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Competition is increasing. Customers demand more visibility and flexibility in how and when goods are delivered. Your channels are proliferating and becoming more complex. The only way to effectively deliver optimal performance is for your supply chain to be proactive, not reactive. That requires efficiency and agility.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure what you can’t see. Making your supply chain more efficient requires visibility — the kind of visibility made possible by advanced technologies.

Here are three quick technology tips to create a more efficient supply chain:

  1. Consider a Cloud-Based Infrastructure

When people talk about moving their applications or data into the cloud, the transition is usually couched in terms of cost savings. Yes, migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure can reduce administrative, hardware, and support costs, but there are other benefits that can be particularly advantageous for a supply chain.

With real-time data about demand, production, and product movement in the cloud, you can provide fast, end-to-end visibility to every stakeholder. You and your business partners can collaborate more effectively and efficiently to respond to changes in the supply chain.

This type of infrastructure also makes it easier to monitor and assess your suppliers, partners, and customers in terms of performance and profitability.

  1. Accelerate Your Mobile Communications

A more efficient supply chain relies on more efficient communications. If your warehouse or distribution center was last wired for Wi-Fi more than five years ago, then it is time to make an upgrade. The new 802.11ac standard, which debuted in 2013, offers 1.2 gigabits-per-second speeds, twice what was available just a few years ago. It’s likely that more than just the mobile computers in your DC are accessing that network now, too, given the explosive growth of tablets and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

An upgraded WLAN makes video, voice, and data all move faster and more reliably. Zebra Technologies offers an 802.11ac WLAN portfolio that is designed for rugged supply chain environments, and has the bandwidth to extend business intelligence to the network edge. Zebra’s WiNG 5 enterprise-grade operating system allows the system to load balance and self heal, providing even greater efficiency improvements.

New mobile data collection computers are also available that can take advantage of these network capabilities. Zebra Technologies’ MC9000 line of computers, for example, supports these networks and offers greater flexibility in the form of support for the Android operating system, advanced barcode scanning, and robust business applications. Those capabilities can further enhance an efficient supply chain.

  1. Invest in Analytics and Forecasting

Gathering data in the cloud from multiple sources also enables business analytics that can help you anticipate shifts in demand in advance, further improving responsiveness and efficiency. A holistic view of Big Data also provides fuel for your forecasting engine, making it possible to adjust manufacturing or supply chain capacity based on accurate demand signals.

Big Data analysis can improve planning and scheduling, automate inventory management, reduce overall inventory, and help identify supply chain chokepoints. Good, predictive data can help you implement new efficient supply chain strategies (or improve the performance of existing programs) like just-in-time delivery, cross docking, or outsourcing operations to third party providers.

It can also provide you with the information you need to better segment your suppliers and customers in order develop innovative business programs.

Efficient Supply Chain Deployment

A more efficient supply chain is critical for customer satisfaction and profitability. Strategically deploying advanced technologies can eliminate the bottlenecks from your supply chain through improved communications, collaboration, visibility, and analytics.

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