3 Ways New Technology Can Improve Communication Along the Supply Chain

Published : June 25, 2015


Communication, at its most basic level in a company, should be a useful exchange of information between two parties — whether they work within the same business or exist in a supplier-buyer relationship. And nowhere is a trustworthy, actionable exchange of data more important than the supply chain, and the recent evolution of supply chain technologies definitely reflects that fact.

From the broad strokes of email base-touching to the narrow details of RFID tracking, here are 3 ways new technology is changing the way we communicate in our supply chains for the better.

1.) What Do I Have?

The number of items you have on hand affects every other part of your business — you don't want to waste budget dollars ordering too much, and you don't want to waste marketing dollars by ordering too little and being unable to meet demand.

With RFID and barcode technologies in place in the warehouse, you can avoid inventory uncertainty, and cut down on wasted time by eliminating a redundant receiving workflow. While both solutions are excellent for tracking movement — when an item is received, when it is sent out, when it is moved, and so on — barcodes offer a relay race-like report of these events. RFID tech carries more live data, but also comes with a higher price tag, so you'll need to select what's best for your budget and operational needs.

2.) How Do I Get It There?

Supply chain technologies aren't exclusively the responsibility of the company, of course. Partnering with a transportation company that values cutting-edge innovations has a ripple effect for their business partners, who in turn benefit from that initial effort and investment in tech support.

When considering a switch in or a contract re-up with a transportation partner, have a frank discussion about what technologies they are currently using and how you can use the data they produce to your benefit. If the fulfillment company is tight-lipped about how they build efficiency or is unwilling to share information like real time truck, plane or boat positioning, it may be time to switch gears and chat with a more open partner.

3.) How Do My Actions Affect My Company?

No department is an island, and the increasingly breakneck pace of an omni-channel fulfillment model drives that point home.

Your actions in the warehouse affect the data and customer experience that gives marketing, R&D and many other sectors guidance for future planning. Your warehouse management system should be visible — albeit with proper context and room for notes — to anyone in the company that relies on your shipping speed and potential issues to make their own decisions. If you balk at the concept, ask yourself why. Is it because it would look messy or disorganized to an outsider? Would those who have your data not understand it? If you don't have transparency and cross-training, at least to a degree, you're setting yourself up for trouble if your warehouse workflow ever runs into an obstacle.

Pascal Fernandez points out in Supply & Demand Chain Executive that "erratic" collaboration is much like a potluck dinner — you're only going to get out of it what everyone puts into it — and if that's only a fleeting mention here or there, it won't evolve into actionable data.

Consider the various nodes of your company as cars cruising down a two lane highway in the dark. Sure, you could use sound to navigate and avoid collisions, but imagine how much easier it would be if everyone "communicated" by flipping on their headlights.

Supply chain technologies are a boon to any business — as long as the whole organization knows how to use them to their fullest extent. Don't get caught on the wrong side of digital evolution — know what time-saving devices and software are at your disposal and master the ones you currently have in use. The human brain and body can only achieve so much, even at peak efficiency, but technology takes business into the modern age with a smooth flurry of geolocation and data points.

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Topics: Supply Chain Technology

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