Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Role of IT in Advanced Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Information Technology (IT) is the study, creation, support, utilization and management of computer based information systems, especially computer hardware and software applications. IT is not limited to computers, with the current technological advancements in area of mobile and other handheld devices, IT is fast moving onto other forms of business and technology.

A supply chain on the other hand is a network of suppliers, subcontractors, and distributors used by a manufacturer to source for its raw materials, supplies and components. Logistics organizations store, transport and distribute work-in progress and supplies within the entire supply chain and also distribute the finished product to clients and intermediaries therein between. Thus, it follows that the integration of logistics operations and supply chain will not only reduce costs and improve efficiency but will also increase the competitive advantage of the organization.

How Technology Has Advanced SCM

A supply chain management (SCM) system is therefore concerned with the flow of information and products between the member organizations within the supply chain. Recent advancements in technologies have ensured that organizations can avail this information quite easily, thereby greatly reducing the cost of information. With integrated supply chain solutions, the flow of information and materials is usually bi-directional.

Today’s advanced IT systems have enabled organizations to leverage some turnkey logistics and warehouse management, and packaging systems as well as custom Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions at a fraction of the previous price. This development, where the supply chain system is inter-organizational has three very distinct advantages.

First and foremost, there is a drastic cost reduction in the route to market, distributorship and production cost.

Secondly, the productivity of all the organizations in the supply chain is bound to improve and lastly there is bound to be a drastic improvement in the development and execution of product and market strategies.

Facilitation of Logistics Collaboration

For many systems, there are at least five basic levels in the system where logistics technology can enable high-levels of collaboration. The first level is at the remote input/output node where a member can participate from a remote location and interact with application system.

The second level is where a member of a fluid supply chain shares a single application such as an order processing system or inventory query with the application.

The third level is where a member of the supply chain develops and shares a network which links it to other participants with whom it has a business relationship.

In the fourth level, a partner organization may opt to develop and share a network with different applications which can be used by other members to make queries, place orders, check stock levels etc.

The fifth and final level is where a member decides to become more of data processing or communications utility and integrates any data coming from other participating members in real time and avails it when required to do so.

Next-Level Supply Chain Solutions

Solid supply chain solution providers choose the level of IT that best fits their clients' needs and requirements and will not overstretch or overburden their networks or lead to instances of information overload.

Another huge area where IT has become a facet in supply chain management has been in the integration of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) into most supply chain management systems. EDI refers to the computer to computer exchange of business documents in a standardized format.

Through the use of EDI, supply chain partners are able to overcome the exaggeration and distortion usually prevalent in supply and demand set ups by simply improving technologies available so as to allow for real time sharing of actual supply and demand information. This not only improves customer service through limited stock outs but is also cost efficient, improves the billing process and enhances productivity for all the players or partners involved.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Industry Advancements With In-motion Weigh Scale Technology

In-motion weigh scales are devices that are designed to measure the full weight of a vehicle as it moves through the measuring site (or in most cases, passed over the scale.) This advanced kind of weigh scale system does not require vehicles to come to a complete stop. Most in-motion scales only require the vehicle to slowly pass over the unit to make accurate weight calculations.

This technology is very useful because it allows vehicles to keep moving, helping operations increase throughout in their weighing processes. As a result, in-motion weighing technology is being integrated on many different applications, spanning from portable truck scales (or weigh pads) to in-motion rail scales on train track.

The Technology Behind In-motion Weigh Scales

The technology that is applied to these devices is high-end technology. Its sensors, primarily made of quartz crystals and placed on ground level, sense only the normal force that acts on the sensors (i.e. the force perpendicular to the ground, vertical force). Thus, the speed and the friction are not measured, leaving space only for the vehicles weight.

The quarts apply some electric charge that is proportional to the vehicle’s weight force. Through the use of physics, scientists have managed to form a formula to calculate the weight using that technology. But weighing in motion (WIM) devices are not all made of the same technology. There are several kind of WIM units.

  • Laser system WIM devices - They basically measure the displacement of the rail as the vehicle moves through it. Through some calculations they manage to calculate the weight.
  • Load cell system WIM units - They calculate the weight of the vehicle by measuring the constriction of the strain in the load rather than the rails.
  • Fiber optical measuring WIM devices - These systems measure the change of light ray illumination that is primarily produced by bending.

Applications of In-motion Weighing Scales

Below are a few of the most common applications of in-motion weighing scales:

1. This technology can also measure train’s weight. Otherwise known as in-motion rail scales, these simple systems are deployable within 30 minutes and requires no maintenance. The revolutionary and enhanced algorithms that are encompassed in the WIM’s software allow for a very accurate measurement. In-motion rail scale systems allows for a very quickly and accurate measurement of rail assets.

2. Additionally, this technology is very useful in highways. This technology allows the measurement of vehicle’s weight that pass through a certain place without stopping the traffic. The device will detect the vehicles that have broken the regulations and will automatically notify the officers in charge of the vehicle’s location. Then, the officer will take care of the problem.

3. Another use of this technology is in-motion on-board scales. There are thousands of loaded trucks that send and receive supplies daily. All of them must be measured, a process that takes time. But, thanks to the innovative WIM on board scale technology, it now takes much shorter time.

These devices are implemented within the truck, conveyor belt, or any other kind of equipment, and the sensors wirelessly inform the software about the weight of the products. This saves time and money as well. Most of these on-board scale products are cost efficient. Their price ranges from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.

4. Lastly, this technology is getting implemented in airports as well. While the plane moves through the sensors, they measure the weight and compare it to the pilot’s log in order to make sure that there is enough fuel to reach the destination. This saves lots of time.