Taking Your Supply Chain Mobile– Part 1
The unrelenting proliferation of smart devices continues to accelerate the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in today’s offices. The use of a wide range of devices in the workplace is a common sight and mobility is quickly becoming a key factor in increasing productivity. This same workforce is now demanding the availability of their business applications on all devices. According to Forrester, today’s workers are likely to use CRM, HRM and even ERP applications on mobile devices. While TAKE Supply Chain’s own research has shown that mobile is not as pervasive in supply chain management yet (see our findings here), it is still vital to prepare for that inevitability.
“A better method is to determine which applications will not only work well on a mobile device, but deliver increased value from mobile accessibility.”
Trying to fit desktop functions into a mobile form factor
While our first instinct might be to simply move all available desktop applications to a mobile platform, the strategy can easily lead to wasted time and resources as well a functional mismatch across devices. It’s the difference between what ‘can be done’ through technology and what tasks and activities are best suited for a mobile platform. A better method is to determine which applications will not only work well on a mobile device, but deliver increased value from mobile accessibility.
The two key areas to consider are:
- Complexity, Type and Urgency of Supply Chain Tasks – examine the potential transactions and activities
- Modes of Deployment – examine the potential technology used to deliver mobile functionality
As you can imagine, these are complex topics, so I will focus on the supply chain tasks in this post and cover modes of deployment in my next post.
Rule #1: Keep it simple
In general, applications requiring minimal data entry, while providing summarized key data important to the execution or decision-making process by a user, are best suited for delivery via mobile devices. Task such as:
- selection of objects (e.g. selecting items to put in a cart) and
- displaying dashboards
stand to benefit the most from a touchscreen interface.
In supply chain operations, the following activities are suited for delivery via a mobile (smart) device, which can also drive significant productivity gains:
- Research – supplier catalogs,
- Simple selection/Creation – items from catalogs
- Simple Review, forward and/or approval – requisitions and/or simple purchase orders, invoices for payment,
- Inquiry – status of POs and/or invoices, inquiring on payment statuses
What isn’t ready for mobile?
Tasks requiring a significant amount of data entry, large amounts of data review, or complex analysis are generally not well suited for smaller touch screens. This would include creation of a shipment notice against a PO or acknowledgment of a PO by confirming delivery quantities and delivery dates for all the items that don’t actually benefit from mobile functionality and are more challenging to accomplish on a smaller, touch screen.
Rule #2: Focus on mobile’s unique functionality
The form factor and features of mobile devices lead to some “no-brainer” activities that mobile devices are ideal for:
- Using a smart device’s camera to scan a QR code and provide immediate delivery confirmation. The information posts in real-time, which in turn provides immediate visibility of the location of goods, as well as immediate updates to inventory levels for said items.
- Capturing images of defective items via the camera. Combining this with an inspection module, documenting defective items at different inspection areas, sharing that information in real time in order to reject items, notify buyers and suppliers, allow them to view the reason for rejection, together delivers a real time value to quality inspection functions.
Rule #3: Real time makes a real difference
In this global economy, accessibility of full data views via mobile browsers may be an important option, especially if tasks must be performed immediately for critical orders, where a day may be the difference in fulfilling a customer order in time. For example, if requisition requires immediate approval while the key decision maker is out of the office, having the option to view the desktop transaction data via a mobile web browser on a smart device may be the difference in delivering the order in time.
“The magnitude of these gains largely depends on making smart choices regarding how and where to deploy mobility in your supply chain…”
Supply chain on the move
There is no doubt that the introduction of mobile capabilities at strategic points in your supply chain can result in significant efficiency and productivity gains that would directly improve your bottom line. However, the magnitude of these gains largely depends on making smart choices regarding how and where to deploy mobility in your supply chain.
The nature of the business and corresponding industry, the complexity and/or volume of data to be processed at different levels of your supply chain, and a good understanding of your business processes will show you where the introduction of mobility will be most effective.
See my next blog post where I continue with part 2 of this topic: the deployment modes used to deliver mobile functionality. Or contact us if you’re ready to discuss how you should integrate mobility into your supply chain processes.