It wasn’t long ago that Apple was lauded for its finesse in managing its supply chain. Getting its bazillions of iPhones from China to the US and everywhere else required some groundbreaking advances and a lot of tight controls. Those lessons have gone mainstream as the world took notice and of the company’s strategies and success. And partly because of that expansion, the supply chain now extends to areas as unexpected as social media.
Supply chain processes throw off a lot of data. If you’re a successful supplier who fulfills a significant number of orders then you understand that the detail of the transactions generated by orders, shipments, receipts, and all the miscellaneous transactions associated with every order is just too much to be able to read through, much less make sense of. But every part of your operation from your suppliers to your customers demand some kind of accountability, and it’s your responsibility to know of any problems or even potential problems long before everyone else. But with all the data flowing through your systems, is it even possible to separate the standard data from the trouble signals?
The US Postal Service is handling more commercial shipments than ever. Traditional carriers like UPS and FedEx are seemingly on every street every day. Getting packaged delivered to the increasing number of customers who make purchases without actually showing up at a store is a world wide phenomenon and one in which cost is an important factor.
Direct Store Delivery (DSD) is not new but the speed of commerce is having an impact on just how DSD is working… or not working. The old normal pace of delivery just doesn’t cut it any more when store shelves are stocked to the ‘just right’ levels and the costs of delivery continue to increase. For DSD to continue to be the best way to get product to retailers, the technology needs to replace clipboards.
There was a time when companies moved data between applications by using text files, spreadsheets, or (really?) manual input. Those days still exist for companies only processing a few orders every month. The breaking point comes at somewhere around 250 orders per month, and for suppliers unprepared, what they thought would be a great change can be painful and even lead to larger problems.
You already know that IoT is a term used to loosely identify items that have been imbued with enough intelligence and communication abilities to send messages across the internet. First of all, this means that these items are not human in the ways we normally think of humans using computers to send information via the Internet. But that doesn't mean that some of these 'things' can't be humans, or at least humans carrying with devices that do the communicating for them. The connections and the information are triggered by conditions as they change.
Today’s supply chain is no stranger to big data, at least not when it comes to generating it. Think about the millions of transactions passed between trading partners every day that are triggered by the billions of register transactions caused by retail sales. These deluges of data have been both the lifeblood of the supply chain and part of its biggest challenges.
3D printers are available to everyone with even a small budget. That means that even though what they produce may not be up to the quality level you would manufacture or sell yourself, the ability to directly control, modify, and create items is moving to consumers. And they are taking advantage of these small printers matched with predefined designs and low cost design services.
We're constantly seeing new uses for big data. So much so that it's not even necessary to describe what the term means. Is the use of huge amounts of amorphous data making us better at our work, or is it adding layers of abstraction over the realities of the world?
We’ve talked about supply chain control towers over the years but it’s time to migrate from something that’s simply observing and controlling to the notion of a full environment that provides a set of underlying facilities. In other words, an operating system.