Everyone seems to be in full agreement- the advent of the cloud has revolutionized warehouse and supply chain management, helping bring the industry into the 21st century since the beginning of its widespread adoption in the mid-2010s. But as much as we all agree on that, the thing we somehow don’t seem to agree on is what the cloud actually is and what it represents. The name itself brings to mind a beautiful blue sky, but surely our data isn’t stored in actual clouds. So what exactly do we mean when we refer to cloud supply chain management, and how can you ensure you’re making the best possible use of it for your business?
Cloud computing is run through servers that one accesses through the internet. It could be one server, but more likely is a lot of servers that each host a little bit of your data. The point of cloud computing is that in theory, you have the ability to access your data from anywhere in the world, so long as you have an internet connection. It’s also possible to run software from the cloud as well, remotely connecting to these servers. This negates the 90s-era need to physically wire your computer to the server it’s pulling from, or to even be on the same home wifi network.
Unfortunately, a lot of warehousing companies are still stuck in that 90s headspace, storing all their valuable data and organizing programs on physical servers. Ignoring the fact that this leaves their businesses vulnerable to damage, theft, disaster, or user error, this is also an incredibly bulky and clunky system to upgrade. The idea of scaling becomes far more daunting when you have to haul in yet another computer tower and hook up all the wires. With cloud computing, there’s none of this hassle involved. You just connect to the internet and you’re on your way. This helps ensure maximum efficiency and supply chain visibility.
The importance of supply chain management can’t be overstated. A good handle on it can mean the difference between getting your necessary materials on time, and being left in limbo for weeks on end. But what is visibility in supply chain contexts? Strictly speaking, it refers to the ability of parts, components or products in transit to be tracked from manufacturer to final destination. End to end supply chain visibility aims to improve and strengthen the chain by providing data to all stakeholders, customer included. Cloud computing offers the average business owner access to far more processing power than they might be able to physically house or afford, meaning that there’s the ability to not only track far more items, but track them to a finer degree of precision. Once manufacturers and merchants have the data, they have the information and knowledge necessary to take needed steps to handle any hiccups before they pose a serious problem, such as improving their physical distribution.
The physical distribution definition is less complicated than you might think. Put simply, it refers to the delivery and shipment of goods from the manufacturing center, out to warehouses and distribution centers, and then eventually through delivery routes to the customer’s door. Meanwhile, supply chain management refers to the flow of goods and services, and refers to all steps in the process from the acquisition of raw materials to the final delivery. These terms are fairly similar, but do have slightly different definitions that it pays to be mindful of. Think of a square and a rectangle. Physical distribution services are a part of supply chain management distribution, but not all supply chain and distribution services are necessarily physical. Supply chain visibility benefits physical distribution by making sure merchants are able to see which geographic areas are struggling to meet order volume.
Distribution supply chain management and transportation costs don’t have to break the bank. Here are a few key tips to help optimize the chain of distribution and prevent any unnecessary losses.
First, keep an eye out for any inefficiencies. Which payment processor do you currently use? Are their fees competitive, or are there perhaps better options? Even a percentage point or two adds up a lot over time. Check in with your warehousing partner and make sure that newly-arrived merchandise is being checked into inventory within a timely manner, as opposed to sitting around in intake for days on end.
Another tip is to streamline order processing. You should have one main piece of software handling the bulk of operations, which should have a robust capability to accept seamless integrations. This eliminates the need for you to go back and forth and manually input or approve transfers of information, saving you both time and money.
Third, make sure to monitor your progress! At the very least, take a few notes from month to month, to make sure that any changes you make are actually having a positive effect on your business and your bottom line. The utilization of demand forecasting can make or break your short to medium term progress, and the best way to predict the future is to have solid data about the past.
The embrace of the cloud can make all the difference when it comes to the difference between your business taking off, or struggling to compete in uncertain conditions. By taking a few simple steps, you can cut down on unnecessary costs in your distribution chain and scale effortlessly. One more bonus step you can take, however, is registering a free account with P2Pseller. We allow warehousing and fulfillment partners to upload their storage space and warehousing services to our open, democratized market, making sure that you can get the best prices possible. All costs are delivered 100% up front, so there’s no need to worry about hidden fees. Sign up today with absolutely no commitment required on your end to see exactly what we can do for you and your business. We’ve got our eyes set on bringing about the ecommerce revolution. We’d love nothing more than to have you on board.