Using Technology to Fight Back Against Supply Chain Disruption

Semiconductor shortages, transportation delays, port congestion, logistics disruptions and other issues slow down global supply chains. Driven by factors like the ongoing pandemic, labor shortages, geopolitical issues and economic uncertainty, these problems are expected to last well into 2023.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, nobody predicted that it would last this long,” Dr. Bertha Martinez-Cisneros of CETYS University writes in Supply & Demand Chain Executive. “After two years, the virus continues to surprise us and supply chain experts are still learning lessons. Any time companies started to feel that things were under control, new variants would cause more disruptions and consumer behaviors would shift again.”

Companies feeling the pinch are often unable to secure the goods they need to be able to fulfill their customers’ orders on time. Year-over-year U.S. e-commerce sales grew by 18.3% in 2021 and 42.4% in 2020, but the companies that make and distribute all of those orders are short on labor. Overcoming this challenge is critical for them, especially in a world where both business-to-consumer and business-to-business customers expect their orders to arrive within a day or two (or sooner). Knowing that the outside, disruptive forces aren’t fading away anytime soon, organizations need to assess their current operations and look for new ways to fight back against the disruption.

For many, the answer lies in technology and automation that help improve performance, increase productivity and enhance efficiencies. The right hardware and software solutions also enhance organizational agility, resilience and flexibility — all of which are crucial in today’s unpredictable business environment.

3 Ways to Overcome Supply Chain Disruption

The pandemic exposed real issues in nearly all global supply chains. Companies were forced to pivot quickly in order to accommodate the new challenges and opportunities. Those reliant on siloed legacy technology solutions, spreadsheets and paper quickly found themselves struggling to keep up.

They need hardware and software that makes both their warehouses and their end-to-end supply chains more effective, efficient and productive. Mobile solutions not only check all of these boxes, but they also help companies improve accuracy and worker safety.

When evaluating technology, it’s important to look for proven solutions that solve real problems. Here are three solutions that companies can use to fight back against the current supply disruption and plan for future growth and success: 

1. Solution Engineering

Solution engineering services optimize current systems and accelerate front-line mobility. Panasonic Connect’s engineering experts share industry best practice knowledge with businesses that need to improve their supply chain. Our team of engineers and experts will help you optimize your existing in-vehicle solutions and suggest improvements along the way. We start by looking at your current pain points (e.g., visibility, wireless connectivity and usability) and then work together on solutions for those issues. Using a consultative approach, we’re always working to find the right fit for each customer and for every application. 

Our solution design services have helped a wide range of supply chain operators better leverage their investments in mobile computing. This includes:

  • Fleet reviews
  • End user computer optimization
  • On-site demos
  • Roadmap to consistent, supportable in-vehicle solutions

After recommending a solution, the team will run an on-site demo using a customer’s vehicle. We box it up into a kit with preassembled parts, warranty and ongoing support. This kitted solution creates a way to get consistency across the landscape, with each vehicle getting an identical installation. And because your employees don’t have to build the configurations from scratch, it’s also a major time-saver for your team. We can also install the solution in vehicles nationwide, accelerating the delivery of front-line mobility.

2. Leverage Smart Essentials Analytics

Many companies have hundreds or even thousands of mobile computers handling order picking, delivery, electronic driver logging and more. These companies need an easy way to monitor the health and usage of each mobile device, which ensures end users aren’t impacted by issues like wireless connectivity and drops, battery and power issues and excessive rebooting. In fact, one recent study found that 86% of all end-user technology problems are never reported to IT. Instead, users just reboot and try again.

Used by some of our largest customers, Smart Essentials analytics help you monitor your deployed Windows and Android devices. With these real-time insights you can predict, identify and avoid mobile issues before they become real problems. You may even be able to reduce some costs with usage data. For instance, if you purchase 1,000 software licenses but see that only 800 are active, you can eliminate the surplus and save on application costs.

We’ve come to realize that every company has a different “ah ha” moment upon evaluating Smart Essentials, including the ability to identify and solve nagging wireless problems, confirm app usage and view overall device and battery health. These are all good data points to have if you’re trying to improve productivity, reduce downtime and gain efficiencies. 

3. VuLock

VuLock promotes driver safety with motion-activated safety software that can be configured to black out the screen, pull up designated applications or simply lock out the mouse, touch screen or keyboard while a vehicle is in motion. Along with the supply chain shortages, companies are also dealing with a persistent labor shortage and, more specifically, an acute dearth of drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, the truck driver shortage hit a historic high of more than 80,000 drivers in 2021. Based on current trends, that shortage may surpass 160,000 by 2030. On the warehouse or distribution center floor, companies are having an equally difficult time finding certified, reliable operators for their lift trucks, yard equipment, and other vehicles.

Accidents caused by operator distraction can happen in warehouses and on the road. Drivers may already have phones distracting them, and mobility solutions can further exacerbate the potential for distracted driving. VuLock lets companies lock the computer screen and keyboard while the vehicle is in motion, thus reducing distractions for the driver and minimizing liability for the employer. Used in warehouses today to prevent accidents and keep drivers safe, VuLock also detects incidents that occur when drivers aren’t using the computer.

Get Technology in Your Corner 

As supply chain disruption continues and even boils over into other areas of the business world, companies need robust technology systems that help them offset these challenges, keep their customer bases happy and maintain profitability. With solution engineering, Smart Essentials and VuLock in their corners, organizations get the capabilities, data and analytics they need to keep their supply chains running smoothly, safely and predictably. 

Learn more about Panasonic Connect solutions for supply chain.