The practice of supply chain management continues to evolve, thanks to industry innovation and technology advancements. The last 10 years have brought significant changes to how goods are purchased, distributed and shipped. Many of these changes are driven by advancements such as the smartphone and mobile applications as well as cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery models.
Here are 4 big trends which are forcing change to transportation, distribution and fulfillment:
1) Omnichannel. Sparked by Amazon, the seamless shopping experience has accelerated with the use of the smartphone and anywhere, anytime shopping. Regardless of where the customer engages a retailer or supplier, omnichannel demands a consistent experience. Retailers, suppliers and e-commerce sites are scrambling to reach the scalability and integration demanded by ominichannel. Think EDI capabilities and drop shipping where retailers are requiring suppliers to ship directly to the consumer on their behalf. Likewise, B2B buyers want robust, user friendly websites. For both B2B and consumer channels, the back-office technology required to support the level of connectivity and seamlessness of omnichannel can be daunting. Currently, even many B2B companies are still tackling EDI connectivity with their suppliers, and seeking ways to connect siloed enterprise applications for improved supply chain integration.
2) Supply chain optimization. Supply chain optimization means applying the right processes and tools to support the optimal operation of a supply chain. Examples include reducing the number of carriers you use or improving inbound materials flow. The process starts by taking a supply chain, distribution or fulfillment problem and examining it. Improvements often come from a combination of changes to business processes, refinement of business rules such as in software applications, or introducing a new technology such as a mobile application. The right experts can even extract information from siloed applications and databases, such as labor management and warehouse management systems, to allow the data to “talk to each other” for improved supply chain performance.
3) Electronic logging. A new mandate by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) requires commercial truck and bus drivers who use paper log books to maintain hours-of-service (HOS) records via an on-board e-log device by December 16, 2017. By reducing driver fatigue and supporting HOS compliance, the e-log mandate is estimated to save 26 lives and prevent more than 560 injuries annually which results from crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles. The rule is also expected to save more than $1 billion annually by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork. One downside to the e-log mandate is that the cost to implement may put some smaller trucking carriers out of business.
4) Geofencing. Based on geospatial technology, geofencing creates a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. In recent years, geofencing technology is commonly integrated into mobile fleet back-office software such as dispatch and routing applications to support driver compliance, security and safety, among other benefits. Carriers use geofencing to automate workflow by eliminating paper-based load and routing information. The technology helps dispatchers measure vehicle/driver activity and to ensure route compliance. Drivers can even receive read-outs and spoken turn-by-turn directions through in-cab mobile devices.
For consumers and B2B audiences, these trends have also raised the bar on customer expectations for service and performance. There’s no question these “trends” are here to stay. What are your reactions or concerns related to these big developments?
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