Technology is an empowering tool

MOBILE technology is playing an increasingly important role in SA’s supply chains as they seek to improve performance, efficiency and effectiveness. Daniel Hall, vice-president, sales and marketing, Magic Software SA, says third-party logistics providers (delivery companies) have used some form of mobility for quite some time in SA, especially hand-held scanners and, more recently, RFID tags. 

However, local companies still have a way to go to fully embrace enterprise mobility within all areas of the supply chain, including manufacturing, warehousing, transportation and logistics. 
“Forward-thinking companies are starting to revolutionise and re-engineer their business processes to incorporate the mobile device as an integral component of the supply chain process,” says Hall. “Such an approach means these businesses consequently receive the associated benefits mobility provides including instant access to customer information, integration into backend ERP applications and proper monitoring of both product movements and staff activity.” 

The barriers to entry for supply chain mobility are both technological in focus and business based. Many organisations are going mobile because “everybody is doing it”. However, adopting this approach does not necessarily create or add any value. Another challenge is finding the right development team, one that understands the supply chain business process, with all its touch points, and knows how to integrate all the relevant enterprise systems, including the ERP, warehouse management and customer relationship management systems, so that they optimise the supply chain. In addition, the sheer cost in terms of the capital outlay required to purchase adequate mobile devices suitable for the job provide another barrier to entry.

Hall says the greatest risk with enterprise mobility is the loss or corruption of enterprise information. “The backend integration is the key to accurate and timely information. If the integration layer is
faulty, the user can work off inaccurate information, which can cause devastating results for an organisation seeking to improve its performance and be competitive in the market. “The mobile application has direct access to backend data so there must be sufficient security policies set in place to handle profiles and access to ensure no data is ‘stolen’ or corrupted. A mobile device management tool will assist in keeping the application usage and device safe. “ A significant risk is user acceptance of the mobile technology, most specifically in the transport logistics space where the power of the technology, including features such as geolocation services, may create uneasiness with drivers, couriers and other personnel.” However, Hall argues that the benefits outweigh the challenges. Enterprise mobility in the supply chain aims to improve efficiencies by speeding up the business process.

“By speeding up the supply chain and logistics process, companies can enhance their customer services and place their organisation ahead of the market. Having mobile technology as an enabler in the supply chain ensures a company has a competitive business advantage and can get their product to a client quicker with less cost involved,” he says.

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