Supply Chain Optimization and Mobility are two initiatives at the forefront of many companies’ IT plans, but in reality, they should go together as the right mobile tools can expose supply chain breakdowns. Increasing visibility is often the most expeditious manner to uncover the root cause of these breakdowns, and we are in an unprecedented time in terms of the tools at our disposal to bring about this expanded visibility.
Mobility is all about launching the right tool, not simply the most obvious one. I am approached by so many IT resources at companies where senior management is demanding access to the system on their smart phone or tablet without a clear strategy. The subsequent scurry to try to push out an app frequently lands with workflow applications. Though beneficial, workflow apps are not going to push the right data to the person who can most influence action on the ground. And the very same companies often have supply chain optimization initiatives going on at the very same time. So we need to be able to look at mobility as the right technology to tackle many of these supply chain challenges that are holding us back.
Mobile applications can be built quickly and often more cheaply than custom objects in ECC, so this platform now affords us the luxury to bring up semi-disposable tools to target specific issues. Should your mobile strategy center on disposable apps? No, but think of them more as reusable components. Mobile apps should not provide do-all, end-all functions; rather, they should be simple and merge targeted data. This means that they can be used to focus on specific challenges in the supply chain.
We have the unique opportunity to push filtered data from multiple resources, so that when properly planned, those shop floor, warehouse or shipping managers can get the precise information they need to correct issues on the ground. This also means that we can be more proactive by no longer having to wait on after-the-fact reporting.
What are some key concepts for supply chain optimization and how might mobility pair up?
Minimize lead times
Expose bottlenecks, thereby maximizing throughput through a manufacturing application. Plus, analysis of either internal or external lead times can instill the flexibility to react more quickly to customer changes.
Increase customer satisfaction
Improve On-Time Delivery with earlier placement of orders through a field sales application, or improve quality control through a QM app.
Improve accuracy and turnover through a warehouse application. Miniature Bluetooth scanners are so common that integration is seamless and easy to set up.
Reduce operational costs
Do you know how much WIP you have or how much is scrapped? How about freight costs per unit? If the right manager on the ground had immediate access to this information, they could influence operational costs before they become a problem.
Maximize gross margins
What if you could provide up-to-the-minute margin data on products such that your sales associates could help channel sales to those most profitable?
Supply chain issues are often resolved through better information. Mobility is simply a medium through which to consume that information, yet it increases our options for pulling in actionable data. Simply understanding the possibilities and promoting that awareness can expose opportunities in supply chain optimization and encourage supply chain managers to bring their ideas forward. However, the mobile apps that produce the biggest impact are often the ones that provide information that nobody has thought of asking for.