Do Your Logistics Tell the Whole Story?

by Tim Rowland, Lexmark International

Your supply chain has the power to make or break the success of your business operations. When the chain is strong and unbroken, you can operate with speed and efficiency and manage costs easily. But manufacturers know successful supply chain management is easier said than done.

With so many moving parts and players, breakage and delays are often common. To combat those challenges, you need a clear, complete view, and effective communication among your headquarters, plants, distribution centers, customers and partners, and there’s just one way to make that happen — digital transformation. Digital transformation uncovers hidden data and ensures all information is always available. Let’s take a look at how undergoing a digital transformation results in next-level supply chain logistics and can connect all the information throughout your supply chain.

The Cost of Complexity

The modern supply chain is exponentially more complex than ever before. With facilities and partners stretching across the globe and an ever-increasing number of products to manage, today’s manufacturers certainly have their hands full. It’s not difficult to understand why gaining an accurate, comprehensive view of logistics can feel like an impossible feat.

In order to adjust to supply chain growth and expansion, manufacturers need increased visibility, control and flexibility. But current systems aren’t agile or connected, and can’t handle the staggering volume of documentation that’s generated and exchanged on a daily basis.

As a result, manual document creation and the movement and processing of paper is commonplace, and it’s causing all kinds of challenges. Hand-keyed data is often riddled with errors, typos and missing information. Shuffling paper from one location to the next leads to lost documentation and inefficient redundancies. And the lack of a centralized system to create, track and share information is hampering visibility and control.

The bottom line? Logistical complexities abound in today’s manufacturing supply chain, and they’re quite costly. These complexities drive up the cost of products, and make it difficult to maintain efficiency and manage resources. Gone are the days when manual processes and full filing cabinets got the job done; it’s time to find a better way to operate.

The value of a digital transformation

Digital transformation is about making the shift from manual processes that drain your time and resources to digital processes that streamline operations and boost efficiency. It’s about leveraging automation to eliminate errors and delays, and gain a complete view into your distribution, transportation and procurement processes.

A transformation like this could have a major impact on your logistics management efforts. Going digital gives you the power to unite your core systems for immediate access to documents, easy tracking of shipments, and hassle-free data exchange with partners and customers.

In addition, digital processes make it possible to capture and extract information without manual entry and with increased accuracy and speed. By digitizing these once human-intensive tasks, employees can be reallocated to higher-value jobs that improve customer service and strengthen your business.

And scalability? It’s easy when you have a strong digital foundation. Where previous manual processes required manufacturers to hire additional people as their customer base grew, systems that operate digitally make it possible to scale and grow business without additional expense.

Say goodbye to crumpled paper and bulky filing cabinets

Document capture and routing solutions help manufacturers jumpstart their digital transformation. With state-of-the-art capture technology and electronic processes, it is easy to streamline and automate tasks related to shipping and receiving forms. The result? No more paper shuffling. That’s a change your customers and employees will appreciate.

Take the stress out of processing bills of lading

The requirement to process every one of the massive stacks of bills of lading isn’t going away. But the slow, manual process of keying in all that information is a thing of the past. With intelligent capture solutions, processing bills of lading becomes a completely digital experience. The technology recognizes and extracts line-item data from bills of lading, verifies the information and moves it to your core systems — all with minimal manual effort.

The Impact of Visibility

When your systems aren’t able to provide complete, immediate access to information, managing your supply chain can feel a lot like operating blindfolded. Hidden data and missing paperwork make it impossible to know and understand the whole story.

That’s why most manufacturers are realizing the need for more sophisticated analytics that help drive decisions and improvements. The historical, descriptive analytics that legacy systems provide are no longer enough; you need a way to look forward, anticipate future challenges and proactively make changes to prevent process breakage. Insight like that brings a complete view of your entire supply chain into focus, and allows you true flexibility to respond, adapt and improve.

See more with analytics

Gaining analytical insight doesn’t always require new, large-scale technology investments. In fact, improving your visibility is often about simply using the systems and capabilities you already have, better.

That philosophy can begin in an unlikely place. Your printer fleet can quietly collect valuable data, giving you actionable knowledge about how your systems and your people are performing. In doing so, you maximize the value of your printer device fleet and pull back the curtain on cost inconsistencies, process breakdowns and more. You’ll have a better understanding of why, when and how problems in your supply chain occur, and how to fix them in a way that minimizes risk, improves compliance and makes a lasting impact. A good digital transformation partner can help connect your printer fleet to the rest of your supply chain systems for a truly integrated solution with analytics that improve visibility across your whole supply chain.

Digital transformation in action: A glimpse of the future

What could you accomplish if you could see the entire state of your supply chain — whole and unobstructed? The possibilities would truly be endless. Imagine being able to unlock once-hidden information, and access a live view of all of your products, moving from one place to the next. How would that strengthen your process and change your ability to respond to broken or weak links? With that level of insight, you could:
• Respond faster with real-time updates and alerts.
• Solve problems with the complete picture.
• Uncover the unknowns with analytics .
• Say goodbye to disconnected data.
• Make slow manual tasks a thing of the past.

As manufacturers, it might be time to drop our slow, cumbersome and paper-based processes and move to digital processes and systems. It could transform our supply chain and the way we do business. The key take away is to find a vendor that understands the distinctive challenges manufacturers face and can help you go digital.


Tim Rowland
Lexmark International

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.