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Finding the Value of Mobility in the Supply Chain

As a participant in the recent Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Supply Chain & Mobility Panel, we talked about the benefits of deploying mobile capabilities in the supply chain.  

The audience was comprised of Atlanta-based supply chain practitioners. I was invited to share my perspective from a data collection, collaboration, order fulfillment perspective in the distribution center, as well as from the back of the store omnichannel perspective. The audience had questions:

  • What are the benefits?
  • What does the ROI look like?
  • How do I get buy in from my peers and management?
  • Once I begin the project what are some caveats/gotchas I need to pay attention to?

Then I fielded a really interesting query: Why do we have to do mobility in supply chain? Who cares? What is the real value? Click on the video below to hear my response:

Now, in this venue, I want to take a step back and open up a broader discussion. To understand the evolution of mobility, we need to take a step back and peruse the history of technology progression. At first, big companies used mainframe computers to process payroll, manage accounting transactions, and run enterprise processes. Next, people adopted PCs, which allowed everyone more productive because they had access to computing power right on their desk. Next, client-server technology connected everybody back to the mainframe and backed server through a console to offer the power of the mainframe combined with the ease of use of a personal workstation. The Internet connected everyone and created huge benefits. People, seeing the possibilities, bought and sold things and merchants, seeing demand, hopped on board. Now, people are spending time on their mobile devices (and less time with their PCs).

 Businesses are beginning to recognize the shift. One company in India, Myntra was purchased by Flipkart and moved all of its activities to a mobile platform, even shutting down its traditional web site. Now, the Plipkart has followed the same path and announced that it will shut down its own web site in the next year. The migration to mobile is in full swing.

Look around and you'll see evidence of this movement everywhere. People check their mobile device as they sit in cafés, wait for an elevator, or sitting in a meeting room.  They are surfing the web, answering email, running reports and more. Retailers have realized that if they want audience for their wares, they need to invest in mobile apps. And the phenomenon is spreading to every nook and corner of the world including enterprises, supply chains, and distribution centers.

Mobility remains as a way the organizations are differentiating their offerings with their customers and potential customers.  It's a popular move whenever it clearly makes life easer, lets workers be more effective, and pushes work to be more productive. Think about it: 80% of the emails that are sent out today get read in a mobile device first, so making sure the information is readable and usable in a mobile footprint is critically important.

Of course, you have to understand the pain point that a mobile app or device can solve in your specific scenario (the time of technology for technology sake is long gone). You have to clearly articulate the value of the app or device to the user. In the end, though, the decision is now whether or not to go mobile, but whether to be a leader or a follower of this trend.

Let us know what you think about the usefulness of mobile applications and devices for logistics and the supply chain the comments section below.

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