Using Technology to Drive Supply Chain Sustainability
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by Guest Blogger on 03/05/2013
The world revolves around the sun, and the global market revolves around supply chains. In 2013, there is more product exchange than ever before. Manufacturing and trade are firing on all cylinders and there is another conversation building in the supply chain background: the environmental degradation associated with product consumption.
Every new product that is manufactured worldwide contributes in multiple ways to the overall environmental impact on our Earth. It’s a sad reality that at this point seems impossible to avoid—as consumers, we’ve become accustomed to the regular acquisition of new goods. However, there are steps that U.S. businesses can take within supply chain management to help make a legitimate push for sustainability.
In modern commerce, supply chains are maintained and improved through technology. Thus, technology that leads to greater efficiency can help contribute to more supply chain sustainability processes. Below are three concrete ways that supply chain leadership can incorporate technology for both business advancement and a greener future.
Phase out paper
Paper documentation has traditionally been a mainstay component of any business and its supply chain, and while there are advantages to paper, the sheer amount used coupled with innovative technology has made it apparent that it’s time for a new direction.
While we all understand that getting rid of paper completely is not feasible, the point is that technology is capable of taking over a majority of its use. All data and information, whether client or supplier based, should be stored electronically. Data storage has become so efficient that there is no reason we should be storing data within stacks of sheets made from trees.
Additionally, paper is much more difficult to keep track of when it comes to inventory and similar data files. If you are an IT manager or key lead in an American business that incorporates a supply chain, consider the alternative when it comes to paper. The classic argument that paper simply needs to be recycled holds true to this day, but the execution is not where it needs to be for it to be counted on. Too many offices and departments are too relaxed with recycling, and more practical change can have a substantial impact.
Take home: It’s never been more important to lean on technology as an alternative to legitimate finite resources. Forest degradation is one of many issues facing our planet, and a mass overhaul of how information is transmitted and stored can make a serious impression.
Increase collaboration and communication
With the scope and sheer size of supply chains around the world, collaboration and communication must be at a premium to reduce the margin of error, thus conserving resources.
For instance, consider a hypothetical canned tuna company. Pulling fish from three distributors in California before dispersing finished cans of tuna to 35 cities in six states takes very accurate collaboration and communication. Tuna Company A’s supply chain is more of a web than a chain. The number of nodes in the web can be confusing and inefficient resulting in wastefulness that burns through the Earth’s resources, the budget, and employees’ time.
Company A needs to have programmed communication with each supplier. Whether this means sending out automated daily emails with all tracking information or linking leadership from the separate sources though instant messaging, everyone needs to be on the same page. Supplier B and Supplier C should even collaborate on their separate processes to increase working operations with Company A. Technology can do this. Collaboration and communication in real time will increase supply chain accuracy, which will in turn prevent waste and inefficiency.
Take home: Supply chains are a collaboration of materials, but they need to do more in 2013. All communication needs to be both uniform and widespread, including everyone along the supply chain. This keeps everyone updated on what’s happening where, why, and when, resulting in reduced waste.
Consolidate IT software
Technology is all encompassing today. Supply chains can take advantage of this by consolidating service providers to simplify data management and networking of their operation. Many supply chains around the globe have multiple providers for various services. This is inefficient because it makes it very complicated for leadership to troubleshoot if anything goes wrong along the chain. If a food delivery truck is late, a leader needs to know immediately. If not, the food could be spoiled when the next exchange along the line is interrupted. This wastes food while simultaneously frustrating a customer base.
There is software available today that enables a company to view the entire supply chain from a single portal. What this does is allows them to see where a problem has occurred, and what the best way to solve that problem is to maintain the pace and integrity of the supply chain.
Take home: There is technology available that decreases the need for multiple service providers. Supply chains can use a consolidated software platform that delivers everything they need related to IT, when they need it.
Supply chain systems are far more intricate than people realize and it’s important to note the sizeable environmental footprint of these operations. Leaders need to utilize modern technology to increase efficiency and reduce waste, resulting in a smaller footprint. Reducing the margin of error and lost resources is a key way to increase supply chain efficiency. In a world where any change can help, this would be a giant leap forward in the push for green commerce across the globe.
Grant Davis is a Data Modeler by day and a writer by night. His passion for computers started when he discovered instant messaging in junior high school. When Grant isn't trying to climb through the computer screen he writes for BMC, a leading job scheduling provider.