As the coronavirus pandemic began to squeeze businesses into new models and workflows, logistics challenges came to the forefront of the supply chain. Companies couldn’t procure the parts and materials they needed, they faced closings and personnel shortages, and they encountered new dependencies while trying to stay open or reopen.
Some entities saw their entire supply chain logistics crumble under these untested stressors. Between consumer panic buying, changes in trucking routes, and disruptions in the overall transportation network, delivering the right product at the right time seemed nearly impossible. Some manufacturers saw orders decline so rapidly that they had to warehouse or donate already-shipped products. And longstanding data collection workflows were tested to their limits.
The icing on this cake of disaster was, and is, the difficulty in keeping this logistics data current. Analysts wielding manually updated spreadsheets were no match for plummeting sales, mass closings, and daily organizational disasters. At a time when transparency and communication were critical, management couldn’t access the data that they needed. But in the face of this chaos, many logistics managers pivoted to more efficient systems to keep their products moving.
Many of these logistics professionals—whether they work in a warehouse, manage inventory, returns or anything in between—used this crisis as an opportunity to revamp their workflows. After seeing the effects of this pressure test, it was critical to streamline operations in order to gain true end-to-end transparency into the logistics chain. By thinking outside the manual-database-and-email workspace, and turning to customized low-code applications, these professionals were able to overcome common supply chain problems, including:
- Eliminating manual processes
- Developing workflow consistency
- Implement oversight through connected data
- Building operational agility
- Ensuring compliance with IT governance
For each of the challenges mentioned, those closest to the work were able to develop custom solutions in order to gain greater visibility into logistics risks and opportunities. Here are some examples of how logistics professionals have streamlined their unique processes with a low-code platform. developed for themselves using low-code:
Eliminating Manual Processes
Email and manual spreadsheets, although commonly used, can result in missed communications between internal employees and vendors, out of date data, and manual error. Low-code allows for efficient collaboration between internal employees and external stakeholders. Vendors can provide real-time information about orders, shipping, and delays, keeping the lines of communication wide open.
Developing Workflow Consistency
Eliminating process variables is the best way to reduce errors, identify damaged or incorrect products, and establish cohesion throughout the workflow. As the logistics managers’ inboxes fill up, corrections slip through the cracks. Low-code solutions allow employees from all levels to supply information to the system, which collects the data and identifies trends. Once that happens, the company can fix the problem at its root.
Implementing Oversight Through Connected Data
Leadership now recognizes how important it is for their employees to access and exchange insights and details to improve cost controls. Low-code tools allow for a centralized information warehouse, accessible to whoever needs it whenever they need it. Connecting data across logistics operations promotes collaboration and efficient resource allocation.
Building Operational Agility
If 2020 has taught companies anything, it has taught them the importance of quick response times and crisis management. Truck availability concerns, product delays, and delivery route changes have wreaked havoc on logistics managers working to fulfill contracts and meet deadlines. Custom low-code applications provide end-to-end transparency that delivers current information and offers speedy solutions.
Ensuring Compliance with IT Governance
Thrown into the mix of this year’s chaos were citizen developers working to carry out their department’s responsibilities. While busy IT departments arranged remote work and data access, these developers provided a second layer of technical support to their managers. With no time to wait for vetting and approvals, these employees forged ahead, providing solutions at the edge of their business for the good of the company.
While useful in the short term, these methods are not sustainable in a time when cybersecurity is of utmost importance. Using low-code applications to reach department goals provides a safe and sustainable solution that IT can embrace and trust.
How Digitizing Supply Chain Logistics Saves Money
It’s easy to speak in broad terms about the advantages of low-code and its vast customization capabilities. Here are some real-world examples of how it significantly boosted companies’ logistics efficiency and lowered their costs:
Certification and licensure compliance: An American beer manufacturer, aware of the consequences of lapsed certifications and safety training compliance, was tracking this data using a manual spreadsheet. The problem they encountered was that across more than two dozen warehouses, this process didn’t allow them to be proactive about employee safety certifications. This limitation exposed their employees to undue risk and could have potentially cost the company in non-compliance fines. They used low-code to establish a centralized information bank that reported future certification expirations, held safety training information, and revealed any other gaps in employee safety education.
Supply chain tracking: A robotics company tracked thousands of custom parts using a manual spreadsheet application. The data included several vendors, and without collaboration and accurate, timely tracking, they suffered missed deadlines and an unacceptable number of lost parts. Using low-code, they created an end-to-end material planning, request, and usage application that brought their number of lost parts and late deliveries to zero.
Managing asset lease agreements: The transportation team of a large retail box store was emailing spreadsheets to its to track its trailer lease agreements. Each site would then fill in the information and email the sheet back. This process led to inaccurate and untimely data that led to lease overages. The company leveraged low-code to create a dataset of all their lease agreements that enabled up-to-date reporting and prevented more than $1 million a year in lease overcharges.
Every company is different, and their logistics workflows require customization. Low-code solutions offer layers of custom functionality combined with cybersecurity compliance. These platforms, like Quickbase, allow you to move away from manual processes that often prevent true end-to-end transparency into the logistics chain.
These applications give companies an edge by allowing those closest to the work to design logistics solutions quickly and safely while ensuring IT governance over the platform. Additionally, they can serve as a useful tool to increase visibility, enhance oversight, and reduce costs.