Dont be too quick to jump through those demand-led hoops

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The demands of tomorrows supply chain will be no less than those being experienced today. We, the consumers, are increasingly coming to expect better service and more reliability from our suppliers, the retailers and manufacturers. These expectations are resonating backwards and manifesting themselves at all levels through the supply chain.

The pressure to manage the Supply Chain with confidence and reliability, for manufacturers and retailers alike, has now become irresistible. SMEs require the same high level of assurance and dependability from their Supply Chain software as any of the Blue Chip and Tier One enterprises.

Of course, development is crucial and there must always be a place for new ideas and systems to improve the way the supply chain is managed, how would we evolve otherwise?

Create value from your supply chain
Companies have come to realise that their supply chains can not only adversely affect their businesses, but can also add value. To some degree, this has driven the adoption of leading edge technology in supply chain management systems.

This search for added value in the supply chain has led to the early adoption of leading edge technology and under-developed systems that have not always yielded the dividends promised. In some well-documented cases, the lack of investment in due-diligence and pre-sales referencing for this leading-edge functionality has been at the cost of the mission critical core supply chain, and has severely compromised retailers and manufacturers.

But, where mission criticality is important, this should be wrapped around the solid base of proven capability and strength.

There has been a general tendency to overlook this absolute need for mission criticality in supply chain software performance. But the case for well-proven systems that will provide stability under the pressure of tomorrows supply chain requirements, whilst also providing a future-proofed structure, is more relevant today than it ever has been.

Of course, development is crucial and there must always be a place for new ideas and systems to improve the way the supply chain is managed, how would we evolve otherwise? But, where mission criticality is important, this should be wrapped around the solid base of proven capability and strength.

Innovate on a secure and robust foundation
A supply chain management system that has a solid and reliable base and is proven in performance must be the starting point for all retailers and manufacturers wanting to create value and competitive advantage throughout their supply chain. The probability for success of cutting edge applications and functionality is that much greater because of a secure and robust foundation.
Some of the more recent value added innovations for the supply chain, and warehousing in particular, that retailers are taking advantage of are:

Native voice
Native voice offers users the ability to install voice recognition (VR) equipment from industry leading VR suppliers and to control picking operations directly from the host software, without the use of middleware. Users have found that they are typically achieving a level of 12 to 15 per cent productivity in their picking processes once native voice has been implemented. The return on investment, following implementation, is an incredible 12 to 18 months.

Asset tracking
Advanced functionality that enables our users to track and trace the delivery and return journeys of their container assets (cages, tote bins, trays, etc.) from the warehouse to the customer/store. Typically products will be tied to the container, so the track and traceability will include the knowledge of what is carried in the container.

Enabling users to track an asset to and from a specific customer is an invaluable business management tool, and has the potential to save millions in asset control. There will also be a positive consequential effect on accuracy of order fulfilment at the point of delivery.

RFID
Radio frequency identification (RFID) at user level has yet to take off in the market place. A number of companies like Tesco, M&S and Woolworths are making large strides to get RFID used in certain circumstances within their operations, for example, high value items and container based tracking. Costs and trying to understand the benefit case in general is keeping the take-up at a low level.

Standards, in a similar way to EAN128, also remain a moving feast, being dependant on the user to specify their requirements. So, it is difficult for supply chain software suppliers to know which way to jump with development for the technology.

At this stage, in the development of RFID in the supply chain, it is for certain that close relationships with the people who institute the standards will provide strategic advantage when RFID does become a norm.

Web-based ordering
A natural and complimentary feature for the supply chain is to enable clients with the ability for their stores to order goods over the web. Low cost, high availability, fast training cycles and low risk are just four of the compelling reasons for moving in this direction.


Paul Cox is a Business Specialist at AquiTec in the areas of warehousing and labour management. Paul has over 20 years experience in the logistics and warehousing industries, having worked for companies such as Manhattan Associates, Online Logistics, Exel and Tibbet & Britten. AquiTec has a 30-year proven track record in providing supply chain management software. AquiTecs customers include many of the UKs leading high street and multiple retailers, such as B&Q, Woolworths, NISA-Todays, Musgrave (Republic of Ireland) and FOCUS DIY.

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