The definition of supply chain involves a network of trading partners engaging in the exchange of information and goods. People and organizations within a supply chain are often spread out over the globe and across various organizations, so it makes sense that cloud computing is the resource of choice when establishing a well-networked supply chain.

Support for this theory is evidenced from a study recently authorized by SCM World entitled “Supply Chain and the Future of Applications“. Claims made within the study notably includes that 46% of participants in the study claim that more collaboration within a supply chain means that problems will be solved in half the time. Further to this, the report claims that the larger supply chains are becoming more dependent on platforms within the cloud in order to achieve faster and more accurate problem solving by harnessing the enhanced capability for collaboration.

The main benefits of using cloud computing to enhance the capability of the supply chain include a higher visibility of items as they move through it, faster and more consistent sharing of information with global partners and more capacity for the automation of components within the supply chain.

Higher visibility of goods as they travel through the supply chain is achieved via hosting in the cloud as their status can be distributed throughout the supply network. For example, the exact time goods will arrive can be revealed in order to ease the organization of delivery processes. There are many working parts to a logistical system, these include suppliers, manufacturers, distribution centers, retailers and finally customers. With so many components, greater visibility within the supply chain of goods as they pass through is essential in order to inform the interested parties about the whereabouts of specific products, potential re-networking and other specific needs to ease the passage of goods.

The capacity the cloud provides for information sharing in real time between interested parties means that supply chains now have more in common with social media networks than the former platforms for enterprise communications, due to the currency and speed of information. By harnessing the potential of the cloud, partners within the supply chain have the capacity to give up to date reports on shipments, products and factory and logistical challenges for example. All of this information is available in real time via one update from the holder of specific information. This is an astounding progression in the capability for the sharing of information provided by the ascension and availability of cloud computing.

Automation of the supply chain within the cloud means an increase in reliability, responsiveness and efficiency. The former cumbersome method of using paper documentation to chart payments and the status of products and deliveries is done away with. As a further advantage, less hands in the supply chain process means that margins for error are all but eliminated. As interactions are increasingly handled electronically the potential causes for consternation of the former labor intensive and error prone supply chain processes are eliminated.

A report by Gartner predicts that the value of the supply chain market will reach $3.8 billion some time in 2016. The main challenge to this predicted growth is the growing complexity of the technology involved. Many of these complexities will be solved by cloud computing’s capacity to provide greater visibility of goods in transit, the ability to share information instantaneously throughout the supply chain network and greater facilities for automation among other potential benefits. These three factors combined with the potential for more development provided by the cloud mean that the challenges posed by supply chain communications and logistics are more easily remedied, leading to more efficient operations.

Still haven’t moved to the cloud? Find the right solution for you.

The management of returns is usually not considered to be among the most costly aspects of an enterprise. However, a combination of competition, pressure from customers and increasingly more stringent environmental policies and regulations mean that the management of returns is being identified as a rising priority for a growing number of companies.

The processes involved in the management of returns are numerous and evolving. They include recycling, waste disposal, substituting materials and reusing them. The American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) created a report entitled “Open Standards Benchmarking Logistics,” which states that 78% of companies who responded to the report have varying degrees of policy relating the return of goods in place.

The report is broken down into three categories of policy for comparison by the APQC including: no implementation (23%), some implementation (31%) and extensive implementation (47%). From the results, it is apparent that companies believe formalizing returns policy leads to higher costs, however, they might be prudent to consider generating revenue from reuse and refurbishment practices.

Data generated by the APQC points to a trend for organizations without a policy for the management of returns spending less than their counterparts whose costs are inflated by logistical costs arising the from handling returns. The actual difference amounts to $20 out of every $1000 of revenue.

Other indications from the APQC’s data bring to light the implication that organizations who have policies for the management of returns have a greater amount of money being spent in order to manage and process the return of products. This same group also has comparatively higher costs associated with warehousing and logistics.

The amount of difference in costs generated by those who have policies and those who haven’t is not insignificant. However, perhaps a longer-term view is needed when considering whether a return of goods management policy is worthwhile. If the potential for generating additional revenue is harnessed, these policies could pay for themselves and even return a profit. This would be subject to industrial regulatory requirements. At the moment, the management of returns is indisputably an additional cost, which may be worth investing in for the future.

Does your organization have a returns process in place? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook or twitter pages.

There are two key factors in an emergency medical response in a hospital: equipment and staff training. This is true whether dealing with victims of a plane crash or responding to a single person with an infectious disease. However, many healthcare facilities are better equipped to respond to the obvious trauma of dozens of accident victims than to the rare admission of a person who is possibly highly contagious.

The current Ebola scare like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak a few years ago drives home the need for preparation. All staff need to understand the protocol and regularly practice the procedures for dealing with patients who present with even possible symptoms of the particular disease. The response usually begins with immediate isolation before a full diagnosis and treatment. Any contact with the patient puts the healthcare staff at risk.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the first line of defence for medical staff involved in treating the patient. There are many hospitals in North America currently scrambling to order the basics such as:

  • Respiratory protection with full face shield, helmet or headpiece
  • Single use impermeable gowns
  • Single use nitrile gloves with extended cuffs
  • Single use boot covers
  • Single use impermeable aprons

Hospital administrators are also checking to make sure they have an adequate store of consumable supplies, including anti-viral drugs. A recent audit of Department of Homeland Security pandemic supplies uncovered quantities of supplies and drugs close to expiry dates.

Inventory Management Challenge

It is easy to see the need for robust inventory control in such an emergency. There is no time to be searching for PPE that is used only occasionally and no one is quite sure where it is stored. Essential supplies might be expired. Equipment might be on loan to another unit.

Hospital administrators and clinical managers want to be able to access all the necessary equipment and supplies immediately. They want to be confident everything is in adequate supply and ready to use. Such as response requires an inventory system that is accurate, complete and up to date.

There are three aspects to inventory management of hospital emergency equipment and supplies:

  • Fixed assets such as specialized equipment that is used over and over again, including some of the PPE components
  • Consumable supplies such as the single use gowns, gloves, boots and surgical hoods for emergencies and the usual thermometers and bandages
  • Shared equipment such as laptop computers and bariatric wheelchairs

IntelliTrack Inventory Solutions

IntelliTrack has web based software packages that eliminate the guesswork about the state of readiness, location and quantity of essential equipment and supplies. The technology uses barcode labels to track every single piece of inventory. Not only is there a reading of location, the data capture can includes descriptors about condition, expiry date, serial number, maintenance requirements and user. All this information can be accessed on mobile devices.

The three main IntelliTrack software products are:

  • IntelliTrack Fixed Assets provides detailed tracking of each piece of equipment and can even monitor age and value and calculate depreciation
  • IntelliTrack Stockroom tracks the usage and levels of consumable stock and manages reorder alerts as requested
  • IntelliTrack Check In/Out helps manage shared equipment, collection and allowing easy access to information about user, location, maintenance on equipment or any other report that is requested.

These software options make inventory management more accurate, efficient and cost effective. There is also a degree of accountability built in when the users, condition or equipment and duration of use are tracked. IntelliTrack software solutions can be customized for a perfect match to the needs of any healthcare provider.

The primary purpose of inventory management in a warehouse or distribution center is to identify and track each item from receiving to shipping. At any given time, you want to know the level of the stock, where each piece is located, and even its condition, serial number or expiry date. However, when you are considering purchasing new inventory management software, there are two other features that are strategically important.

Integration

Look for an inventory control system that can be integrated with back office functions, including:

  • Accounts receivable for invoicing
  • Purchasing for processing re-ordering alerts
  • Sales for pre-empting customer complaints
  • HR for support in performance management and schedules
  • Owner or senior management for business planning and budgeting
  • Shipping services for faster delivery to correct address
  • Financial reporting of inventory value for annual reports and tax returns

You can customize reports to ensure the cost effectiveness of your inventory management program. Accurate invoices will be generated immediately.  An informed purchasing officer will not be paying premium costs for rush orders to fill stock shortages or paying the cost of carrying surplus stock. Longer term planning and budgeting will be based on customized reports. Financial reports will have real time integrity.

Integration also helps with the human factor in your business. Your sales staff can be alerted if there are unavoidable delays in filling orders so they can negotiate with the customer. HR solutions for issues of employee productivity will be based on recorded facts, not just casual observations or feelings.

Scalability

You also want to consider inventory management software that is scalable. This means the system has the existing capacity to handle a growing amount of work or it can easily be expanded to accommodate such growth.

This key feature will serve you well in various situations, including when you:

  • Are ready to expand your warehouse operations
  • Want to sell your 3PL services to more clients
  • Have discovered a new product line you want to sell

For example, you are going to lease another facility two blocks away or even in another town. This means hiring eight more staff who will be using the inventory management system. The number of items in the inventory will double. A scalable solution such as the IntelliTrack Warehouse Management System (WMS) has no difficulty handing more product with more users in two or more different locations without compromising the integrity of the data.

Such an inventory software program can also be used for 3PL services increasing the number of clients using your distribution center and/or encouraging them to expand their customer base. Or, perhaps you want to expand your own product line. This means you will need not only more physical space, but also an adjustment to the inventory management software. Scalability is strategic in inventory management as no successful business is static.

From just these few examples it is easy to see that the capacity for integration with other business functions and scalability are two important features for inventory management. Click here to contact the IntelliTrack team to discuss the technology solutions just right for your business.

In a recent report from Global Intelligence Alliance’s (GIA) Business Perspectives on Emerging Markets 2012-2017, it was revealed that transportation and logistics professionals expect emerging markets to contribute to 36% of their global revenues by 2017—over double what it is today. The logistics professionals surveyed surmise that China, Brazil, India and Russia will remain the top four emerging markets over the next five years, followed by Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Chile.

In the years ahead, emerging markets can expect to see fast growth—a quarter of respondents agreed that current emerging markets will become future large market. Particularly, cold chain logistics in China will greatly expand, due to the Chinese government’s plans to increase food safety.

Potential Threats
However, because of the volatility in many emerging markets, poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and red tape are common threats, particularly in hard-to-access markets.

For example, Indonesia has over 1,700 islands, making it difficult for carriers, especially with crowded ports and shallow waters.

Potential Success
In order to achieve success in emerging markets, localized competitive positioning, access to customers and the quality of products/services will be crucial.

However, 75% of respondents doubted the accuracy and completeness regarding information on emerging markets. It’s clear that there are a log of uncertainties in emerging markets, but understanding the unique characteristics of each local market and partnering with the right companies will allow those in transportation and logistics companies to take advantage of the forecasted growth in emerging markets.

In total, 60% of the over 400 companies featured in the cross-industry study said that decision making is delayed because of lack of information, while 75% doubted the accuracy and completeness of the information they have on emerging markets.

Mobile technology has revolutionized our lives, but from a business perspective, logistics as we know it wouldn’t be the same without it. Mobility is essential for managing the flow of resources throughout the supply chain—it streamlines processes, thus cutting costs and saving time. Processes that once took hours now only take minutes with the use of cloud-based applications.

In conjunction with the mobile revolution is the Internet of Things, or IoT. While first seen as a consumer gimmick, IoT is now gaining a lot of traction in the world of logistics. For example, in food-based supply chains, IoT devices can sense vital information, such as temperature, ensuring food is delivered efficiently and safely.

A recent study by the National Science Foundation (NSF) concluded that if 25% of the U.S supply chains adopted IoT, it would result in $100 billion more in annual profits, 30% less in greenhouse emissions and 75% less trucker turnover.

Learn more about how mobility and IoT affect logistics.

Software as a Service (SaaS) has been gaining in popularity for years, but more recently, “logistics as a service” has been the latest craze.

Smaller online retailers are under more and more pressure to streamline their shipping processes—it’s hard to compete when Amazon sells just about everything and often offers free 2 day shipping.

That’s why Shipbeat, a Denmark-based company currently operating in beta, plans to offer an application programming interface (API) that collects the services of leading delivery companies, such as FedEx, DHL and UPS, to collect bids and solve delivery issues for small to medium- sized e-commerce businesses.

By working with multiple delivery companies, Shipbeat allows businesses to allow their customers to choose the best delivery option for them. Simply offering quick shipping isn’t enough in today’s competitive market—customers need flexibility on delivery options, free return shipping and same day or next day options.

When consumers are ordering goods online, it’s not necessarily because of the marketing—it’s because of the shipping options. If your e-tailer can’t offer cheap and fast shipping, consumers will find someone else who does. That’s why Shipbeat’s logistics as a service makes sense. Small and mid-sized businesses are busy building up their clientele—Shipbeat takes the hassle and confusion out of logistics and allows businesses to offer more delivery options than they would be able to on their own.

Shipbeat co-founder and CEO Kenneth Svenningsen stated that delivery is “critical for the most fundamental problem every online shop has.” In fact, as much as 70 percent of prospective customers will create a shopping cart, but then decide not to purchase due to a lack of shipping options.

So far, Shipbeat has raised $1.6 million in investments, which will be used to expand their offering and hire the necessary individuals for e-commerce software integration.

Learn more about the Shipbeat logistics API.

If time is money, then being lean is both. Thanks to mega retailers such as Wal-Mart, lean principles have rapidly spread to a variety of different manufacturers, such as consumer foods, apparel and food/beverage.

Over the past few years, these retailers have dramatically changed how they do business in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. How products are ordered, how inventory is moved throughout distribution centers and barcodes vs. rfid technology for inventory management have all been taken into consideration in order to work as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

While lean thinking has been rapidly expanding amongst large manufacturers and retailers, there are still a lot of companies that have hardly implemented any lean concepts.

At the end of the day, it’s about adding value for customers—but how can companies do that while also reaping in benefits for themselves?

Lean opportunities for wholesalers and retailers fall into three basic categories:

1) Retail Strategy
For lean concepts to be successfully applied within a retail or wholesale organization, departmental strategies need to be aligned with and support an overall lean company strategy in order to efficiently function as one lean, cohesive machine.

2) Merchandise Management
When it comes down to it, efficiently managing merchandise comes down to having the right product at the right price at the right time. To achieve this trifecta, developing, securing, pricing support and communicating the retailer’s merchandise offering effectively is of the utmost importance. Failing to manage merchandise using lean principles causes waste, taking away value from both the customer and the enterprise.

3) Store and Distribution Operations
Store and distribution operations tend to be where companies have the biggest amount of waste. Depending on how many stores are involved, it can be one of the hardest areas to manage, making lean principles seem unattainable. But distribution is all about optimizing trade-offs between handling costs and warehousing costs, maximizing the warehouse while maintaining low costs and minimizing time.

It’s All About the Customer
In a retail environment, it’s crucial to consider store operations and process improvements from the customers’ point of view before making lean improvements. Remember, what’s good for the customer is good for your business; it’s just about finding the right solution.

Analyzing in-store logistics can be very beneficial to becoming a lean organization. These “last 10 yards” of the supply chain can have a drastic impact on your bottom line—from employee productivity, to quality issues, to receiving processes, every little step in the last 10 yards is crucial to improve processes and increase profits.

In addition to those crucial last customer-facing moments in the retail environment, omni-channel marketing, such as e-commerce, adds an entirely new layer of challenges to becoming a lean organization.

Identifying where customers will see value across all channels and applying lean concepts to these areas is crucial in retail and wholesale environments in order to succeed in today’s competitive market.

 

 

You do not need a drone to provide excellent delivery service to your customers. We have been fascinated recently by Amazon’s commitment to delivery service within 30 minutes of placing an order, thanks to a drone zooming in and dropping a package right outside our doors. However, there is more to customer satisfaction than a high flying technological wonder.

What makes customers happy?
There is much more to a successful delivery than just a package showing up at the door. Your customers are probably happiest when:

  • They receive the product they order, not a substitute or something that was stored on the next shelf in the warehouse
  • The package is delivered to the correct address
  • The order arrives when scheduled

How to deliver on customer satisfaction?

For small to mid-sized businesses, there is a software solution for customer satisfaction. It is an Inventory Shipping Receiving and Picking (ISRP) system that calculates and tracks all data about the inventory, from receiving and storing products and receiving customer orders to picking, shipping and invoicing the items. You want the process to flow smoothly and if there are any glitches, you receive an immediate alert so you can take care of the problem right away.

ISRP software integrates the four main functions necessary for successfully filling customer orders:

  • ISRP Inventory is all about having an accurate and complete count of the inventory no matter what the location within the company operations. The system has the capacity for physical inventory and cycle counting. You can design queries and request reports that allow you to monitor and manage inventory.

Accessing this kind of information gives you the confidence to know you absolutely can fill the orders being received. You can build in reordering alerts so you never run out of product. You can track consumption over defined periods and cycles so you can plan ahead.

  • ISRP Shipping functionality validates all the details of your customer’s order and generates the shipping labels. The system is integrated with the delivery service provider such as FedEx or WorldShip so there is no need to risk errors by rekeying customer names and addresses.

The shipping information can also be exported to your billing department. Once again, eliminating the need to input the information again eliminates the risk of error. The customer will receive the items ordered and the correct invoice.

  • ISRP Receiving is the part of the software solution that enters all necessary data about the product you have ordered from a manufacturer or distributor. Such data typically includes a purchase order number, due date, vendor ID and the location where it is being stored. Errors are significantly reduced and the receiving process is speeded up as the information is validated by barcode or RFID tag readers. The product will now be easy to find to fill your customer’s order.
  • ISRP Picking imports the details of the customer order and validates the part number, location and quantity using a portable barcode or RFID tag reader. This efficient system reduces if not eliminates error so the customer will be assured of the correct product in the requested quantity arriving at the door.

What are the ISRP Advantages?

The primary advantage of using an ISRP software solution in your warehouse is all about accurate, complete, current information in order to fill orders efficiently. There is no more apologizing because you have to backorder an item or send a substitution. When a customer has spent time deciding on a product, you can be sure that is exactly what he wants to receive.

The customer data is all in the system so there is little chance of error in shipping labels. Having that functionality integrated with the system used by the courier who will actually be delivering the package is a great bonus feature. The risk of error just keeps on decreasing.

Customer satisfaction begins with the first step in the entire inventory process. If you know for sure that your purchase order is filled, received and stored in your warehouse, you are in a much better position to fill your customers’ orders to their complete satisfaction.

A drone dropping a package on their doorstep is not going to keep a customer happy. A delivery service arriving at the door with exactly what the customer ordered as a result of an efficient and accurate end-to-end ISRP system is impressive.

The IntelliTrack Solution

IntelliTrack Inc. offers state of the art ISRP software solutions that can be customized to meet your company’s needs. There is a web based option with cloud storage that can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. There is also a system that can be locally installed on your company server and might be appropriate for your operation. IntelliTrack professionals are always ready to discuss your needs and what works to satisfy your customers.

 

IntelliTrack’s Package Track Data Management Software recently received a Certificate of Networthiness (CoN).

Package Track makes mailroom management and proof of delivery easy and includes applications for Inventory, Stockroom, Check In-Out and Fixed Assets, in addition to Package Tracking.

With Package Track, warehouse employees can easily check-in packages and assign them to the proper receiving customer. In addition, the software features a ‘mailroom’ database that stores customer locations and contact notification information. Once a package is ready for pick-up, the application automatically sends an e-mail notification.

Package Track by IntelliTrack was granted the CoN based on its trusted standardized platform, configured per FDCC.

Learn more about the CoN for Package Track.