Why is it so interesting that nowadays experts in digitization are increasing their research focus on supply chain improvements?
What if companies were realizing that logistics processes could be a strategic part of a product, not only an irrefutable need?
These new research trends are valuable to trigger current areas of improvement in terms of:
Bottlenecks: congestion at ports, documentation exchanged between service providers and port authorities to execute a transport order, delays caused by customs physical or documental inspections, among others.
Digital density: to what degree external technologies are implemented or could be improved for communications and procedures automation (e-platforms, AI for order execution, IoT for track & trace, blockchain for e-docs exchange, E2E visibility tools, others).
Extra costs: detentions and demurrages at port or Container Freight Stations, trucking charges for delays at loading warehouses.
The lack of synchronization between what shippers would like to use their resources for, and the actual use of their assets, is often a cause of disruption that generates unnecessary and unwelcome additional costs. This could be one of the main drivers for supply chain managers to optimize processes and get the best out of their resources; and they are not wrong, even if it could become a stressful obsession considering how the required data is obtained.
Sometimes data is obtained via a combination of different databases (CRM data from Marketing & Sales areas, ERP data from R&D / production areas, external market intelligence sources, TMS data from Logistics and Transport areas). This could lead to estimations of asset performance but not to near 100% accurate data. In other cases, it is just based on instinct or assumptions.
For some reason, some resistance to find new ways to correctly measure this profitability is often found. At the end of the day, it is supposed to be a duty of supply chain managers to do this job with the existing mechanisms.
But what is wrong with getting some support to make these tasks easier and more accurate?
The best way to understand how profitable assets are is by measuring them objectively on a 24/7 monitoring basis. We need to overcome the dependency on several systems to get the performance data from our current resources. There are many tools and devices like ICT systems, customized software, sensors, blockchain tags with smart QRs, and quite more options.
However, it is quite important to additionally have a holistic view and create a roadmap from that point on that is parallel to the company’s global strategy. Some companies need to transform their whole processes and some others see pain-points in selected areas, but in general terms, the following tools will help them create an automated ecosystem:
e-Platforms: via a connected environment where collaborators are integrated and interact with no silos, the quality of communication and information shared improves. All tasks are monitored based on predefined rules.
TMS & WMS: if shippers and LSP can set up a customized IT system to facilitate a smooth and seamless communication process, advantages in terms of automated organization of shipments and contingency planning save time and optimize resources.
Robotics: via mobile robots constantly interacting around warehouses and production areas in an autonomous way (following predefined rules), reactive tasks are reduced. Also, savings in time and money are assured and the environmental agenda is more reachable.
IoT: applying sensors to vehicles and cargoes to detect motion, light intensity, tilt angle, temperature and speed parameters in all phases is useful. From production plant / finished goods warehouse to delivery point at destination, it will provide “conscious and unconscious data” to be analyzed with technologies such as IA/ML and predict inadequate planning, optimize resources (staff, hardware, software, services) and have better visibility.
The orchestration, as a whole, of these smart tools and process design needs to take into consideration that, from the first moment when a box or pallet is ready to be picked up, all subsequent steps could be organized in advance by applying some key rules and commands, the appropriate technology and a correct roadmap.