Apps accelerate supply chain processes

accelerateVirtually everyone involved in the supply chain has a smartphone or tablet with multiple apps installed on it, and virtually all of those apps have been developed for the consumer market. Apps specifically for supply chain-related uses are still rare, although that is beginning to change – and with good reason. Apps in the supply chain can improve communication and alignment, shorten lead times and accelerate supply chain processes.
By Marcel te Lindert

Picture the scene: Peter has just arrived home when he receives a message on his smartphone. “You’re driving for NOP Logistics tomorrow. Pick up in Breda.” His planner regularly sends him such messages. He normally hears in the evening which logistics service provider he will be driving for the following day, and tomorrow it will be NOP Logistics. He swipes to the left to open that logistics service provider’s on-board computer app. In it, he can immediately see at what time he needs to be in Breda and his delivery route. “OK, tomorrow could be a long day,” he mumbles before putting his phone away, unaware of what awaits him.

The next morning, Peter turns up at the gate of NOP Logistics at the pre-agreed time, in his truck. He signs in with the gate porter who directs him to dock number 14. Once he has loaded his trailer, he places his smartphone into the holder on the dashboard, clicks to open the NOP Logistics app again and presses start. He sets off on his route, but things start to go wrong before he’s even reached the first drop-off address. Peter is forced to make an emergency stop. He feels his cargo shift in the back of the truck and can’t avoid bumping into the car in front of him. He gets out to assess the situation and there appears to be only minimal damage to both his truck and the other vehicle. He then opens the trailer door, only to see that two large boxes have fallen off one of the pallets. He uses his smartphone to take a photo, which the app automatically transmits to NOP Logistics and adds it to his route file.

Before Peter has finished filling in the paperwork so that he can get back on the road, the planner from NOP calls him. “I just saw the photo. What happened?” Peter explains the situation, mentioning that he is now running behind schedule and adding that the goods in the two boxes are unusable. “Hold on, I’ve got a call on the other line,” says the planner. The line goes silent for a while and then he hears the planner’s voice again. “That was the consignee,” he says, laughing. “He’d received a notification of the delay via the app while he was having his breakfast. He’s already reorganised his production schedule, so an hour’s delay is no longer a problem.”

Internet on the go

Apps offer tremendous possibilities in the supply chain. Via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets they provide insight into the progress of supply chain activities and enable corrective action to be taken immediately. But what is an app, precisely? In essence, an app is simply a piece of software that runs on a mobile device such as a smartphone or a tablet. The software can operate independently and supports the user in a particular task. The major advantage of an app is that it can leverage a number of specific functionalities of a mobile device:

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This article was first published in Supply Chain Movement Q4 – 2015Supply Chain Movement 19 -Q4 2015

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