Yesterday’s television has become today’s reality, and smart technology is fostering the kind of supply chain/inventory management software that was only dreamt of in the days of brick and mortar industries. A recent forecast from the World Economic Forum stated that everything from 3-D printing to automated workers, connected homes, and driverless cars will be the norm by the mid-2020s.
Here’s what all that future talk could mean for you.
When you told people they had their heads in the clouds several decades ago, it didn’t mean you were looking at them in a good light. However, today’s supply chain managers and business leaders are facing constant pressure to control costs in sputtering economies, and they are looking to cloud-based software to help them through these difficult times.
So what do they need to do?
Make a choice between local and cloud-based management software for starters. When you start looking into it, you’ll see these options are as different as apples and oranges.
Local software is downloaded into your computer. Remember those days when you got into the car and drove to the store to buy a disc that you slid into that little tray that popped out (sometimes) from the side of your laptop? Local software has significantly developed since then, and we’ll cover that a bit later on.
Right on the Web
Cloud-based inventory software has all the fixings right on the internet. There’s nothing to download and no need to go buy the software you needscreen. There’s no disc or driving through traffic needed. Everything you need is from that shared Internet experience that’s been loosely termed “The Cloud”.
If you haven’t made the switch yet, he’s why every inventory management and supply chain wizard needs to get with this cloud revolution today.
Data: The Cloud As A Safe “Outsourced Source.”
It’s only one word but a huge problem if you lose it. Keeping all your valuable data locked away in a computer in that software you downloaded is putting all of your eggs in one basket. Using cloud-based software is like taking your money out from under a mattress and putting it in the bank. If something goes wrong and your computer crashes and takes the software with it, you still have a safely outsourced source to recover all your data that would otherwise be gone forever.
If you’ve ever experienced losing data from one corrupt-hard drive-power-outage, you’ll see why the convenience of storing those numbers elsewhere is preferable to keeping them exclusively on your device.
Imagine trying to run day to day operations without:
· Sales Reports
· Your inventory lists
· The status of orders
· Transaction reports and other relevant customer data.
These days, inventory management and supply chain experts have a strong case for keeping their heads in the clouds, or at least that one big cloud in cyberspace. Using this latest innovation also means daily and weekly backups are a thing of the past.
Need some more convincing that cloud based inventory management is the new gold standard? Consider the recent The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report from Deloitte that states clearly “Companies that continue to utilize traditional supply chain models will struggle to remain competitive and deliver orders that are complete, accurate and on-time.”
Update, automate and feel great
There are some other great reasons to upgrade, automate and feel great about inventory management in the cloud and the next one is all about dollars and common sense.
Two C’s Working Together
The cloud and cost. When you get those two terms working together, supply chain generals start paying attention. We could write all about the wonderful savings that you’ll get with cloud based inventory but, in this case, some numbers speak louder than words. For example, with local software you need hardware and the amount of money you need to shell out is significant.
On the other side of that coin
One comparative study by SoftwareAdvice.Com that looked at the inventory costs for 161 warehouses tilts the balance even further toward the cloud.
Eight percent of the monthly subscription fees for cloud-based software were under $500 dollars. Only 2% for local software clocked in under $5000 dollars.
Thirteen percent for the cloud-based choices cost anywhere from $1500 to $2000 and 15% of the contemporary options rang in between $40,000 and $60,000 dollars.
Excess and Expired
Keeping track of your inventory is about being able to find the excess and expired parts of it quickly and easily. Shelf life, expiration dates, and quantity are just a few of the metrics you can stay on top of with this real-time business software.
Two Birds With One Stone
Accurate inventory information means satisfied customers and automating your inventory to cloud-based software kills two birds with one stone because you’re reducing costs at the same time.
Scaling The Cloud
This all ties together with other more technical swag like the incredible scalability the cloud has. After all, this body of network connections and data lets you scale everything upwards by just adding a few lines of information. Ever hunted for inventory to manage multiple locations in the older model? Then you’ll be interested in this innovative new way to get things done without the fuss and bother.
Wait. There’s more!
Online inventory management comes with an IT team, so the implementation time is typically shorter.
Updates Done Automatically
Cloud-based software updates automatically. Think about that for a moment. Ponder especially those times where you neglected to update your software despite all those little regular warnings. Then, try to re-imagine the frustration of 20 minutes of downtime as everything updates at once, and you stare at the little notification that tells you not to turn your computer off until everything is done.
Bugs Get Fixed
Inventory software in the cloud updates automatically and there’s nothing you need to do. Best of all there’s no downtime because bugs get fixed, problems get patched and new features are updated continuously as soon as they come out. Once again, you have two choices–local software that keeps you waiting or the version in the cloud that’s always working with you.
Ditch that library of hardware! Supply chains are becoming more complicated, and risk is something most smart businesses want to avoid in today’s unstable climate. Subscribing to your software rather than buying it means that you can back away by just canceling a subscription. You’re not stuck with a library of hardware you’ll never use again when you trust your inventory to the cloud.
The Cloud is Secure
Covering all your bases including security is important. A disgruntled employee or ex-inventory/supply chain manager can do damage that will take thousands of dollars and hours to repair unless you can access your inventory remotely. Staying on top growing security concerns means being proactive and pre-emptive at the same time and making a choice for cloud software helps you to do both.
Innovation is racing forward taking supply chains with it.
The U.S. Roadmap for Material Handling & Logistics is a pretty impressive crystal ball when you’re trying to see into the future of supply chain innovation. Deloitte took a good look deep inside it and found some other technologies that are driving the next generation of supply chains. Read on for some more of the stuff you thought you’d never see anywhere but on Lost In Space.
Automatic identification and sensors.
This marvel works with the cloud-based inventory software to streamline the entire supply chain and straighten out any kinks in the line left by the old days and antiquated ways of yesterday’s tracking and tracing systems. These technologies include imagers, beacons, and barcodes that allow everyone from the CEO in the corner office to the shipper on the floor to see where every product is in real time.
Fair enough, you might say, who is using this cutting edge stuff? The answer is just about everyone in any industry that wants to achieve near 100% accuracy in shipping, 30% faster order processing and a 30% reduction in labor costs. Smart businesses using this smart technology include:
- The applications here for the one/two punch of supply chain management software include identifying bottlenecks in production and tracking the availability of spare parts.
- It’s critical to stay on top of innovation with any rapidly changing industry like this one. Patient identification and improving accuracy when manufacturing and labeling products are just two of the areas that benefit from these latest generation advances.
- Data entry, picking, restocking and inventory management are just some of the areas that will benefit.
R2 D2 In A Factory Near You
Today’s robots can produce goods with fewer errors and higher quality than their human counterparts, and that makes them an integral part of the inventory software/ supply chain puzzle. Deloitte research says 25% of the companies who responded are either using automation right now or plan to use it in the next 1 to 2 years to look after menial tasks like picking, packaging, and sorting.
But what’s the upside for this new age inventory solution that relies on high tech?
- Productivity and accuracy increase and humans get reassigned to more high-value tasks.
- Automation works much quicker than the human hand, and this satisfies increasing customer demands.
- Inventory accuracy gets better and more defined because human mistakes are eliminated.
When automation was implemented in one particular warehouse and paired with cloud based inventory management software, the results spoke for themselves. Benefits included warehouse storage capacity went up 80%, and there was 100% accuracy in all cycle counts with no errors.
Also, energy costs were reduced because there was less need for lighting and heating in the work environment.
Looking Forward To Predictive Analytics
You might be wondering where this is all going. You could very well be curious if there’s some kind of crowning achievement or end game where this cloud based software is concerned. The answer could very well lie in predictive analytics.
This is the emerging science that looks at structured and unstructured data for emerging patterns that can redefine and streamline inventory software and the supply chain. Predictive analytics software is teetering on becoming a mega industry of its own and something that every industry can’t do without. It’s predicted to get bigger and more important in leaps and bounds and was worth $2.2B in 2013 with projections going up to $3.4B in 2018.
New Technology Waves
One thing remains certain, and that is inventory management and supply chain logistics are riding the crest of the new technology waves that will make them more productive and cost efficient. Today’s technology is a juggernaut that rolls forward and demands your attention and compliance.
Getting on board with cloud-based inventory software and other high-tech supply chain advances (like scheduling software and appointment scheduling software) means that your company will stay competitive on a local and global stage. Getting left behind is no longer an option. New technologies are constants that demand ever evolving skills and every industry and individual company should take the time to develop an innovation strategy that works for them.
These are interesting times to be considering using new tools and you can start the whole process off by envisioning what your supply chain will look like five years down the road. The experts who know like Deloitte suggest you start with a single business unit or production line to dip your toe into the waters if they are uncharted thus far.
Collaboration is important like never before especially when you consider blurring boundaries and geographic lines make it more necessary than ever. The last point is certainly not the least important. Having a highly skilled labor force that understands how to move their skills from the shop floor to the computer room is an essential way of making the investment in capabilities that will help you move into next generation business.