Mobile technologies are having an impact at all points along the supply chain for goods.
Because of the environment in which they work, a good deal of logistics and transportation personnel are using multipurpose, ruggedized or commercial-grade mobile devices because they allow more efficient management of the supply chain while allowing managers to work from wherever they are located.
The technologies involved include mobile phones with:
- built-in cameras,
- handheld computers,
- barcode and label printers,
- RFID tags,
- near field communications (NFC),
- voice recognition software, and
- shared logistics networks.
All of these technologies are both mobile and wireless, allowing maximum flexibility.
Bridget McCrea, writing in the online magazine “Logistics Management,” identifies eight trends that are impacting the industry:
- Wireless now accommodates a sharper focus on efficiency and transparency.
- The end user is dictating mobile consumption and driving the market.
- Mobile solutions are pushing shippers out of their “manual” comfort zones.
- The smartphone is carving out a place for itself in the supply chain (they are replacing ruggedized devices).
- Wireless helps shippers create a more cohesive workforce outside of the four walls of the warehouse.
- Smaller, more nimble shippers are using wireless to ramp up and improve their technology infrastructures.
- The mobile device and applications are being paired up with the individual worker in mind.
- Mobile devices are still only as good as the information that’s available.
For the details on each of these trends, please read Bridget McCrea’s online article.
So, where is this all heading?
While each of these technologies can be used singly, the newest trend is to combine many of them into “total mobile solutions” that cover the entire logistics and supply chain operation.
They package many of these solutions as downloadable apps that let users track and trace shipments, get rate quotes, and receive shipment notifications.
And, it is not just logistics managers who are using this technology–it has spread to truck drivers, dispatchers, sales personnel and receivers.
The result is that the entire logistics industry is being transformed.
But, it’s not going to stop there.
Major manufacturers and the big retail chains are always demanding more efficiency–finding more ways to squeeze costs out of the supply chain to become even more competitive to price.
One vision is that the new mobile and networking technologies will lead to collaboration among manufacturers to lower costs.
Today, each major manufacturer or retail chain operates its own warehouses and distribution centers.
In a few years, competitors will need to collaborate with each other in terms of logistics and warehousing in order to reduce costs even further.
A 2010 report by the Global Commerce Initiative and Capgemini entitled “2016 Future Supply Chain” suggests what the new distribution network would look like.
Such a network is only going to happen through the extensive use of mobile technologies and accompanying software.
In order to work, this vision will need new telematics and compliance solutions that captured data on all aspects of the network.
This blog post is just a taste of what is happening in the world of mobile supply chain and logistics. If you would like a detailed environmental scan of the disruptive change that is happening now or a strategy of how to meet this challenge, please contact Float to have one researched and presented to you. Increasingly, we are involved with helping companies by producing business intelligence strategic planning, implementation roadmaps, and reviews of the use of learning technologies, in addition to building leading-edge mobile apps for major enterprises.
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