The Importance of Real-time in the Supply Chain

Posted by Nick Ostdick on April 11, 2017

Real-time is a critical function in the supply chain. Despite all the best laid plans, many of the most significant events or occurrences in today’s global manufacturing supply chain happen in the moment and without much warning or advance notice. Though manufacturing companies go to great lengths to deploy intelligently-planned production programs and transportation strategies to ensure on-time delivery and customer satisfaction, such a variant-rich industry with a wide variety of network partners means companies are often playing catch-up in responding to breakdowns, bottlenecks, or other planning and production hurdles.

This is where the value proposition of real-time truly shines in an integrated supply stream. Whether you’re talking about planning strategy, material procurement, job or facility allocation, or warehouse and container management, real-time insight into the supply pipeline via intelligent solutions and software can be the saving grace for planners and managers in leveraging efficiency and productivity.

Because the rules and constraints of production programs or customer orders are fluid and can often change in the moments from when component parts arrive at the production site to the beginning of production programs, manufacturing companies require enhanced levels of agility to respond to the varying nature of the planning and production process. The development and adoption of real-time capability provide manufacturing companies with the flexibility necessary to compete in a variant-rich industry.

The importance of real-time in today’s globally-connected supply chain cannot be understated. With this in mind, let’s examine and discuss the benefits of real-time in the supply chain and the ways companies can leverage real-time capability into a critical competitive advantage.

Demand insight and visibility

Real-time information not only allows manufacturing companies to view up-to-the-minute needs from customers around the world, but it also helps them plan or combat any potential slowdowns or bottlenecks across the supply stream. Real-time windows into overall demand can  also help companies identify trends or fluctuations in need for component parts and adjust production programs or facility allocations before these fluctuations significantly impact productivity. For example, real-time capability can help a manufacturing company in Germany recognize a downward trend in demand for parts with a customer in Mexico and reallocate materials and resources to adapt to that trend rather than keeping production at current levels with the risk of severe overages in inventory.

Enhanced planning and management

Real-time information fosters more accurate, detailed planning capabilities in both the short and mid-term. Because insights into current demand can be viewed and analyzed as they unfold, planners and managers can then use these insights to create better production plans and projects in the near future based on current trend lines. As we’ve discussed in previous entries, better overall planning strategies reverberate through all touch points of the supply stream from transportation management to customer relations. This is why greater planning capability is one of the most important competitive advantages via real-time information platforms.

Greater reporting and data analysis potential

Because of real-time information gathering, gone are the days when planners and managers waited until the end of the month or quarter to review data critical to a manufacturer’s productivity and efficiency. Real-time information allows planners and managers to analyze up-to-the-minute data as it becomes available and distribute this data in a cross-organizational way to promote better communication and collaboration. This real-time information also stems from the use of integrated, intelligent solutions and platforms, which eliminates the need for spreadsheets and other manual methods of data entry and management.

Increased customer satisfaction

If a manufacturer has the ability to review the state of their supply situation as it’s unfolding, make adjustments to strategies and planning platforms in the moment, and react to sudden changes in the supply stream at a moment’s notice, it stands to reason this will result in enhanced customer relations and satisfaction. Real-time information provides companies with the ability to create more accurate production timetables and delivery schedules, which in turn drives a more positive outcome when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers.

Real-time as an endgame

There’s nothing as a sure thing when it comes to demand planning and production in today’s global manufacturing landscape. Companies are constantly looking for ways to increase the efficacy of their planning and production strategies in order to leverage increased levels of growth and productivity. This is achieved by using real-time capability to create an event-based approach to deviations between planning and actual customer orders or production programs. Using alerts or notifications of deviations to make adjustments in production programs for on-time delivery and enhanced customer satisfaction is the true value proposition of real-time in the supply chain.

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Topics: Industry 4.0, Supply Chain Logistics, Supply Chain Management