Inbound Logistics | January 2024

VISIBILITY IN THE YARD Solutions for visibility outside the warehouse or distribution center are also advancing. While yard management systems still manage moves and appointments, the technology that informs these systems is changing. Along with RF terminals and barcodes that can track trailers, drones can travel a yard and determine the location and movement of the trailers in real time. TRUST BUILDS VISIBILITY Tackling blind spots requires a sense of trust that allows companies to condently share information with suppliers and business partners. For example, Mammoth Security, a security systems provider, invested in advanced inventory management software that provides real-time data to improve demand forecasting and inventory tracking accuracy. This helps minimize downtime, streamline operations, and boost client satisfaction. The company has also strengthened relationships with its suppliers through regular communication, fostering trust. “This proactive approach helps us stay ahead of potential disruptions and maintain a smooth supply chain,” says Eugene Klimaszewski, president. TALENT DRIVES VISIBILITY Tackling supply chain blind spots requires access to relevant talent. As logistics becomes more technology- based, employees need to be similarly tech-savvy. “Leveraging technology can help to not only drive innovation, automation, and cost savings, but also attract and retain talent,” West says. IMPROVING PERFORMANCE As important as visibility is, it’s not enough.“Once organizations have gained new or quicker information, they need to consider what it means for how they operate,” Mussomeli says. Better visibility should enhance operations. “You hear the saying, ‘don’t waste a good crisis,’” Spears says. Given the supply chain challenges of the past few years “we took the opportunity to improve ourselves,” he adds. n

As disruptions upended many supply chains over the past few years, Lexmark, a provider of printing and imaging solutions, confronted multiple component shortages, as well as challenges in predicting component availability. “We needed a dierent visibility tool to understand and react to the component shortages,” says Billy Spears, senior vice president and chief product delivery o cer. While Lexmark had enjoyed good visibility to its tier one suppliers, visibility to its other suppliers wasn’t as strong. To change this, Spears and his colleagues created a new system: Shortstop. While “nothing fancy,” he says, it ties the engineering record system, which contains the bills of materials for all products and other information, to suppliers across all tiers in the company’s supply chain. Lexmark now can better predict when shortages might occur. It can optimize manufacturing and commit to a production schedule, even when the broader supply chain world of components remains in crisis. “There are multiple paths to recovery if you know about a shortage,” Spears says, noting that Lexmark can find additional suppliers, shift vendors, or in some cases, shop on the open market. Also during this time, the container shortage was extending lead times and impacting Lexmark’s ability to get products to customers. To address this, Lexmark increased the number of carriers in each geographic region from one to four. The company then needed visibility across its carriers, as well as a method for managing allocations between them. Spears and his team engaged a third-party software solution that leverages EDI to link Lexmark’s ERP system with its carriers. Lexmark can allocate products based on rules it has established, and accounting for cost, availability, and other factors. The system also provides visibility and estimated arrival times for the containers, further boosting flexibility and capacity. Both projects were up and running in a matter of months. “It was a quick return on investment,” Spears notes. LEXMARK PLAYS SHORTSTOP

96 Inbound Logistics • January 2024

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