difference

The digital supply chain doesn’t exist without mobilization. By adding reliable, ruggedized mobile device solutions to the mix, companies can begin to rethink and transform their supply chains in a way that maximizes their organizational models. Here’s how mobile solutions are making a difference:

  • Generate and stimulate demand for products. It wasn’t long ago that companies were forced to “ride out” seasonal business fluctuations in hopes that they had enough product (or that they weren’t carrying too much product) in inventory to handle the ebbs and flows. Trends like e-commerce and omni-channel have pushed companies to find better ways to generate, stimulate, and address demand levels. Using rugged handhelds and tablets to capture, analyze and utilize data, organizations can reduce forecasting errors, improve inventory accuracy, and increase customer service levels in today’s competitive business environment.  
  • Handle data more efficiently. Forrester Research estimates that as much as 60 to 73 percent of the data being collected is never successfully used for any strategic purpose. Yet supply chain-generated data and analytics can provide key insights into how your company is performing, the “pain points” that are creating poor customer experiences, and the specific operational areas where improvements are needed. And while many corporate and consumer users operate desktop computing devices, most are also active users of smartphones, handhelds, tablets, and/or laptops. The workforce—including those employees who actively manage supply chainswants to be able to conduct company business from mobile devices. Using rugged handhelds and tablets that can withstand heavy use across warehouse environments can help companies fulfill this need while also enabling more efficient data collection and processing. 
  • Manage valuable human resources. Accounting for just about one-third of a company’s supply chain costs, labor plays a critical role in the digital supply chain. Companies can’t afford to mismanage their human resources in an environment where skilled workers are getting harder and harder to come by. To effectively leverage their digital supply chains, CGE says companies will need to put the emphasis on education, communication, organizational redesign, process redesign, and hiring—all of which are effectively enabled by mobile technologies. By equipping workers with mobile devices that can withstand the warehouse or transportation environment, for example, companies can lower the total cost of ownership for their investments, reduce worker fatigue and frustration, and improve employee productivity. 

Now is the Time to Invest in Mobility Solutions  

CGE predicts that by the year 2020, many more companies will be utilizing—and in some cases mastering—their digital supply chain operations on a global basis. Driven by the proliferation of real-time data, changing customer demands, and a continually evolving business environment, those companies that leverage mobile technology as the great enabler of the digital supply chain will reap the rewards of their efforts.

Learn more about how Panasonic mobile solutions are improving supply chain efficiencies