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Predictions, Prophets, and Restarting Your Manufacturing Business Amid COVID-19

manufacturing

Predictions, Prophets, and Restarting Your Manufacturing Business Amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has created a drastic effect on global health and the economy. Every nation is struggling to deal with the challenge of keeping its residents protected against coronavirus. Businesses are witnessing huge financial losses owing to a reduced/lack of workforce and other resources. If we talk about the manufacturing industry, it also has been hit hard by the corona crisis, and the fact that it has a huge role to play amidst coronavirus lockdown, this impact is felt the most by everyone.

The global supply chain got disrupted because of coronavirus, and since it originated in China, which is considered as the biggest manufacturing market globally, the ability of the manufacturing industry to meet the needs of the customers came down significantly.

So, let us throw some light on the impact of coronavirus on the manufacturing industry, and figure out some effective ways that can help manufacturers restart their business proficiently.

The Prophets and Prediction

The Prophet: The problem with prophecies is that they are based on data that is just a few weeks old, which is not sufficient for business leaders to make hard, cold business decisions when it comes to coming back in the market.

The Prediction: With social distancing becoming a norm, most of the people look forward to buying online. This clearly means that the scope of eCommerce is on the rise, and manufacturers will be looking to make a shift gradually.

Restarting Your Manufacturing Business

Every business is looking to return to the market, but due to the measures that are being adopted to reduce or prevent coronavirus are affecting the supply chains directly, which, in turn, is leading to disruptions in the manufacturing operations worldwide.

If we talk about the manufacturing industries like automobiles where production is done on a massive scale, the schedules for production are rigid and efficiency-optimized. In a similar way, the working of supply chains is dependent on schedules that are fixed like months ago based on the demand projections. Still, automobile owners are looking forward to remodeling such systems to be able to meet the irregular demand atmosphere.

Every crisis consists of several challenges, but one should look for opportunities within them. So, keeping the new norms of personal protection and social distancing, businesses need to redesign their business models.

To help businesses get started again, we are providing some guidelines that will help them to:

-Evaluate the organization’s COVID-19 safety compliance and requirements.

-Restructure the workplace for personal safety and protection.

-Implement procedures for personal protection.

-Put into practice the action plan for restarting to ensure a secure future of the company.

As per a Deutsche Bank analysis, the growth of GDP on the global level will be lower in 2020 due to the coronavirus effects. This effect will leave its impact on most of the U.S. and Europe, with growth forecasts on the global front also likely to drop by 0.2 percent.

Taking Care of the Workforce

The manufacturing industry is dependent on its workforce, and most of them proceeded towards their hometown owing to the fear of contracting coronavirus. In order to get its workforce back, a manufacturing company must keep track of the health status of every worker, along with gaining knowledge on the happenings in their areas through digital mediums. This will help them in knowing from which parts of the country they can call back their workforce to restart the manufacturing processes.

However, at this point in time, most of the manufacturers have to wait, and even if they are able to start the operations with a minimal workforce, they will be unable to manage their other important processes like accounting. In such cases, opting for Outsourcing manufacturing accounting services becomes imperative.

Securing Supply and Inventory

Instant delivery and globalization have turned out to be huge risk areas. Suppliers, including sub-suppliers, are all going through a similar situation. During such crisis situations, a huge concern comes to the top since procurement teams are unable to have close contact with their manufacturing suppliers. This, in turn, restricts them from monitoring the capacity of the production on a weekly/daily basis or evaluating the latest logistics prices and routes.

Now, with COVID-19, supply and inventory are in a position where there is a high risk of contractual defaults and severe legal action concerning the inability to fulfill orders on time or otherwise.

Why do Manufacturers Need to Rethink their Restart Strategies?

Most of the manufacturers are ready with their restart strategies and looking forward to implementing them ASAP. These new strategies are primarily focused on:

-The use of digitalization to receive data and have a superior visualization of the supply chain with control-centric solutions.

-Automation and robots to enhance the flexibility of the plant, including the capacity to run significant processes remotely or alone.

There is no denying that manufacturers are moving in the right direction, but they need to figure out for how long and at what pace they can carry out their production with a minimal workforce, technology support, and funds. The reason being local and international supply chains are disrupted, and one cannot say till how long this situation remains the same.

If a manufacturer is heavily dependent on the demand of a specific region or country, he may have to slow down his operations due to a lack of demand because of COVID-19. Low demand means a low supply and returns, leaving little funds for the manufacturer to operate. So, manufacturers need to assess their new strategies from every angle so that they are ready to face the forthcoming unexpected challenges.

This is a challenging situation for manufacturers for sure, and they cannot halt their operations for long. The above-mentioned suggestions will surely help manufacturers to not just get started but ensure smooth business operations in the future. Yes, they need to devise strategies, keeping in mind not just the present scenario but the possibility of forthcoming events, to stand strong against any unfavorable circumstances that might arise in the future.

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Gia Glad works as a Business Development Manager at Cogneesol, a well-renowned company offering data management, technology, accounting, and legal services. While handling the projects, she has witnessed a lot of changes over the years. She has been thoroughly researching and sharing her viewpoints about these industry trends and changes on many platforms across the Internet.

businesses

Five Ways Businesses Changed Their Daily Operations for Good

The future is arriving quickly. There’s already been talk about how COVID-19 has accelerated automation, and some jobs will be changed if they come back at all. There’s no doubt the recent pandemic is shaping how we do business, from restaurants and retail spaces to even how we manufacture goods. And with many states reopening in phases, or just outright reopening, what does “getting back to business” look like as we forge ahead?

The supply chain gets a wakeup call

During the pandemic, shortages of masks and hand sanitizer rocked many supermarkets like Walmart and Costco. With such a quick spike, and having such a large gap to fill in the supply chain, distilleries stepped in with safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Clothing companies engineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials. Auto manufacturers teamed up to help produce ventilators. The list goes on.

One of the biggest attributes many companies needed to stay successful and stay in business? Flexibility. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, businesses had to figure things out overnight. That included a new way to make goods that people desperately needed.

The upside? Now you can see hand sanitizer in repurposed liquor bottles at many grocery stores across the U.S.

But all of this was a symptom of a larger issue.

“Early on, much of the economic impact that companies in the U.S. experienced were related to supply-side disruption due to shutdowns in other countries,” said Thomas Hartland-Mackie, President & CEO of City Electric Supply. “This pandemic has highlighted the danger of over-relying on a single manufacturing hub as well as a need to diversify sources to include local or domestic suppliers.”

With global trade, a smooth-functioning supply chain doesn’t exactly impact manufacturing. That is, until it gets rocky.

As a few supplies, like masks and hand sanitizers, reached mass critical demand all around the world, they plunged in availability. Hospitals, frontline workers, and more were left without protective gear required to safely do their jobs.

At the time, when these supplies were almost impossible to locate, domestic-made products were a necessity. They were easier to source and easier to ship when time was more important than ever. This could be the wakeup call manufacturing needs to move a little closer to home instead of relying on centralized factories on the other side of the world to fill gaps in the supply chain.

With this catastrophe still fresh in the minds of many businesses and governments, various shock scenarios will have to be considered more heavily to help rebuild the supply chain for a more resilient future.

Staying connected

The businesses that figured out how to stay connected with their customers, whether they were operating in a limited capacity or having to put business on hold completely, were the ones that added to their digital currency. But for most small businesses, digital currency could only take them so far. That meant developing alternative revenue streams to help them stay afloat, even if they were designated as essential businesses.

Restaurants and bars regularly teamed up with delivery services to help them maintain some cash flow during the lean months, including online ordering and curbside pickup. Personal trainers and fitness studios went digital with their classes to help keep their clients working out and to help keep their brand top of mind.

Other companies went a step further and identified gaps in the supply chain to fulfill in meaningful ways. As we mentioned before, distilleries helped make safe, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and clothing companies reengineered their manufacturing process to make masks out of spare materials.

All of this helped these businesses either keep cash flowing into the business, or at the very least, kept them in the minds of their customers long enough until they could reopen. From creative online solutions that let them continue operating to doubling down on marketing efforts to keep in touch virtually, the ones that stayed flexible and stayed connected weathered the pandemic better than others.

But also, what about the flood of statements from companies preaching togetherness in the first few weeks of the pandemic? Did that help customers feel more connected to their favorite businesses? Hartland-Mackie certainly thinks so.

“We’ve all heard those jokes about how people are receiving too many long emails from businesses explaining what they’re doing in response to COVID-19, but the reality is that customers appreciate it,” said Hartland-Mackie. “Customers want to hear from the companies they are loyal to and be reassured – as long as it is authentic – that businesses have their customers in mind as they make decisions.”

Remote work is not remote

Working in offices could be a thing of the past. Already high-profile companies like Twitter have announced indefinite work-from-home plans for their employees, and more will probably follow their lead. In an age of digital nomads, this could be a huge selling point for attracting talented workers.

When the pandemic first started, many companies had to figure out how to work 100% digitally practically overnight. This involved utilizing web-based communication programs like Skype, Zoom, and Slack to ensure teams were in constant communication with each other when it mattered most. Now, with some offices opening back up, some employees could be receiving more lenient work from home policies, or, at the very least, there may be less face-to-face meetings in the workplace.

Another huge benefit to remote working becoming more commonplace? (Aside from less meetings, of course.) Embracing the all-digital transformation can boost productivity. Now with a lot of the same information freely available for employees to do their job, there should be less presentations sharing known information across the company. Now, only vital information can be created and shared, freeing up more resources to resolve the most critical issues at hand along with more focused daily agendas.

It’s not delivery, it’s curbside pickup

Well, it’s a little bit of both. For essential businesses that couldn’t take advantage of “contactless” delivery, the next best bet was curbside pickup.

“As a federally designated essential business, City Electric Supply branches have stayed open, but we needed to provide ways to keep customers and employees as safe as possible. We began offering curbside pickup and it’s been so successful that we’ve received feedback from customers asking us to continue it as an ongoing service,” Hartland-Mackie said.

What was once seen as an added-value service was the main way for many businesses to maintain cash flow when customers were no longer allowed inside. And with the latest reopening efforts, some customers are still opting for curbside pickup in lieu of shopping themselves.

With how convenient curbside pickup is for keeping in-store capacity low — and for saving the time of customers who no longer have to spend time shopping or even getting out of their vehicles — this could soon be the new normal for many businesses.

Temperature checks

Whether or not customers should receive temperature checks has been up for some debate, but temperature checks of employees are being implemented in almost all states in various industries, including food service and healthcare. Even though workers could be asymptomatic, it still helps cut down on cases progressing to severe stages and worsening infection rates.

This has also had a snowball effect on various other issues related to work policies, from sick leave to hazard pay. Most employers are erring on the side of caution, allowing employees to stay home if they or someone they come into regular contact with have health issues that put them at risk of infection.

With daily operations coming under such a heavy microscope, this means that even employers are examining how existing sick policies have hurt more than helped. If more lenient and flexible policies have not already been put in place, expect it to happen as phased reopening progresses.

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Brad McElory is a Copywriter at City Electric Supply

post-pandemic

Four Post-Pandemic Technology Solutions for the New Normal

Currently, organizations around the world are strategizing ways to return their workforces to being back in-office and other places of work, as the world begins to re-open post-pandemic. Guidelines and protocols issued by federal, state, and local agencies will be key drivers of what the new normal looks like in a corporate setting. From staggered groups of employees allowed in the office each day, to thermal screenings and the end of communal or high-touch areas, businesses will need to have flexible return to work plans in place that allow for social distancing and reduce the risk spreading COVID-19.

The new reality is that workplace environments will be anything but “normal.” Organizations will operate with reduced in-office staff, manage both remote and in-office team members and combat economic slowdown by reducing spending and optimizing resources. The democratization of technology is essential to accommodating this new post-COVID business environment. While overall budgets will decrease, technology spending will increase.

Here are four technology solutions that will help enterprises navigate and operate in a new reality:

1. Automation Solutions

Business process automation has become a strategic enabler of business agility for present-day organizations, from helping to speed up business processes and reduce errors, to eliminating repetitive work. Specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) has quickly become an essential tool that an increasing number of CIOs are utilizing across their organizations. Through RPA, mid- to large-sized enterprises can configure a “robot” to deal with various interrelated processes, to unify and streamline day-to-day work internally. The right RPA tools can not only save reduce staffing costs and human error, but also streamline communication, improve management and retain customers.

2. Chatbots

As social distancing and a global remote workforce are the new normal during these unprecedented times, it’s helpful to boost collaboration and productive engagement across an organization’s remote teams through chatbots. Chatbots help reduce the load on the technical support team and cut operational costs. Furthermore, they offer a progressive avenue for marketing and sales departments to streamline customer and client communications, ultimately improving sales and customer services. In a time of a pandemic, combined with the increasing number of remote workers, the adoption and implementation of chatbots will only continue to grow.

3. Communication and Collaboration Platforms

Communication and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, and others help bridge the gap between physical presence and remote collaboration. With the new social distancing guidelines and protocols, a combination of virtual and in-person work environments will be essential to ensuring business continuity across an enterprise. Whether an employee is in-office or remote, a robust communication and collaboration platform ensures they can take and access their work anywhere. It enables employees to give optimal output, while also minimizing the physical disruptions caused by COVID-19.

4. Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Hybrid cloud infrastructures have changed the way enterprises store, access and exchange data. In the wake of the global pandemic, it will tremendously alter the landscape of corporate environments. Hybrid cloud is a computing environment that uses a combination of private cloud and public cloud services. Organizations can achieve the perfect equilibrium between private and public clouds by leveraging both platforms to run critical workloads. This architecture provides businesses greater flexibility and more data deployment options when working with a reduced workforce.

As a result of the business impacts that COVID-19 has had on the business world, a new wave of technological innovation is sweeping across the industry to help transform various aspects of business. As organizations look to combat an economic depression, they will need to implement technology solutions to “get the job done” with the limited staff they have on hand. Therefore, tools and platforms that allow employees to perform tasks without any high-level coding or professional development skills will be high in demand. Automation solutions, chatbots, communication platforms, and hybrid cloud infrastructures will provide the businesses of tomorrow the ability and flexibility to operate successfully and competitively in a post-pandemic “new normal.”

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Ajay Kaul is a visionary leader and a trendsetter. As managing partner of AgreeYa Solutions, he has been instrumental in leading the company through solid growth and international expansion for the past 20 years. Kaul has three decades of experience in building powerful and innovative solutions for businesses across various industries and verticals. His expertise and knowledge expand across enterprise sales management, marketing and strategy, global delivery, and mergers and acquisitions.

customer service AI

How Is Customer Service AI Improving Work for Employees?

Customer service is an area that always needs attention and often needs improvement. No matter how strong your systems and your personnel, smart organizations are looking for a competitive edge in this field. Therefore, the work your employees perform in the customer service department is a critical focus for any successful business.

With that in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at how Customer Service AI is making some significant improvements in this area. By heeding the advice and explanations we give you here, your employees will be able to provide a more thorough and effective service to your customers. In turn, the number of satisfied customers will increase significantly, and you won’t have to emphasize the search for new customers anymore.

What’s more, the overall loyalty to your brand will increase, as well as the reputation your brand has among consumers and competitors.

Ways AI Is Improving Customer Service Work

First of all, it’s important to understand that AI is not about replacing your employees in any way. When you deploy Customer Service AI solutions to your customer service sector smartly and efficiently, your employees gain the support they need to perform their jobs much better than they ever could before. That’s precisely where the main benefit of AI lies – in human-AI collaboration.

The most obvious example of this is the use of chatbots in customer service. AI-powered chatbots are now capable of performing many tasks when it comes to the relationship between your company and your customers. They can handle specific repetitive tasks and even resolve simpler issues your customers have. By doing that, your employees are left to work on more complex issues, without having to waste time giving the same answers and dealing with the same problems that tend to repeat themselves within most companies.

What’s more, AI-powered chatbots are available 24/7, so you don’t have to worry about overstretching your employees through several shifts or hiring more people to handle more demands. AI chatbots become the frontline of your customer service, providing the answers to the questions your employees don’t have to worry about anymore. Beyond chatbots, AI can also ensure the organization within the customer service department is at its most efficient and that no unnecessary errors occur.

Chatbots will know when complex issues arise and will seamlessly transfer those requests to human employees who will handle the problem more effectively. This becomes a symbiosis when quality solutions are implemented, and the customer never notices the transition.

As you can already assume, all of this improves the overall satisfaction of your customers, as they no longer have to wait hours for a dedicated agent to give them a response.

The Bottom Line

In essence, AI is not just improving the customer service industry and the work employees do there, it’s revolutionizing it. If you want to be part of that revolution, your organization needs to seriously consider implementing a quality AI-driven service desk that will completely alter the work your employees perform and the service your customers receive.

Aisera offers that kind of solution, and you can test it out to see how it works right now by requesting a personalized demo from us.

amazon's

What Logistics and Warehouse Businesses Should Learn From Amazon’s Mistakes During the Pandemic

Amazon has dominated the COVID-19 news because of its ability to get some medical supplies and the reliance of people on ecommerce to protect them as they shop. It’s been a good time for the company’s financials, with significant increases in sales and secure positioning for its other services.

Unfortunately for Amazon, it was also in the news because of product mishaps, fulfillment concerns, worker illnesses, and poor handling of concerns. What the brand did, and didn’t do, can be a useful guide for smaller warehouse and logistics companies to follow.

The best lessons are from Amazon’s mistakes because few 3PLs and service companies are big enough to survive similar mishaps.

Take care of your partners

Amazon faced a tough situation, just like all of us. We all got some things wrong. The hope is that they won’t turn into long-standing issues. For Amazon, it’s unclear if that’s the case, but the thing with the most significant potential for prolonged harm is how it communicated and worked with its partners.

The biggest misstep from a partner standpoint would be when it announced a halt to accepting shipments from some third-party sellers and gave little guidance on what this meant. Sellers flooded Amazon’s forums to ask questions, and rumors spread just as fast as valid answers. People were upset, scared for their businesses, and frustrated that Amazon might not be a viable marketplace in the future.

While Amazon did eventually move back to allowing all third-party shipments for its FBA program, some harm has been done. Companies are looking at moving to do their own fulfillment — which was rewarded by the Amazon AI at some points during the pandemic — to prevent any future move from Amazon bringing an entire small business to a halt.

Amazon may be trying to tackle some of that relationship harm with efforts like waiving some storage fees or supporting more fulfillment operations. Still, it’s unclear how much harm happened.

Diversify and simplify when you can

An estimated one-third of top Amazon sellers are in China. It is believed to source some of its own products from China, and many of its smaller sellers also get products or drop-ship directly from the region. The spread of the pandemic and closure of factories, as well as shipping issues, then hit Amazon and its sellers quite hard.

Different points at the supply chain all ran out of goods or production capabilities, which started limiting what was available and hurt revenue for everyone involved. Diversifying sources and partners, both in goods and location, could have mitigated some of this risk.

Logistics professionals should look at regional needs and concerns right now. Identify where your product lines could struggle and if there are potential replacements for materials. If you’re a 3PL or providing other warehouse services, consider expanding to multiple locations. This can help you get goods to the end-customer faster as well as protecting fulfillment operations during COVID and similar black swan events.

Safeguarding people is just the minimum

At least seven of Amazon’s employees have died from the coronavirus, and the company has been very unclear about how many others have become ill. There is a new lawsuit by employees around the company’s contact tracing and potential exposure of employees — worth noting that the lawsuit doesn’t seek damages, just an injunction forcing Amazon to follow public health standards.

Throughout the pandemic, Amazon has taken heat for how it has treated its workers. This covered safety equipment and protections, sick leave and sending people home, and how it responded to labor demands. And, much of the anger is deserved.

The pandemic is scary and should be taken seriously. It was Amazon’s responsibility to make its employees feel like they were taken care of and protected.

Hopefully, this has served as a wakeup call for logistics and warehouse businesses. Your people matter, far beyond just what they contribute to the health of your business. There’s also a good chance your business will be judged by how you treat your teams. The world now makes much of this information public, too, if you need that extra layer of fear to get going and ensure your teams are safe, protected, and following the right policies.

Protect long-term customers and your business model

Consumers are spending more money on Amazon and shopping more often, largely due to the pandemic, but they’re not as happy about it. People saying they were either “very” or “extremely” satisfied with Amazon’s service fell from 73% to 64% from June 2019 to now.

The biggest frustrations have been delays in shipping and unavailable products. People view that they’re paying for the service, and its interrupted supply chain is still creating waves. Prime shoppers aren’t able to get the fast, two-day shipping on all purchases, despite being the most lucrative customers. Amazon has actually seen a decline in customer satisfaction over the last five years, according to that same report.

Growing discontent is a threat. Logistics and warehouse businesses don’t have the size of Amazon or the weight to throw around. If your customers aren’t getting what they’re paying for, they’ll move on to another service provider. The same is true if you’re late, damaging goods, or getting orders wrong. There are few real alternatives to Amazon, but there are many alternatives to all of us.

That’s perhaps the most important lesson in all of this for the logistics profession. Amazon needs to learn it before a genuine rival rises to compete, but it’s a good focus for warehouses starting today.

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Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

information technology

Investing in Technology to Build Knowledge-Based Companies

Executives understand how knowledge management as facilitating organizational processes and activities uses information technology to organize existing information. Information technology plays a crucial role in creating, retrieving, storing and applying organizational knowledge stated by Maryam Alavi and Dorothy Leidner’s MIS Quarterly review.

Executives focus on individuals as the major source of knowledge and show how followers tie together so that they can affect the sharing, storage, transfer, and apply knowledge within organizations. Executives, therefore, see these connections, and the related shared knowledge and memory, as central to the effectiveness of knowledge management.

How Technology Matters?

Executives are well versed today on information technology and usually have a fleet of followers in this department that they can depend on. Sandy Weil, a financial executive, wanted one number when he left the office that determined his value at risk. His technology team delivered and came up with one number called VAR (Value At Risk). Wiel slept much better knowing what risk he faced while running one of the largest financial organizations in the world. He was controlling operational risk and inspiring employees to follow where he leads.

Technology, as one would imagine, is often associated with information and communication dispersed within companies. Considerable alignment between information technology and the knowledge-based view connects the two to develop and disseminate knowledge throughout the organization which, in turn, is an important factor of sustainable competitive advantage.

Executives agree with Robert Grant, who states that knowledge integration is one of the main reasons for the existence of companies. Furthermore, Andrew Gold, Arvind Malhotra, and Albert Segars suggest information technology as an important resource for strategic planning for knowledge integration. Olivier Caya posits that information technology enables knowledge integration by using three possible mechanisms:

1. Impersonal

2. Personal

3. Collective

Executives can use the impersonal mechanism to enact regulations, procedures, and rules aimed at coordinating intellectual capital within organizations. Information technology disseminates protocols among members and allows them to be knowledgeable of their progress toward meeting determined milestones stated in the strategic plans.

The personal mechanism is used by executives to vertically and horizontally exchange knowledge between employees and collective mechanism is used when information technology manifests itself as a synthesizer of ideas and knowledge acquired from multiple organizational members. Thus, information technology encourages people to embark on technological facilities, such as shared electronic workspaces, to provide new ideas and possible solutions for solving organizational problems. As a result, it is viewed that information technology plays a critical role in integrating knowledge and is therefore aligned with the knowledge-based view.

Executives can use information technology as a communication mechanism manifestation and deployment and decision-aid technology. For example, Hsin-Jung Hsieh argues that communication technology provides ways to enhance interactions among members and departments within organizations. This type of technology eliminates the barriers of organizational communications while improving the extent of knowledge sharing and access for all followers at various levels of the organization.

Thus, there is a strong correlation between communication technology and social capital view that sheds light on the development of relationships within organizations to aggregate human capital into social capital so as to provide further information and opportunities for all members. This subsequently creates valuable resources for an organization as a whole.

Furthermore, decision-aid technology develops cohesive infrastructures to store and retrieve the knowledge to enable followers in creating more innovative solutions to problems and managing operational risks. Ergo, information technology supports knowledge by enabling interactions and providing more comprehensive and effective solutions to solve organizational problems.

Unleashing the Power of Knowledge in Companies

Today, technology has changed the business world ten-fold. Every day there is an easier way to process, access, and disseminate information. Technology – now referred to as Information technology – is an internal resource that increasingly facilitates organizational communication and improves the search for knowledge. When executives have people in place to manage information technology, the organization can see increased revenues, better satisfaction by employees and customers, and most importantly enhance their own effectiveness as leaders.

The social capital view supports the idea that knowledge creation is highly dependent on developing organizational communications and interactions. Information technology enables organizations to overcome space constraints in communication, and promotes the depth and range of knowledge access and sharing within companies.  More specifically, communication technologies can be employed to enhance the conversations and knowledge exchanges between organizational members. Scholars such as Andrew Gold, Arvind Malhotra and Albert Segars argue that this knowledge shared through information technology could positively contribute to knowledge integration.

I also introduced executives to what the scholar Robert Grant describes using the knowledge-based view. Highlighting knowledge integration as a major reason for the existence of a company. Knowledge sharing itself can develop more innovative climates and facilitate knowledge creation in organizations. Thus, communication technologies can play a crucial role in improving knowledge creation.

Communication technology is an internal resource that develops and integrates organizational knowledge as the most strategic factor of competitiveness. As executives use expert systems for decision-making, technology becomes a decision-aid. As mentioned earlier, decision-aid technology can be also considered as a facilitator of the knowledge creation process by providing the essential infrastructures to store and retrieve organizational knowledge.

Executives agree with Shahnawaz Muhammed who highlights major functions for information technology and explains that information technology enhances learning and sharing knowledge by providing access to knowledge, and stimulates new ideas and knowledge generation, transfers an individual’s knowledge to other members and departments, and improves knowledge capturing, storing, and accumulating, aiming at achieving organizational goals. Bringing us to the conclusion that information tech has a positive association with knowledge management performance in companies.

In Conclusion

Standing on the shoulders of scholars before us, I indicate that information technology is a major factor for knowledge management success and supports the positive impact of information technology on knowledge management performance.

For executives, this article can portray a more detailed picture of the effects of information technology on knowledge management. Many organizations still implement knowledge management initiatives without sufficient consideration of their technological infrastructures.

When executives ensure the effectiveness of knowledge management projects they increase control and lesson operational risk. I also suggest that a firm’s ability to enhance knowledge management can be highly affected when executives implement information technology. Furthermore, I suggest that scholars take these ideas and continue to conduct research using executives as the focal point so that academic scholarship can meet the needs of managerial implications at the higher echelons of organizations worldwide.

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Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.

How Technology can Improve your Logistics Operations

Like most other industries, the logistics industry faces a gradual transformation towards adapting to the internet age. The advent of new technologies invalidates age-old approaches and processes, creating the need for modernization. And with the logistics industry being as massive as it is, it’s understandable that it can be notably lucrative. Between risk mitigation and automation, there are many ways in which adaptive technology can benefit this $4 trillion industry. With that said, let us explore just how technology can improve your logistics operation.

The significance of efficiency

Before delving into specifics, it is vital to note the undisputed value of efficiency in the logistics industry.

As mentioned before, this 4$ trillion industry is massive, and its interconnectivity with other industries is apparent. Thus, efficient logistics operations can yield considerable productivity gains across the board. Not only can they provide a competitive advantage, but they can also guarantee better overall operation cohesion. Logistics software can greatly enhance one’s control and oversight of supply chains, increasing response times to potential disruptions. After all, customers of all industries value a swift delivery of goods and services, as well as quality customer support. Such software can augment all of those aspects, ensuring that potential challenges are easier to overcome.

Shipment Tracking Systems and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

A technology that has already caught on, albeit to varying degrees, is shipment tracking. As customers would previously be unaware of their order’s status, shipment tracking systems have rectified this somewhat. With 24/7 access to shipment status information, customers can rest assured that their order is indeed underway. Some tracking systems even offer additional information and shipment notifications for additional insights and convenience. This solution can indeed improve your logistics too, no less than customer experience. Constant monitoring can save your time and money, as well as unclog your customer service channels.

Likewise, on the front of cargo management, RFID technology has also seen use in recent years. In essence, RFID tags or sensors allow companies to keep track of their inventory. Both labor-saving and cost-effective, RFID tags are often used in distribution warehouses as a means of monitoring containers. Such industries as the apparel industry are also using RFID technology for tracking purposes, with very notable success. Should you be contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, RFID solutions could be a reasonable step to take.

Automation and robotics

On the subject of warehouse optimization, then, technology has provided another asset; automation. Naturally, automation can yield many benefits to many industries, but logistics is unquestionably one of them. From increased performance to reduced labor costs, automation is undoubtedly a valuable asset.

Automation offers to improve operational efficiency in machines, and has already seen effective use in such trade hubs as Holland’s Port of Rotterdam. Namely, its use of fully-automated terminals allows it to reap the aforementioned benefits in terms of unloading cargo. It’s estimated that this approach increases overall productivity by as much as 30 percent – a very notable net benefit.

Similarly, robots have facilitated the rapid growth of online sales across many industries. While they are quite dissimilar from automation in many regards, they too can automate operations and thus decrease labor costs. Most notably, as far as e-commerce is concerned, Amazon has been innovative in this front. Its use of Kiva robots has reduced the company’s expenses by as much as 20 percent. A notable feat, enough so that other companies also seek to employ robots in their warehouses.

Drones and autonomous vehicles

In much the same way as automation and robotics, technology has provided logistics companies with drones and autonomous vehicles. Similar in function, both can be fine examples of how technology can improve your logistics operation.

Drones have seen surges in functionality in recent times, elevated from a niche solution to one with potentially global applications. This development was understandably followed by an array of eager high-profile adopters, such as UPS. A potential innovation in terms of product delivery indeed, drones can expand delivery options to both urban and rural areas. More fortunately still, their nature allows them to also improve logistics, by removing the factor of human error.

Likewise, autonomous vehicles can offer similar convenience. In part due to relatively lower regulations and easier testing, self-driving vehicles have been an accessible technological advancement for many logistics operations. Of course, it’s notable that this technology is currently mostly limited to warehouse management, such as autonomous forklifts and trucks. However, with rapid advancements, it may not be long before autonomous trucks can traverse the world’s highways. Both in their current and potential future forms, autonomous vehicles can quite possibly be a massive asset to any company.

Conclusion

As technology makes rapid strides, one can realistically expect vast logistics optimization potential. From warehouse management and monitoring to shipment tracking and delivery, the possibilities seem endless. When contemplating how technology can improve your logistics operation, both the present and the future hold much promise. And as supply chains expand and grow, it will be vital to adapt to such technologies to remain competitive.

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James Clarkson is a freelance web designer and author. He often writes analyses of the shipping and moving industries, and of the SEO needs of both. He’s a frequent writer for Verified Movers, as well as other companies.

payments

A Better Payments Readiness Model for the New World

Difficult economic times are ahead. We don’t know how difficult they’ll be, or how long they’ll last, but finance teams around the globe are bracing for them. Cash management and cost-cutting will be essential. Fraud protection—which is always a concern—will be even more important as criminals seek to capitalize on fear and confusion. If that wasn’t enough, companies have to support remote AP teams simultaneously.

By late March, a significant portion of AP staff had already begun working from home. This posed some challenges. There’s a long-held belief that anything related to the handling of company funds needs to happen inside the building. This widely accepted rule is supported by physical reality since many companies aren’t automated enough to support alternatives.

So paper invoices and expensive checks continue to send through the mail, and reference documents fill the cabinets. Even companies with cloud-based ERP systems may find them cumbersome to use when attempting to VPN in from home. AP still fields many supplier calls about payment errors or missing funds. For that, they rely on enterprise telephony systems, which are difficult to replicate in their own homes. Finally, there’s a lot of collaboration and teamwork that happens with accounts receivable, finance, and other functions, and a lot of that centers around moving paper.

Unsurprisingly, in a poll of 131 accounts payable professionals Nvoicepay conducted during a recent webcast on business continuity, 39 percent said the pandemic significantly impacted their operations. Nine percent said there was no impact because they still had to go into the office.

A second poll also found four key challenges accounts payable teams are working through as they implement remote payment operations:

The challenge is overwhelming. Based on our experience in the market, our product team has developed a four-part hierarchy called the “Supplier Payments Readiness Model” to help customers think through all the dimensions of their remote payment organization efforts.

1. Obtaining essential tools

In our poll, 26 percent of respondents reported that equipping their teams to work from home is a top focus, indicating teams are still struggling with this. People will need computers. There’s a spike in demand right now, so ideally, you have some already in your inventory. If not, work on building that stock for future preparedness.

Your team will need internet access and a home office setup, preferably a secure one. They’re going to need telephones and phone routing because those trying to contact your AP team will likely call your central office phone number.

They also need collaboration tools. With employees working remotely, you may run into productivity issues if you try to have everyone work via email.

Don’t forget to address inevitable morale issues proactively. Working remotely can be lonely and stressful if you’re used to be in the office with your colleagues all the time. And, with kids schooling from home, parents are being asked to play the role of educator along with their professional role. It’s a very challenging time. Think about establishing a regular team call, as well as frequent individual check-ins.

2. Establishing a remote workforce

Once you have remote capabilities set up, you’ll need to figure out your new workflow. The typical AP process has a lot of moving parts, some automated and some manual. Sketch out your whole process. Identify what you can currently do remotely, what can quickly become remote, and when you need people to come into the office. Designate those assignments, so you don’t have too many people showing up at once.

Start to look for technologies that can fill the gaps between manual processes, such as AP workflow systems, invoice ingestion systems, and payments automation. You may also want to make a case for a cloud-based ERP if your organization doesn’t have it, as well as e-invoicing to eliminate paper invoices. You want your team focused on cash management, not paper driving.

3. Providing visibility and control

As you redesign your workflows, re-evaluate your internal controls. Most established under the notion that people would be in the office, with locked filing cabinets and limited access to certain information. In a remote environment, you will probably need to put new controls in place.

Companies tend to hire more people in accounts receivable during a downturn, so there may be an uptick in inbound calls from suppliers trying to accelerate payment at the same time you’re attempting to conserve cash. Conversations between you and your suppliers need to happen so you can renegotiate terms and set them up for electronic payments. It’s best if you also work with internal business partners—such as treasury and procurement—to make sure that only prioritized payments are going out.

Maintaining internal controls will be very challenging unless you move to cloud-based technologies that give your team remote, role-based controls, visibility, and approval capabilities.

4. Mitigate payment fraud and risk

The convergence of three very challenging situations—generalized fear and chaos; hastily assembled remote work processes, and a tough economic environment—is creating a perfect storm for fraudsters to exploit. According to the 2019 AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey Report, 80 percent of organizations surveyed said they experienced actual or attempted payment fraud in 2018. Eight percent of the respondents from that same survey said they had payment fraud losses of 0.5 to 1.5 percent of annual revenues.

This is already concerning since sophisticated cyberattacks on ACH and wire payments have been on the uptick. You want to shift vendors to electronic payments, but you also have to put new controls in place. Banks don’t provide the same positive pay or positive payee services on ACH and wire payments, and they don’t assume liability for fraud. The inability to recover those payments increases your risk. Paying your suppliers by virtual card will help you offset costs with rebates, and provide you with a more secure way to pay.

It’s anyone’s guess how long we are going to be in lockdown mode. With money tight, it’s tempting to look at these as stopgap business continuity measures that you don’t want to overinvest in. I would argue that investing in AP automation is long overdue. Even if everyone goes back to the office in a few months, do you want your employees to return to printing checks and shuffling paper? And what about the next crisis?

Forward-thinking companies have been adopting payment automation technologies precisely because they provide AP with cost savings, superior visibility and control, and fraud protection—everything that’s called for at this moment in time. They also allow you to maintain your operational workflow—even in a remote environment—without skipping a beat. It’s not just the right thing to do right now. It’s the right thing to do, period.

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Josh Cyphers is the Vice President of Product & Strategy for Nvoicepay, a FLEETCOR Company. For the past 20 years, Josh has managed successful growth for a variety of companies, from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies.

data

Made Dizzy By COVID-19 Data? Artificial Intelligence Helps Clear Things Up.

As governors begin to make decisions about reopening the economy, Americans are left to wonder whether they should follow their state government’s lead – or make their own decisions about when to return to normal.

One problem for the average person: How to decipher the multitudes of data about COVID-19 and evaluate whether the country or any particular state is – or is not – flattening the curve.

“It’s easy to find tons of data online with charts and graphs, but all those numbers can be overwhelming,” says Sharon Daniels, chief executive officer of Arria (www.arria.com), which specializes in a form of artificial intelligence known as Natural Language Generation (NLG). “You see a line on a graph, but what is it telling you?”

Daniels’ company is among those trying to simplify that complex chore for Americans, using artificial intelligence to transform that raw data into an easy-to-understand narrative. To this end, Arria is involved with two online initiatives – the COVID-19 Live Report and the COVID-19 U.S. Tracking Report – that give Americans access to NLG as they try to grasp all the information coming their way from scientists, government officials, and the media.

Each of these free dashboards allows anyone – from government leaders to journalists to citizens – to review up-to-date COVID-19 data, along with critical insights transformed into writing by Arria’s Natural Language Generation software. The software uses language analytics and computational linguistics to “think” like a writer, pulling the most important information to the top of the narrative, providing critical insights, and giving meaning to the tabulated reports and visualizations.

Just as an example, a resident of Pulaski County, KY, who checked in on April 23 would have learned that in their community the previous day “there were 2 new cases and no deaths reported. During the past 7 days, cases have increased by 7, which means the seven-day rolling average for cases is 1.”

No human wrote those sentences. They were penned automatically by the NLG software.

As Arria and others do their part to help Americans work their way through the sea of information, there is evidence that such assistance is both needed and wanted:

Gallup poll shows lots of confusion about the state of the virus in the U.S., with Americans reaching no consensus on how they think things now stand; 41 percent say the situation is getting better, 39 percent say it is getting worse, and 20 percent say it is staying the same.

A 2017 study of the U.S. public’s understanding of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa found that most people are good at assessing risk when information is communicated accurately and effectively. That study also found that Americans want accurate and honest information, even if that information might worry people.

Knowing the facts is one way people can reduce their stress level during the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “When you share accurate information about COVID-19,” the CDC reports, “you can help make people feel less stressed.”

“The sheer flood of data and information we are seeing daily about the pandemic is nearly impossible to process without the help of technology,” Daniels says. “People want information that will help them understand what’s happening, particularly in the areas where they live. But if that information is too confusing and complicated, they are going to remain confused and scared – wondering what to do, how to help, or how to keep their families safe.”

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Sharon Daniels is the chief executive officer of Arria (www.arria.com), which specializes in a form of artificial intelligence known as Natural Language Generation. Daniels’ entrepreneurial career in building and expanding technology startups began in 1984 and has now spanned more than three decades of technology evolution. Her previous experience includes serving as founding executive director of Diligent Corp., a technology company that grew to become a member of the S&P/NZX 50 composite index before being acquired by Insight Venture Partners for $624 million.

efficiency

The Five Most Common Efficiency Issues and How to Fix Them

Undertaking productivity reviews to identify efficiency issues and quantify opportunities for improvement are important. We recommend using a range of work-study and observational techniques that provide diagnostic insights supported by process deep dives.

Work-study options include detailed analysis of a process to measure how long each individual stage takes, giving valuable insights on where to focus to speed up the process and to enable resource planning based on accurate workload calculations. A diagnostic efficiency study can look at teams from warehousing to admin and sales to quantify what proportion of time is spent adding value, undertaking essential tasks and how much time is lost.

We’ve identified the top five efficiency issues:

1. Paper-based processes don’t need measurement to spot them. Paper is slower, less efficient and creates filing and storage requirements compared to digital equivalents. At some stage, paper interfaces with a system and there is a need for data input into an accounting system. Look out for paper in your business and review options to eliminate it and increase your efficiency.

2. Moving to systems from paper doesn’t always mean things run smoothly. Time can be lost due to system delays. This downtime is created when systems don’t work as quickly as the human using them. Typical causes of delays are slow systems and connections that mean colleagues watch the screen loading graphics rather than completing their tasks. Work Studies have found that some contact center teams become so accustomed to working around their slow systems that they instinctively timed their general chat during the call with the delays. Speeding things up would mean a quicker call for the customer and more calls per hour handled by an agent.

Another common system delay issue is dual entry of data as colleagues move between systems that are not integrated at the right points. Colleagues working in multiple systems work most efficiently with dual monitors. Good workstation set up helps too – uncomfortable chairs, missing wrist supports, and monitors at the wrong height are all factors that can impact efficiency.

3. Physical work lends itself more easily to ongoing output measure and monitoring, for example, the number of delivery units handled, or widgets manufactured per hour. Office based activity can be harder to get to grips on and efficiency studies provide a measure of how much time is spent on essential activities and time lost. We’ve worked with a client who found that team leaders in their owned and operated customer services teams spent more time coaching colleagues than their peers in the franchised parts of their operation, which explained the variance in customer experience measurement and business outcomes. Another client found a surprisingly high proportion of time spent on internal emails, calls, and meetings. The route cause was a mix of unclear accountabilities and incomplete customer records that required supporting communication.

Additionally, there was a delay in response times as offices in different parts of the world shut down overnight. We recommended a slight shift in office working hours to give more overlap time between markets and an option to move an offshore support team to mirror the working hours of the team they support. Emails, calls, and meetings can add significant value, yet in many businesess, email and call volume is cited as a significant barrier to getting work done. Efficiency study measures the issue and the opportunity size.

4. Efficiency analysis looks at resource versus demand and shows where a demand peak overwhelms available resources, which in some businesses creates potential lost sales. The opposite of this is where teams are not fully occupied, and work-study observations show a slowdown in the pace of work and increased downtime in ad hoc breaks. We’ve often observed significant variance in downtime across teams within the same business and multi-skilling can help create a more flexible team that can be deployed to better match changing demand. Workload models that calculate how much resource is needed in a team help businesses size their teams accurately and create a global benchmark to eliminate variance.

5. Businesses that move stock have two common efficiency issues. The first is when the volume of stock held overwhelms the storage space it creates inefficiency. Stock needs to be held in an organized way so it can be accessed easily. Too often we see stock stacked behind other lines, making it difficult to find and only accessible if other stock is first moved. And stock in multiple locations, unless all accurately logged in a stock management system, is a recipe for wasted time trying to find stock. To maximize efficiency, measure how many times stock is handled as it goes through your operation. Eliminating unnecessary stock handling will improve productivity and reduce handling costs.

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Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world-leading productivity partner that helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity, and optimize budgets.