Guest Commentary: Lifestyle Trends Driving Supply Chain Innovation

In the supply chain software industry, uncertainty is certain and anticipating what’s next is what makes our days interesting. The innovations we develop must meet constantly shifting market demands and customer priorities, and it’s important to not only understand that the changes are happening, but also the drivers behind those changes. Here are a few of the macro-level lifestyle trends we are seeing influence supply chain management and software solutions.

The consumerization of IT: Thanks to the constant connection we have to our mobile phones, tablets, and other devices, the expectations we have of information technology are shifting. We want software that is intuitive, robust and nice to look at. We want our work hardware and software experience to be as easy to use as our home devices. Not only does this expectation push IT developers, but it has raised some tough questions for companies, such as whether workers should be allowed to use their personal devices on the job, or how they can be integrated into daily tasks. This new reality of constant connectivity is driving enterprise software to act more like a consumer style application and raising questions about how a consumer device can be applicable to the supply chain world.

Data wherever, whenever: We are able to seamlessly sync our phones with our computers, share photos in the cloud and access most of our information anywhere at any time. This lifestyle has spilled over into the business world as well, as developers determine new ways to make data accessible across channels and locations. The need for a manager to access reports and important KPIs on his or her personal device from work, home or on the road, for example, has made this expectation a business necessity and one that will be a constant theme in supply chain innovation in the foreseeable future.

Orders wherever, whenever: In other words, tracking and maximizing the fulfillment of orders flooding in from a multitude of channels, such as websites, phone calls, resellers, and brick-and-mortar shops. Supply chain technology must be able to make intelligent decisions about how and where orders are filled (or split up) based on geography, product, delivery dates and more. Warehouse management systems that can take into account an increasing number of variables and route the order accordingly – and then work with a transportation management system to ship those goods – will be the backbone of a modern warehouse and will fulfill the customer expectation of fast, accurate service no matter how the order was placed.

These lifestyle trends are affecting how supply chain professionals perform their job and interact with information. By ensuring that innovations put smart software in our hands and real-time data at our fingertips, the supply chain industry can increasingly operate proactively and nimbly as the market demands assuredly shift again.

Chuck Fuerst is the director of product strategy at HighJump Software. He has more than 15 years of experience in the technology market, working for supply chain and ERP software companies to deliver innovative solutions. Chuck is responsible for monitoring supply chain industry and technology trends and identifying ways to enhance the value of products for HighJump’s customers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing management and innovation from Concordia University.

Comments

  1. While I couldn’t agree more with you about the concept of “orders wherever, whenever” I will debate the comment of warehouse management systems being the right place for the decision of where to fulfill orders. Once an order has hit the warehouse management system, the decision of where to fill orders from is passed. That decision should be made a layer above the WMS in a distributed order management system. That system can take into account not just which warehouse (or warehouses) to fill an order from but it can also determine if an order should be filled from a store (if you are a retailer) or from a drop ship vendor who may be filling orders on your behalf to provide “endless aisle” support. It may determine that multiple shipments will be made to the customer or that shipments need to be merged in a single location allowing a single shipment to the customer to be made. These variables and decisions may be different by channel or customer. The role of the warehouse management system is to fill the orders it is given.