It’s a well-known fact that “visibility” governs your entire supply chain operation from the plant floor to the warehouse and distribution center; really, all the way to the end customer. That is because “visibility” is what enables you to sense problems and take corrective action immediately. In other words, visibility is what reduces the riskiness of your business decisions and, ultimately, the riskiness of actions taken by every employee – from your shop floor worker to the line of business manager to the CXO.
However, supply chain “visibility” is regulated by data. Specifically, the flow of validated data. That is why it’s fair to say that what you see is not always what you get in today’s high-tech manufacturing plants and warehouses (once the final performance metrics are tallied days or months later). That is because data silos continue to plague nearly every supply chain in some capacity, as do the frequent data entry delays and errors that stem from inefficient data collection methods.
They are even more troublesome for high-tech manufacturers who don’t have the luxury of time. Their products have a very short lifecycle, and they need to understand how best to move a very high volume of SKUs through production and distribution at record paces without overspending, overstocking or risking avoidable oversights that diminish the quality of their goods – or their margins.
In other words, high tech manufacturers need more effective ways to respond to changing market conditions and customer demands in a timely manner than the paper-based processes and host of data collection tools they are most likely using to aggregate and analyze business performance. Paper-based info sharing is slow and unreliable, and siloed mobile-based systems that can’t feed data to and from every back-office system ultimately create more blind spots.
In order to be more reactive, you need to be able to see events as they occur. If you want to be proactive, you need to be able to identify emerging risks. Both require unencumbered visibility into your operations, which requires you to have completely accurate business intelligence up to the minute. In other words: Whether you’re simply trying to track inventory movements or more effectively measure SKU performance to make product lifecycle decisions, your ability to successfully meet your goals is determined – at the most fundamental level – by the quality and speed of your data collection capabilities.
That is why every manufacturer should be looking for a device and OS-agnostic mobile data collection platform that enables workers to capture every transaction, as it happens. Yes, you read that correctly. In the age of artificial intelligence, IoT, augmented reality and even chatbots, the one investment that matters most is your mobile technology solution. If that seems too “basic” for a problem as big as visibility appears to be – or too simple of a solution to your inventory traceability challenges – remember this: You can only see what the data tells you. And your workers can only share that data with you as fast as their tools allow them to.
You need a way for workers to document transactions in real-time. You also need a way to immediately validate their inputs against your ERP, WMS, TMS (or any other relevant back-office system) – and then re-distribute the data to every possible stakeholder instantaneously in a single, cohesive “report”. It’s the only way to see what’s happening in your facilities at the exact moment it is happening. It’s also the only way to become 100% confident in the accuracy of the data informing your decisions and avoid sending your supply chain into chaos.
Remember: Every action you or your workers take related to your business is dictated by the data being generated on the plant or warehouse floor. If the data is inaccurate, or simply inaccessible, then mistakes will occur and profit margins will suffer. That’s because a lack of visibility into something as simple – but critical – as inventory movements can lead business managers to draw inaccurate conclusions about inventory levels, miscalculate supply versus demand and ultimately face shortage-caused fulfillment delays or costly overstocks. Just one missing pallet can cause your team to miss deadlines related to purchasing, production, shipping and even payments. In other words, a simplified mobile data collection system is really the best investment you can make if you want to increase your visibility levels.