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Most of this is already computerized in today’s organizations, generally through some form of enterprise resource planning software, but that isn’t always the ideal solution for the supply chain manager who’s out procuring the basic necessities that keep everything running – unless your supply chain strategy includes mobile resources, as well.
A Rising Trend
Mobile devices, especially those specifically for use in supply chain management, or directly connected to your own ERP are becoming a mainstay for those who keep organizations running. Warehouses have been using such technology for years, enabling them to instantly update inventory by supplying workers with handheld devices to catalogue everything being moved in or out of its area, complete with its origins, ultimate destination, and every stop in between.
The newer devices are specialized computers which can scan bar codes, take pictures with an integrated camera, read RFID tags, and even print labels. Some may even integrate voice response technology, making it a completely hands-free experience, if the user so desires.
But all of that is just the beginning.
The Personal Touch
The rise of the smartphone (and the tablet) have made the use of mobile technology that much easier. Often specialized, and therefore expensive, technology is often no longer necessary when ERP software comes with apps for your favored brand of handheld phone or tablet. Chances are you or your supply chain manager already have a compatible device, meaning it’s just a matter of installing the apps, and you have your own personal inventory management device.
These increasingly common consumer devices have all the capabilities of the old specialized hardware, with the added capability of being easily upgraded when the next version of the appropriate apps come along. Cameras, barcode scanners, voice functionality, virtual keyboards – all of these come standardized with consumer handheld devices, even those that have nothing to do with the business world. After adding in the lower cost and the fact that many of your workers will have one or more of these devices anyway, there’s little reason not to include mobile technology in your supply chain.
An Instant Connection
One major advantage modern devices have is the ubiquitous internet connection. With most internet-ready devices having worldwide communication capability, there are a few places your supply chain might have a link that you can’t contact with one of these devices. In response, those who deal with supply chain logistics, including ERP developers, are integrating useful functions that are specifically compatible with iOS, Android and other popular mobile platforms.
Third-party providers are working to fill the need for mobile business apps, which means it will be very easy for you to find the one that works for you and your business. The best will let you track shipments, keep tabs on the inventory of your suppliers, get price quotes, and generally keep you aware of everything you need to know to keep everything running smoothly, as well as the means to rearrange when things are running not so smoothly. Sitting in front of a computer is no longer necessary. In fact, that could be a liability.
The Benefits of Mobility
A phone is so much more than a phone now, just like a tablet is a computer you can carry easily. With the right software, you can manage every part of your supply chain, from raw materials to distribution, anticipating and overcoming in snarls in the system in real time.
Real-time communication. You can know where your materials or goods are, anywhere they are, from anywhere you happen to be. With the right software, you can know the routes your goods are taking, who planned the route, any trouble along the roads that might cause a delay, all the way down to the person who will be driving the truck. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to send messages to your agents or to your providers to deal with any anticipated problems before they become actual problems.
Unparalleled inventory management. Keeping track of inventory has always been a difficult process for businesses, especially large ones. A warehouse can be a trial to manage – a group of warehouses, nearly impossible. The ability to link your inventory software to mobile devices makes it possible for you to know instantly what’s in stock, what’s running low, what’s overstocked, usually well before the point it becomes a problem. With a few touches of the screen, you’ll be able to redirect overstock to a place where it might be more useful, or slow ordering for items that might be less popular than they once were. As with communication, it’s all done in real time, so any changes you implement will take place virtually instantly.
New levels of efficiency. The ability to monitor everything in real time means you can react in real time. When something goes wrong, as often happens at the worst possible time, you can reallocate resources to minimize the effects, allowing you to fix the problem much more quickly. This level of transparency also allows you to cut costs due to your greater control over the means of production and use of material down to the smallest unit, if necessary.
There are dozens of apps from which to choose if your ERP provider does not already have proprietary apps or if you need something more specialized for your particular business. In these times when the business environment can change on a moment’s notice, it’s always a good idea to be equipped to change just as rapidly.
Source: Pivot International
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