Manufacturing & Logistics IT attended Oracle's two-day Modern Supply Chain Experience event – held in London recently – in order to learn about what Oracle sees as some of the key functionality sweet spots within state-of-the-art Cloud-based transportation management and warehouse management software solutions.
Oracle's Modern Supply Chain Experience event was held recently at the Intercontinental London – The O2. At the event, delegates were able to watch product demonstrations of Oracle solutions, as well as collaborate and engage with the company's industry leaders and gain from their insights during roundtable discussions. They were also able to hear from Oracle customers about how they are gaining a sustainable advantage and driving innovation by transforming their traditional supply chains into integrated value chains – impacting their top and bottom lines, reducing operational costs, and empowering their people.
Among the feature tracks were a number of presentations that addressed the themes of transportation management and warehouse management in the Cloud. "Logistics professionals have to confront many major day-to-day business and operational challenges," Vikram Singla, product innovation and supply chain apps leader, Oracle UK, told Manufacturing & Logistics IT at the event. "In the case of transportation management, companies need to deliver the right goods to the right customers within the right timeframe while also remaining profitable and legally compliant. Similarly, warehouses need to ensure they have the flexibility to keeping inventory at an optimum level to avoid a shortfall in goods demand, while also avoiding overstock which could result in prohibitive storage costs or product obsolescence if goods are kept on the shelves for long periods."
In order to look to maximise the efficiency of transportation management and warehouse activities, presenters at the Oracle event commented that it is now more critical than ever that logistics companies put in place a reliable IT infrastructure that is able to optimise day-to-day business and operational processes.
With regard to specific aspects of the ideal Cloud-based transportation management system, Oracle believes the solution should be designed to support both shippers and logistics service providers and to make their daily communication as clear and seamless as possible. According to Oracle, it should enable users to reduce freight costs, optimise service levels and automate processes so that they can run their logistics operations more efficiently and ultimately deliver the very best service to the end customer. With this in mind, Oracle believes some of the key features within the TMS should ideally include the following:
Operational planning – To enable users to create a more efficient and high velocity logistics network; planning and executing domestic and international shipments, lowering rates and manage equipment more efficiently, and optimise the cubic capacity of containers while consolidating orders and streamlining location flow and calendars.
Visibility – To provide visibility into items, orders and shipments, so users can deliver the best possible service and plan with greater accuracy and confidence. Even if shippers outsource the physical shipment of the goods, they need to have complete control over the whereabouts of the goods.
Transportation intelligence – Functionality for the whole enterprise that is able to track items, orders and shipments, make changes that improve servicing costs and receive proactive alerts when delivery milestones are approaching or have been missed.
Global trade compliance and security – Helping companies to manage day-to-day communications with hauliers worldwide, while helping them to remain compliant regarding the different trading laws and regulations concerning imports and exports that exist in each country they operate within. Oracle stressed that enterprise managers involved in international transportation need to be able to rely on an IT solution that ensures end-to-end visibility and control of customs and compliance processes, while enabling them to optimise and streamline business processes related to cross-border trade.
Landed cost management – Helping companies to analyse different sourcing scenarios in order not just to help their buyers to understand product cost but also to gain a complete understanding of the total cost purchasing those goods – including handling fees, insurance, duties and taxes.
Rates management – Helping companies to maintain and regularly update rates information within their TMS application.
A key part of any efficient logistics operation is the warehouse or distribution centre. Oracle believes it is critical that a company's warehouse management IT system (WMS) is not just geared to optimise efficiencies concerning inventory management but is also part of a unified single suite of logistics solutions that serve the company's entire supply chain – including transportation management and manufacturing. Oracle maintains the WMS should also be able to coordinate resource usage and material flows so users can improve labour and space utilisation within the warehouse, as well as help to optimise shipment accuracy. According to Oracle, other key features should include:
Inventory management – Oracle believes the ideal WMS should be able to improve inventory visibility, reduce inventory levels and control inventory operations. More specifically, states the company, the WMS should be capable of supporting discrete inventory, process inventory, project inventory and spare parts management. It should also be able to manage restricted material transactions using user-defined status controls against locations, lots, serials and on-hand material.
Mobile supply chain – Oracle believes the functionality of the WMS should be accessible to authorised personnel within the four walls and in the field via complementary apps on their mobile devices. It added that staff should be able to perform common warehouse and shop-floor transactions through their handheld devices and truck-mounted scanners in order to improve inventory accuracy and reduce data entry errors with barcode scanning.
Yard management – Oracle believes a WMS should be able to manage and track the flow of trailers and their contents into and out of the yard by managing yard operations such as dock scheduling, equipment check-in, unsealing, sealing and checkout.
Organisations may already have in place software functionality that efficiently manages many of their TMS and/or WMS processes. However, Oracle points out that many of these companies may be considering adding extra functionality in order to maximise their business and operational efficiencies as well as enhance their compliance and security regime.
Complementary/Incremental change – Vikram Singla commented that by discussing their requirements with the right provider, shippers and carriers should be able to gain a fully rounded view of the different ways they can consume solutions in the Cloud, and be able to pick and choose what they require. He added it is also important that the Cloud solutions the vendor recommends have the flexibility to be fully and seamlessly integrated within the user organisation's existing IT suite; whether as a part on-premise and part-Cloud (hybrid) model or whether these solutions were sourced from the same provider or other vendor.
Transformational change – If, on the other hand, logistics companies are currently experiencing issues with their existing TMS and Warehouse Management System, have old legacy systems that they are looking to completely replace, or are looking to put in place a state-of-the-art IT backbone for a start-up company, Singla considers that a more 'transformational' Cloud-based IT model may be the best option.
Singla continued: "There are many benefits to be had by deploying Cloud-based solutions. Unlike the implementation of on-premise solutions, there is no up-front capital expenditure (capex) involved in Cloud-based/Software as a Service-based (SaaS) solutions. Instead, users pay a monthly subscription fee determined by the size of the deployment and number of users. Another benefit is that the solutions can be up and running quickly (weeks rather than years), without the often protracted implementation process involved in preparing an on-premise system for go-live. Also, in the case of Oracle's solutions, users will always be using the very latest iteration of the software, with round-the-clock online support available. Oracle's Cloud solutions are also highly secure and only accessible by authorised personnel online from anywhere in the world."
Singla concluded: "If companies are considering investing in a new transportation management and/or warehouse management system, or are looking to enhance the functionality they already have, I believe it is important to source a solution that can optimise business and operational efficiencies, maximise profit and protect and enhance the company's reputation through providing customers with a level of service that is second to none."