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4 Technologies That Facilitate Lean Operations

Nicole Pontius
Nicole Pontius

Reduce Waste, Improve Efficiency and Drive Results

Organizations strive to create lean logistics operations. After all, eliminating waste keeps costs low and saves time, and it benefits each member of the supply chain. Yet achieving lean logistics takes more than a few cost-cutting measures if quality and customer satisfaction are to remain at high levels. Lean logistics requires waste-fighting tools and technologies. These tools and technologies can revolutionize operations as they give organizations greater access to analytics and insights that come from harnessing big data, and gaining total visibility.

Several prominent and emerging technologies help companies achieve lean operations at a faster rate and with more success than ever before. Which tools and technologies are enabling leaner logistics? 

  1. Asset tracking
  2. Big data tools
  3. Business intelligence (BI) software
  4. Predictive analytics and real-time modeling tools

Read on to learn more about how these technologies enable lean logistics.

1. Asset tracking

Asset-tracking solutions use automatic identification technology like RFID, barcodes, barcode scanners and handheld devices to help your workers locate inventory and assets. As a result, these technologies eliminate waste and lead to lean operations by saving time, creating more efficient workflows, reducing capital expenditures, reducing paperwork and improving inventory efficiency. Real-time asset tracking and inventory management also support lean warehouses

When choosing an asset-tracking solution, ensure that it allows for automated tracking to save workers time locating a single asset. The solution also should work in real time so everyone connected to it can see how items are used and how often. Managers and executives can identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improving productivity when utilizing real-time asset-tracking solutions. Additionally,  asset-tracking software helps companies maintain accurate counts of asset quantities and the number of times they are used to improve asset utilization; as a result, idle assets can be disposed of or moved.

Asset tracking also assists in improving inventory efficiency. Manual inventory tracking takes far too much time and is too susceptible to human error. The solution is implementing an asset-tracking solution that includes tools for inventory management. Real-time tracking also increases visibility into operations and provides organizations with a solution for measuring and managing asset usage to reduce waste and boost productivity.

2. Big data

As logistics operations grow larger, leaders need to have a comprehensive view of each node of the supply chain and how they work together. Indeed, operations are becoming more complex, and lean operations require having information about what has happened, what is happening and what could happen. Leaders can make data-driven decisions with the insights that big data can deliver.

Only big data gives logistics executives the power to consider all supplier and customer flows at once. Tracking transportation and handling, warehousing, and inventory working-capital costs by end customer allows organizations to capture more value. But an incomplete view due to missing data from pertinent sources or data that exists in silos results in a limited view of operations. This compromises their ability to become lean.

Armed with a tool that can harness the power of big data and provide a complete view of the supply chain, organizations will reap the benefits by realizing 

  • Real-time route optimization
  • Crowd-based pickup and delivery
  • Strategic network planning
  • Operational capacity planning
  • Customer loyalty management
  • Service improvement and product innovation
  • Risk evaluation and resilience planning
  • Market intelligence for SME
  • Financial demand and supply chain analytics
  • Address verification
  • Environmental intelligence

3. Business intelligence software

Big data alone, however, is not the panacea that will suddenly make operations lean. After all, big data is excessively large amounts of data, typically in raw form. It's the actionable analytics and insights that come from big data that lead to improved productivity, increased efficiency and decreased costs. Companies that invest in business intelligence (BI) software have the ability to harness big data and increase visibility to conduct trend analysis and develop data-driven business strategies to promote lean operations.

Thanks to BI software, companies can delve deeply into transportation costs, repair costs, key performance indicators (KPIs) and maintenance trends. BI software solutions empower organizations to observe historical trends and gain the insights they need to cut waste and make smarter decisions. BI solutions also deliver detailed reports to logistics leaders who have the capabilities to analyze loads, slotting, and wait times and find opportunities for saving time and money.

4. Predictive analytics and real-time modeling tools

Predictive analytics is another technology that organizations need to have in order to achieve lean operations. Of course, logistics leaders benefit from forecasting, but predictive analytics makes use of big data to maximize forecasting capabilities. With predictive analytics, organizations use statistical methods and models to analyze historical and current facts to make predictions. Predictive analytics is much more complex and accurate than traditional demand forecasting, offering the ability to predict outcomes on both broad and granular levels. 

One of the most powerful benefits of using predictive analytics and real-time modeling tools for logistics is the visibility it provides into operations, shippers, providers and customers. With this knowledge, organization leaders can make improvements to become lean. Indeed, it is with real-time predictive modeling tools that you can discover and test various scenarios and factors, like seasonal fluctuations and variations in sales volume due to customer demographics. The analytics you gain from utilizing real-time modeling tools make it possible to optimize labor and other resource utilization. 

If you're working toward leaner operations, these technologies provide the foundation for implementing change to boost efficiency, reduce errors and waste, optimize processes and drive better results. With better visibility, you can tap into data to drive smarter decision-making for organization-wide change.

Image Credit: Ekaphon maneecho/Shutterstock
Nicole Pontius
Nicole Pontius Member
Nicole Pontius is the marketing communications manager for Camcode, a global manufacturer of asset tracking solutions. At Camcode, Nicole focuses on helping organizations better manage and track valuable assets through automatic identification and data capture practices.