Leveraging technology in the supply chain can create efficiency and visibility like never before. Identifying the right systems to use that meet business needs can be a complex and tedious process. Supply chain solution providers offer technology and the right partner can provide the flexibility needed to use an ideal system for a shipper’s needs.
According to a survey conducted by MHI, a leading trade association of the material handling, logistics, and supply chain industry, 80 percent of those surveyed felt that digital supply chain, the way the supply chain utilizes technology to operate, will be the predominant model within the next five years while only 16 percent said it is happening now. 53 percent of companies in the survey are investing $1 million or more in technologies over the next two years1. Shippers understand the need is there but have not all begun to invest and leverage the potential that comes along with it.
Finding the Optimum Technology
A 2016 Capgemini survey found that 50 percent of those surveyed see digital transformation as “very important” yet only 5 percent were very satisfied with their progress towards it2.
Warehouse (WMS) and Transportation Management Systems (TMS) are two key examples of utilizing technology to generate visibility in the supply chain. A WMS comes in many different tiers, providing inventory tracking, shipping data, customer management, and security depending on the level of the program. A WMS can give visibility to what products a company has and where, giving insight and the agility to make changes as needed in an ever evolving supply chain. The technology can also improve labor management and give key indicators for the most efficient processes in picking and packing3.
A WMS can communicate directly and provide connectivity to a Transportation Management System, allowing for integration of transportation and distribution. The TMS can optimize transportation routes and provide similar visibility that can optimize labor and asset utilization. The program creates efficiency while even reducing costs by finding optimum routes for fuel efficiency. Analytics and the use of business intelligence capabilities in WMS and TMS only became prevalent in recent years. These capabilities allow for strategic supply chain decision making and visibility with newly accessible data4.
Finding a Provider with Flexibility
Purchasing a TMS and WMS as a shipper can be a large investment but many 3PLs have created systems for customers to utilize in addition to other services. An end-to-end supply chain solutions provider with capabilities in technology can offer a shipper the ability to use the 3PL’s technology and systems such as WMS, TMS, or business intelligence software. A provider with agile IT solutions can integrate with the shipper’s in-house technology or provide a customized program, giving a shipper the ability to determine if the 3PL’s capabilities meet its supply chain needs or if the provider’s service can give an improved solution5.
Technology continues to evolve the supply chain with the increased trend of e-commerce and the shifting dynamics of business. More than ever, it is important to work with a 3PL with not just the technology offerings but the ability to create a custom format that fits a business’ need and the flexibility to fit into a shipper’s programming. A provider with these capabilities can create efficiency and give a business the competitive edge across its supply chain.