Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Technology – A boon to Supply Chain Management

Technology, emails and software have kept into all types of businesses. Consumers want minute to minute notification of where their products are and when the products will reach them. In today’s global and complex chain of supply chain processes, technology has been the differentiating factor giving them a competitive advantage over other industries. Initially technology was intended for business-to-business interactions but now due to high level of consumer interaction with the processes technology has crept into business to consumer process also.

Following gives a description of the top technologies that are used by supply chain processes in various industries:

1)      Connectivity and Communication :
Mobile handsets, Bluetooth, personal area networking have all contributed a great deal in not only connecting the various distribution centres in the supply chain management processes but also the consumers to customer care representatives who give minute by minute detail of the flow product.

2)      Advanced Wireless: Voice & GPS :
The integration of voice and GPS into computer systems and their falling costs have made it easy for different industries to track the supply of the goods. Use of GPS is significantly helpful in the supply chain process because multiple agencies and people can track it without any investment on integration. Thus there is no expenditure in its implementation or coordination. In the words of V. Manohar, Information technology Manager of Azko Nobel India says that GPS is an integral part to optimise routes, communicate delivery status to consumers and also optimise the warehousing operations. 

3)      Speech recognition:
Imagine, labours giving instructions to the machines by literally speaking to them. At the same time, they can use their hands to do something else. Also, it is much easier for resources to give instructions to the electronic devices than to follow a set of steps to give an instruction to a computer or other electronic terminal. There need not be any money also to spend in training the labours to know the gadgets used in the manufacture or supply chain process. For instance, Lighthouse for the blind is a non-profit organization in St. Louis that employs non-sighted workers. It innovatively made use of the speech recognition technology to improve the accuracy of warehouse picking by 25%!

4)      Digital Imaging & Mobile printing:
With digital imaging, there might be no need for employing resources to verify the delivery of an item. Digital imaging can capture images and these images can in turn be used to capture delivery to customers or to capture the image that a product or raw material has safely and soundly reached its destination shelf. This is definitely another innovative way of using the technology in the supply chain management.
Also, mobile printing can be used in conjunction with Digital imaging to generate electronic invoices. Mission Foods which is one of the world’s largest producer of tortillas have innovatively started using mobile printers to generate handheld invoices rather than manual invoices.

5)      Bar Coding techniques and RFID:
Usage of 2- dimensional barcoding is the trend everywhere. Supermarkets such as Coles, aircrafts such as Emirates all use barcodes for tracking the products and boarding passes respectively. This technique has minimum manual interaction and tracks their processes effectively. World’s most coveted company in supply chain management – Wallmart uses radio frequency identification (RFID). These are different because with RFID merchandises can be tracked from a distance unlike bar codes. They can be used as smart tags on products. The employers can track the flow of such products quickly with their electronic handheld devices. Therefore, they can be easily used to track shoplifters and other ways of not-legal flow of products out of the stores.
Thus, business needs such as tracking of items, ensuring timely delivery of products, security and maintaining inventory – all can be effectively taken care by technology.


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