In today’s fast-paced and supply chain-challenged world, manufacturers are trying to create efficiencies in their processes wherever possible. One way of creating more efficiency is by digitally transforming supply chains. During USA Manufacturing Hour Twitter Chat, hosts Jon Freeman, Strategic Partnerships Manager and Justin Dickson, Chief Revenue Officer at FreightPOP in California, led a discussion about this timely and important topic for manufacturers worldwide.
The discussion started by addressing how to digitize a supply chain if someone is unsure of how to do it. Participants weighed in.
Jeanette Stevens from GenEdge Alliance said, “As a member of the National MEP Network, we have resources which help SMM's in Virginia figure out how to utilize industry 4.0 to make their supply chain operations more efficient.”
Ruby Rusin from Social Success Marketing in California said, “Fantastic!”
Dan Bigger from Custom Profile in Michigan said, “Great question, which I do not have an answer to. New to the company and while supply chains are a mess, they do a great job whatever they are doing.”
He added, “Just a guess, but shortening supply chains, contracting things out, and finding new vendors that are closer and can do more seems like a good way to digitize.”
Erin Courtenay from Earthling Interactive in Wisconsin said, “Ooooh, tough one... Where to begin? It is a spectrum right? With sensors and AI on the one end and getting proficient at digital tools already in place on the other.”
Rusin added, “Not necessarily about supply chain but I’ve worked in a couple of high ticket tech enterprises...these are fundamental for those that wanted to invest in tech: > write down features you need NOT want. > take time qualifying the solution-don’t rush it.”
Manufacturers’ News Inc in Illinois said, “As we are not manufacturers, but providers (and collectors) of information on manufacturing, we can't answer this question directly, but we are aware of how big of an need digitization has become with the ongoing supply chain disruptions. Timely topic!”
VirtuDesk said, “No idea on this one. Looking forward to everyone's answers.”
Nigel Packer from PelaTis Online in Wales said, “Mapping the supply chain behind your direct suppliers can expose possible problems before you engage. Plan B can be put in place to avoid disruptions. Once you have your map you can then look at digitizing it.”
Hosts Freeman and Dickson said, “We like to break it down into 4 steps: 1) Implementation of technology (such as a TMS) 2) Integrating your technology stack across modes 3) Data-specifics (carrier discrepancies, performance, etc.) 4) Consistency + cohesiveness throughout your organization.”
Learn more in the video below (answer 1)
The chat moved to freight service and costs. Freight service and costs are high almost to the point of being out of control. How can technology help? Participants shared their thoughts.
Rusine answered, “Would love to know about it!”
Courtenay answered, “If you're a super nerd you can deploy predictive analytics to support decision making. If you're a regular nerd you can set up a bot to alert you to price changes. If you're barely a nerd you can research alternatives using google.”
Bigger said, “Just a guess, but shortening supply chains, contracting things out, and finding new vendors that are closer and can do more.”
Parin Mody from StratMg in Illinois said, “With costs out of control, technology can help w/analytics product rationalization to determine optimal cost allocation.”
Kati McDermith said, “I don't know if I will be able to add much to this convo today (aside from epic memes) but it seems to me that technology allows one to analyze data which can certainly uncover needs and opportunities.”
The hosts from FreightPOP said, “The epic memes are still valuable! Thanks for joining in! And you are absolutely right about technology allowing you to analyze data and get a bigger picture about what you need, as well as opportunities!”
McDermith added, “I am a big supporter of Freight Brokers, so I am learning more today than I am sharing-- thanks for the info!”
Manufacturers News Inc said, “Great question & one that must be on the minds of many companies- we reported recently that the price per container in the main shipping lane between the U.S. and China has shot up 500% YOY. Digitization can likely help with strategizing/optimizing.”
Hosts, Freeman and Dickson answered, “Diversification! There is so much demand right now, and technology can help you compare and contrast service levels, fees, and more. Gone are the days of committing to a relationship with a carrier and depending on them to take care of your business in return.”
Learn more in the video below (answer 2)
This led to a discussion about visibility on freight. If struggling with visibility on freight, how is it possible to see what’s coming in and going out? Chat participants had some answers.
Stevens answered, “Taking a stab at this...by utilizing tools like Freight Pop?”
Courtenay said, “There's an app for that!”
McDermith added, “I was looking for a meme for that!!! our brains are connected!”
Bigger said, “There is an app for everything.” He added, “No idea, I am 2 1/2 hours away from our SC plant. I hope to make it there in the next couple of weeks. I'll ask.”
Packer added, “I looked at a project a year ago which involved getting drivers to deliver across the UK. It was based around an App. There were a number of Customer experience issues but it was going n the right direction.”
Rusine said, “Please don’t tell me excel. (Don’t get me wrong, I love excel!) but not for this.”
Hosts, Freeman and DIckson answered, “The first step is to centralize the process! You need a system that has the integrations between the nuanced components of the shipping processes. You will then have the ability to see what is coming in through the tracking!”
Learn more in the video below (answer 3)
Hosts, Freeman and Dickson asked what systems a TMS can tie into and what information can be communicated as a result? Participants shared their thoughts on the topic.
Bigger said, “I am sure you will inform us. Jack of all trades here, Master of Zero.”
Courtenay, “Welllll... I know of at least one instance where a TMS was tied into a web portal for a carrier network.” She shared a blog link of pertinent information https://earthlinginteractive.com/work/liquid-freight/
McDermith said, “So can you tell me who the users are? Is this something Freight Brokers use? Or is this more for the shipper?”
Technology and Manufacturing Association in Illinois said, “Our first attempt - A recent study in IL showed small to mid-sized manufacturers with automation fared better during pandemic – less.”
The hosts from FreightPOP answered, “A TMS should sit at the center of the technology stack for your shipping process. It provides a central "point of truth" so you can better understand your shipping expense. This minimizes human error and allows you to shape processes based on clean data.”
Learn more in the video below (answer 4)
The last discussion point centered around what to do for those struggling with head count and resources. How can digitalization help expand a workforce?
Bigger said, “I just sell, shipping is not my bag. Interesting though. I have much more to learn apparently. LOTS AND LOTS.”
McDermith said, “Me too.”
Bigger said, “I have been taking notes.”
Courtenay said, “Use a google translation service to post jobs in non-English; improve SEO on your site to attract candidates to your "hiring" page; engage social networks to reach younger audiences.”
Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc in Missouri said, “What an awesome idea!”
Manufacturers News Inc said, “We are taking a bit of a guess here, but digitization/technology can help to analyze the labor market and streamline the recruiting and hiring process to minimize wasted resources.”
The hosts from FreightPOP answered, “Digitization can help you automate and streamline your shipping processes that were once manual, which required more bodies to perform. By implementing a TMS system, you can run your business effectively, consistently, and on fewer resources.”
Learn more in the video below (answer 5)
Hosts Freeman and Dickson concluded with, “We hope you’ve found some value in this chat today. We appreciate people taking the time to hear FreightPOP’s take on the issues plaguing the supply chain.” Hear more of their wrap up in the video below.
Digitally transforming a supply chain can make a world of difference in operational efficiency for manufacturers. It’s an important principle to begin adopting as supply chains become more and more of a struggle globally. By choosing ways to improve upon the process, manufacturers can hopefully see benefits as they work through the struggles towards a more efficient overall operation.
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