SCM: turning the wheels of industry
Maintaining an efficient and steady supply line can be a daunting task, but an essential one to the livelihood of many businesses. Effective management of inventory and transactions, as well as ensuring that products are available at the precise moment needed, is an art in itself. In the modern marketplace, the importance of supply chain management and its associated software cannot be understated, but more often than not, it is not a process given proper consideration until products start disappearing off the shelves.
Serving as one of the specialist firms active in the field of SCM is Software AG, a global technology company focused on application infrastructure and middleware software.
"Manufacturing and supply chain management is an intricate web that is made more diverse and complex by the global economy and developments like reshoring, big data and sensor technology," comments Rami Kichli, vice president for Gulf & Levant region, Software AG.
"The key elements to a successful supply chain operation include awareness, visibility, responsiveness and resiliency."
Though its expertise is spread across numerous industry segments, within the supply chain and logistics market, the company, whose history dates back almost 50 years, offers two comprehensive platforms.
The first is a smart logistics system designed for third-party logistics providers, which maximises the efficiencies of a logistics and distribution operation utilising an Internet-of-Things (IoT) approach. The system collates and analyses multiple high volume data streams in real-time, from a number of sources within the IoT environment, enacting set data triggers to tackle wastage and scheduling inefficiencies.
Software AG's second offering is a smart logistics mobile app designed for physical movement of shipments. The app is capable of capturing driver, truck and positional data quickly and accurately.
Considering the many risks involved throughout the entire transport of goods through a supply chain, it comes as no surprise that end-users are often concerned with mitigating the dangers. To that end, Software AG also maintains its own Intelligent Supply Chain Risk Management (iSCRM) module, within its suite of programmes for governance, risk and compliance.
The module is designed to aid companies in monitoring and mitigating risks to their supply chain, as well as responding automatically to risks in real-time. Its features include modelling possible risk factors, monitoring risk information, as well as raising alerts where appropriate.
"Our supply chain management department is expected to increase its range of responsibilities—particularly across the order fulfilment process and positioning it as a coordinated set of activities," explains Kichli.
"The challenges most often cited for supply chain management are customer service performance monitoring, order processing/customer service and supply chain management budget forecasting."
Serving as a cloud-based software platform for freight and logistics companies, LogitaaS holds numerous modules designed to manage shipments for sea, air, and land. Equipped with CRM inquiries, management and reporting capabilities as well, LogitaaS enables end-users to send bookings, shipping instructions, as well as electronic air waybills to over 90 airlines and 50 container shipping lines.
The system also provides freight forwarders utilising the software to share an online portal with their respective clientele, where additional online services can be accessed.
"LogistaaS enables far more efficient and cost-effective processes than traditional channels through its integration with many shipping lines and airlines, as well as through the automatic generation of any document required by the companies using it," comments Kareem Naouri, CEO, LogistaaS.
Based on a cloud platform, the system holds numerous benefits, which includes constant access through mobile devices, while also doing away with the need to maintain a local server. Additionally, LogistaaS also gives managers a number of tools to oversee their teams, which includes smart volume and financial reports, performance management metrics, and task management tools.
"The higher the visibility between supply chains members, the more it becomes efficient and productive; our goal at LogistaaS is to allow the maximum possible connectivity between the supply chain members, and we do that by being cloud-based and offering various integration options," explains Naouri.
When pressed on the specific challenges faced by his organisation, the CEO pointed out that to fully realise the potential of its SCM software, several parties along the chain need to be brought into the fold, and made to implement the necessary changes.
Illustrating with an example of how air waybills are managed, Naouri explains that many cargo agents across various parts of the world still rely on printing bills on paper. Furthermore, a number of airlines, ground handling agents, and customs authorities, are also not equipped to accept the electronic format for waybills.
The point is that even if a single party along the supply chain is incapable of receiving electronic air waybills, then a traditional paper waybill will need to be printed, thus diminishing the value of submitting a digital waybill to begin with.
"Other issues we face include the speed and reliability of the internet connectivity in some parts of the GCC and the Arab World, which we overcame by designing LogistaaS to be as light and simple as possible," says Naouri.
"Lastly, the varying degrees of tech-savviness among the decision makers in the supply chain can slow the rate of adoption of new systems that use modern technology," he adds.
Despite the obstacles however, LogistaaS has found some success collaborating with local associations towards motivating stakeholders to move on from relying on paper-based operational models.
The company has also witnessed first-hand positive developments in the market, which includes improved visibility across the supply chain, thanks to increased integration of systems.
The adoption of e-government programmes in several countries also presents a grand opportunity for SCM software providers to offer more localised services to their clientele.
Another stop on the complex web that is SCM lies with the storage of supplies and warehouse management. As one of the key players the global arena for warehouse management software (WMS), Ehrhardt + Partner Solutions (EPS) maintains several operations across the globe, as well as a network of over 500 customers.
Incepted back in 1987, EPS has expanded its capabilities beyond simply offering WMS, to also include warehouse design, logistics consultancy services, as well as offering equipment for daily operations.
"Everyone is looking to improve their logistics, as well as improving their warehouse operation. We are helping our customers optimise their warehouse processes, or sometimes designing the perfect warehouse for their requirement," comments Makrem Kadachi, general manager of GCC, Ehrhardt + Partner Solutions.
While it comes as no surprise that virtually all businesses recognise the importance of owning and maintaining a warehouse for storage, it is jarring to see operators still rely on outdated legacy systems and paper-based systems to oversee inventory.
In his own experience, Kadachi has seen increased demand from the market for improved transparency and inventory control, but at the same time, there is a hesitancy to invest in an advanced IT platform.
In fact, it is sometimes the case where clients conduct daily inventory checks by sending someone down to view the stocks physically.
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