IT Swaps to Improve Supply Chain Performance
Manufacturers in the food and drink sector are battling increased demand from retail suppliers for capacity and quick delivery. To make matters even more testing, players at every stage of the supply chain – consumers included – are expecting far greater levels of visibility and traceability, all at a time when bare-minimum operating conditions are a challenge.
To achieve necessary productivity gains, deliver on commitments and build that essential resilience and agility, technology must be working smarter in the food and drink manufacturing supply chain. If restructuring IT from the ground up is neither feasible or required, consider these IT swaps that can significantly improve supply chain performance within a controlled budget and with minimal disruption.
Swap computer stations for handheld hardware
By limiting technology access to the standard fixed computer/ERP station, you miss out on the abundance of apps, connectors (if using Microsoft 365) and smartphone options designed specifically to enhance supply chain performance. Putting portability front and centre and with handsfree and multitasking features such as speech recognition and barcode scanners built in, there’s a potential to transform functionality.
Formerly the domain of warehouse pickers, handheld devices should be for everyone to feel benefits across the supply chain. For maximum integration and cloud capability, heavy-duty smartphones or tablets are favoured over an assortment of cumbersome devices, due to versatility, easy of use and cloud or browser-based access to ERP (ideally a responsive mobile version, which good providers should be offering).
Equipping staff at your stage of the supply chain with handheld devices doesn’t just accelerate processes and add pace to the operation you’re accountable for. It ensures that a certain standard of data quality and availability is met across all functions. Share this data with partners, and you establish a chain of insight-driven, anticipatory actions throughout the supply chain which inevitability improves decision making, efficiency and productivity.
Swap laboursome admin tasks for automation
Long spoken about but with implementation far from what it should be at this stage in the digital transformation game, automation is more than saving time and improving precision. Automation – when powered with complete, real-time data and coupled with systems integration spanning the breadth of supply chains – cultivates a “nerve centre” approach of which there are three key benefits.
First, transparency. If tasks are automated, eventually, a continuous cycle of triggers should deliver real-time, accurate data with no room for human error. Every link in a supply chain can be simultaneously monitored and when decision-making and communication is required, notification systems can prompt actors across the supply chain and via several mediums.
Second is accountability. Automation guarantees tight control of costs, traceability and operations, which is attractive to partners and provides a layer of protection against disputes or errors elsewhere in the supply chain.
And finally, agility. Automation supercharges our ability to react quickly and intelligently, by triggering efficient processes in real-time with change in the supply chain. For example, automated systems may inform of a machine failure or drive holdup, allowing partners the opportunity to mitigate downtime. Or a distribution team running ahead of schedule may trigger a job being brought forward.
Swap on-premise for cloud hosting
Due to operating models and compliance, many manufacturers are required to store data or host business-critical applications on-premise. However, Sentis recommends investigating the cloud as a priority, especially for ERP. Bespoke IT architecture and integration often means that essential on-premise IT can remain in place alongside cloud technology, which brings significant data sharing, productivity and security benefits.
To make the most of agile, efficient hardware and automation, the cloud is a prerequisite. When paired with other technology, cloud-hosted ERP in particular allows supply chain managers to coordinate processes at every link, regardless of location or time zone thanks to rich and real-time data insights. The objective of cloud in the supply chain is to facilitate a unified source of tracking and real-time data at the touch of a button. Managers can take action, identify inefficiencies or quick-wins ad ultimately improve performance, and partners can adjust production schedules or inventory levels, for example, very quickly.
In a time of inflated and relentless cyberthreat risk, cloud hosted ERP is also a more secure option due to centralised controls, multi-layered security, continual updates with minimal downtime and a high level of access control.
Swap scheduled maintenance for IoT intelligence
Not so much a swap, but definitely a supplement. As your IT, and its integration with hardware and manufacturing equipment, grows in sophistication, your approach to infrastructure maintenance should evolve too. Manual checks will always be necessary but technology such as IoT can transform maintenance management and effectiveness by way of digital record keeping.
Digital record keeping – which depends on a modern ERP being connected to IoT sensors carefully installed on equipment – can analyse parameters and metrics in real-time to indicate brewing problems while they’re still small niggles. This provides management and engineers with the requisite insights to streamline upkeep processes, intelligently prioritise and avoid unnecessary or expensive downtime further down the line – thus keeping the supply chain moving at optimal speed and efficiency. For more about how manufacturing is deploying IoT, click here.
Is your supply chain benefiting from the latest developments in IT? If you feel that technology could work harder and smarter in your manufacturing business, speak to a Sentis expert on 0345 862 2930 or click here.