The supply chain industry has become extensively complex with a wide ecosystem of people, processes, and technologies. After the insertion of the computer networks and internet tools & technologies, most supply chains have greatly expanded during the past two decades. The innovations also helped the supply chain to collaborate between partners, distributors, and others, opening doors to new opportunities beyond the physical walls of the enterprise.
The social networks, on-demand software, cloud computing adoption, and the ubiquity of mobile technologies have served to deal with the challenges for optimal chain management.
There are more than consumer expectations that a supply chain has to deal with. Below are a few aligned challenges that managers need to plan ahead to keep everything flowing.
Challenges with Supply Chain Industry
Multiple Channels Market Complexity
With multiple channels available for the customer to enroute their desired product/service, supply chain managers struggle to process and keep up with each of the channels. If we look at eCommerce websites, customers look for faster deliveries, and traditional retailers & wholesalers look for larger storage locations with accurate inventory control. Similarly, third-party marketplaces want robust methods to under fulfillment options & close compliance and drop shipping retail look for faster international services.
With time profit margins have declined as many areas have added costs, such as rising fuel prices, higher labor costs, complex international logistics, increased commodity prices, and higher charges for storage, transfer & management of products. Many manufacturers still lack visibility and accountability, which results in enhanced operational expenses.
Lack of Speed, Quality & Service
With time consumer expectations are rising. The most successful manufacturers are those that meet consumer requirements for immediate delivery and online goods. The products must also meet the desired quality and price, including compliance with regulations mandated by the law.
Risk Creates Pressure
Supply chain manufacturers stay under constant pressure due to the rising changes in the environment, economies, and international complexity. They do not realize when the pressure turns into errors creating risks creating significant problems. For instance, globally spread suppliers, manufacturers, clients, and customers require careful coordination & management. Adding more steps to the supply chain invites complexity; however the problem arises when there is a lack of visibility and control, making it difficult to regulate compliance, quality, and make good decisions.
Volatility in Supply Chain
Volatility and complexity go hand in hand in disrupting the entire infrastructure. They can create delays, backlogs, bottlenecks, and many other issues that can leverage the competitors to meet customer needs.
Rapid political changes and protectionism bring changes in the tariffs across trade routes every time, which results in additional fees and delays. This not just slows international shipping but also adds pressure to the ships, trucks, and trains to wait for loading, unloading, and transferring products.
Manufacturers need to evolve to optimize their processes through new tools and best practices. However, many are known of the challenges and trade-offs that affect the supply chain that was anyways complex and competitive.
An optimized supply chain can manage costs more efficiently, is lean, and can respond to even minor fluctuations instantaneously. As complex as the supply chain, advanced technology can address the complexity and optimize it.
Need for Supply Chain Optimization
Supply chains have multiple siloed structures located in different regions. These carry a lot of data, however, the supply chain does not get end-to-end visibility thereby impacting the ability to meet the customers’ needs. An optimized supply chain is technologically supported to connect siloed data.
Needs of the Customer
Customer expectations are rising every day and supply chains must be innovative enough to align with them. An optimized supply chain can streamline its processes to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Earlier supply chains had focused on network design such as warehouse placement and distribution fleet. Currently, the optimized supply chain is more focused on building competitive advantage, protecting the brand, execution-oriented applications, and real-time decision support.
Supply chains need faster response time than in the past years as competition to meet the needs of the customers has advanced. Modern and optimized supply chains are agile in responding to customer demands, competition, and even supply disruptions.
A wide and enormous environment of the supply chain sustains customer needs. Today’s customer is smarter and wants to understand the sustainability and social impacts of the goods produced. An optimized supply chain uses renewable or low-impact extraction methods in an ethical way to produce goods.
How to Effectively Optimize Supply Chain
Key features to integrate within the supply chain includes –
- Visibility – Transparency in real-time inventory tracking.
- Intelligence – Leverage advanced technology and composable data.
- Order Management – Customizable & flexible pricing, trackable orders, and manageable returns.
- Reporting and Analytics – Evaluation of patterns in processes to forecast demands and sales in the future.
- Inventory Tracking – Quick monitoring of inventory across the supply chain.
One of the technologies that can help optimize the supply chain is EDI. The evidence shows how companies are relying on EDI – by 2027, it is expected that the EDI software market is estimated to reach 3,451.5 million USD.
EDI services have existed for more than 50 years to standard electronic transactions between vendors and customers.
How EDI Can Assist Supply Chain Industry?
An effective paperless process, like Cloud EDI, requires no human participation or intervention, saving countless dollars on time-intensive tasks, such as processing, printing, and delivery of documents eliminating repetitive costs and labor.
EDI also reduces a business’s environmental footprint by facilitating supply chain documents, like bills of lading, inventory documents, shipping status documents, payment information documents, and customs documents. Other areas where EDI can facilitate the supply chain are –
- Invoices & Orders
- Order Acknowledgments
- Order Amendments
- Shipment Notification
- Technical Specifications
- Remittance Advice
- Organizational Relationships
- Price/Sales Catalogs
- Requests for Quotation
- Planning Schedules With Release Capability
- Commission Sales Reports
- Routing Instructions
Benefits of EDI Supply Chain Management
SMEs are seen reaping the benefits of B2B EDI Services that results in cost savings and increased access to larger-scale suppliers. There are other benefits of integrating EDI into the Supply Chain, such as –
Greater Accuracy Without Human Intervention
The electronic data interchange simplifies document handling and eliminates the risk of errors increasing the equation exponentially. EDI removes the risks that can be caused due to human manual processing of the orders. No more orders missed or delayed delivery, ensure only accurate and faster confirmation.
Information can be seamlessly exchanged and transactions can be made uninterrupted in real-time between the trading partners, deterring the redundant, time-consuming, and error-prone tasks from the everyday equation.
Time and Cost-Effective
Paper-based manual processes make business slow, raising the higher cost for trading, such as printing, copying, delivering, filing, posting, and more. In order to scale the business and reduce the extensive cost, the EDI solution can prove effective. Converting manual processes into electronic ones saves time and money subsequently. An EDI transaction would take seconds to complete the transaction compared to a manual paper-driven procedure that may take an hour or more.
The supply chain is more about collaborating with trading partners timely to receive orders and deliver them on time. EDI solutions can streamline communication, enhancing partner and customer relationships. With EDI, orders can be taken swiftly, confirmed more rapidly, and gain customer trust in your ability to deliver superior services.
Companies can establish a reputation with the help of EDI managed services in maintaining optimal inventory levels to ensure that they can meet immediate demands while meeting optimized stock levels for the future. EDI provides real-time inventory updates, and this latest information can be used for setting up benchmarks and alerts, promoting optimal resource allocation when needed, and preventing out-of-stock or excessive inventory problems.
In a Nutshell
Certainly, reducing paper waste for document exchange or managing inventory can promote environment-friendly processes. Manual processes are nearing obsolete as robust & flexible technology are fitting within industries’ operational tasks.
The advantage of EDI solutions is not eliminating the time-consuming and paper-based manual work. It adds value to the business by fostering better relationships with the trading partners to expand business at a global level.
However, with time and market advancements, technology also advances. EDI technology is still undergoing changes, such as legacy EDI solutions that have become cloud solutions. There is more to EDI that we are yet to uncover.
Scarlett works with the editorial team of A3logics, a leading company offering EDI Integration Services. Exploring the latest technologies, reading about them, and writing her views have always been her passion. She seeks new opportunities to express her opinions, explore technological advancements, and document the details. You can always find her enjoying books or articles about varied topics or jotting down her ideas in a notebook.