Shipment term

Your shipment is where, exactly?

It will be some time before pandemic-related supply chain safeguards wear off. Material scarcity, labor shortages and port congestion that continue to disrupt value chains are unlikely to improve significantly this year. the Russian invasion of Ukraine only adds fat to the fire. The crisis has disrupted cargo flights in these countries, putting further pressure on cargo capacity and raising concerns about even more supply chain disruptions. Meanwhile, metals, including aluminum and steel, are now less available due to the closure of Ukrainian factories. And if you import sunflower seeds from Russia, good luck.

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, passed last November, aims to renovate the country’s coastal and inland ports, replenish rail system subsidies and allocate funds for road and bridge repairs. It will take years to execute, however.

About one in four small business owners cite supply chain issues as their biggest problem, up eight percentage points from last quarter, according to a recent survey of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, three out of four small businesses say they are concerned about the impact of supply chain disruptions on their business.

Customers don’t really care. Although they know the problems businesses face, they still want their goods fast and on time. “Inventory is expected to be available when we want it and within a short period of time, often days,” says Eddie Capel, CEO of Manhattan Associates, a blockchain management technology company. retail supply. “Making those promises is getting harder and harder, and without visibility, you’re dead in the water.”

When a problem occurs, you need to know what happened, where, and when the problem will be resolved. You can’t do this without a full view of all moving parts. This has created a market for companies that offer technology designed to help you track and manage goods, and find alternative solutions when things go wrong.

Supply chain tech startups raised $24.3 billion in venture capital funding in the first three quarters of 2021, 58% more than the full year 2020 total, according to the company. PitchBook Data analysis. While traditional third-party logistics (3PL) companies can tell you when products are arriving at facilities and when they’re likely to arrive, the promise of the new software is that it can offer real-time models of exactly where where your products are, better manage suppliers and find alternative storage space.

Here’s what you should have to ensure you have a complete picture of your supply chain.

What do you need

You’re probably going to want some sort of software in your wallet. “There’s just no way you can’t at least have access to those capabilities,” Capel says of supply chain management tools. This includes software for transportation management, inventory management, warehouse management, and order management.

Data technology can help accurately map your entire network of business locations, including warehouses, factories, distribution centers, hubs, job sites, and ports. You can then use this information to improve product and asset visibility, provide up-to-the-minute ETAs, avoid bottlenecks, reduce wait times, miss fewer slots, reduce costs, and improve customer service. .

Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which use repeated pulsed radio waves to capture data, are an option. RFID is not a new technology, but its application now has broader appeal. RFID tags range in price from 10 cents to $20 each, and readers can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Of course, you also need software to track and store the data.

“Many of the existing problems in the supply chain today boil down to a lack of visibility, and location technology is the answer to solving these challenges,” says Edzard Overbeek, CEO of Here Technologies, a global logistics company based in Amsterdam.

To assess risk in your supply chain, you’ll also need to assess your current suppliers, says Walker Ryan, CEO of Parq, an Austin-based company that specializes in mitigating supply chain risk with software. supplier relationship management. Storing supplier information in one place can help you find weak spots in your supply chain more quickly, especially when your products come from multiple sources, and help you locate alternate sources if needed.

Technological integration

To get a complete view of your supply chain, you will also need to assess all management systems data in one place. Blockchain technology – the basis of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – is an option that can be used as a repository of data, which when put together can act as a single source of information, says Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Colombia School of Commerce. “In real time, the status of everything related to your orders can be reviewed, as it is constantly updated in an organized manner.”

Synchronizing and coordinating all that data isn’t easy and labor-intensive, he adds, but it’s the best way to understand what gaps exist in your system and how to fix them.

Forecast

The supply chain crisis has also highlighted the importance of forecasting technology. Obviously, every industry will be different, but whatever can give you a better forecast is probably the best place to start, especially if you can only afford one software, says Richard Kilgore, professor of business management and administration. business in Maryville. University.

Machine learning in particular can be used to map trends in various industries using data collected over time, but before you spend money on forecasting tools, be even more skeptical because some companies are “a bit overly optimistic about what they offer and the ability to promise accurate predictions,” Kilgore notes. The company you choose should be honest about the accuracy of their products. We’re not sure we can fix this, but we can give you an estimate’ is crucial,” he adds. The more data you have, the better the tools will be to predict changes to your specific supply chain. , so sharing this data could be beneficial.