There's no excuse for disconnection or poor visibility in today's supply chain. Factors such as extensive legacy technology or outdated management strategies could limit organizations' ability to stay connected, but the best competitors will be able to overcome these potential hurdles and vault to the head of their industries. The advent of advanced tech tools has changed the way the supply chain works, and companies that get left behind may soon realize their precarious situation.

One of the pervasive trends affecting modernizing companies is the constant combination and integration of systems. Whereas legacy supply chain management consisted of many separate operational silos, today's departments should be constantly sharing information to ensure there's no unnecessary disruption. Businesses that have too many manual processes or disorganized management structures may find this integration difficult, while those that have adopted solutions such as cloud platforms will likely face an easier road.

Integrate everything now
As IndustryWeek contributor Adam Robinson recently specified, businesses should keep their systems connected at all times, ensuring all corners of the organization can share their data seamlessly. He noted there are advantages to getting transportation and warehouse management systems to work together, and bring information from legacy systems into the fold. The cloud will be the vital connective tissue in these networks, allowing a variety of departments and solutions to work in tandem.

The data that feeds those many, connected information management systems should flow in automatically. Robinson recommended automation for data collection and processing. Modern operations are complex, and when businesses rely on too many manual functions to update their systems, the potential agility of data analysis and use may fall off. Tech tools such as radio frequency identification tags can assist companies with getting their automation-powered systems off the ground.

In addition to operational data, businesses can and should be collecting information from their customers' activities, according to Robinson. Every consumer activity or interaction with a firm's supply chain is a potential data generator. However, companies have to become adept at collecting this information - and connecting it with their databases. Robinson also noted that public social media posts and other rich veins of audience data are available - provided firms' systems are up to the task of mining them.

A digital illustration of a cloud system.Supply chain tech is going to the cloud.
The cloud is the key
Using traditional computing to manage a supply chain may be a major limiting factor today. Cloud computing has emerged as the driving force behind a number of modernization efforts across industries and verticals, and clearly explained how the model's decentralized nature makes it a natural fit for sharing data and application access among supply chain professionals. Employees have freedom of mobility when their main management apps are in the cloud.

Cloud solutions have also taken away some of the legacy systems that hold companies back, added. Firms that store their data in the cloud rather than running on-premises data centers may avoid some of the headaches that come with periodic tech upgrades. Furthermore, the upfront costs of managing physical IT infrastructure could become burdensome for ambitious, fast-moving companies that are trying to expand their operations quickly.
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