Guest Commentary: Five Supply Chain Resolutions for the New Year

New Year’s resolutions are easier to make when you know they will save you time and money. To that end, here are five areas of your supply chain you should take a fresh look at in 2013:

Warehouse Management System: Is it time for an upgrade or replacement? Consider whether your current system is strengthening or hindering your ability to execute business strategies. Your WMS should free up your IT department to focus on customer-facing applications, allow for maximum configuration to your unique business practices, and adapt to changing market demands and regulatory requirements. You may also want to examine how well your WMS integrates with other software: It should serve as the hub of your warehouse and seamlessly exchange data with other systems, like your ERP.

Performance management: You’re collecting data left and right, but do you know what to do with it? A performance management system will turn those numbers into graphical, actionable information to help you drill down for root cause analysis and ultimately make better operational decisions. The right system should produce real-time, comparative dashboards based on best-practice metrics like inbound, outbound and capacity, while also allowing you to customize it for your own company-specific performance indicators.

Moving to the cloud: Cloud technology allows you to access the most up-to-date system through a secure web portal, while the vendor hosts the actual software and hardware infrastructure off-site. This arrangement can save you time, expense and labor by off-loading the software and hardware maintenance associated with maintaining on-premise software. Specifically, your IT department can spend less time maintaining a system or learning every new technology stack and application needed to run the company, and more time with the customer-facing services that differentiate your business and add to the bottom line. And as we saw most recently with Hurricane Sandy, companies that have off-site, cloud-based systems may avoid catastrophic data loss if they are hit by flooding or a hurricane.

Voice technology: This can be a key component for increasing efficiency and productivity in the warehouse by improving picking speed and accuracy. Voice solutions can include distribution voice-enabled workflow for areas such as picking, receiving and replenishment, as well as for manufacturing processes such as kitting, assembly and inspection. If your company is searching for ways to increase efficiency even more, voice technology may be the next step.

Hardware: Ensure you are taking full advantage of the latest hardware technology. It’s easy to get comfortable with older models and devices, but examining the ruggedness, scanning tolerance, speed and ability to integrate with other tools (like voice) may lead to changes that improve accuracy and productivity. Many WMS providers can recommend the best solutions for your business and current system compatibility, and even locate, price and order the hardware for you.

As we continue to emerge from the recession and start to move more boldly, resolve to ensure your supply chain is well positioned to drive your company to bigger growth and a better bottom line.

Dan Radunz is vice president of product strategy and development and oversees HighJump Software’s worldwide product development group and technology operations, supporting the company’s entire source-to-consumption software portfolio. He worked as a member of HighJump’s product development group for more than 13 years, and has more than 20 years of experience using technology to deliver innovative software solutions.

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