Planning for uncertainty with technology

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From regulation changes, new import and export tariffs, to problems around stockpiling and labour shortages, Brexit is set to create an array of new challenges for businesses across the logistics sector. Here, Jon Roberts, sales manager at OrderWise, discusses how the latest technologies can be deployed to help businesses better plan for uncertainty, and why flexibility is key to ensure continuity.

As the FTA has highlighted, logistics businesses navigated some immense challenges throughout 2020, playing an integral role in keeping the country on its feet through the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, this has left them with little time to prepare for future trading conditions and the operational hurdles that they are likely to encounter post-Brexit.

Technology is increasingly viewed as a reliable ally for businesses looking to better understand their day-to-day operation and implement robust plans. Both Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Warehouse Management Software (WMS) solutions can work to significantly improve the management of a busy operation, helping you identify where money could be saved or processes streamlined.

Previously, businesses might have been tempted by the cheapest available ERP or WMS, to help prop up existing processes and out-dated digital infrastructure. To cope with some of the challenges created by Brexit, businesses are increasingly looking to invest in flexible, reliable and interoperable new systems that can help them plan for uncertainty and mitigate disruption.

While it’s not impossible to capture data with manual systems, it’s certainly more difficult, requiring a team of dedicated staff to record and track all key details – of which there are set to be more post-Brexit. This is time-consuming, error-prone and most importantly, unnecessary in the face of a digital alternative.

If, for example, you’re expecting to encounter issues around shipping or delays in receiving certain products post-Brexit, you can begin to model the different outcomes and put plans in place to mitigate any disruption. Or, if you suddenly find one area of the business is overwhelmed or lagging behind, you can easily login to your system to re-assign tasks or redeploy staff, hopefully avoiding any costly bottlenecks.

Stock control is likely to be one of the areas most impacted by Brexit, demonstrating the importance of a robust inventory management system.

In a world where speed is everything, your software needs to possess a real-time capability. Out of sync data will hinder your ability to make impactful business decisions, forecast purchasing and effectively manage orders – three areas of vital importance as the industry grapples with post-Brexit challenges.

Out of date inventory information tends to be the catalyst for a wider picture of delays, errors and missed opportunities. Data that was accurate last month or the month before might bear no relation to the here and now. It’s highly likely that certain product lines will be in short supply post-Brexit, placing even more pressure on reliable inventory management. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, a sudden surge in orders one day could leave your stock levels significantly depleted.

Via a fully integrated online solution, you can keep track of live stock-levels and rest assured that your team will be notified when new orders need to be placed. As teams will be getting to grips with many new and unfamiliar processes from January 1st, removing time-consuming data entry tasks will allow them some much needed breathing space to properly understand these new procedures.

More automation means you can also avoid rekeying information that will need to be shared with couriers, as software can do the hard work and avoid repeated manual entry. For businesses looking to go one step further, handheld terminals (HHTs), equipped with barcode readers or data matrix (DM) scanners can also provide a number of significant benefits. Knowing what’s happening the moment it happens is a game changer for warehouse operations, especially in larger businesses where it can be hard to get a message across.

With wireless synchronisation, operatives can see notifications and work assignments on their device in real-time, allowing them to take immediate action as and when required. This not only provides management teams with a level of reassurance, it also allows operatives to work smarter and in a more efficient manner.

It’s highly likely management teams will be focused on strategy planning post-Brexit and might not be available to scrutinise processes in the same way. Because you can’t update paper lists, supervisors might previously have spent a significant amount of time rallying up staff on the warehouse floor or re-assigning tasks.

Handheld technology provides an easy and immediate alternative that can benefit your entire operation. The ability to send messages, notifications and keep a digital record of notes will allow warehouse managers to concentrate more on strategic tasks, with the administrative burden associated with paper-based management processes significantly reduced.

To find out more about how OrderWise can help your business plan for the uncertain future, visit our website.