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About the Author

Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

March 6, 2013



Outdated & Inflexible IT Systems Stymie Growth

Updating & Expanding Value Added Services Spurs New Growth



While everyone can agree that agility, adaptability and flexibility are highly sought after characteristics of physical material handling solutions, they are just as desirable in IT solutions. A more accessible and nimble supply chain IT solution will increase operational efficiency, provide the ability to expand Value Added Services (VAS), attract new customers, and grow the business.

One way logistics service providers can differentiate themselves from companies offering similar services is to expand the range and scope of VAS they offer. These services can range from simple repackaging and relabeling to more complex kitting, monogramming, and light manufacturing operations. Anytime a company can offer more expanded services it can attract more customers and increase margin. The problem is that if the company does not have adaptable supply chain technology systems to support and manage these services efficiently, they will not be profitable.

Holste Says:

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IT experts agree that a true, multi-customer architecture will allow for data dependent security controls, so that the logistics service provider can limit access to only pre-authorized employees and/or customer representatives.
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According to HighJump Software Inc. (www.highjump.com) an IT solution with adaptable architecture will allow a company to provide new offerings and workflows inherent with VAS. They claim that a best-in-class supply chain IT solution will enable a company to meet stringent requirements for quality, safety and traceability/genealogy.

 

Providing Real-Time Order Tracking Status

For many retailers having access to up-to-the minute information about on-hand inventory and customers’ order shipping status is critical to managing their business. For example: did the cartons of snow shovels destined for Minnesota already ship, or can they be redirected to New York. In order to answer this type of inquiry the logistics provider must have real-time visibility into inventory, order fulfillment, shipping, and even billing.

According to HighJump, the best way to do that is through a Web-portal solution. A secure Web portal provides the basis for real-time information sharing and improved inventory visibility. This IT solution enables collaboration throughout the supply chain, giving customers the most accurate and timely view into the status of their orders. Customer can make knowledgeable decisions based on changing demand. So when the radar shows that the snowstorm has shifted to the northeast, they can access up-to-the-minute information to know whether they can re-direct those snow shovels to where the highest demand will be.

Data security issues (of which horror stories are frequently in the news) are of course a major concern. Therefore, the service provider must have the architecture in place to provide the ability to limit access to data and avoid the liability of network security issues. IT experts agree that a true, multi-customer architecture will allow for data dependent security controls, so that the logistics service provider can limit access to only pre-authorized employees and/or customer representatives. Authorized personal can also be limited in their ability to make inquiries and changes through role-based security features.

Final Thoughts

Logistics dynamics are always changing and service provides are constantly being challenged to develop new business models that are more nimble and responsive to their customers service requirements. Providing better more up-to-date IT solutions is one of the most important factors pertaining to new growth opportunities.

 

Recent Feedback

Great article. I am a little suprised not to see BNSF in the mix while I understand their financial mode/operation is a little different. 

That would only give a complete perspective with all the players in the pool.


Srihari
Senior Consultant
Infosys
May, 22 2016

Surprised to see Home Depot fall off the list; thought they were winning with Sync?


Mike O'Brien
Senior editor
Access Intelligence
May, 26 2016

Using the right tool for the right job has always been a best practice and one of the reasons, we feel, that RFID has never taken off in the DC as exponentially as pundits have been forecasting since 2006. While these results may seem surprising to those solely focused on barcode scanning, the adoption of multi-modal technologies in the DC makes perfect sense for greater worker efficiency and productivity.


Julie Leonard
Marketing Director
Inovity
Jun, 27 2016

The IoT Platform in this year's (2016) Hype Cycle is on the ascending side, entering the "Peak of Inflated Expectation" area. How does this compare to the IoT positions of the previous years, which have already peaked in 2015? Isn't this contradicting in itself?

Editor's Note: 

You are right, Internet of Things (IoT) was at the top of the Garter new technology hype curve not long ago. As you noted, however, this time the placement was for “IoT Platforms,” a category of software tools from a good number of vendors to manage connectivity, data communications and more with IoT-enabled devices in the field.

So, this is different fro IoT generally, though a company deploying connected things obviously needs some kind of platform – hoe grown or acquired – to manage those functions.

Why IoT generically is not on the curve this year I wondered myself.

 

 


Carsten Baumann
Strategic Alliance Manager
Schneider Electric
Aug, 19 2016

I agree totally with Mr. Schneider.

I have always lived by "put it in writing" all my work life.  I am a firm believer of the many benefits of putting everything in writing and I try to teach it to as many people as I can.

This "putting in writing" can also be used for almost anything else.  Here are some general benefits (only some) of "putting in writing":

1. Everything is better understood between parties involved.  There are lots of people types who need something visual to improve their understanding.
2. Everyone can read to review and correct anything misunderstood.  This will ensure that all parties concerned confirm the details of the agreements as correct.  This is further enhanced by having all parties involved sign off on a hard copy or confirm via reply email.
3. Everything has a proof.  Not to belittle the element of trust among parties involved, it is always safest to have tangible proof of what was agreed on.
4. There will be a document to refer to at any time by any one who needs clarification.
5. The documentation can be useful historical data for any future endeavor.  It provides inputs for better decisions on related situations in the future.
6. This can also be compiled and used to teach future new team members.  "Learn from the past" it is said.

There are many more benefits.  Mr. Schneider is very correct about his call to "put it in writing".






Jo Ann Tudtud-Navalta
Materials Management Manager
Chong Hua Hospital, Cebu City, Philippines
Aug, 21 2016

U.S. companies are reshoring and foreign companies are investing in U.S. locations to be in close proximity to the U.S. market for customer responsiveness, flexibility, quality control, and for the positive branding of "Made in USA".

Reshoring including FDI balanced offshoring in 2015 as it did in 2014. In comparison, in 2000-2007 the U.S. lost net about 200,000 manufacturing jobs per year to offshoring. That is huge progress to celebrate!

The Reshoring Initiative Can Help. In order to help companies decide objectively to reshore manufacturing back to the U.S. or offshore, the nonprofit Reshoring Initiative's free Total Cost of Ownership Estimator can help corporations calculate the real P&L impact of reshoring or offshoring. http://www.reshorenow.org/TCO_Estimator.cfm


Sandy Montalbano
Consultant
Reshoring Initiative
Aug, 24 2016

 Good article!  I am sending this to my colleagues who work with me.  We have to keep this in mind.  Thanks!


Robert
Transportation Manager
N/A
Aug, 30 2016

SCM is all about getting the order delivered to the Customer on date/ time requested because happy Customers = Revenue. Using the right tools to do the right job is important and SCM is heavily dependent on sophisticated ERP systems to get right real data info ASP.

I've worked in a DC with more than 400,000 line items and measured the Productivity of Pickers by how many "picks" per day.

I've learned that one doesn't have to remind Germany about your EDI orders.


Ian Jansen
Mr
NHLS
Sep, 14 2016

Challenge - to build and sustain effective relationships at the level of the organizations that are responsible for effectively coordinating and colaborating in an otherwise highly competitive environment 


Don Benson
Partner
Warehouse Coach
Sep, 15 2016

Of course we all need to up our game. We need to move with the times, and always be one step ahead of what the future will bring.


Jade
Admin
Fulfillment Logistics UK Ltd
Oct, 02 2016

Thanks for the article, but I know there's a lot more to this issue than just the pay rates. Please check out my blogs on the subject at www.zipxpress.net.


Mike Dargis
President of asset-based carrier based in the Midwest
Zip Xpress Inc. (at ZipXpress.net)
Oct, 03 2016

Lora, great article! I agree that companies choose the 'safe' solution more often than not. My solution is a bolt-on for legacy ERP's and we even face challeneges of customer adoption. Most like to play it safe and choose an ERP upgrade, which is more costly, time consuming, and has lower ROI across the board. Would love to learn more about your company, we are always looking for partnerships.

Blaine
blaine.schultz@syncron.com


Blaine
Inventory Specialist
Syncron
Nov, 16 2016

This is a game changer in GE's production and prototyping.  It also has huge implications across the GE global supply chain with regard to the management of their support and spare parts network. 


Bob McIntyre
National Account Executive
DBK Concepts LLC
Nov, 21 2016

I am referencing to the comment that leasing of warehousing equipment (beyond forklift trucks) is a vision for 2030.
Just recently in Europe, such a business model has started, see here: https://next-intralogistics.de/

I am following with a lot of interest, how the business develops.


Kai Furmans
Professor
KIT
May, 22 2017

If we limit the standard on judging or determining the best supply chain to just three calculations it does not tell the entire picture.  Financial performance metrics are valuable as they capture the economic consequences of business decisions.  But supply chain managers make decsions and use organizational resources that impact a company's financial well being.  Where is a firm's earnings over a period of time determined by sales less product costs and general/adminsitrative costs?  Where is the metric for determining the sources and uses of cash from three perspectives - operational, investment and financial?  Where are these supply chain metrics: on-time delivery, lead time, response time to customers, product returns, procurement costs, network distance, inventory carrying costs, forecasting accuracy, sourcing time, etc,.  Without knowing the results of all these supply chain calculations the there must be a question as to the accuracy of the 25 top supply chains.


Stuart Rosenberg
Supply Chain Consultant
First Choice Supply Chain
Jun, 05 2017

I feel this ranking misses the mark in SC. It does not seem to consider a key indicator in days inventory on hand, which is key to determining a SC company's ability to forecast, manage inventory costs and reduce aged stock. In additiion I realize it's difficult to understand what goes into the customer survey, but would I assume specific metrics are being asked. For examples customer's opinion on service level differentiation and the ability to deliver the right product on time, which should then be allocated a bigger weighting than 10%. It would also be interesting to take a view of the above list's SKU portfolio complexity, seasonality and launches/promotions. I would again assume some companies on the list above have a far more complex SC to manage and lead, ultimately requiring a lot more innovation within a SC to stay ahead of competitors, and ultimately satisfy their customers demands.  I understand above metrics are difficult to measure, as mentioned in the article, but they somehow need to be considered to give a true reflection. 


Dustin Calitz
Project Commercialization Manager
Mondelez
Jun, 06 2017

A Very Good Article...

While some feel that lean is a scam that pushes for more out of the personnel and out of the companies through reduction of waste and adding value for the customer, there are several things to remember:

1) Lean methodologies are designed and implemented to reduce time wasting, so this may seem that you are working harder as an employee.

2) Lean methdoligies only work when everyone from the janitor to the owner of the company get involved and back the program.

3) Lean methods are there to make you work smarter not harder, although it may feel you are working harder.

4) YES... Sometimes lean methodologies fail! This is due to project overun or taking on too large a problem and trying to fix it all in one go and not taking the smaller problems that are associated with the large problem and fixing them first. Sometimes fixing the small problems leads to resolution of the larger problem.


Michael Hurd
Lean Consultant
Unemployed
Jun, 10 2017
 
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