5 questions to see if your supply chain is mobile-ready

1. Are your processes and data where you want them to be?

Automating broken or inefficient processes won’t yield the results you want. It may save some time, but you’ll still experience the same problems and inefficiencies. The same is true for your data. Feeding inaccurate inventory data into a new system can only produce inaccurate results. Remember, garbage in, garbage out. Ensure you’re happy with your processes and data accuracy before you think about a mobile supply chain solution.

2. Do you have benchmark data on your current processes?

It’s difficult to measure success and ROI if you don’t have benchmark data. Examples of benchmark data include statistics on inventory accuracy, resources spent on transactions, money spent on rush orders of parts or other components, resources to process and put away shipments, and resources to process and ship orders. Comprehensive benchmark data will allow you to fully understand the benefits of your automated system.

3. Is your warehouse layout conducive for supply chain automation?

To maximize the benefits of supply chain automation, your physical warehouse must be organized and optimized for receiving, moving, storage, and locating. Does each item have a designated storage location to minimize search time? Are frequently used items kept at easy-to-reach storage locations? Are pathways kept clear to allow inventory traffic? Are there adequate dock doors to accommodate incoming and outgoing shipments? Like your processes and data accuracy, poor warehouse layout and organization will hinder your ability to fully realize the benefits of the mobile solution.

We recently visited a 50,000 sq. ft. warehouse. It had 12 dock doors, but only two were being used for receiving and shipping. The rest were blocked by various business activities, such as manufacturing and inspection. This not only resulted in unloading delays, but also created major inefficiencies when dealing with incoming goods. Because of the backup in unloading, items were quickly unloaded and placed in the warehouse at random locations just to get them out of the way so that more could be unloaded. This creates many interim moves before goods ultimately find their proper storage spot, resulting in lots of wasted and time and effort. Additionally, this layout made it very difficult to manage items in the warehouse.

4. Is your back-office system capable of communicating with mobile devices?

You won’t get the full value of any mobile automation if you can’t integrate with your back-office system. Ensure your system has an API that allows it to send data to external systems and also accept data/commands from external systems. Some back office systems are extremely small and proprietary and have no ability to communicate with external systems. This creates a major obstacle for your mobile supply chain initiative.

5. Have key stakeholders been engaged?

This is imperative for any business initiative, and mobile supply chain automation is no different. Do you have the full support of management? Have key stakeholders, like end-users, IT, and operations been included in the discussion? Getting input and buy-in from these key stakeholders early and often significantly increases your chances of success.

It’s hard to guarantee the success of any software implementation, but being honest with yourself about these five questions will go a long way to helping ensure the success of your mobile supply chain automation initiative.