Commentary | IT Matters

Achieving True Mobility in Supply Chain and Logistics Operations

Tags: Logistics I.T.

Gururaj Rao, Managing Partner, nuVizz Inc., 404-937-1971

Mobile technology is pervasive and disruptive. It has made huge strides in the consumer market. But, when we look at mobile technology adoption in enterprises, it is still in its infancy.

True mobile technology means commonly available smartphones and tablets that run standard operating systems such as iOS, Android, and Windows. There are a number of business scenarios in supply chain and logistics where mobile technology makes perfect sense, and can improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs. The newness of technology creates a level playing field for all parts of enterprise in how the technology is leveraged to solve business problems.

A number of reasons may explain why supply chain and logistics businesses are slow to adopt mobile technology:

  • Newness of technology. Any new technology adoption within an enterprise starts with its IT organization. Lack of understanding about mobile device security and management can create a huge stumbling block in the use of technology for business applications.
  • Comprehensive mobile business solution providers. Most of the mobile solution providers create mobile applications as a one-off app, rather than comprehensive solutions that cater to business problems and address infrastructure requirements such as security and device management.
  • Mobile solution providers lack specialized knowledge. Understanding the unique needs of the supply chain and logistics sector is vital and rare among mobile solutions providers.

Today's true mobile technology provides a number of capabilities for supply chain and logistics, at a fraction of the cost of traditional technologies. Capabilities such as bar-code scanning, document management, GPS tracking, real-time field work force management, shipment tracking, and real-time proof of delivery can all be achieved using widely available smartphones and tablets.

The best part is that the cost of these smartphones and tablets is dropping every day. Since these devices can also be used for personal use, it opens up the opportunity of Bring Your Own Device programs to further reduce the cost of doing business and move the costs from being capital expenditure to operational expenditure.

Points to Ponder

In order to make effective and efficient use of mobile technology in your supply chain enterprise, invest time in the following actions:

  • Determine what functions make sense to mobilize. Some business use cases simply are not suitable for mobile technology.
  • Pay attention to security and management infrastructure. Mobile technology is here to stay. In the next 5 to 10 years, many tasks completed today using paper or desktops/laptops are going to be done with true mobile devices. Mobile infrastructure security and management is as important as the business applications you use. Choose a partner that can not only provide a business solution, but also supply the infrastructure solution to manage and secure your mobile system.
  • Seek out providers with supply chain knowledge. Work with partners that can not only develop mobile solutions, but who also understand the supply chain and logistics business.
  • Ensure compatibility. The solutions you choose should work with the common technologies, and not require any custom or proprietary hardware or software. One of the important advantages of true mobility is the ability to do business using commonly available technologies, and not be handcuffed by proprietary hardware and software.