Interconnected supply chains, interconnected technology solutions

15 February 2024 | 15 Shares

Source: Zebra Technologies

Multiple outside factors affect any company with significant investment in their supply chain and logistics operations, even before internal practices are considered. Extra red tape at Britain’s borders, continuing US port congestion and trade disruptions in the Red Sea are testament to that. A supply chain comprises many actors, so it’s almost impossible to shield the effects of even a small disruption from an individual business.

Supply chain

Source: Zebra Technologies

Supply chain, warehousing, distribution, and logistics functions, therefore, tend to be run by long-term planners. By proactively monitoring and improving aspects of operations within their control, the company buys itself as much protection as it can against local or world events that could occur tomorrow, or many years in the future.

There are multiple ways in which problems closer to home can be addressed and methods combating them attenuated. Staff ‘turnover’ in warehouses, distribution depots, and logistics, for example, brings their own considerable costs, exacerbated by chronic labor shortages in the sector. Employee well-being and job satisfaction – the employee experience (EX) – are high on the list of desired outcomes among decision-makers, as are worker productivity and automation. In some cases, EX, productivity, and robotized processes are interconnected; staff with dull, repetitive jobs can be re-tasked to more interesting and fulfilling roles once even basic technology and automated systems are in place.

Better operational practices not only reduce costs in the mid to long term but also help ensure that the company itself causes a minimum of supply chain disruption both up and downstream. This, in turn, lowers prices on the table from supply chain partners and creates greater trust among third parties with whom the company works.

Supply chain

Source: Zebra Technologies

Those with significant resources set the bar high for others to follow. The practices of Amazon, Temu, and state-owned GEODIS, for example, have been able to instigate top-down approaches to operational overhauls, with some becoming household name brands by dint of their efforts. Yet there is no direct correlation between the resources plowed into restructuring operations and 100 percent positive outcomes. Discrete projects can bring the types of resilience and efficiency to more modest transport, logistics, and distribution companies that create significant cost reductions. That’s partly down to the knock-on positive effects that flow from relatively minor changes.

Light at the tunnel’s end

Founded in 1981, UK retailer The Works decided to give autonomy to its individual shops and online store, supplying employees with the technology to monitor and run their own stock control processes. Data gathered fed back to automated systems in the company’s supply chain, slashing surpluses and ensuring stock availability, where and when it was needed.

Simple-to-use devices with familiar user interfaces ensured employee buy-in and the complexity of the data collated country-wide was handled by automated software. This instigated more efficient logistics and distribution, plus informed warehouse operations, creating cost savings and increased customer satisfaction at the point of service.

The data ingestion and business-led optimization of operations are particularly effective in supply chains, where the consequences of even small changes tend to ripple out into other parts of the business. That’s led larger organizations to invest in expensive re-architecting of enterprise-level ERP systems.

Supply chain

Source: Zebra Technologies

But specialist software designed and deployed solely in supply chain, T&L, distribution, and warehousing businesses have particularly attractive offerings. From users equipped with environmentally-tuned devices* to controlling software and analytics, industry-specific vendors are in an excellent position to help customers refine their operations across the board.

* (Cold room-suitable tablets, forklift-mounted tech, long-distance barcode scanners, etc.)

While no single solution is a sure fit for every organization, a sector specialist will already have many of the answers to problems that are sadly not unique to any one business. With the addition of consultation, advice, partnership, and long-term device and software support, companies with significant supply chains have much to gain from sector-specific vendors.


Many of the issues this article touches on are further explored in the Zebra Warehousing Vision Study, which examines many of the pain points of operations in the sector and suggests solutions for automation and technology deployment that make business sense.

Any transformational journey takes time and study to achieve, but some systems are particular to this complex vertical. Getting guidance as part of a longer-term partnership is also highly recommended. What might seem an intractable problem in your organization’s operations may well have, if not immediate solutions, but a range of options. Sometimes, it takes a specialist to bring them to the surface.

To refine your operational strategies to help develop immunity from the effects of global supply chain issues, improve EX, and cut operating costs in some surprising areas, read the Vision Study via this link.

To talk to an expert in the industry about how technology, hardware, and automation can help your business scale, reach out to a representative.