Technology is revolutionizing global supply chains, and as sourcing and manufacturing becomes more global, logistics service providers are embracing digital transformation. The ever-expanding scope of logistics management brings its own challenges though—if you want to digitize your business, where do you start? Asking the right questions and implementing best practices will help you to develop a strong digitization strategy. Here are some of the areas you’ll need to focus on if you want to transform your logistics execution and take advantage of the latest innovations.
The next two years will see the inflection point in how the digitized supply chain drives competitive advantage and growth. A small number of companies (9%), the progressives — that is, companies with the highest levels of supply chain digitization maturity — are already moving ahead of the pack in terms of supply chain digitization and reaping tangible rewards. Others need to catch up or risk falling further behind.
The progress will depend on adopting a unified technology approach. The companies that will continue to achieve the best results are those that actively invest in a comprehensive digital strategy.
Forbes: How A Digitized Supply Chain Can Give You A Competitive Edge
1. Identify and Understand the Specific Challenges You Have in your Operations
Organizations should approach digitization as a way to resolve issues in the supply chain through reducing waste, maximizing efficiency, increasing quality, boosting speed and minimizing costs. According to SupplyChain247, “Companies that integrate digital technologies into their supply chain can quickly improve service levels while cutting costs up to 30%.”
Every supply chain participant will have different priorities, and it’s vital to get a deep understanding of your specific operational bottlenecks so you can better serve your customers:
- Identify all the key stakeholders who have an interest in enhancing your operations. This will include your internal teams, external contractors, upstream and downstream partners, customers and others.
- Create a common set of quantitative and qualitative questions that you can ask to identify specific operational bottlenecks, gather relevant data and drill down into the details
- Conduct interviews with stakeholders to identify the specific issues
- Analyze the responses to identify common operational issues and possible underlying root causes
- Understand what issues could be resolved through technology and digitization and which are better handled through other means, like contract renegotiation or relationship management
- Identify top issues that technology investment can address. Assign working teams to evaluate possible solutions and quantify benefits to your network
2. Define Where You Want to Be with Digital Transformation
Understanding current issues within your operations is a vital first step, but you’ll need to combine that with bigger-picture thinking and figure out your ideal future state. For example, do you want to move to a more customer-centric supply chain that focuses on the best outcome for your customer’s customers? Could you focus on greater integration between systems to make it fast, easy and secure to transfer operational data? How can you become more efficient in every part of your operations?
- Read case studies and the latest thinking on digital transformation
- Understand if there are principles you can apply to digitizing your logistics execution
- Establish business appetite for moving towards truly revolutionary solutions
- Develop strong business cases for various types of transformation and how that will position you competitively over the next two to five years
Build these findings into your strategy document, this will result in an approach that takes care of specific issues and looks at the medium-term benefits of digital transformation. It’s a necessary foundation for your operational development roadmap.
3. Create a List of the Benefits and Features That You Need as Part of Operational Digitization
Now that you know the issues you need to solve and your organization’s ideal future state, you can start looking at solutions. Go through each area in your strategy document and establish what type of technology, platform or software you require to implement that initiative. Here are some of the features and areas you might want to consider:
- With the rapid development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can you use these technologies to enhance operations or other parts of your business?
- Can using Internet of Things technology enhance the way you track the movement, handling and storage of shipments?
- Are you considering using blockchain technology for smart contracts or other logistics execution operations?
- Would Natural Language Processing make it easier to interact with carrier partners around the world?
- Do you want to use predictive and prescriptive analytics to enhance the way you manage capacity?
- Have you looked into Robotic Process Automation and how it could streamline repetitive operations?
- Is sharing information and data connectivity a central part of your digitization strategy?
- How central is the customer experience to your supply chain vision? How can digitizing your logistics execution help your customers deal with increasing consumer demand?
Once you have a shopping list of ideal features you can start looking at vendors who are building the digital logistics execution solutions you need.
4. Look for Logistics Execution Technology Vendors Who Can Meet Your Needs
You need a forward-looking technology vendor who can partner with you. There are hundreds of platforms, technologies, developers and vendors, so you’ll need to make a careful choice:
- Does the vendor offer an end-to-end logistics execution solution, or does the technology only solve a handful of specific issues?
- Can the vendor demonstrate a proven track record of working with logistics service providers?
- Has the vendor worked across different types of supply chain niches? For example, you might need a vendor with experience servicing logistics service providers who manage multi-modal logistics operations and a global carrier network
- Does the vendor provide extensive consulting, support and training on implementing their solutions and getting your staff, contractors and partners up-to-speed?
- Will their technology integrate with other hardware and software with minimal configuration and development time?
- Can you get the right type of reporting and insight from the platform to help you make iterative changes to continually improve your logistics execution?
These are all just starting points for digitizing the supply chain
Transforming how you manage your logistics execution within your greater operations is a major challenge, but using these best practices can give you a great starting point. When you’re ready to start your digital transformation, talk to us.
The Blume Digital Platform is data-driven and connects trading partners in a collaborative supply chain ecosystem to drive value and growth for our customers worldwide. Our cloud-based platform is open and neutral, and its extensible architecture enables continuous innovation to forge the future of the global supply chain.