Manufacturing, warehousing, and transportation sectors have always relied on technology to improve their processes, reduce their costs, and expand their bottom lines. For decades, innovation has been the mainstay of these sectors decades. Yet, digital technologies like cloud, mobility, and AI are transforming the supply chain in such disruptive ways that even these innovation-friendly industries are finding it hard to keep up. Enterprises that have managed to embrace these technologies are leaping into the future, while many laggards are shutting shops. Here are some noteworthy changes ushered in by enterprise mobility in the supply chain dynamics.
Event-based vs. Real-time
Traditionally, in the trucking industry, the drivers contacted the home base only after an event – a load drop off, a mishap, and so on. Today, the trucks are fitted with electronic logging devices (ELDs) that provide fleet managers real-time information on each truck – its performance, hours worked by the driver, and other key KPIs. They are even fitted with GPS devices that allow trucking businesses to route, schedule, and chart optimum routes to suit their requirement.
Businesses are now able to make data-driven decisions in real-time. For instance, if there is a major traffic incident on a route, they can immediately chart an alternative optimum path for a truck. Since the ELD mandate, these devices have become mandatory, which means that all trucking businesses have access to this technology.
Modern consumers do not confine their shopping experiences into physical retail and ecommerce silos. They want more flexibility, which is evident in their shopping journeys. In some cases, they research the products online, compare them, and then make the purchases at shops nearby. In some other cases, they visit physical stores to get a hands-on feel of the products before making purchases online.
New business models, such as drop-shipping, have emerged that cater to this demand for a seamless shopping experience. Drop-shipping enables consumers to make purchases online and pick up their products in-store. Stores are using a slew of mobile devices to get real-time information on their inventory and integrate it directly with their ecommerce presence. Indeed, mobile devices are now being used to track and monitor the in-store shelf reality and directly provide manufacturers real-time information on which products need to be restocked and therefore, produced.
AI-powered devices are using regular camera pictures of the stores to determine the inventory levels of various products. The same devices are also being deployed to register the products that consumers are adding to their carts in real-time and do away with the checkout counters altogether.
This evolution is making profound changes at the other end of the supply chain – manufacturing and distribution. For decades, lean manufacturing was the pinnacle of modern manufacturing. However, omnichannel shopping is now ushering in an era of elastic manufacturing. Manufacturers are not only forced to consider seasonal fluctuations in demand but also sudden, unexpected demand changes arising out of a variety of sales channels. They are compelled to introduce elasticity into their manufacturing strategies and deploy highly scalable, highly flexible processes to meet this volatility in demand, which will only increase with time.
Mobility came with the promises of improved efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and data-driven operations management. Today, its applications have gone well beyond these benefits. Enterprise mobility is at the forefront of supply chain revolution that encompasses a variety of connected technologies including AI, image processing, cloud, and others.