In today’s digital world, the average buyer (both retail and wholesale) expects quick, efficient service from manufacturers and distributors. But how can international corporations dealing with mass-produced products, supplies, and raw materials from all over the world improve their speed and efficiency?
Recent developments in business software and cloud computing are making faster, more efficient service possible for even the largest companies by streamlining the supply chain process and improving overall productivity.
Milliken & Company is one example of how cloud software solutions can affect the supply chain. The textile company was among the first to synchronize data from its retailers’ point-of-sale (POS) computers with the ordering software at the company’s manufacturing facilities.
The company’s supply chain management software reduced the lead-time between the initial order and retail store delivery from 18 weeks to just three weeks, according to MIT researchers David and Edith Simchi-Levi in their paper, “The Effect Of E-Business On Supply Chain Strategy.”
Students pursuing an online master’s in business administration degree will need to understand IT and cloud computing so they can keep up with the rapidly expanding digitization of almost all business processes, from supply chain management to customer reward apps for mobile devices.
The Modern Supply Chain – A Holistic Entity
Up until the early 2000s, before data analytics and connected technologies began to change the face of the business world, most business entities looked at supply and demand analysis, manufacturing, logistics, procurement, and various other operations as separate departments requiring compartmentalized leadership.
The supply chain, until relatively recently, was just a thread running through divided compartments. But today, the supply chain is viewed holistically. Data systems and connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices have created a constant back-and-forth flow of information through every department.
“Globalization, longer lead times, higher transportation costs, and the need to support multiple sales channels all have made supply chain a bigger element of a company’s overall operating costs,” supply chain analyst Bob Heaney explains in Merrill Douglas’ “The Rise of the Supply Chain Executive” on InboundLogistics.com.
“… That increase makes it more important than ever to orchestrate a company’s various supply chain functions so that a decision in one area – for example, to build more distribution centers – doesn’t create unintended negative consequences in another, such as the company’s inventory position.”
The idea behind consolidating all of the supply, logistics, transportation, manufacturing, and procurement functions into one holistic supply chain management operation is to balance the price of a product and discover ways to create added value to the customer.
The automated analysis of data using artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms provides insight that a business’s leadership can then use to trim unnecessary “fat” and allocate resources exactly when and where they are needed.
“Applications for analysis of unstructured data have already been found in inventory management, forecasting, and transportation logistics,” writes Big Data expert Bernard Marr in his Forbes article, “How Big Data And Analytics Are Transforming Supply Chain Management.”
“In warehouses, digital cameras are routinely used to monitor stock levels and… provide alerts when restocking is needed,” continues Marr. “Forecasting takes this a step further – the same camera data can be fed through machine learning [AI] algorithms to teach an intelligent stock management system to predict when a resupply will be needed. Eventually, the theory is, warehouses and distribution centers will effectively run themselves with very little need for human interaction.”
With such revolutionary advancements in automated technologies and AI, the previously disjointed supply chain couldn’t help but come together into one fluid system of constant inputs and outputs.
The New Supply Chain Management
Home Depot is an example of how well centralized, consolidated supply chain management can help a company and increase its bottom line, according to business systems analyst Ilyas Kucukcay’s Kinaxix.com article, “A Game Changer For Today’s E-Commerce Companies: How Efficient Supply Chain Management Helped Home Depot Evolve.”
The decision-makers at Home Depot instituted some changes leading into the 2016 fiscal year. Instead of having separate logistics management entities in each of its stores, the company now uses one centralized logistics management department at its corporate headquarters. Data software solutions have now optimized the company’s inventory and replenishment activities.
Coca-Cola provides another example: The installation of radio frequency identifier (RFID) technology in its newest vending machines (which offer 126 different flavor combinations) measures the amount of remaining flavor syrup in the machine. That data is then transmitted back to the corporate headquarters, and replenishments are immediately scheduled for delivery, according to “3 Characteristics of The Modern Supply Chain” by product marketing manager Danielle Elliott on intelex.com.
Elliott’s article itemizes the 3 most important elements to modern supply chain management:
Technology – Leveraging new technologies can simplify business processes, lower costs, increase customer satisfaction, and provide greater control over the entire supply chain.
Continuous Improvement – Continually eliminating non-value-added activities and solving tough business problems should be the goal of supply chain management.
Resilience – Strategic partnerships with suppliers result in resilient supply chains where organizations can influence suppliers to improve both their efficiency and their quality.
Of course, data analytics lies at the heart of all the changes that result in centralized supply chain management. But without properly trained and prepared supply chain professionals, technological advancements may not be utilized to their full potential.
The characteristics of a good supply chain manager, according to corporate developer and researcher Peter Bolstorff et al., include an affinity for lifelong learning, a diverse background and experience in various fields within the supply chain, and constant attention of their personal brand.
Millennials will soon dominate the business world, Bolstorff writes in “A Portrait of the Supply Chain Manager” on SupplyChain247.com. Because they are tech-savvy and are very aware of the importance of curating a brand – both their own and their employer’s – their expertise will breath new life into managerial functions, especially supply chain management.
As technology and artificial intelligence/machine learning continue to evolve and thrive in the business world, more and more formerly compartmentalized departments may find that they are part of a constantly flowing feedback loop of data. Managers will not only be responsible for the inner workings of their own departments, but also for the accuracy of the data shared with other branches of the business.
Value-added propositions will drive the business decisions of the future. Traditional decision-making processes done within siloed compartments are expected to be replaced by synergistic decisions that take other departments’ processes into consideration. The supply chain is running far more efficiently now than ever before, thanks to this change in business decision-making, and should continue to improve as technology advances.
Earning An Online MBA At Ohio University
As a leader in online MBA education, Ohio University understands the importance of career advancement and its accompanying challenges. Pursuing their online master’s in business administration degree can prepare students for a career in supply chain management.
Ohio University’s program offers concentrations in Business Analytics, Executive Management, Finance, and Health Care and also allows students to tailor their education to personal and career objectives.
Ohio University’s no-GMAT online MBA program is rated a “Best Value” by Fortune magazine. Learn more about Ohio University’s online MBA program today.
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The Effect Of E-Business On Supply Chain Strategy – Dspace.mit.edu
The Rise of the Supply Chain Executive – InboundLogistics.com
How Big Data And Analytics Are Transforming Supply Chain Management – Forbes
A Game Changer For Today’s E-Commerce Companies: – Blog.Kinaxis.com
3 Characteristics of The Modern Supply Chain – Blog.Intelex.com
A Portrait of the Supply Chain Manager – Supplychain247.com