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Mobility is a hot topic these days. Regardless of industry or profession, there is a mobile application or ecosystem in
development to serve it. The supply chain is no different. In fact, given its very manual and distributed nature, it is better suited
to mobile application deployment than most business processes. For distribution and fulfillment services, where most
of the activities take place away from the desktop, the extension of business processes to mobile applications just makes sense.
Most CEOs today are looking to the supply chain for competitive advantage (think Amazon’s drones), so the time
is right for supply chain managers to begin the process of introducing mobile into their processes.
We say ‘begin’ because, regardless of the hype, mobile supply chain management (mSCM) is still in its infancy. This may be hard to
believe given the heavy use of mobile data collection devices like hand-held scanners in SCM activities but, as our own
research has shown, inside a business’ four walls almost 30 percent of supply chain managers use no mobility at all.
Outside their four walls, the numbers are even
lower with just 27 percent enabling some transactions via tablets and smartphones. And 36 percent enable no mobile
transactions at all.
Regardless of the pressure from the media and competitors, however, mid-market companies should not fall into the
mobile-for-mobile’s sake trap. mSCM needs to be evaluated very carefully so only the business processes with the potential for
high return on investment (ROI) are enabled. So, for example, if a buyer can approve a Purchase Order (PO) change-request
from anywhere, that’s high-value activity with immediate cost, timeliness and efficiency benefits, or, if a supplier can notify a
buyer in real-time that an item will be delayed, that improves customer satisfaction and loyalty – two of the leading indicators
of future profits.
Because of the immediate return, it can be tempting to roll out a mobile application just to fix a specific problem or to go
all-in and mobile-enable all your desktop transactions. But a more strategic approach is your best bet. Play Whack-a-mole
by solving point-problems and you will end up with same set of siloed technology problems you have today. Painting with
too broad of a brush will most likely result in implementing transactions that do not need a mobile component. These
cautionary tales aside, however, we believe that mobile will play an important and integral role in the future of supply
chain operations and strongly advocate its adoption.