10 Best Supply Chain Tools for Increased Optimization
By Space Coast Daily // November 1, 2021
Supply chains can be a tricky process for even the most experienced brands. Thankfully, there are a slew of supply chain apps, programs, and resources for you to take advantage of. “Supply chain optimization has been tied to technology since the invention of the wheel,” says Michael Higgins, Writer and Member of the Forbes Technology Council.
Not every tech has true transformative power, but those on the digital horizon — along with a few already in use and ready for new applications — have the potential to separate supply chain success from struggles in the years ahead.”
1. Shipping Status Alerts
Utilizing shipping status alerts can help a brand stay organized and maintain communication with shipping companies as they track their products. “Shipping status alerts are so essential to an efficient supply chain,” says Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of Bite. “They tell us and our consumers when to expect products to arrive.”
Utilizing a shipping status alert system can help with inventory tracking, maintaining customer satisfaction, and more. By tracking shipping, an organization can recognize if there is a hangup happening at a specific hub and whether that location can be avoided to expedite the shipping process.
Additionally, by streamlining the shipping process and utilizing a program to send alerts, your brand can save manpower and time that would otherwise be spent monitoring this process.
2. Order Processing Tools
Order fulfillment is a critical part of an organization’s supply chain process. “If our customers don’t see their orders being fulfilled in a satisfactory way, we lose future business,” says Fred Gerantabee, Chief Experience Officer of Readers. “Being in a business where the product we provide is often a physical need and not just a want, it is critical that we are able to efficiently process orders so that our customers receive their glasses in a timely manner.”
“These supply chain optimization tools can automate most activities involved in order processing using EDI software and similar technology to directly capture order data,” says Pooja Verma, a researcher in the field of market analysis for software company SelectHub. “This reduces the time it would take to traditionally process an order by eliminating the need to manually generate and send POs and invoices. It also reduces the opportunity for human error since there’s no need to manually take down order information and re-enter it into a different system.”
3. Lean Inventory
Lean inventory management is a concept that has been around for over 100 years. Invented by Henry Ford, this process has been modified and applied to much more than the automotive assembly line process. Today there are apps, websites, and digital programs that allow organizations to maintain lean inventory and run at their most efficient level.
“Maintaining a lean inventory is essential to maintaining a company’s values through well-managed inventory and eliminating material waste,” says Jason Sherman, Founder of TapRm. “Using a lean inventory management program helps us ensure that we’re not throwing money.”
4. Warehouse Management
Because warehousing is becoming increasingly expensive and large organizations like Amazon and Walmart are promoting themselves through 1 and 2-day shipping options, brands are looking at every possible way to become more efficient, including custom warehouse management software.
“We’ve realized just how much Amazon has changed the game in warehousing. It’s not as simple as it once was,” says Judy Nural, President and Founder of MicrodermaMitt. “People expect the efficiency of a major company like Amazon every time they order a product. Without warehouse management tools, this would be next to impossible for new or smaller businesses to accomplish.”
5. Bid and Spend Tools
Bid and spend tools do exactly as it sounds. They allow a brand to keep track of the cost of products, ingredients, or services that they utilize and monitor the competition to make sure they’re getting the best deal. Many of these tools also allow for payment processes and make the spending process a breeze through automated payments.
“Unless you’re creating every ingredient that you utilize in your product, bid and spend tools are going to be one of your best friends,” says Jeremy Gardner, CEO of MadeMan. “Keeping track of the going rates for ingredients or services that you need to utilize can be a headache. If you’re a small or new business, this can take up a lot of time you don’t have to spare. Utilizing bid and spend tools to track the offers and maintain profitability is one of the best decisions you can make.”
6. Supplier Management
Similar to the bid and spend tools, supplier management tools allow for a brand to manage their relationships and supply line. This keeps a lot of information in one place so that decision makers within the brand can act with confidence and form educated decisions.
“Utilizing supplier management tools has helped us make sure we’re not forgetting anything critical when it comes to the decision process,” said Matthew Mundt, Founder and CEO of HugSleep. “Suppliers can be great, but they can also run into their own problems. That can become an issue for us if it interrupts our processes. Our supplier management tools help us track these snags so we can have conversations with the supplier using data to back up our experiences with any issues that might be occurring.”
7. Demand Forecasting
Demand forecasting can make a brand’s supply chain run super efficiently if utilized correctly. If demand forecasting is able to be completed with a high degree of accuracy, then the overhead costs can be reduced. This leads to greater profit and less storage of unnecessary products or a supply shortage.
“Supply chain forecasting tools help us anticipate what our customers are going to need in the upcoming months,” reported Aidan Cole, CEO of TatBrow. “They provide us with critical information to manage our supply chain so that we can remain reliable to our consumers while keeping our prices affordable because we aren’t overproducing.”
8. Analytics and Reports
While analytics and reports might seem very similar to demand forecasting, they can show a lot more information to a brand than the predicted purchasing patterns of potential consumers. Analytics and reports can be analyzed to reveal any number of issues or opportunities that a brand might have within the decisions they’ve made.
“Utilizing analytics and reports seems like such an old fashioned way to go about things when you have an app for everything else,” says Jeff Meeks, VP of Sales and Marketing for EnergyFit. “However, we’ve found that sometimes you need to go back to the basics and look at the traditional analytics and reports to get an idea of where you can make changes for improvement or monitor a change that’s been made.”
9. Security Features
Security features sound like they’d be something to evaluate with the IT specialist, but they can be critical in supply chain optimization as well. This is especially true when collaborating with other brands for supplies.
“A data breach within our supply chain would not only put our brand at risk, but our suppliers as well,” says Courtney Buhler, CEO and Founder of Sugarlash PRO. “That would be a terrible situation for us and even worse for our suppliers. Utilizing security features protects all parties involved within a supply chain to prevent data breaches and theft.”
Security features sound like they’d be something to evaluate with the IT specialist, but they can be critical in supply chain optimization as well.
10. Collaboration Portals
Because of the intricate nature of supply chains, it is important to understand how to communicate with suppliers and everyone involved within the supply chain process. Collaboration portals allow everyone to see what’s happening while promoting workplace efficiency.
“One of my favorite things about collaboration portals is that they allow us to update suppliers and suppliers to do the same to us,” says Sarah Pirrie, Brand Director for Healist Naturals. “It feels like we’re doing less leg work and I don’t have to send so many emails to different people any time we run into a problem or something is delayed or expedited unexpectedly.”
Take advantage of what you can! Enjoy the technologies that are available today and utilize them to propel your brand’s supply chain management into the twenty-first century. While there may be an initial learning curve to using and implementing these technologies within your supply chain, the benefits can far outweigh the challenges when utilized correctly.