Tech in the supply chain – serving an ace

By Mark Garritt, MD, ByBox

How often on average would you say you look at your phone? A couple of times a day, more or less? According to Deloitte's Mobile Consumer report 2014 one in six adults in the UK look at their phones more than 50 times a day. Britain is now firmly hooked on technology of all kinds, not just their phones. Technology makes our lives ever easier and is constantly finding new ways to captivate us; Apple just held its Worldwide Developers Conference announcing its latest tech updates, driverless cars are now being tested on our roads and virtual reality is set to hit the scene soon with the arrival of Oculus Rift next year. There's no escaping it.

Technology even has a presence at sporting events like Wimbledon. IBM has been working with Wimbledon for over 20 years, bringing technology to the Championships as the official IT supplier to the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Over the years IBM's involvement with Wimbledon has grown to cover a range of tracking, analysis and information services that broadcasters, coaches and players use every day, and that now allow the rest of us to get even closer to the action.

Imagine the amount of technology that IBM has to keep up and running across Wimbledon to ensure that services like Hawk-Eye, electronic score boards and serve trackers can continue to operate. IBM would need to have the parts and tools it needs to fix any issue delivered to SW19 as swiftly and efficiently as possible, so that the Championships could continue uninterrupted. Placing tech at the heart of the supply chain is one way in which these issues can be dealt with, ensuring tools, parts and the manpower needed is there to deal with them asap.

Working with smart logistics companies can ease the pressure placed on businesses like IBM to have parts delivered quickly, using tech to track, trace and route parts throughout the supply chain. It would give businesses complete visibility of their supply chain, allowing them to not only keep track of all stock across the country, but to save their engineers wasted journeys should a part be in transit rather than ready for collection. The best logistics companies will also have orders delivered to a locker pre-6am so that engineers can fit more jobs into their day, and will also consolidate orders to save engineers from going back and forth.

Say in order to make a repair a business needed to order a computer chip from one supplier in London, a master board from another supplier in Cardiff and the tools to make the repair from yet another supplier in Birmingham. If the business worked with a smart logistics provider all of these orders could be delivered in one go to the engineers nearest locker collection point so that the minimum number of trips need to be made. Not only are there huge cost savings stood to be made in streamlining the supply chain but the engineer doing the job is also freed up to spend more time on other jobs.

Using tech to create a virtual warehouse could also make the supply chain more efficient. This offers engineers a management platform to centralise disparate parts and tools from countless different suppliers, giving them unprecedented control over the supply chain. In storing equipment virtually there is no need for engineers to bulk order parts up front as they can buy as and when different items are needed. A virtual warehouse allows them to access a whole range of parts at the touch of a button, simplifying the entire order process in one step.

A good logistics network is all down to the ability to have a clear picture of where stock is at any one time and being able to order the parts needed with ease, knowing that they will be delivered as and when they are needed. Businesses in a whole range of sectors, IT included, stand to make huge savings and become much more efficient if they embrace technology and update their distribution networks. Technology is gaining in popularity in all walks of life and it is imperative that the supply chain is not left behind as we race ahead to modernise. Implementing tech at the heart of the business in this way can allow all businesses to become much more efficient and provide a great service for their customers too.

Now that's game, set and match.

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