Apps are easy
There’s an app for that. More accurately, dozens of apps, for this, that and the other.
Technology is finally making a difference in the supply chain. The industry has, for decades, been resistant to change. The transportation sector, more specifically, has lagged perhaps even more than other parts of the supply chain. Primary barriers were cost (Note: average profit ~6% = no budget for experimentation) and user acceptance.
As costs recede, apps proliferate and many have proven quite useful. So, now there is an app, many apps, for every imaginable area of this thing called the “supply chain.”
But, having decent technology at decent prices and with proven results is only the beginning.
Integrations are hard
When a customer orders an item, solution providers need to advise these customers on whether that item is in stock, when to expect it on their porch and then keep them updated throughout the process. To do these things, the warehouse software must talk to the brokers’ software, the carriers’ software, the fleets’ transportation management system (TMS), the driver-facing apps, freight visibility services and ad infinitum.
The app providers must also want their apps to talk to each other and undertake the effort to make that work. It’s not easy, quick or cheap. However, demand is finally driving this one forward.
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User adoption is the hardest
Let’s say you have the right apps, delivering accurate data to all endpoints and back with acceptable speed and accuracy. Let’s even say you have one portal in the office and one app in the hands of the warehouse worker, dispatcher and driver. Still, the following questions arise -- do my end-users see the value? Is it intuitive and easy to learn? Does it deliver the data back to the portals in usable, actionable ways as opposed to dumping the data and leaving me to figure out how to use it?
One of the most difficult factors is figuring out where to start to find the right solutions that talk to all the other right solutions accurately, speedily and deliver data that helps me make business decisions.
First, define the business problems that you need to solve.
- Look at available solutions and talk to trusted industry counterparts about what they are using, what is working and what is not.
- Collaborate with (or find) a trusted tech provider to put the puzzle pieces together.
- Balance what they tell you with what you read and hear elsewhere.
- Narrow the field for each solution area, or better yet, find a unified solution stack with high adoption rates.
- Identify providers that are both experienced in supply chain and are working with modern tools – software languages, hardware platforms and working with other industry stalwarts.
- With the influx of investment capital into supply chain technology, there are many investment-smart, industry-newbie providers out there. Financial stability is important, but look at their people’s experience and longevity.
- As you review each, ask the hard questions. Have you ever integrated with X or Y? What is your process for this? May I speak with current customers?
- Create the best proof-of-concept pilot, with all solutions integrated if possible.
- This is time-consuming, but will identify rough spots before you go live and reveal prospective tech partners’ strengths and weaknesses.