More companies are actively engaging with consumers in search of the ultimate omnichannel sales experience as the strength of online sales increase, reports Supply Chain Quarterly. Unlike traditional supply chains, omnichannel supply chains rely on the successful integration and application of data, process standardization and high-tech tools to ensure a seamless flow of information and products. As a result, companies that want to go omnichannel need to begin working to deploy these standards and supply chain technologies.

Automated Data Capture and Item Tracking.

The first toward implementing an omnichannel supply chain strategy is automation. Due to sheer volume and scale of operations, systems must use automation to capture data and details about every product movement and action. Technologies used in this step include handheld device scanners, automated radio frequency identification tags, Bluetooth technologies and automated identification and data capture (AIDC), comparable to RFID tags. The options are limitless, but the key lies in automating the collection of information into a central location, like the cloud.

Analytics to Uncover Issues in the Supply Chain.

Second, organizations working toward omnichannel sales should leverage the power of data through advanced analytics systems. These software platforms can compare data points, aggregate details that appear unrelated and define key ways to improve operations, asserts Michael Unger and Silvia Bernardini of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

Strong Integration Among Systems in All Channels.

Both previous steps are useless unless all systems used in the supply chain communicate and are integrated together. This ensures one part of the supply chain does not dominate and undermine the success of other channels. In other words, strong integration between warehouse management, transportation, and billing systems is essential to encouraging a cyclic flow of products to give consumers what they want.

Modeling Systems to Simulate Possible Product Pathways.

Next, modeling is essential to the development of an omnichannel sales supply chain. Modeling gives companies the opportunity to run scenarios based on changes in consumer buying trends and habits. As a result, companies can move products in areas where greater demand is expected. In a way, this is similar to just-in-time delivery and real-time inventory management and control.

Strong CRM Tools That Integrate Data Across Enterprise-Wide Supply Chain Technologies

The final piece of the puzzle involves providing an extra layer of service to consumers. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools must have the capacity to access and utilize data from across the supply chain. Furthermore, such data must be readily available to appropriate users. For example, consumers should be able to see how long an item may take to ship against purchasing it in the store. In turn, customer service reps must also have access to such information.

The Big Picture.

Creating a strong omnichannel supply chain is made possible through modern supply chain technologies. By deploying these technologies, enhancing collaboration and ensuring optimal visibility across the supply chain, companies can achieve omnichannel status.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog from our friend Greg Braun from C3 Solutions. In this blog, Greg discusses the real cost of inaction when you dont adopt new supply chain technology.

New Supply Chain Technology: The Real Cost of Inaction

Knowing when it’s time to invest in new supply chain technology for your business is sometimes easy—a system fails, or you have a new line of business that requires a change.

But other opportunities for a tech upgrade may be lost if you are not specifically looking for ways to improve operations. When business is ticking along, issues getting managed and deliverables being met on time, why look any further?

There are actually several reasons why you should always be on the lookout for ways to improve operations through better technology.

First, it will keep you ahead of the competition.

Second, it will enable more efficient operations, which translates to better bottom-line results and the ability to take on more business without the growing pains that a less up-to-date company will suffer.

Third, advances in information technology over the past few years have come so far and so fast that not keeping up with the opportunities they afford can put your business in jeopardy. There can be a significant opportunity cost in failing to make smart tech investments.  

Barriers

But unfortunately, not everybody understands the importance of what is essentially a constant process of renewal. There are a number of barriers—some real, some imagined—to tech acquisition.

First is the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. The logic is simple—if a process or solution is doing an adequate job, then there’s no reason to spend the money to upgrade it.

While the desire to leave well-enough alone is understandable, this approach can lead to poor decision making and can result in the waste of resources. For example, if your systems are working, but you are having to add extra personnel hours to make them work, or they require elaborate work-arounds that have evolved over the years, are you really being efficient?

Chances are there is a better solution available.

The second principal argument managers make against getting the upgrade path is the notion that new supply chain technology requires a huge upfront investment and serious, long-term commitment. This is no longer the case. Businesses have choices now, and with cloud-based applications available for a monthly service fee, the initial investment is minimal, and the risk of committing to software that’s not quite right is also diminished.

The cost of the status quo

Ignoring the potential of new supply chain technology to improve your business operations is like keeping your head in the sand. It’s nice and quiet, even though there could be an apocalypse going on around you.

While your head is buried down there, bad things could happen to your bottom—and bottom line—while it’s left sticking up in the air. In other words, you could be exposing yourself to numerous risks.

If you are making operational decisions based on data that’s not in sync with current realities, you’ll be unable to predict demand and trends that will affect your ability to respond to market changes. (1)

As well, you are potentially missing out on whole new worlds of efficiencies that new supply chain technologies are delivering.

And, to make matters worse, you are sitting on a potentially very costly IT upgrade if your old system fails before it can be replaced with proper planning. [1]

Be brave…and reap the rewards

While it’s easy to continue doing things the way you always have, just because it’s comfy, you are running a big risk of being left behind by more proactive competitors. You also leave yourself open to the potential nasty surprise of learning how much money you were actually wasting while you thought you were saving by avoiding outlays on IT.

Take a hard look at your processes. Better yet, get an outsider (an analyst) to take a look—someone who doesn’t know the workarounds. Research what your competitors are doing.

In the current market, where speed, accuracy and constant evolution are the benchmarks for business success, you may be managing, but can you advance? If your systems don’t position you for agility and efficiency you need to take another look.

Just because it’s working, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. Don’t be afraid of new tech—learn about what it can do for you. And do the cost-benefit analysis. You may be very pleasantly surprised by what you find in a modernization scenario.

As the Business Development bank of Canada noted in a recent blog: “Technology is changing our world and ratcheting up the competition on your business. You can make up for lost ground and win the race, but you’ll need to invest to compete and seize new opportunities.” [2]

New Supply Chain Technology whitepaper

  1. “When should you invest in new technology”, http://bpanalytics.com/when-should-you-invest-in-new-technology/
  2. Pierre Cleroux, Technology: An opportunity not to be missed. BDC blog, https://www.bdc.ca/en/blog/pages/technology_opportunity_not_be_missed.aspx
  3. Larry Alton “How to Know When to Invest in New Small Business Technology” March 06, 2015; http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/News/ITManagement/how-to-know-when-to-invest-in-new-small-business-technology.html

We continue our series on the top 5 blogs in our 4 main categories (Freight, Manufacturing, Logistics, and Supply Chain). Our last post covered the Top 5 Manufacturing blogs of 2016. Today’s post will cover the top 5 supply chain blogs from 2016 so far. I encourage you to scroll through the main four categories blogs or the Cerasis blog in general so you can catch some great content. We try and post one blog post per day in these categories, but we also have sub categories as well. You can view all of our categories by using the drop down menu on the right side of this blog post about halfway down. There is some really great stuff not only by the Cerasis staff, but also a number of guest bloggers.

If you would like to contribute to our blog, which now boasts over 124,o00 readers, let us know by emailing us at info@cerasis.com or saying so in the comments below.

Top Supply Chain Blogs from the First Half of 2016 So Far

The supply chain blogs category most top viewed blog posts from the first half of 2016 included several elements of the supply chain. From supply chain trends and technology to the core KPIs. It is evident that many folks want more information around to stay ahead of any changes that happen in this area.

Here are the 5 top supply chain blogs from the first half of this year by page views, with the most list first.

1. 2016 Supply Chain Trends: 7 of 12 Trends that Will Drive Supply Chain Management in 2016

As we head into a new year it is a good time to take a look at the coming year and see what it may hold in the way of trends. We kick off today a month-long focus on trends in the following categories: Manufacturing, Manufacturing Technology, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Transportation Management. We have already covered the top 6 trends for 2016 in manufacturing. We will then do a deep dive all month long and until we have covered each trend individually within these categories. By the end of the series, we will have ample content to then turn it into a downloadable e-book that should serve any professional well as they look to continually improve themselves and, if they are a worker or manager within these categorical industries, can help keep an eye out for how you may apply a trend into your everyday workplace to stay competitive and efficient.  Get The Full List Here

2. Current State of Today’s Supply Chain in 2016

The MAPI Foundation recently released predictions for how the supply chain will grow and evolve from 2016 to 2018. While the supply chain fell short of previous expectations for growth in 2015, it continued to have a strong fourth quarter in 2015. However, the supply chain of 2016 is looking different from what economists had expected, and the supply chain is battling many problems. Fortunately, companies are reviewing their supply chain initiatives and using technology to improve productivity and safeguard against uncertainty. Let’s take a closer look at the current state of today’s supply chain. Read the Full Post Here

3. 3 Core Metrics & 10 Soft Metrics for Measuring Supply Chain Performance

The average Supply Chain management professional measures their Supply Chain by reviewing cost reduction. Is cost reduction all that there is in measuring Supply Chain performance? Sure, supply chain cost reduction is important in reducing the cost of goods sold (COGS) and increasing profit, but there are other measurements which should not be forgotten. Read More About the Metrics for Supply Chain Here

4. [INFOGRAPHIC] 5 More Supply Chain Trends To Watch Out for in 2016

Yesterday we began our two part series on 2016 supply chain trends that will drive supply chain management into the future. We listed the first 7. As with most trends we all have read over the last few years, the focus was on technology. We also took the liberty of making sure we put a focus on efficient sound process in place before new technology is applied. In that continued theme, today we will again talk about technology but will also include some trends that require a fundamental mindset as well as a holistic mindset when it comes to effective supply chain management now in 2016, throughout the year, and beyond. If you missed the first post, we encourage you to give it a read by visiting the first seven 2016 supply chain trends post hereRead The Full List Here

5. [e-Book] The Future Of Supply Chain, Logistics & Manufacturing: How Technology Is Transforming Industries

The logistics, manufacturing, supply chain, and transportation industries are going through a time of rapid and unprecedented transformation. The future of these industries is paved with innovation and technology. It was not long ago that ideas like 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), drone delivery, and augmented reality were things of science fiction. Today, merchants and service providers within these industries are cautiously adopting these technologies to provide faster, cheaper, more reliable and sustainable business practices. In this e-Book, we will explore emerging technologies and applications which will forever change the industries of manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, and transportation forever. Get the Free eBook Here

What are your top Supply Chain blogs to read? Let us know in the comments section below!

The supply chain is an industry transformed by socio-economic growth and the day-to-day behavior of consumers. In a time where rapid advancements in technology occur daily, the logistics behind supply chain management are also changing.

Transparency is now more important than ever to the consumer. A trend in favor of online shopping has created a culture of instant information and demand. New platforms from which to acquire goods are introduced by the minute, establishing a level of connectivity not ever seen before.

At the heart of these changes stands the consumer, who through modern technology and social media channels continues to shape the future of the supply chain industry.

Multiple Platforms

A seemingly endless amount of purchasing platforms are available to consumers at any one time. This means you could purchase your groceries in-store, over the phone, online from your laptop or via an application on your iPad. Shopping across multiple platforms presents a number of challenges for supply chain professionals.

The most notable of these is the efficient monitoring of stock as it travels from the warehouse to the store, onward to the customer and back again. It is now commonplace to find an iPad within a retail store that facilitates online orders and store transfers as part of the ‘in-store’ experience. This solution reflects a change in agility and speed for the supply chain industry, whereby professionals must be able to accurately track larger quantities of goods as they travel further and faster than ever.

omni channel supply chain

Online Shopping

The pressure on the supply chain to continue to achieve high standards undoubtedly stems from an increased favor for online shopping. Retailers such as ASOS, who operate online exclusively, have helped establish a new type of consumer changing the industry.

This modern shopper expects an experience that is fast and faultless from their virtual basket to their doorstep. It is up to supply chain professionals to deliver and monitor this in order to maintain efficiency and consumer trust. Perhaps one of the most impacts of online shopping is on shipping, where it is now expected that goods can be delivered quickly, safely and at the lowest possible cost, if not for free.

This expectation of instant demand and satisfaction is born of a consumer who has a broad knowledge of the market and products available. One error in stocktake or an order delivery could cost businesses multiple customers for life, a reality for all companies out there.

Social Media

Consumer use of social media channels has major implications for the supply chain, drastically increasing the transparency and connectivity of the industry worldwide. Millions of people are connecting online and the different media platforms can make or break your business, leaving no room for error.

Social media presents a unique opportunity for supply chain professionals to access real-time feedback. A single click on the Twitter page of a retailer could reveal a lost customer order, complaint about the arrival time or a positive review of the updated purchasing application.

This has enhanced the transparency of the industry completely, as consumers utilise social channels to connect with brands, who in turn produce content to reflect this. It is commonplace for businesses to share ‘behind the scenes’ pictures and anecdotes across these platforms. This more transparent system enables companies to accurately predict and gain insight into consumer trends. And as social media continues to grow and change our day to day industry, so too does the opportunity for supply chain innovation.

Author Bio

Helen Sabell works for the College for Adult Learning, she is passionate about adult and lifelong learning. She has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. Helen also works with a select group of organisations consulting in People Management & Development, Education and Change.

Happy New Year! Since today is the last day of the year before we all get ramped up towards a productive 2016 and after finishing out top 10 most read articles in each of our five main categories (Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Logistics, Transportation, & Freight) we wanted to give you all a treat and list the top 50 most read articles of all time from the Cerasis blog.

When I hit publish on today’s blog, we will have published 659 blog posts on the Cerasis blog, with our very first blog post coming nearly 3 years ago to the day

If you are a regular reader (or heck even if you are not) what you will see from our blog is a focus on education. This is in part due to the fact that as a third party logistics company, focused on efficient and strategic transportation management solutions through technology and services, it is vital for us to educate our shipper customers and our team in order to continually improve and always provide value. 

We have also featured on our blog over 90 guest bloggers featuring voices from experts in all of the five main categories who have talked about such subjects as the Skills Gap, Reshoring, Technology, Innovation, STEM, the Maker Movement, Lean Manufacturing and Supply Chain, the Internet of Things, and much much more. I encourage you to use the search bar to the right or the blog category picker to explore many topics in depth. If you yourself would love to contribute your thoughts to our blog, feel free to contact us with an idea. 

We have also now published an e-book, put out several white papers, and held several webinars. By clicking on the respective links, you can access this information as well. 

50 Most Read Articles of All Time From the Cerasis Blog

We will feature the 50 most read articles of all time from the Cerasis blog by covering the 50th most read counting down to the most read blog of all time. We will simply list the blog title with a hyperlink for easy access. These 50 articles truly cover the gamut of our categories, but what is clear is that people love Infographics and they love trends. 

Without any more words or ado, here are the 50 most read articles from the Cerasis blog of all time!

50. 8 Most Common Reasons Why You May Receive a Freight Claim Declination Letter

49. Lean Initiatives: Understanding at a High Level & The Benefits of 5S

48. 9 Steps to Establish the Lean Supply Chain: A System of Interconnected & Interdependent Partners

47. [INFOGRAPHIC] Top 10 Logistics and Supply Chain Facts of 2014

46. 5 Advantages of Hiring a 3PL Provider for Outsourced Logistics

45. [INFOGRAPHIC] Expert Reveals 7 Supply Chain Trends to Watch

44. Why use a Third Party Logistics Provider and How to Implement a Successful 3PL Project

43. Marketing in Logistics: 4 Elements of the Market Research Phase in a Sound Digital Marketing Strategy

42. 6 Benefits of Logistics Automation in a Transportation Management System

41. What is Kanban and How Can it Aid in Lean Manufacturing?

40. Safety in Manufacturing: Learn the Top 5 Safety Manager Responsibilities & Never Take Safety for Granted!

39. Make Your Life Easier With These 5 Freight Bidding Platforms

38. Voice of The Customer: 4 Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

37. The Definitive Guide to Transportation Terminology to Stay on the Same Logistics Page

36. The Rise of Distributed Manufacturing and 7 Advantages over Traditional Manufacturing

35. 6 Effective Problem Solving Steps for Logistics, Supply Chain, Business, or Life in General

34. 3PL Pricing Structure: Part 2 In Third Party Logistics Implementation

33. Manufacturing Trends 2014: Top 10 Predictions from IDC Manufacturing Insights

32. 10 Ideas for More Efficient & Productive Warehouse Operations

31. Top 4 Manufacturing Issues in America – Part 1 of 2

30. Manufacturing Metrics that Matter Most: A Comprehensive Checklist

29. 5 Sweeping Technologies Rapidly Changing Paradigms & Execution of Manufacturing Processes

28. 5 Awesome Infographics About the Trucking Industry

27. The Impact of 3D Printing in the Supply Chain and Logistics Arenas

26. [INFOGRAPHIC] The Evolution and History of Supply Chain Management

25. The Future of Logistics: Are 3PL Companies Ready to Adopt these 4 Emerging Technologies?

24. What is Reverse Logistics and How Is It Different than Traditional Logistics?

23. New Hours of Service Rules Explained With Compliance Date Coming July 1, 2013

22. Non-Asset Based Logistics vs. Asset Based Logistics: What’s the Difference?

21. Transportation Metrics That Matter Most to Track and Improve Performance

20. Freight Bill vs. Bill Of Lading: Knowing the Difference Is Key to Effective Logistics

19. [INFOGRAPHIC] 3 Core Supply Chain Management Trends Gearing Up to Change SCM Forever

18. What are The Elements of a SWOT Analysis?

17. Accounting For Freight Costs: Freight Expense Account vs. Cost of Freight-Sales Account

16. 5 Benefits of TMS (Transportation Management System)

15. The Importance of A Value Proposition Statement for your Business and How to Write One

14. Third Party Logistics Services Explained, The Different Types of 3PLs, and The Various Levels of Outsourcing

13. Logistics Service Level Agreement and Logistics Key Performance Indicators: A White Paper

12. Third Party Logistics Companies: A Checklist When Evaluating Which 3PLs are Best for YOUR Needs

11. 8 Freight Claims Tips to Ensure You Get the Full Amount Paid

10. History & Academic Definition of Supply Chain and Logistics Management

9. E-Commerce Logistics: The Evolution of Logistics and Supply Chains from Direct to Store Models to E-Commerce

8. Bill of Lading: Importance Of, Error Consequences, and Effective Solutions

7. 10 Factors Which Determine LTL Freight Rates

6. What is Transportation and Logistics Management and Are They the Same Thing?

5. What are Incoterms and Common Definitions of Incoterms

4. What is 5S? An Explanation of the Elements of 5S for a Lean Culture

3. What is LTL Shipping (Less-Than-Truckload) and How Did it Come About?

2. 3PL vs 4PL: What are these PLs, Anyway? Layers of Logistics Explained

1. Freight Class: What is and How To Determine LTL Freight Class

We hope you enjoy and continue to enjoy our blog posts and articles! From everyone at Cerasis to our customers and the manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, transportation, and freight community, Happy New Year!

This first post is the first in our series on 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, and its impact on the supply chain and logistics arenas. As more and more stories come out on the main stream use of 3D printing as a way to create supplies to use in the manufacturing process, there is clearly an impact on the supply chain. Today we will briefly cover what is 3D printing, how some view the future implications of 3D printing in general, some applications we’ve come across in various stories, and then a brief touch on the impact of 3D printing use as it pertains to logistics and supply chain applications.

This series could be a two or three part series, but it could be longer. Stay tuned over the next few days for more on 3D printing and the impact on the supply chain and logistics.

First of all What is 3D Printing and What is the Outlook of the Application in Manufacturing?

As we noted in our top issues in American Manufacturing series, 3D printing is a key trend and applications manufacturers are paying attention to over the next decade. Currently around 28% of the money spent on printing things is for final products, according to Terry Wohlers, who runs a research firm specializing in the field. He predicts that this will rise to just over 50% by 2016 and to more than 80% by 2020.

The process of 3D printing, sometimes called additive manufacturing, is a slow procedure in which a printer reads a digital blueprint and methodically drops building material according to a set of instructions, creating a final product that’s built up tiny layer by tiny layer. The printers are capable of producing extremely detailed and intricate levels of design that can be difficult or impractical to create with other methods.

Some are saying that 3D Printing will be “the next industrial revolution” says Doug Angus-Lee, rapid prototype account manager with Javelin Technologies, an Oakville, Ont.-based supplier of the technology.

“The invention or the implementation of the assembly line changed the way manufacturing works and 3D printing is going to change the way manufacturing works in the future. When the web took off, it gave us the tool for everybody … to become a publisher that was something that only a few of the biggest companies in the world were able to do it before that. Well, with 3D printing, we’re all able to be manufacturers.”

The list of materials that can be ingested and outputted by 3D printers is growing, some might say into sci-fi territory. The capabilities of 3-D printing hardware are evolving rapidly, too. They can build larger components and achieve greater precision and finer resolution at higher speeds and lower costs. Together, these advances have brought the technology to a tipping point—it appears ready to emerge from its niche status and become a viable alternative to conventional manufacturing processes in an increasing number of applications.

Should this happen, the technology would transform manufacturing flexibility—for example, by allowing companies to slash development time, eliminate tooling costs, and simplify production runs—while making it possible to create complex shapes and structures that weren’t feasible before. Moreover, additive manufacturing would help companies improve the productivity of materials by eliminating the waste that accrues in traditional (subtractive) manufacturing and would thus spur the formation of a beneficial circular economy (for more, see “Remaking the industrial economy”). The economic implications of 3-D printing are significant: McKinsey Global Institute research suggests that it could have an impact of up to $550 billion a year by 2025.

The promise of a 3-D printing-based supply chain is simple: “Additive manufacturing will democratize the manufacturing process.” So says Ed Morris, director of NAMII, the federally-funded initiative set to define and promote the future of the industry.

3D Printing…..It WILL Affect the Supply Chain

3d printing supply chain“In terms of impact on inventory and logistics,” he says, “you can print on demand. Meaning you don’t have to have the finished product stacked on shelves or stacked in warehouses anymore. “Whenever you need a product,” he explains, “You just make it. And that collapses the supply chain down to its simplest parts, adding new efficiencies to the system.”

Those efficiencies run the entire supply chain, from the cost of distribution to assembly and carry, all the way to the component itself, all the while reducing scrap, maximizing customization and improving assembly cycle times.

Basically, Morris says, it tears the global supply chain apart and re-assembles it as a new, local system.

The traditional supply chain model is, of course, founded on traditional constraints of the industry, the efficiencies of mass production, the need for low-cost, high-volume assembly workers, real estate to house each stage of the process and so on.

But additive manufacturing bypasses those constraints.

3-D printing finds its value in the printing of low volume, customer-specific items, items that are capable of much greater complexity than is possible through traditional means. This includes hollow structures like GE’s fuel nozzles that would normally be manufactured in pieces for later assembly.

This at once eliminates the need for both high volume production facilities and low level assembly workers, thereby cutting out at least half of the supply chain in a single blow.

From there, the efficiencies of that traditional model stop making sense, it is no longer financially efficient to send products zipping across the globe to get to the customer when manufacturing can take place almost anywhere at the same cost.

The raw materials today are digital files and the machines that make them are wired and connected, faster and more efficient than ever. And that demands a new model—a need to go local, globally.

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