One of the most valuable things supply chain management can accomplish is providing detailed information across the entire length of a supply chain. By increasing data visibility, owners and managers can discover areas that need improvement, plan for the future and optimize the entirety of their supply chains.
Supply chain management software leverages analytics and logistics tools that drill down into daily processes in search of data. This data is automatically loaded into customized reports that are displayed on easy-to-access dashboards for users to view. Information is king, and the right supply chain management tool can feed you valuable data pulled from everyday processes. Efficient communication is another important tool that can optimize supply chain tasks. By collaborating, team members can discuss improvements, meet up to discuss incoming data and discuss the future.
- Customizable reports
- Analytics tools
- Data management
- Supply chain KPIs
- Collaboration tools
Optimize the physical flow of goods and materials
The flow of information is obviously important, but getting physical products from manufacturers to customers is the real goal here. Supply chain management includes many features focused on improving accuracy, speeding up delivery and increasing trust between businesses, clients and customers. The storage of goods and materials is also integral to a functionally competent supply chain. Features that speed up pick-and-pack, make multi-tenant or multi-warehouse operations less complex, and support third-party logistics can turn a slow warehouse around.
Communication is important here as well. Many systems include functions that automatically release information to customers and clients as their product moves from production to distribution. This way, customers know exactly where their product is and when they can expect it to arrive. The fewer questions a customer has the better, and a proper management system can keep them in the loop and worry-free. When looking for a management system, keep these features in mind:
- Transportation management
- Product lifecycle management
- Warehouse management
- Value-added services
- Third-party logistics support
- Maintenance management
Cut costs across the board
As a product moves from manufacture to delivery, supply chain management systems are always on the lookout for ways to cut costs. There are multiple processes a system can capitalize on in order to shrink costs across the entirety of the supply chain. Features that boost the accuracy of, well, anything are always good to have. Depending on the mistake, both time and money can be drained in order to make up for whatever the issue was. If a customer gets a package late, they may seek business elsewhere. If an employee is given the wrong picking information, the manager will have to incur return and reship costs. A driver may not be given an optimized route and could end up wasting funds on fuel or extra days spent on the road.
By leveraging supply chain management, users can gain insight into beneficial sales channels, reduce fulfillment times and save money at nearly every step of the way. Automatic features can order more supplies as necessary to avoid out-of-stock situations while also managing replacement parts for machinery. SCM is all about saving money, so make sure some of these features, if not all, are available when selecting a system:
- Pick-and-pack optimization
- Manual entry automation
- One entry input
- Supply re-orders
- Omnichannel fulfillment
- Supplier networking
- Risk management
Plan for and manage demand
Keeping up with customer demand is another key tenant of successful supply chain management. An optimized supply chain can deal with the ups and downs of the market without storing too much useless product or running out at an inopportune moment. Many SCM tools include features that organize and help users build a storage system that keeps the most valuable products readily available. As demand grows and shrinks, your supply chain should be ready to scale up or down at a moment’s notice.
Forecasting tools help managers estimate how best to tackle future markets. Supply chain management platforms analyze trends in real time to give users an idea of what to order, when to order it and how to best stay stocked. The visibility into inventory processes provided by these tools takes the surprise out of managing a proper amount of stock to meet customer demand. A successful solution should provide procurement and inventory support to stay competitive. Because of this, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these helpful features:
- Inventory management
- Forecasting tools
- Agile/scalable platforms
- Procurement management
Reduce errors and automate financials
No one wants to put pen to paper and write out a budget. Many supply chain management platforms include accounting support that can automate much of the process. By eliminating the need for manual entry and calculation, businesses can expect fewer human errors and less time spent rectifying budget inconsistencies. Instead of spending large amounts of time tackling budget issues, employees can refocus on more important tasks.
This is another point where single entry accounting calculations are an advantage. Certain systems allow users to enter data only once before it automatically distributes it to necessary portions of the budget. Businesses that suffer from accounting errors or slow data entry should search for systems with these features:
- Tax support
- Budget support
- Calculation automation
- Save preferred suppliers by price
- Audit tools
How is automation affecting the landscape of supply chain management?
Technology is always pushing forward, and the rise of automation has important implications for the world of supply chain management. The use of robotics and AI is rising among warehousing operations and is even starting to show up in the transportation of goods and products. Drones are being utilized to quickly pick and transport goods through warehouses and automated trucking is taking its first tentative steps toward being a widely adopted option.
In order to keep up with the complicated and ever-changing world of global trade, supply chains need to be ready to adopt new technologies to stay competitive. Once far-fetched ideas like augmented reality may become widely accepted tools in the future.
How has the cloud revolutionized supply chain management?
Cloud-based deployment strategies are on the rise for good reason. Implementing a cloud-based system comes with a number of inherent advantages over their on-premise peers. Users that leverage the cloud benefit from secure backup, real-time upgrades, easy file exchanges and a lower cost of entry. Outside of these common benefits, here are a few more ways the cloud boosts supply chain operations:
- Cloud-based analytics and manufacturing intelligence improves cycle times
- Cloud-based applications automate compliance and reporting to free up time
- Diverse application integrations and systems using APIs scale manufacturing strategies quickly
- Businesses can measure order performance with software inclusions
- Quality management features are increasing customer satisfaction across the board
How Do I Select SCM Software?
Finding the right supply chain management tools can be tough. The best way to approach the problem is by asking a few questions about your unique requirements as a business. Consider a few things before jumping into the wide market of vendors out there. Think about what kind of deployment strategy works best for your business; does an on-premise or cloud-based application fit your business better? How much room is there in the budget for a new system? What size is your operation and how complex does your solution need to be? By asking these probing questions, you can drastically narrow down the field of vendors. If you need a bit of guidance getting started, our Supply Chain Requirements Checklist can get you started, or our list of Essential Supply Chain Management Tools.