Visibility's role in improving logistics — From PO to POS

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February 22, 2024By Sourcing Journal and Heidi Benko | Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy, Infor Nexus

Note: This article first appeared in Sourcing Journal and can be found in Sourcing Journal's Logistics Report

Supply chain interconnectedness is clearer than ever, as disruptions ripple throughout the globe. Logistics management must adapt accordingly with solutions that identify and quell risks upstream and downstream. Here, Heidi Benko, Vice President of Solutions Strategy and Marketing at Infor Nexus, speaks to Sourcing Journal about the power of visibility and digitization for efficient, smooth operations.

Sourcing Journal: How does supply chain visibility help companies navigate maritime shipping disruptions?

Heidi Benko: In today's turbulent maritime shipping landscape, supply chain visibility is essential to quickly detect and intelligently respond to disruptions. These solutions provide immediate insights into which vessels and cargos are delayed or at risk, and which were rerouted. Advanced machine-learning algorithms adjust ETAs, providing a more accurate picture of when goods will arrive. Additionally, geofenced zones around key maritime chokepoints offer automated monitoring and alerts, enabling a swift shift from identifying to resolving issues.

The most effective visibility encompasses a comprehensive view of orders and inventory to fully understand the impact of shipping delays and response options. Integrating real-time data and predictive analytics empowers companies to manage worldwide maritime logistics’ complexities with unprecedented agility.

Companies often prioritize adding visibility at transportation and fulfillment stages, but why should they look further up the supply chain to improve logistics operations?

H.B.: Upstream visibility is essential for both revealing potential supplier-related disruptions and providing the flexibility needed to respond to delays. With a clear view of supply status, companies can avoid stockouts and lost sales. Insight into supplier activities, including raw material availability and real-time updates on production, packing and shipping processes, enables businesses to anticipate risks and make adjustments that prevent issues from affecting the wider supply chain. Visibility also helps facilitate postponement strategies. This broader perspective allows for more strategic inventory management and improved supplier collaboration, creating a more resilient, responsive supply chain.

What is the benefit of digitizing logistics paperwork?

H.B.: Document digitization streamlines the entire supply chain from purchase order to point of sale, yielding significant efficiency gains, cost savings and environmental benefits. Digital processes minimize manual data entry, reducing errors and delays. They also offer enhanced analytical insights, empowering logistics teams to fine-tune operations, swiftly address issues and discover improvement opportunities. Moreover, a data-driven approach enables predictive analytics, further optimizing processes by forecasting trends and enhancing decision-making.

As companies embark on digital transformation, prioritizing external documentation—orders, invoices, advanced shipping notices and bills of lading—can lead to immediate improvements. This approach enhances collaboration with supply chain partners, ensures compliance with industry regulations, and meets customer expectations for speedy, accurate transactions. By focusing first on these critical external touchpoints, organizations can facilitate a smoother transition to a fully digitized supply chain, setting the stage for subsequent internal digitization efforts and achieving a more integrated, responsive logistics network.

How can artificial intelligence strengthen companies’ logistics decision-making and distribution processes?

H.B.: AI can optimize carrier selection, routing and transportation consolidation, leading to cost reductions, shorter lead times and lower emissions, all while enhancing on-time delivery rates. Machine learning-driven predictive ETAs offer more precise arrival times, allowing for better coordination of subsequent activities, such as warehouse-receiving operations and enhanced cross-docking opportunities. This level of prediction also allows companies to proactively address delays that could affect production schedules or final delivery.

In distribution centers, AI-driven automation can streamline tasks such as slotting and optimizing labor, increasing efficiency and accuracy. Furthermore, AI-powered demand forecasting employs advanced algorithms to refine inventory management, ensuring optimal stock levels are maintained to meet demand. Additionally, incorporating generative AI can accelerate the processes of getting answers to questions, create analysis and automate the routing of tasks. By leveraging AI in these ways, companies can create more responsive and efficient logistics and distribution networks.


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