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Supply chain: synchronising numerous participants in logistics

Real-time information improves planning and collaboration

A supply chain consists of a series of links, stretching from production to recipient, whose actions will ideally dovetail neatly with one another. However, this can only happen if the links exchange the right information at the right time.

The supply chain spans several important stages: shipping planning, shipping orders, transport status and delivery status. For them to dovetail tightly with one another, all supply chain participants should be digitally interlinked and use apps that update the process status as progress is made. This unleashes a host of benefits:

  • All participants have instant access to real-time information.
  • Since they have current progress information, supply chain players can schedule downstream processes early on.
  • When interfaces involve several participants, they can coordinate their activities digitally.

Current process information allows participants to improve the accuracy of their scheduling and optimise their workflows.


Viewing the supply chain as a unified whole

The key to efficient processes is viewing the supply chain as a unified whole – from shipper to recipient. As soon as a shipping order is placed, the third-party logistics (3PL) service provider needs key information to ensure the shipment pick-up is efficient and effective: Does it use standard dimensions and weights? Or can it only be loaded with special equipment, such as a truck-mounted forklift for side loading? The 3PL provider also needs to know when and where to pick up the shipment. The freight forwarder can easily share this information with its carrier’s driver in an app. If special inspections or safety measures are required, the mobile workflow management software walks drivers through these tasks and documents the results. This keeps process quality high no matter who is doing the work.


Coordinating route sections and cargo handling

Some cargo types and transport destinations require complex workflows to be coordinated along the route. International air and sea freight goes through customs and transloading procedures and may have to be checked for transport safety. Scheduled milestones such as air or sea vessel departure times or upstream loading deadlines have to be met in certain stages. Luckily, apps support schedule compliance by calculating driving times and estimated times of arrival (ETA). They enable employees at the various sites to plan their tasks in advance and pace them accordingly. To do this, all participants have to receive real-time progress information, such as updates from the vehicle based on its GPS position.


Responding to supply chain disruptions

Supply chain managers derive special benefits from closely monitoring transports. They can quickly determine when scheduled delivery deadlines are no longer realistic and then source the goods from elsewhere. Even if long lead times prevent alternate sourcing, early notifications still benefit all process stakeholders: Production planners can pull ahead other products; retailers can highlight merchandise they already have, and transport planners can send reserved vehicles out on other trips. If they are all interconnected through logistics software with an arrival monitor, they can spot these disruptions early on and respond swiftly. Also, proactive notifications of important schedule departures helps them prioritise effectively.


Full, complete billing

Everyone benefits when the entire supply chain is linked digitally: They know where things currently stand, spot disruptions sooner and can better manage the employees performing various tasks. This makes logistics processes better and more plannable, facilitates communication among the participants, and boosts satisfaction overall. In addition, faster billing means orders can be closed out earlier. In short, everybody wins from having a digitally linked process along the entire supply chain.

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