Table of Contents
Optimizing Product Visibility at Every Stage
Mobile supply chain management is a growing solution category in the North American market. This insight provides an overview of a still-splintered sector, examining the current competitive landscape, adoption drivers and restraints, market trends, and survey feedback from mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers in U.S. and Canadian companies. A customer case study is also included.
Mobile supply chain management (MSCM) is a growing mobile enterprise application category that remains fragmented and can be somewhat confusing to customers.
The promise of a quick, hard-dollar return on investment (ROI) drives this market. Companies are always looking for ways to tighten their supply chain processes, wringing out inefficiencies and cost. Mobilizing access to—and management of—portions of today's supply chain provides increased visibility across companies and processes. This, in turn, can result in quicker real-time decisions, reduced paperwork, lower inventory costs, fewer errors, and improved worker productivity.
In a 2013 Frost & Sullivan survey of North American businesses, percent of mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers reported already implementing an MSCM application to at least some degree. One-third of these users plan to expand their deployments over the near term.
Current adoption barriers include cost concerns and worries about the privacy of company, customer, and partner data being wirelessly transmitted. Also, prospective customers must invest a significant amount of time and effort in specifying their supply chain pain points, choosing from an array of potential vendors, and then working closely to identify the complexity of transactions that occur in their supply chains so the MSCM vendor can create the correct software solution.
MSCM solutions vary significantly, with each addressing one or more supply chain management (SCM) activities and no vendor providing a top-tier all-in-one solution at this time. This can result in the customer assembling its own bundle of best-in-class MSCM applications due to the lack of a true one-stop vendor alternative.
Traditional SCM vendors are mobilizing portions of their desktop software. They face competition from mobile-first application developers who offer a high level of mobility talent, a cloud-based delivery model, and a fresh and streamlined approach to the SCM process.
Prepackaged MSCM solutions are becoming more common, shortening time to market while still allowing customization of work flows, mobile device types, languages, etc. Mobile supply chain management is a market in flux. It is expected to expand and become more defined during the 2014–2018 time period.
Defining Mobile Supply Chain Management
The definition of mobile supply chain management (MSCM) software applications begins with a discussion of the supply chain itself. Today's supply chain is a fast-moving and fast-changing ecosystem of facilities, people, and distributors acting together to achieve the following basic objectives:
• Obtain necessary materials
• Transform the materials into intermediate or end products
• Distribute these products to customers
Needless to say, each of the goals listed above can encompass multiple steps and parties.
Major supply chain participants typically include:
• Manufacturing facilities (factories)
• Warehouses (storage)
• Distribution centers
Managers of a supply chain have a complex responsibility that extends across multiple, independent companies. These managers are usually charged with planning, tracking and managing not only the required materials, but also the information that participants are willing to share throughout this process—all as product moves along from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer. Supply chain management (SCM) includes making processes run as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This is no small goal, especially with the number of people, tasks, and blind spots that have traditionally existed—and continue to endure—in the typical supply chain.
SCM software attempts to automate and optimize the major supply chain processes. These
macro processes are commonly listed as:
No single vendor has created software that addresses the totality of the SCM process. Rather, providers focus upon addressing different tasks, and customers typically must choose among various offerings to assemble the package of solutions that meets their specific needs. Businesses are now adding mobile technology to this very fragmented equation. Mobility brings the SCM software capabilities (or some subset of these capabilities) to workers' and managers' mobile devices—including smartphones, tablets, and ruggedized devices. The goal is to leverage wireless communications to enable a faster flow of high-quality information and data between all of the relevant participants and to more quickly uncover and address any issues or delays that unexpectedly—and inevitably—arise.
The customer must determine which aspects and functions of SCM it wants mobilized. Mobile supply chain management is often a piece part of a larger supply chain management solution, which in turn is part of a larger ERP system. However, this is not always the case. For example, if the mobile SCM application is focused on just the delivery (logistics) portion of the supply chain, then the customer may be able to utilize a standalone mobile application and not have to integrate quite so closely (or at all) with a full ERP system.
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