The distribution industry is facing increasing challenges in driver shortages, fuel costs, accident prevention/reduction, and fraud. In addition to these challenges, distribution supply chains must also deal with increasingly cost-sensitive customers demanding on-time delivery at the lowest possible price.
This has resulted in very competitive pricing and products often sold for just pennies on the dollar. The pressure on supply chain managers to improve efficiency is immense and growing with each passing year as capacity constraints increase along with ever-changing distribution demands.
The following five innovative technologies have the potential to enhance significantly existing distribution supply chains across all industries while eliminating many of the current cost pressures.
All five technologies are currently available, or NetSuite consulting service works with suppliers to make them more viable for NetSuite users.
1. RFID Inventory Tracking Solutions
Inventory is an essential part of the distribution supply chain, yet managing inventory at remote locations can be a problem for many organizations. Suppose location information for each piece of inventory could be captured automatically, using RFID technology to identify items by their unique serial number (for example). In that case, then-current problems such as theft and spoilage can be quickly addressed.
With RFID technology, items can be scanned as they are distributed, enabling an audit trail that identifies the location and time of each scan. With a robust distribution system like NetSuite, inventory data can easily be correlated to specific orders in real-time, allowing quick restocking or reallocating items based on customer demand.
2. Advanced Vehicle Tracking Systems
Effective driver training and monitoring are critical to reducing accidents and improving fuel efficiency. One area that NetSuite has applied RFID technology successfully is in their distribution vehicle tracking system. This easy-to-use solution allows users to identify locations, speeds, and braking patterns, along with any other relevant data from the drivers’ trips, all of which will help to improve their performance.
The system also provides insight into the delivery process. If deliveries are taking too long or drivers are spending more time on the road than needed, it could be a sign that they need additional training or better tools to improve their efficiency.
3. Software-based Driver Performance Monitoring and Training Solutions
Driver monitoring and training are an essential part of any distribution supply chain, but these systems can be challenging to manage based on the number of drivers and their location and type of equipment they use (e.g., forklifts, trucks).
In this case, a software-based solution can help to dramatically reduce the management overhead associated with managing driver performance and training. NetSuite has recently deployed such a system with a leading warehouse equipment manufacturer in which all of their drivers are monitored from a central location through web browser access.
Once installed, the system monitors for signs of driver fatigue or other problems and then alerts managers who can assist if needed.
4. Data-driven Predictive Analytics Solutions
Predictive analytics is becoming increasingly prevalent in the distribution industry. By using data gathered from disparate systems (e.g., enterprise resource management (ERP) solutions, vehicle tracking systems, and RFID inventory tracking), distribution planners and managers can identify problems before they occur, allowing them to take immediate action.
NetSuite has helped several customers implement similar solutions that improve order fulfillment, track inventory, and optimize delivery routes.
5. 3-Dimensional Tracking Solutions
3-Dimensional tracking solutions are becoming increasingly relevant in distribution supply chains, both for companies that manufacture their products and those that resell them. An advanced 3-D shipping container scanning solution allows shippers to track containers at ports or other locations during loading and unloading operations.
Such a solution allows shippers to reduce shipping errors, identify missing items, and improve the overall throughput of ports. For example, by allowing Supervisors to see what’s in each container before it is shipped (thus reducing the need for many manual inspections) and where it was last scanned, they can quickly track a container that has been misplaced.
NetSuite has also developed a 3-Dimensional solution that allows customers to track and trace their products through the supply chain from idea to customer.
The system is based on a unique radio frequency identification scanning technology that can be used to track any product, including small components such as integrated circuits or microchips, at every point in the product’s life cycle.
It provides users with details on each scanned component, such as when it was manufactured and by which manufacturer, its position in the supply chain, and other information that can be used to improve operations.
The examples above are just a few of the many Innovative Technologies To Improve Distribution Supply Chains. These technologies will ultimately help ensure that the distribution supply chain can keep up with the rapid introduction of new product lines while maintaining the level of service customers expect. NetSuite and its global partner ecosystem enable companies such as yours to improve their distribution supply chain.