Finding a faster way to build supply chain visibility
Improvements in integrating systems and data, alongside wider use of control towers, allows companies to make major supply chain management strides in smaller steps finds new research
Supply chain management has been historically bedevilled by an inability to rapidly synthesise information, often thrown at it from multiple sources and in different formats. All too often logistics professionals have been forced to painstakingly piece together the picture from a multitude of internal and external stakeholders and providers, leaving them behind the curve of events.
However, a new white paper from Reuters Events, Supply Chain and Maersk, which is free to download now, has found that there is a profound shift underway that promises to change this dynamic. Powered by a new wave of flexible technologies, organisations can now set up multiple, smaller-scale solutions to monitor key segments of their supply chain, before integrating them into an overarching data platform. With each of these integrations, firms are getting closer and closer to that holy grail of logistics: end-to-end visibility.
Automated analysis opens up possibilities
“Due to the scattered landscape of information sources,” in modern supply chains “I would say it's very difficult to collect data,” says Gunnar Pflanz Global Vertical Excellence Manager, FMCG for A.P.
Often when we talk to clients, you have teams that spend days and weeks just gathering data
Moller Maersk, and one of the report’s expert contributors. He sees the industry as facing “challenges to generate quality and timely data on their own,” leading to companies to ask, “how can we have a simpler view?”
“Often when we talk to clients, you have teams that spend days and weeks just gathering data,” adds Kelly Miely, Partner, Retail and Consumer Products Supply Chain, Buying & Merchandising at Deloitte. “They're not spending that time thinking about how to make better decisions, how to make things more efficient. There's a lot more effort spent in gathering the data and trying to close the gaps.”
This was especially so, as “historically everything had to be in the same format and there were a lot of rules around data that made it very hard to give a harmonised view.”
Some of the more AI-driven tools are able to take different types of data and understand them and pull them together
However, now “You don't need the kind of level of harmonisation of data as an input that you used to need because the technology is there to pull the data together and present it in a consistent way,” points out Miely. “Some of the more AI-driven tools are able to take different types of data and understand them and pull them together.”
This is allowing supply chain functions to be able to bite off and chew functions in a more manageable way, rather than having to try and wrestle a company-wide dataset into a workable format.
For example, Greek nutrition company Delta Foods SA uses “a central data management system we use as a reference point, in this case SAP,” says the company’s Director, Operations Strategy and
Transformation, Alexandros Skandalakis, on to which everything is connected, allowing them to bolt-on solutions to gather and manage data as they need.
Small scale solutions to big problems
The advantage of this approach for Delta Foods gas been to give them “significant agility and visibility across our value chain with very low-cost solutions.”
Skandalakis explains that “we did not go for an off-the-shelf, ready-made solution.” Instead, “it was much better for us to sit and look at what we really need at every stage of our value chain and develop bespoke, yet integrated, solutions with external partners and academia that fully satisfy our needs.”
It was much better for us to sit and look at what we really need at every stage of our value chain and develop bespoke, yet integrated, solutions
He gives the example of the implementation bespoke pick-by-light solutions and the replacement of handheld barcode scanning with custom made Google lenses able to scan 2D barcodes, speeding up picking and improve tracking of goods without the need to change to QR coding.
Goods would then be moved onto trucks equipped with custom-made telematics solutions, monitoring not only geo-location status, but also quality and conditioning related parameters. These include “routings, locations, adherence to plan, traffic conditions, estimated timings, driving parameters, temperatures and all the necessary details concerning the safety of the product during transportation.”
These “allow us to continuously maintain our high standards,” he notes.
These “bespoke solutions have been ideal” for them he notes, generating “payback in the region of days for certain smaller applications … up to several months.”
Pflanz believes that examples like this are strong models for improving supply chain management. He advises companies begin by looking “into the supply chain and try to simplify the way of working within the organisation and come to a model that is more standardised and scalable and allows also for better integration and automation with suppliers and service providers.”
Focused command and control through control towers
Increasingly, this new model approach revolves around creating specialised data and management centres around a particular supply chain function and then connecting this to a centralised system. This concept, of a command centre that aggregates and presents pertinent data through an easy-to-understand interface in near real time is now spreading.
What we've seen is kind of clients pick off the control tower in pieces
“What we've seen is kind of clients pick off the control tower in pieces,” says Miely. “For example, a control tower on shipping and inbound deliveries, or a control tower on warehouse operations.”
“Nestlé has in the last few years built several transportation control towers,” explains Global Head of Operations Strategy and Supply Networks Aksel Eroglu. They have allowed Nestlé “to identify potential demand sensing (i.e., identify external trends and demands in order to forecast the potential future demands), plan different scenarios, and be more cost-effective through, for example, better transport procurement and route planning.”
We are now in the process of making sure these transportation control towers are connected and work harmoniously together to improve our network end-to-end visibility
“This has also allowed the company to identify improvement opportunities in areas such as demand and supply planning, transportation and procurement,” ranging from reacting faster to delays to “reducing cost and empty kilometres driven” he says.
“We are now in the process of making sure these transportation control towers are connected and work harmoniously together to improve our network end-to-end visibility,” concludes Eroglu.
To find more solutions and approaches for better supply chain management, click here to download the full white paper for free.