Supply chain in the clouds

UK business support network, @logistics Reply, looks at how cloud-based software solutions can strengthen competitive manufacturing supply chains.

UK Food manufacturers are constantly battling to keep several balls in the air at the same time; a fragmented and increasingly global supplier base, the ever-changing demands of their customers, food safety and traceability legislation, internal efficiency and profit targets, all while driving innovation.

Supply Chain Cloud
The cloud can represent a complete IT deployment strategy.

How can this juggling effort be supported in a cost-efficient way? Answer: on-demand or cloud based supply chain execution solutions.

Increasingly regarded as “business as usual” for industrial as well as social applications, the cloud combines speed to benefit with affordable, usage-based cost models and a platform for innovation.

The cloud can represent a complete IT deployment strategy, especially for small and medium sized enterprises or can be used to deploy point solutions to fill gaps in an on-premise solution portfolio. It can certainly help with our juggling problem.

Visibility

By its very nature, the cloud is part of a pervasive and powerful network, which brings people together and enables us to communicate using light, easy-to-use applications.

With the exchange of manufacturing and supply chain data, manufacturers can begin to view not only their customers’ demands, but also their suppliers’ inventory positions and, critical if working across several manufacturing sites, their own inventory positions matched against customer demand.

Logistics Reply PQShort shelf life products and ingredients can be proactively managed and disposals due to out of date code significantly reduced.

Collaboration

Cloud-based supply chain solutions take full advantage of this visibility to enable supply, demand and inventory data to be exchanged and amended in virtually real time.

Once this data is shared, collaborative decisions and even business processes begin to emerge. Suppliers can not only check inventory positions at their own and their customers’ – the manufacturers’ – site, they can start to propose product pricing and deliveries, based on their own manufacturing programs.

Planning managers can view inventory at part-code level not only on their own site, but across multiple (including suppliers’) sites, and matching this information against customer demands, can make procurement decisions based on actual inventory and demand data.

The resulting reductions in spot buying (often at higher prices), additional transportation costs and in working capital and associated financing costs are spectacular.

Execution

Underpinning supply chain visibility and collaboration, is a strong process enablement and execution capability.

This capability is based on existing, cheap and easy to deploy bar-code printing and –reading technologies and includes:

  • Inbound load creation and labelling at supplier sites
  • The management of gates and docks to avoid bottlenecks and to ensure that raw materials and ingredients are routed rapidly to the required locations
  • The picking and issuing of these materials to production, including full date and batch management and traceability
  • The creation of finished goods inventory visibility and the storage, picking, loading and shipment of finished products (again with the capture and management of date and batch information)
  • The generation and transmission of customer-compliant Advanced Shipping Notifications (ASN’s) and labels, and even proof of delivery with signature capture and geo-location.

Drop ship/direct fulfilment and returns processes are also included in a closed loop supply chain execution and visibility application suite.

Conclusion

More and more, manufacturing supply chains depend upon visibility, collaboration and the ability to execute.

The good news is that the limiting factor in our supply chains today is no longer technology, but that most basic of human emotions, trust.