Blog article

Managing Physical Stock, Supply Chain and Logistics: What It Should Say on the Tin

10 Nov 2021

Managing Physical Stock, Supply Chain and Logistics: What It Should Say on the Tin

Monolithic solutions aren't necessarily the answer. As we briefly discussed in our previous blog about managing the supply chain, here at Evolving Systems we think that the unique inventory challenges facing MNOs demand immediate and expert attention.

Inadequate approaches, for instance relying on ERP solutions to handle the inventory problems, really aren’t up to the job.  A closer examination of the issue highlights the breadth of challenges faced in a number of different operational areas.  Multiple examples jump out.

One obvious difficulty is the need for an operator to manage multiple warehouses, while committing to a physical warehouse plan, so that the MNO will be enabled to automatically identify the right place for a particular physical stock item to be stored away. This is not necessarily straightforward if the management solution cannot provide a real-time view of physical stock, from the moment a consignment has been raised against a PO, all the way through the cycle to packing away the physical stock. Equally, when the physical stock needs to be sent into the sales channel, can the chosen solution track the entire process in real-time until the physical stock has left the warehouse? It needs to hardly be pointed out that ERP and other solutions deployed (but not designed) to handle these responsibilities can fall short. They are not designed with a high degree of role-based management in mind, such as those that can be utilized by partners if the operator chooses, to provide different views based on the roles assigned to 3rd parties. Not to mention the cost of such systems!

Furthermore, generalized solutions are rarely designed off-the-shelf to be integrated with 3rd party courier systems. Yet, this functionality is important if the MNO requires the ability to track physical stock in transit and provide updates to all concerned parties. Even where operators have their own courier vendors, they require a way of determining the cost of a consignment delivery and raising collection orders to the courier. Can a re-repurposed solution be configured to do this? Does it have a mobile app to provide regular status updates in a similar fashion to any courier company’s tracking process? Rarely if ever is this case, yet increasingly these features and benefits are table stakes for achieving a really effective logistics and inventory management process.

Process automation represents another challenge, particularly where warehouse and inventory operations are frequently made up of a variety of different manual processes which, additionally, are cost heavy. MNOs must ask whether their solution is designed from first principles with current and future market trends in mind. Among these the advent of digitalization and Industry 4.0, whereby operators need to automate processes where they can, comes to the fore. Inventory and warehouse management is a particulary relevant example of an area where process automation can make a big  difference. This, in turn, means solutions using the latest BPML tools, capable of enabling the design of differing process flows for various processes, deliver a significant advantage. Can each order in the current system be tracked against the workflow, so that operations staff can clearly see the process status, or identify whether any issues lie within the workflow? If not, the result is sub-optimal. Does the extant solution provide a graphical interface showing steps in the workflow as they are processed in an informative 'traffic light' manner?

Reporting is, of course, critical and configurable dashboards that provide information based on specific KPIs, identified as being critical to an operator, should be forefront functionality - yet often they are not. If the presently deployed solution doesn’t enable an operator to enter the business plan for the year, in terms of inventory ordering and then receiving a graphical view of the progress throughout the year, our view is that the supporting technology is falling short of being fit for purpose. Furthermore, this information can potentially be enriched from various OSS systems in order to provide an enhanced view of when physical stock items have been activated on the network or when such equipment is no longer in use by a subscriber. Alerts and notifications should be configured and triggered based on inventory threshold limits set by item type to ensure that physical stock never runs out. Monthly reconciliation processes should drive report generation which can then be exported and emailed when and where required.

There seems little doubt that, presently, many operators are relying on solutions that, if they are just about fit-for-purpose, are certainly not designed for purpose when it comes to managing logistics and physical stock supply chain. In all the operational areas identified above, Evolving Systems can deliver robust and comprehensive answers to questions that operators who prioritize future success should be asking themselves now.

10 Nov 2021