Tag Archives: warehouse

5 Barriers To Achieving End-To-End Supply Chain Visibility

Is it possible to get real-time, end-to-end visibility across your supply chain? Absolutely. But only if you have the right tools.


Since the term “supply chain” was first coined, we’ve all been searching for the holy grail: end-to-end supply chain visibility.

Now, as we recover from the initial shocks of the pandemic and manage through ongoing challenges, we need it more than ever.  But is total visibility actually possible? 

That was our question for Takshay Aggarwal, Global Lead Digital Supply Chain Partner at IBM Global Business Services.

Takshay and Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently talked about building resiliency in a disruptive environment.

A flawed strategy

Prior to the pandemic, a “just in time” inventory management strategy worked wonderfully well for most supply chains, but “just in time is only able to respond to certain fluctuations,” Takshay said. 

When the pandemic drove large-scale disruption, the strategy unravelled. Retailers, for example, were left with empty shelves, late deliveries, and no warning about shipping delays.

And it wasn’t just retail. Industries across the board lacked critical products because companies didn’t have visibility into their tier 2 to tier 10 suppliers – where 40% of supply chain disruptions occur.

Suddenly, companies were scrambling to change supply strategies. 

“The companies who have started on transformation journeys before COVID have fared much better,” Takshay said.

In fact, IBM’s visibility of its own internal supply chain meant it could predict the supply chain impact from the pandemic much sooner than most. 

Path to resilience

So how do you get that same level of visibility and resiliency across your supply chain?

It starts by asking the right question.

“[People should be asking] ‘what kind of supply chain do I need to have?’” Takshay said. 

That’s why the smart companies are re-balancing their risk appetite. 

A real control tower

A resilient supply chain is a transparent supply chain. And the only way to get that crucial visibility is having a smart control tower.

The concept of a control tower isn’t new. It’s a place to pool data from across your supply chain, and use it to make informed decisions.

The right tower helps you see problems a long way off, so you can minimise disruption and maximise profitability. 

But Takshay noted a worrying trend in procurement where any sort of dashboard is called a “control tower”. 

That’s a problem, since most inventory control towers are seriously limited. And you can’t make excellent decisions without knowing the full picture.

Takshay pointed to the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower as a huge development that finally gives companies the end-to-end visibility they crave.

Here’s how the sophisticated tower can help you overcome the five biggest barriers to visibility.

Problem 1) Most inventory control towers don’t work across silos.

A huge frustration is most control towers can’t handle all the siloed systems of today’s complex enterprises.

It’s a bit like depending on an air traffic controller who can only see part of the runway.

Takshay noted IBM’s control tower works seamlessly with ERP systems, warehouse management, demand planning, order management, e-commerce platforms, and logistics. 

You get one version of the truth across your entire inventory.

Problem 2) Most control towers only show you an inside-out view. 

It’s a big task to monitor operations across the supply chain. But you’re severely limited if your systems won’t sync up with your suppliers’.

That’s why the IBM Sterling Inventory Control Tower makes it easy to work across business partner network.

The result? You can make decisions with confidence, knowing you have all the external information you need.

Problem 3) Most tower controls can’t get into the nitty-gritty detail.

A crucial flaw in most control towers is they lack granular detail. That’s a pretty big issue when your job hinges on knowing the right details.

So instead of depending on people to enter the right data in the right place at just the right time, there’s a smarter way.

IBM’s control tower gives you the microscopic detail you need to make confident decisions. 

Problem 4) Most tower controls are inflexible.

A major drawback for most inventory control towers is the rigid structure. 

There’s only one way to input data, and don’t even dream of changing the architecture. But the pandemic showed us how fast everything can change and how flexible and agile your supply chain needs to be to respond effectively.

You need a control tower that can keep up with the reality of supply chains today. That’s why the IBM Sterling Supply Chain Control Tower is ideal. It adapts to fit your business needs – no matter how quickly they change.

Problem 5) Most control towers predict the future based on past events. 

If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you are making decisions based on past events, Takshay said.

At the very least, a control tower should give you current information. But IBM takes it a step further with predictive capabilities.

The control tower looks for patterns in your data – flagging possible issues before they happen. That way, you can quickly adapt and avoid disruption.

Don’t wait for perfection

Control towers go a long way toward visibility and resiliency, but they aren’t a silver bullet, Takshay said.

So instead of waiting for perfection, start bringing your systems together now. 

“The more visibility and the more integration, the more resilience,” Takshay said. “You’re able to bounce back much faster.”

If you want greater supply chain resiliency, you need greater visibility.

And you’ll get that level of visibility if you choose a control tower that actually gives you control. 

Watch the full webinar – Building Resiliency in a Disruptive Environment: How Control Towers Make a Difference – for free >

IIoT: Tomorrow Thinking for Supply Chain

The Internet of Things (IoT) is designed to make our data more useable. What opportunities and concerns does it present within logistics, where it is referred to as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) ?

The trends of Supply Chain technology are shaping the future of logistics management.

The common thread is the push toward hyper-interoperability, where technology, people and process collaborate to create true visibility, accurate orders, and happy customers.

It is impossible to ignore the pressure on retailers and distribution centre (DC) to re-engineer operations to meet the Omni-channel fulfilment mandate. The evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), designed to make data more usable, is quickly becoming a reality across global supply chains.

The Industrial lnternet of Things

Definitions of IoT spin around connecting sensors, programmable logic controllers, and RFID data with the internet so that other systems or analytical software can respond to or make sense of the data. An RF gun, voice recognition, and RFID in the warehouse all provide IoT–style sensor data; it is called the “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) to differentiate from consumer applications.

The order management system needs to orchestrate the fulfilment by interacting with inventory allocation, warehouse, management, transportation, and workforce scheduling systems using user-configurable business rule. The overall goal for Omni-channel is to satisfy more consumer demand with acceptable profit margins.

Logistics management in the warehouse

Many opportunities for improvement through smart forklifts, diagnostics of the equipment, speed controls, anti-slip technology, collision detection, fork speed optimisation, promoting new process flows, autonomously trip to a shipping dock for unloading, etc., are some of the applications and possibility a multi-channel system provides for the improvement of the overall process.

Transportation management

Tracking trucks based on RFID, GPS, RF scans, temperature, sensors embedded in the freight -all of these fit the definition of IIoT, the benefits being: improving network-based routing, the use of a smart phone for routing to determine congestion and better alternative routes.

Security

Security is the number one concern around IIoT, working hand in hand with public cloud solutions. It helps to detect Cyber attackers’ techniques quickly and avoid being tricked by them.

Inventory Management

This is a  hidden key to success. A major application of Omni-channel is a customer ordering a product and the retailer fulfilling the order from within their store network versus a distribution center. This introduces the requirement of advanced information systems to provide awareness of inventory throughout the store network. The omnichannel system would identify the stores with the right inventory and determine the most cost-effective location to fulfill from to provide the promised service level. Retailers challenge is the implementation of new order of management systems, to build a single view of inventory availability – foundation of Omni-channel fulfillment – and to recognize the new consumer’s expectation, the goal being to optimize inventory deployment so that the required inventory is where it should be to satisfy consumer demand at a lower cost.

Ordering

The first step is for the retailer to understand the Omni-channel strategies and how the customer’ buying patterns have changed (ordering an item online, by a mobile, from a store and picking it later, the item being shipped to the customer’s home, the customer calling to a call centre, etc. A fully-functional technology Omni-channel fulfilment operation has to be integrated according to the various selling systems.

Shipment and Delivery

Omni-channel technology, as the one IIoT provides,  plays a vital role in this environment by enabling store employees to efficiently navigate the store floor to find the ordered inventory. Once the item is retrieved, store employees utilize packaging stations to prepare order for shipment and utilize small parcel carriers to pick-up and deliver the orders. Using the same trailers scheduled for normal store delivery, however, separating these pre-ordered items on the trailer is the critical piece in this strategy. Loading these items at the front of the trailer, labeling them with special tags utilizing barcode-scanning technology, and using colored totes are a few ways to flag the inventory.

Returns processing

Returns processing is still an improvement opportunity for many Omni-channel retailers. The goal is to allow a consumer to return purchases to either stores or a central returns facility regardless of where the sale originates.

The top three priorities identified are inventory planning, fulfillment capabilities and returns processing. Retailers have to keep working on the enterprise-wide visibility of available inventory. Inventory must be deployed differently in an Omni-channel world; many retailers are beginning to address that challenge, developing flexible fulfillment capabilities that leverage stores, DCs, and vendors to fulfill consumer demand. However, store fulfillment processes are not as efficient as they are in a DC where conditions are more controlled. Omni- channel is having a profound impact on supply chain organizations-especially logistics across all levels of maturity, being better equipped to embrace Omni-channel from a people, process and technology perspective.

So what new approaches are you applying to your Supply Chain? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was first published on LinkedIn

7 Warehouse Management Tips to Improve Inventory Control

In every business, there is one silent player that can absolutely make or break your operation — the warehouse.

 

Warehouses  form the nucleus of numerous businesses and it is imperative that they are managed efficiently. However, its size and structure can become overwhelming if not managed properly. You can manage it efficiently by implementing a warehouse management system, with which you can control the movement and storage of the materials within the warehouse. Additionally, you can incorporate tasks like transportation management, accounting systems, light manufacturing, etc.

Managing inventory effectively and maximizing warehouse productivity rank on top of the priority list of almost all the warehouse managers. If you are one of them, these 7 warehouse management tips will help you in improving inventory control and achieving effective warehouse management.

  1. Plan An Efficient Layout

The warehouse layout must be carefully planned out in order to maximize storage space. You must arrange the space in a manner that allows you to move smoothly and with ease while carrying goods around the warehouse. You must keep enough space to maneuver the forklifts and weight carrying machines around without any hindrances. Mark the bins and place them in a planned manner to avoid confusion and stocking of goods at inappropriate places. The right layout will also help in minimizing safety hazards.

  1. Stock Inventory As Per Need

You must arrange your inventory based on how and when you use/need it. You shouldn’t hoard inventory unnecessarily throughout the year unless there is a regular demand. Keep the stock levels at 1.5 times the average for avoiding blocking of working capital. With optimised inventory holding, you can effectively reduce the cost of storage. You can study historical trends as a part of your warehouse management process to forecast the inventory need.

  1. Apply Cross Docking to Maximize Space

The objective of cross docking is to reduce the shelf storage time of stocks in the warehouse. It helps in transporting warehouse delivered goods quickly to the outbound carriers that can take the stocks to distribution centres. You have to ensure that the warehouse layout supports cross docking.

  1. Implement Strict Standards for Safety

Don’t make your warehouse an unsafe place for your employees. If your staff isn’t trained properly, you will have numerous accidents and high injury rates. Ensure that only the well-trained and experienced employees operate heavy duty equipment such as forklifts. Mark the safety protocols in the warehouse, such as indicating a safe distance from danger zones.

  1. Incorporate Efficient Weighing Systems

Make efficient weight scales, such as truck scales, an integral part of your warehouse as it helps in optimising all the weighing processes. You can improve the accuracy of the billing and shipping tremendously, thus increasing the revenue. The overall workflow productivity is also enhanced.

  1. Use Technology to Enhance Inventory Management

Technology is a good friend to have in the warehouse. New robotics technology has become the most sought after technology in many companies. You can partner up with warehouse management systems and create customized software and smart robots that can help in managing the movement, storage and sorting of warehouse inventory. Automated vehicles come a close second. By incorporating self-driving technology in the warehouses, you can reassign human labor to more critical jobs and enhance safety and efficiency.

3D printing technology allows on-demand production of various components for manufacturing at the location itself. It can effectively eliminate the need for any transportation, thus reducing the cost and lead times significantly. Innovation of newer, lighter and stronger materials like nanotubes and graphene is also exciting news for warehouse and logistics management. You need less energy to transport lighter materials and equipment. To make it even better, self-repairing finishes and self-assembling materials are already in developmental testing!

  1. Improve Demand Planning

Demand planning is a crucial part of forecasting inventory purchases, stock requirements and customer buying trends. This helps in optimizing inventory levels and meeting the demands of the customers at the same time. When the demand planning is effective, you can track the sales trend history, product activity during specific seasons of the year, trends of various manufacturers and different rules of warehouse storage and business.

Don’t let the complexities of a warehouse wear you down. With careful and efficient planning, you can achieve your goals and manage every single warehouse with high efficiency.

Kevin Hill heads up the marketing efforts and provides technical expertise to the sales and service teams at Quality Scales Unlimited in Byron, California.