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Live Chat 2/20: Managing the Supply Chain on the Go

With speed and cost effectiveness as top priorities, mobile applications and devices are quickly becoming the tools of choice for supply chain managers, as well as logistics and transportation pros.

“If I think about the changes in the supply chain over the last several years, it's gone from begin slow, manual, and unresponsive to one of high complexity and end consumption and a substantially higher level of risk in that supply chain,” said Mike McNamara, chief executive officer of Flextronics in a video. “If your supply chain is not real time, mobile, connected I don't how you'll run your supply chain in five years,” he added.

The use of commercial-grade smart phones, including Blackberrys, Androids, and iPhones, as well as, to a lesser extent, tablets such as the iPad, according to ARC Advisory Group has increased. Mobile supply chain management (MSCM) is a growing, yet fragmented market, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan. Popularity for these applications is being driven by the lure of a quick hard-dollar return on investment (ROI). Frost & Sullivan said in a press release:

Companies are always looking for ways to tighten their supply chain processes, wringing out inefficiencies and cost. Mobilizing access to — and management of — portions of today's supply chain provides increased visibility across companies and processes. This, in turn, can result in quicker real-time decisions, reduced paperwork, lower inventory costs, fewer errors, and improved worker productivity.

Today, it's possible to perform many critical supply chain functions while on the move: tracking assets and shipments, executing processes and transactions, and collaborating with partners. Having the right mobile tools improves productivity, functionality, and efficiency and facilitates tracking, communication, and the execution of processes.

Of course, the path the truly mobile supply chain is not without its bumps. Some potential adopters voice concerns about the privacy of company, customer, and partner data being transmitted over a wireless network. Further, the rapidly increasing array of technology choices can be confusing for organizations trying to create a path to mobility.

These solutions offer a vastly differing array of features and capabilities, and no market leader has emerged yet. “Mobile supply chain management is a market in flux,” Frost & Sullivan said in its press release. “It is expected to expand and become more defined during the 2014-2018 time period.”

To dig into this topic, we've invited Tyler Ziemann, head of growth at Elementum, and Tom Linton, chief procurement officer at Flextronics, as our guests as we discuss the current state of the real-time mobile supply chain. Elementum is a Silicon Valley-based startup with the stated goal of bringing “the world's supply chain data into the palm of your hand.” Flextronics and Lightspeed Venture Partners have invested $44 million in Series B funding to the company.

We'll be gathering in the EBN Chat Area on Thursday, February 20, at 1:30 p.m. PT (4:30 p.m. ET). Come and join us. If you want to submit thoughts or questions in advance, please use the comments section below.

6 comments on “Live Chat 2/20: Managing the Supply Chain on the Go

  1. SP
    February 18, 2014

    Yes these days there are so many apps that can be freely download on Andriod. Its a boon for supply chain business as it always is based on networking.

  2. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 20, 2014

    Supply chain apps aimed at the large enterprise are getting more and more plentiful. The big challenge is that it is still early days so knowing which apps to use remains difficult.

  3. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 20, 2014

    Distribution and warehouse folks have been using handheld mobile computers (along with RFID tags, bar-codes and the like) for a long time with great success. What do you think the lessons can be learned for more general supply chain applications?

  4. ahdand
    February 20, 2014

    @Hailey: Don't you think it's a good opportunity to have so many apps in the market ? It provides the comparing facility and the users have the bargaining right in a much more higher manner.  

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 21, 2014

    @NimanthaD, I think the influx of apps is a double-edged sword. On the one hand there are lots of choices, and on the other hand there is the potential for a lot of confusion.  Also, there will be a bunch of folks who invest in products and services that disappear when the market shakeout happens. Being an early adopter has benefits but it's a big gamble too.

  6. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    February 21, 2014

    Thanks to everyone who came and asked questions at today's chat. We shared a lot of interesting information. It's not too late to see what happened, just visit the transcript: Live Chat 2/20: Building a Real-Time Mobile Supply Chain

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