As an increasing number of business and consumer products are now being sourced globally, supply-chain visibility management has become an undeniably vital tool for any business to have at their disposal. Knowing where your product is at any stop along the supply chain not only keeps you aware of potential roadblocks that could arise, but it also allows you to adapt and make changes to your supply chain in real-time to avoid those roadblocks.
With so much global competition vying for your customer’s dollar, the last thing your business wants to do is drop the ball over poor visibility – but how do you give customers an inside view when so many parties are involved in the supply chain? The answer – according to Steve Williamson, Director, Solution Consulting at BluJay Solutions – is leveraging that visibility with the use of mobile technology. BluJay is a provider of supply chain software and services including MobileSTAR, an app that works with both Android and iOS mobile devices to provide real-time tracking, proof of delivery and last-mile routing solutions.
“When you look at a global supply chain or placing orders, you want to know the ‘immediates,’” says Williamson. “You want to know all the things going on with your order, but when you’re manufacturing globally there’s no way to get that kind of visibility on your own. There are a lot of different systems and parties involved, and no one company is in control of it all. Providers like us are in the marketplace to bring all of those pieces together.”
But getting those pieces to fit together neatly is no small task. While BluJay offers a single technology platform with a constant flow of new features and solutions, many companies still manage supply chain execution with point solutions or manual processes.
“The challenge is, does one tool do it all? The quick answer is no. There’s no perfect recipe. Vendors are looking to pull all these technologies together and try to get the visibility from say, an RFID provider or get the visibility of an ocean container, and it’s that ‘try to get’ that is always challenging,” says Williamson.
And that challenge can be just as frustrating for end-consumers and business-to-business (B2B) customers, too.
“As a solution provider, we’re always looking at that – what would our customer’s customers experience be? Depending on what you’re moving within your supply chain, the importance of that could be tenfold – it could be that someone’s waiting on that part to do something else, so subsequently that little piece could be a domino that knocks down all the other dominoes in a bad way or in a good way.”
And that’s where apps like MobileSTAR really prove their worth. To be able to view where a shipment is at any stage in the supply chain – right from your mobile device – can really save the day for that ‘customer’s customer.’ Delayed shipments can be re-routed, or re-sourced, damaged shipments can be re-ordered, and if lost shipments cannot be found, your customer can easily notify their customer about potential delays – all from the information provided by one easy-to-use app. It’s not a perfect solution – but it’s pretty close.
“When you look at visibility, the question really comes down to ‘what kind of business are you?’ Are you a proactive business or a reactive business? Are you waiting for something to happen in your supply chain… or are you monitoring your supply chain and see a disruption and reacting to it?”
According to Williamson, the reactive provider – while still most-likely reacting appropriately to the problem – is inefficient. A proactive provider could have potentially stopped the problem earlier along in the supply chain and avoided a lot of subsequent problems along the way. Thankfully, mobile apps like BluJay’s MobileSTAR are designed to do the proactivity legwork for you. So even if you fall into the reactive category, you can be proactive with minimal effort, before the problem has a chance to get worse.
The solution, according to Williamson is called Control Tower. Control Tower monitoring allows your business to be able to “drive and react” to problems along the way by providing visibility and connectivity to supply chain partners, from origin to delivery. Information you once had to hunt down from multiple sources, and at a great cost to your time, is now streamlined and available from one platform that connects many participants.
“Solution providers like ourselves are really partners. And I think that’s the way that the supply chain will ultimately be solved. There will be strong partnerships with all the potential parties involved in a supply chain movement to be able to give the companies themselves – and then their end users – visibility.”