Mobile technologies are improving processes within each step of the supply chain—and expediting real-time communication for better visibility across the entire chain.
An increasing number of manufacturers are outsourcing some or all of their supply chain management to third-party logistics providers, which are leveraging mobile technologies to report performance metrics—as well as potential problems—to their clients in real time, says John Santagate, research manager, supply chain execution at IDC Manufacturing Insights.
“Say a production facility’s operations are set to be disrupted by a supply constraint or labor shortage,” Santagate says. “If the production manager and others within the supply chain could be alerted via their mobile devices ahead of time, they could take action on that information to minimize the impact of the disruption. Mobility is really driving value to gain action-based insights from a variety of places.” He detailed some of the mobile applications now being used within supply chain management: mobile analytics dashboards, alerting and reporting directly to mobile devices, improved track and trace capabilities, GPS location for in-transit inventory, physical conditions monitoring, instant access to critical documentation and mobile access to customer relationship management software.
MHI member Newcastle Systems Inc. provides mobile power to printers, laptops, personal computers and scanners in distribution centers and factory floors, says sales director Kevin Ledversis. Customers’ printers and scanners with wireless technology are placed on battery-powered workstations, enabling workers to take them right to the product to print inbound labels, label picked product, enter data, and create shipping labels or packing slips. Newcastle is also employing its technology to mobile point-of-sale on the retail end of the supply chain.
“Retail space is very expensive, so retailers want to be able cut down on the traditional check-out and to take their devices on carts anywhere on the floor, so customers can check-out where they are shopping,” Ledversis says. “One of the largest duty-free airport kiosks that sells magazines and snacks has one of our carts, and they’ve built racks on them so they’ve got a point-of-sale on wheels. A major candy producer is also testing the concept.”
For more traditional retail stores, floor workers can now scan and print markdown labels for targeted products aisle by aisle in real time, using data from their headquarters’ server or the cloud, he says.
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert