Using Technology to Support the Supply Chain Workforce and Its Processes

While computing in the supply chain is nothing new, many existing systems are running on bulky and dated equipment, limiting the flexibility and efficiency of employees.

The issue isn’t confined to one segment of the supply chain. From suppliers to retailers, it’s not uncommon to be conducting day-to-day operations with outdated supply chain applications and hardware.

Thankfully, these inefficiencies can be addressed with new and emerging technology – specifically, mobile apps, mixed reality (augmented reality, smart glasses, and virtual reality), machine learning, and voice recognition.

These technologies provide neat and straightforward fixes for various pain points along the supply chain – not just for suppliers and manufacturers, but all the way down to distributors, retailers, and consumers.

For example, advanced inventory management apps allow suppliers to track raw materials, manufacturers to decrease the time to manufacture and ship, and retailers to more effectively track their stock.

Progressive and forward-thinking companies are diversifying their technology investments to focus not only on customer-facing advancements, but also on supply chain efficiency. This has a direct impact on the bottom line and customer loyalty.

Let’s look at how each step of the supply chain benefits from these technologies.

How Suppliers Benefit

— Accurate sourcing: Track and distribute raw materials anytime, anywhere. Mobile apps connect manufacturers to the first step of the supply chain – the raw materials supplier.
— Better inventory control: Inventory management with the tap of a finger. Warehouse management apps provide 24/7 control of inventory. XR headsets allow suppliers to see what they have, where it is, and where it needs to go.
— Simplified logistics: Order fulfillment that’s simple, intuitive, and on the go. Track the transit of materials from anywhere in the field. Hands-free devices eliminate the need for paper lists or handheld devices, making the order picking process faster and less prone to error.
— Enhanced management: Lead the team while being in two places at once. Both AR and VR can provide accurately visualized digital twins, allowing managers of global operations to view sites in real-time and ensure smooth operations without the expense of being physically present.

How Manufacturers Benefit

— Faster production times: Decrease the time to manufacture and ship. Supply chain apps integrate with legacy systems to cut down on the overall production process.
— Enhanced, safer training: Increase operational efficiency and safety. Head-mounted AR displays allow for hands-free, real-time interaction with equipment. VR training offers the ability to provide a variety of scenarios without the risk associated with on-site or in-the-moment training.
— Recall/damage control: Simplify field assessments and integrate data captured in the field from mobile apps with back-office applications. The faster a customer complaint is resolved, the more likely customers are to become repeat customers.
— Better final product: Reduce human error. Tighter, technology-led quality control leads to better oversight and ultimately, a higher-quality product.

How Distributors Benefit

—Improved warehouse management: Ensure the most efficient logistical output. Voice, mixed reality, and mobile apps enable order pickers to accurately visualize and navigate the best route through the warehouse and see exactly where shipment vessels have available space.
— Increased “on-time” delivery: Reliable transport projections updated in real-time. Machine learning and mobile apps work together to define fulfillment plans and shipping routes optimized for traffic patterns, weather, and other factors.
— Smarter communication: Engage suppliers, retailers, employees, and consumers with unified technologies. Mobile apps, voice technology, and mixed reality can be used to transfer information and communicate with stakeholders quickly and accurately.
— Simplified operations: Simplify and speed up warehouse operations. Receive instructions, request information, and confirm orders and shipments with a mobile application interacting directly with warehouse IT infrastructure.

How Retailers Benefit

— Better stock and inventory management: Retailers know how much stock they’ll need at any given time with demand forecasting technology. Advanced customer modeling driven by machine learning tracks trends in supply and demand and optimizes inventory.
— More efficient front-line employees: Informed employees improve retailer performance. Empower employees to optimize store layouts, know what’s in stock, and check customers out with ease using mobile apps, mixed reality, and machine learning.
— Less shrinkage: Prevent inventory loss while controlling costs. Digitized tags, smart scanners, inventory management systems, and machine learning-powered platforms save money by preventing theft and other issues that lead to shrinkage.
— Continuous improvement: Monitor trends and stay agile. Machine learning can be used to identify factors influencing inventory error rates and other inefficiencies, allowing management to clamp down on bad practices and proactively address issues before they arise.

How Consumers Benefit

— Faster shipments: Get products in consumers’ hands quicker. Mobile apps optimize ordering, while smarter warehouses and distribution networks speed up processing and delivery.
— Accurate order tracking: Update the customer every step of the way. Enhanced scanning and tracking apps allow for real-time notifications, keeping consumers informed about the status and availability of orders and products.
— Empowered buying decisions: Accurate, personalized information at the click of a button. When the right supply chain technologies are used, consumers have more information available to them and can make reliable buying decisions. With mixed reality, they can even visualize and experience a product prior to making a purchase.
— Better customer experiences: Technology that works for your customers. Machine learning enhances product recommendations, voice recognition improves security and enables ease-of-use, and mobile apps facilitate shopping, information gathering, purchasing, and post-purchase support.

Increasing Customer Loyalty

As a supply chain app developer, we help our clients gain insight into points along the supply chain that will benefit from new technology, in order to get their customers their product faster, more efficiently, and more effectively.

These apps can reduce the rates of errors, missed orders, product returns, and consumer dissatisfaction with customer service turnaround times, leading to better customer experiences.

The end result is maximizing a company’s existing investment in consumer-facing solutions while also increasing customer loyalty.

Increase Your Bottom Line

Partnering with an experienced supply chain app developer to digitize the supply chain means organizations can provide the best of both worlds by increasing efficiency, decreasing costs, and making sure customers become ambassadors for the brand.

This leads to repeat business and long-term revenue growth.

Apps Designed for Supply Chain Efficiency

Shockoe is the supply chain app developer for several big-box retailers. We create apps that support the supply chain workforce and processes.

Check out the infographic below to learn how these supply chain apps can create faster and more efficient manufacturing and supply chain processes while delivering better experiences for distributors, retailers, and customers.

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