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The B2B supply chain is changing in this tech-forward world. Like so many other things, if you’re not getting on board with smart business tech, you could be missing out on important successes. That starts with your supply and integrating tech to reduce human error and track things more clearly.
As a B2B business owner, you already know that transactions tend to happen within the supply chain. Whether you’re a wholesaler or retailer, if you’re not using tech to keep track of your supply and your sales, your business might not be able to keep up with those who are integrating different types of tech – including cloud-based technology.
Let’s take a close look at how smart business tech is optimizing the B2B supply chain, and what steps you can take to implement more sophisticated technology into your management strategy.
Why Smart Tech Matters
Tech innovations aren’t just important for manufacturing purposes. They are extremely beneficial for every step in the B2B supply chain. If you’re a supplier, integrating smart tech into your supply chain strategy can help with things like:
- Cash flow
You’re also reducing the risk of human error throughout the process, especially when it comes to processing and fulfillment. Integrating smart technology as a part of your risk management plan makes it easier to reduce risk and put plans in place for fast recovery if disaster does strike within your supply chain.
Additionally, when you use things like automation and AI, you’ll actually end up freeing up many of your employees so they can focus on other tasks while improving efficiency. Your business can grow, your employees can move up the ladder, and you can move more product safely and quickly.
What You Can Do Today
Although technology is quickly advancing, there is plenty of technology you can start implementing into your B2B supply chain strategy immediately. For example, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software will help you overcome existing challenges you might face within supply chain management, including:
- Customer acquisition
- A global shift toward e-commerce
- Time constraints
With this kind of software, you’ll enjoy seamless data transfer from system to system. This offers another opportunity to reduce human error while optimizing your efforts because you won’t have to rely on manual data entry. Instead, you’ll have a consistently-updated clear picture of your efforts.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of automated workflows and accurate shipment tracking while offering greater confidence in fulfilling orders on time.
Integrating ERP software into your existing system should be just the beginning when it comes to what you’ll be able to do in the future with smart business tech. As you continue to grow, take advantage of existing technology that is becoming more widely available to small businesses and enterprises alike.
Preparing for the Future
As our globe becomes inundated with fossil fuels, every business needs to do its part in reducing its footprint to succeed in the future. Luckily, our world has combined the power of technology and sustainability, and nowhere is that more evident than in solar power technology. In the last decade alone, the limits of solar technology have broken down significantly. Today, solar power has been used for a variety of purposes, including transportation, military defense, and even space exploration.
When it comes to harnessing solar power for your B2B supply chain, it can be utilized almost anywhere you’re currently relying on traditional forms of energy. You can take advantage of solar energy-powered transportation by integrating it into your fleet. Not only will it help to reduce your overall reliance on fossil fuels and reduce your budget for fuel, but it can shed a positive light on your business practices and help with client acquisition
In addition to solar technology, you should also be looking into 5G for the future of your supply chain. Integrating 5G into your existing supply chain tech will help to reduce disruptions and improve optimization efforts. Things like smart sensors can be placed on your fleet trucks to track product location or determine the cause(s) of delays in real time. Shipments can be tracked electronically to prevent cargo from getting lost. Again, the risk of human error will be greatly reduced this way. 5G makes it much easier to implement AI and automation into your strategy without having to worry about network lags or lapses in connection.
Many people look at the supply chain industry and automatically assume it’s outdated. Others think if it’s not “broken,” it shouldn’t be fixed. But, smart technology is already optimizing the B2B supply chain, and the businesses that don’t jump on board will experience greater losses, delays, and burnt-out employees for years to come. Consider some of the tech solutions you can implement now and in the future, and you’re likely to see greater success and more streamlined production.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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In the modern era, being aware of the latest technology can provide unique benefits for your business, no matter your industry. When it comes to warehouse management, utilizing an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can help boost productivity so your processes are as efficient as possible. Here’s more about the benefits of using an ERP and why your facility should implement it as soon as possible.
What Is an ERP?
ERP software is a complete organizational solution that allows you to manage essential business aspects like supply chain operations, accounting, and other processes in one place. An ERP program allows your team to seamlessly manage your warehouse, as every kind of data you need works together more efficiently.
Rather than rely on traditional methods like maintaining physical document files, an ERP allows you to take an informed, digital approach to warehouse operations. These systems can transform your warehouse’s productivity levels so you can complete the essential components of your business faster.
Explore a few productivity benefits of ERP systems, all of which lead to subsequent advantages like better company reputation and improved client relationships.
Likely the most notable selling point of an ERP system is the ability to automate tedious job duties. Almost every role can include some form of automation, which allows employees to direct their skills and attention to more complex tasks. Thanks to automation, teams can be more productive in the areas of their work that matter most.
For example, instead of having your customer service team personally respond to every inquiry, ERP software can help reduce the number of interactions needed to resolve an issue. Therefore, the system can provide information on straightforward problems, allowing employees to meaningfully connect with people who have more complex issues. This increases customer satisfaction, which is extremely advantageous to your company.
Other areas for potential automation through an ERP platform include customer data management, inventory management, and purchase orders.
ERP software keeps your company’s data in a single, accessible digital space. All the information your team needs to successfully manage your warehouse is readily available whenever and wherever they need it.
This way, the right people can access the information they need to complete their job duties without having to ask a co-worker and wait for a response. Further, the platform’s accessibility means departments can easily communicate and collaborate, reducing typical warehouse issues that stem from a disorganized system.
ERP systems are also completely mobile, which is especially advantageous today. No matter the size of your warehouse or whether you have one or a dozen facilities to manage, your team is likely in a few different places throughout the week. Reducing communication issues that come with a spread-out team is easy with ERP software.
Every approved and connected employee can access the ERP platform from their smartphones, laptops, or tablets, whether in the warehouse or off-site. Therefore, your team no longer needs to wait until the right person is at their desk to approve a document — it can all happen on the go, keeping productivity levels high.
4. Forecasting and Integration
No one can accurately predict the future, but you can forecast trends to have at least a small idea of what is to come. ERP software can navigate supply chain issues and other disruptions in your warehouse. That makes you better equipped to create sales reports and generate additional crucial information to circumvent sudden delays and high demand.
Similarly, ERP platforms are ideal for supply chain management integration. These features allow you to see the full view of your warehouse’s operations, including an in-depth look at your distribution channels. If you manage more than one facility, you use the system to view details regarding all of them in one location.
5. Data Security
A data breach can set your team’s efficiency back tenfold as they work to correct the error, increase protections, and manage your company’s reputation. Switching to an ERP platform lets you better protect your data from attacks, as software improvements and updates continuously happen for today’s ERP systems.
Moving Forward With an ERP Solution
If your team is interested in incorporating an ERP solution to better manage your warehouse’s productivity, consider doing so with the help of a consulting firm that understands the full spectrum of ERP. ERP software is advantageous in many ways for warehouses. Still, it can be a complicated system to configure, especially when you currently rely on an outdated management process that will take skill and time to convert.
Maximize your warehouse’s productivity by partnering with a reliable team to make implementing and understanding your new ERP software simple. This way, you can discover the best features of your new software without sacrificing any efficiency to learn it. Your warehouse will be reaping the rewards of this solution in no time.
* This article is written by Devin Partida. Devin is a tech writer with an interest in the IIoT and manufacturing. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.
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Technology is essential for business tasks like tracking manufacturing and distribution, managing inventory and the supply chain, and handling administrative duties. Once business leaders establish technological systems, it’s all too common for no one to think about it again for a decade. This isn’t a great business practice.
Successful businesses are constantly updating their software to make processes more efficient and to improve the user experience for customers. Haven’t updated your company’s technology in a while? There’s no need to worry.
If you take a minute to analyze your business processes, you may find there are some tell-tale signs it’s time for an upgrade.
1. Your Team Uses Different Software for Different Processes
Do you find that your team is constantly jumping from one platform to another? Are there different applications your team uses for different business processes?
You can lose time and productivity if you are always having to change systems and platforms. Not to mention, using multiple applications can slow down your computer.
2. Team Members Frequently Complain About the Software They Use
There is nothing worse than not being able to do your job well because of technology.
Questions to ask yourself about your team’s experience are:
- Is your team having to do a lot of manual business processes?
- Is it difficult to access the data your team needs to access daily?
- Is your business data available on the cloud for easy access?
- Is your software slow enough to cause frustration among your staff?
If you notice your team complaining about outdated software, slow hardware, or systems that hinder everyday duties, it won’t be long before you start seeing a drop in morale and productivity.
3. Your Business is Shifting Gears
If you’ve decided it’s time for your company to change directions, you may need to also upgrade your technology to better align with your new business goals. Perhaps you want to acquire new laptops, smartphones, or tablets for your team. Perhaps you simply want to set up new systems.
When shifting directions, new technology can help you achieve your business goals. Research new technological solutions that might be a good fit for your business, and evaluate your options.
4. The User Experience is Convoluted and Difficult
Talk to your customers to find out what the user experience is like with your website or any other systems they use to purchase goods or services from your business. Is the whole process too chaotic? How is the workflow efficiency? Are your systems causing you to have difficulty when scaling your business and adding more customers?
These are all signs it’s time to improve the user experience. The last thing you want is for your website or app to be giving customers the wrong impression about your business.
5. Your Software Isn’t Secure
Security for your company is crucial. If you find the software is being threatened, it’s definitely time for an upgrade. Customers will be able to trust your business more if they know their information is secure in your system.
If you haven’t upgraded in a while and you’re using older technology, you may be more vulnerable to security breaches. This can put your company and your customers in a bad position.
How to Upgrade Your Business Software
Alright, so you’ve taken a look at your business, you’ve assessed your situation, and you’ve noticed the signs that you need to give your business technology an upgrade. So what are the next steps? How should you go about getting started with updating your business technology?
1. Make Things Simple
You want to take a look at your current processes and figure out how you can streamline as much as possible. Unfortunately, business leaders can tend to overcomplicate things.
Identify your business goals, and research the best software to help you achieve as many of those goals as possible. Automate as much of the business processes as you can.
When you have put your new systems into place, don’t forget to test the new workflow. You want to be able to identify any issues so you can work to improve the effectiveness of any new systems.
2. Hire a Software Developer
Hiring a software developer is often one of the easiest ways to update your business software. In most cases, these experts will be able to go into your software, diagnose any problems you are having, and help you to find the right solutions for your business.
You may find it helpful to keep the software developer on retainer so that if you run into issues in the future, you can consult with them to find the best solution. This way, they can help you to ensure that your business processes continue to run smoothly.
3. Take a Web Design Class
If a lot of your issues have to do with your website, you may want to take web design classes yourself. In a web design class, you can learn the basics about web development, web coding principles, web graphics, and user experience.
You may be thinking that you’re interested in running your business, not becoming a web designer. However, as technology becomes more and more intertwined with business processes, you are likely to be much more successful in your business if you have a basic knowledge of how software and web design can work to help you have more efficient business processes.
If you want to improve the technology in your business, there are a lot of things you can do to stay current. It’s important to regularly take a look at your business processes and assess whether or not your technology is working for you.
*This article is written by Ainsley Lawrence. View more of Ainsley’s articles here.
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Plastic has left an indelible mark on the manufacturing industry. This ubiquitous material helps companies produce high-quality products at an inexpensive cost for both the consumers and themselves. Moreover, the chemical makeup of plastics and other polymers opens up new frontiers in manufacturing as the industry finds new and exciting ways to deploy these materials to suit its needs and those of future generations. Reducing plastic manufacturing costs can have a huge impact on society and the industry.
The Plastics Industry Trade Association places plastics manufacture as the third largest sector in the field, one capable of generating more than $380 billion in annual shipments and employing more than 885,000 employees spread across every single U.S. state. However, even titans of industry can find methods of improving operational efficiency to simplify their supply chain relationships, streamline internal processes, and manage their resources more intelligently to secure the bottom line. As big as plastics is, it fits the mold for such improvement opportunities. Where can manufacturers focus their attention if they want to see their performance prosper and plastic manufacturing costs reduced?
Energy efficiency through reverse logistics
Like many process industries relying predominantly on raw materials, plastics manufacturing expends a great deal of energy in production. Most plastics are derived from either hydrocarbon gas liquids or natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, electricity makes up a significant portion of this industry’s energy consumption, used primarily in heating, cooling, and processes like compression and injection molding, as well as thermoforming. That said, ancillary processes also take their fair share – a study published in Manufacturing Engineering found the energy costs related to additive manufacturing techniques can be anywhere between 53 to 104 times more expensive than traditional injection molding.
However, energy conservation may not necessarily be in the cards for plastics manufacturers, as usage directly correlates to the desired chemical reaction necessary for production. Instead of devoting company resources toward finding solutions for reducing energy costs on-site, plastics manufacturers should give reverse logistics prospects equal consideration. While establishing or enhancing such a program may add a level of complexity to business functionality, the rewards outweigh those concerns by a wide margin. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy uncovered that the industry has the potential to dramatically decrease its energy and plastic manufacturing costs by instituting robust recycling measures, especially for companies working with polyethylene. A “modest” campaign could yield as much a 17 percent energy cost reduction, but an “aggressive” one could cut energy spend by nearly a third.
Implementing dynamic reverse logistics recycling programs for reclaimed or returned goods isn’t merely a fly-by-night trend for trimming costs, but a whole new way of envisioning manufacturing. Plastics manufacturers should consider instituting or expanding these areas to push their enterprises toward peak operational efficiency, powered by an innovative approach to waste management.
Where can plastics manufacturers focus their attention if they want to see their performance prosper and operational costs reduced?
Automated, end-to-end enterprise resource planning to cover administrative duties
Apart from optimizing on the manufacturing floor, plastics also requires well-oiled administrative processes behind the scenes to ensure plant operations run smoothly and cost-effectively. Automating a number of services on the back end can eliminate deficiencies caused by clerical errors related to data entry, as well as other pertinent processes specific to plastics like tracking fluctuating resource markets to scaling and managing plastics recipes. Moreover, programming these machinations to run automatically organizes low-level tasks in a way that complements the business intelligence gleaned from them by employees, managers, and supervisors.
“Comprehensive enterprise resource planning can provide the answers plastics manufacturers are looking for.”
Comprehensive enterprise resource planning can provide the answers plastics manufacturers are looking for. For instance, a 2015 DuPont survey regarding the top concerns facing the plastics industry placed “unstable oil prices” in the third seat, a single percentage point behind “environment and sustainability” and “competitive global environment.” By adequately forecasting demand and operational costs with real-time data tracking from volatile oil markets and others, plastics manufacturers can apportion resource spend intelligently, reducing waste by way of over- and underproduction, over- and understocking inventories, meeting budgetary requirements on daily resource investments, and more.
Plastics manufacturers without ERP or with only single-tier systems should seriously consider upgrading to a two-tier deployment as they scale. As a Constellation Research survey found, nearly half of all businesses with Tier-1 ERP already in place were considering making the switch to two-tier. Respondents thinking about onboarding two-tier ERP were motivated predominantly by its low cost in comparison to their overburdened, single-tier operations and as insurance securing their competitiveness in an ever-changing global market.
Well-executed ERP management doesn’t handle small, meaningless tasks, but decidedly important ones that plastics manufacturers might not have the human capital to oversee with the intensity the 21st-century business mandates. This resource puts automation to work for the plant, providing everyone from plant managers to executives with the information necessary to consolidate operations into a simplified, data-driven workflow and make industry-leading decisions about the direction of their organization.