How visibility solutions are fostering operational success across your business

21 January 2020 | 3657 Shares

The two main drivers as far as customers are concerned are price and delivery times. And while B2C businesses might be more aware of this than their B2B contemporaries, the “consumerization” of technology means that even in the business world, there’s an increasing expectation for consumer-level standards in experience and care.

In many cases, same-day shipping, two-day shipping (even cross-continental or international), or designated delivery time options are expected by many, and the figures exist to show that people and organizations are willing to pay for the privilege.

In fact, same-day shipping is expected to grow year-on-year into 2025, figures show.

The growing demand for this level of service means that there’s a specific need to keep better tracking of the supply chain’s entirety. Inventory is no longer apparent solely at distribution nodes; it’s a metric that is “live” throughout the fulfillment process.

The supply chain technology

The very latest in supply chain technology (see below for our recommendations) is attempting to mirror the type of ease and convenience for the logistics or retail organization that the consumer or customer experiences.

E-commerce transactions are epitomized by the ease of ordering and arranging delivery. A highly-evolved supply chain management platform echoes that ease, giving the necessary oversight from warehouse or factory right through to delivery, via multiple nodes, each of which could be a delivery option for the customer.

As a logistics or retail company, the epitome of excellent service is to provide the customer with a single point of reference for the entire journey, regardless of the number of supply-chain elements, use of multiple carriers, use of drop-shippers, and so on.

The key to this service is the API (application programming interface), which operates in multiples, as a series of data conduits between the different systems — air freight, ocean carrier, 3PL, warehouse, logistics, and so on.

And while the complexities of the interactions between systems might not be the stuff of exciting tales told during evenings by the fire, the ability to interpret (or in technology terms, parse) data is the key to unlock insight; for the supply chain stakeholder, the retailer, and the customer, too.

APIs, GIGO and assorted acronyms

The technical challenges which are hidden (and hidden well, in the main) by the platforms we feature below are not the subject of this article; suffice it to say that getting discrete systems to “talk” to one another the full length of a supply chain is no easy task.

Certainly, there’s a great deal of heavy lifting done by very clever code and algorithms, and those are helped by standardized data and communication languages.

What’s not often taken into consideration is the fact that a great deal of information is present in the logistics, production and retail industries in formats with which computers are unfamiliar. In the parlance, this is known as unstructured data and takes the form of information on handwritten notes, invoices or shipping dockets in unfamiliar formats, badly Xerox-ed paperwork, emails sent ad hoc, and even phone calls that tease out details and make last-minute changes to arrangements.

Just a few years ago, the GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) irreconcilable fact of life would mean that human operators would have been needed to hand-enter information into what are effectively dumb systems.

However, as computing power increases, and machine-learning algorithms get deployed (self-teaching computer code), there’s less information that can’t be accurately interpreted, given the right application of technology.

Cloud, edge, on-premise

The large amounts of processing power needed to achieve deep-learning, and the huge libraries of APIs that connect different systems are now, thankfully, readily available in the cloud and purchasable as-a-service, for those that don’t have or don’t wish to invest in the necessary infrastructure.

Alternatively, many existing investments in logistics, supply chain, and fulfillment platforms are still paying dividends, on factory premises, at logistics and distribution points, and in remote, out-of-the-way locations (“on the edge”) albeit in sometimes more limited ways.

But new solutions, regardless of type and location, do need to work alongside what the tech teams call “legacy solutions.” Deploying in-house or on-premise is often, therefore, not a matter of taste or preference, but is dictated by circumstance and desired business outcomes.

In many cases, especially in extended supply chains’ nodes, installing systems on-premise or in edge locations is necessary. In fact, from some remote locations and in some warehouse settings, for example, localized processing is not only preferable but makes more sense in terms of computing and resource allocation.

The best solutions are configurable to any topology, and of course, are configurable to any setting. The key’s in systems’ API power, which connects disparate systems, parse data, and present results as seamlessly as a customer’s “experience” on a smartphone app.

While none of the solutions featured below have all the answers and might not delivery Uber-like ease and quality of experience for any stakeholder in a retail, or logistics setting, we hope your business will discover the solution it seeks among this new generation of specialized technology.

RATELINX

Going well beyond track-and-trace, the logistics management platform from RateLinx adds a full transport management system and key financial oversight too. That means that the entirety of the business is working from the same page, so insights come quicker, and cost centers are identified quickly and can be addressed before they impact.

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The real ace in the hole, however, is the platform’s capability to learn, correct and cleanse unstructured or erroneous data. Errors in data lead to distrust of data and poor decision quality, as well as incurring companies massive costs, often with the need to employ staff to input or edit data manually.

Instead of that costly overhead, the self-teaching algorithms cope with the curve balls that life tends to throw at technology— and the real-time accuracy of the insights is a winner. Suddenly, predictability is back in play in logistics.

A fully-cloud-native solution, RateLinx plugs into existing systems and works out of the box with thousands of mainstream carriers. The platform is also backed by skilled and experienced consultants who can guide and help form the ideal solution for any logistics business.

This is the best combination of industry best practice meeting high-end tech, all in a single platform, ready to roll out into your operations. You can read more here on the pages of TechHQ.

ZETES

Zetes, part of the Panasonic Corporation, specializes in process and technology optimisation for end-to-end supply chain efficiency, collaboration and visibility.

A collaborative and digitally connected supply chain is reliant on unified, accurate and real-time data captured with the appropriate technology at the right place at the right time.

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That unification of data, emanating from disparate stakeholders, processes, systems and technologies, gives Zetes’ clients powerful performance insight up and down the length of their complex supply chains, from the factory to the end-consumer.

With the extended capability for every supplier and service provider to share a single version of what’s happening, Zetes’ visibility platform enables a solid and scalable foundation for sustainable business improvement and competitive advantage.

It’s about end-to-end supply chain visibility and traceability, with real-time alerts that provide meaningful and actionable intelligence across supply chain networks.

The Zetes visibility platform reduces unnecessary wastage and inefficiency, ensures optimum service performance, and helps mitigate disruptive events as they happen. You can read more about Zetes on the pages of TechHQ by clicking here.

PROJECT 44

The established partnerships at the highest levels with many of the world’s most established supply chain companies help project44 clients hit the ground running when deploying its supply chain oversight platform.

New players and partners can be integrated into the overarching system with little fuss, even if they bring highly bespoke management systems of their own to the table. The project44 platform normalizes data on the fly, and gives a highly specific and granular view onto information, exactly as required for every partner.

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Especially for larger retailers and companies, the project44 platform produces a very swift return on investments: in fact, the company states that the larger your organizations, the faster the results are apparent in the company accounts ledgers.

With many of the world’s biggest retailers already on board (Amazon is a client that many might have heard of), any retailer signing up will be in the finest company. Learn more about project44 here, or request a demo at its website to begin your journey with this, one of the world’s most established supply chain empowerment organizations.

*Some of the companies featured are commercial partners of TechHQ