Logistics technology issues are too often causing businesses to come to a halt. A study by Compuware showed that almost half of the respondents (48%) expressed technology problems happen anywhere from a few times a week to every day. 75% expressed that the frequency of technology failures is staying the same or increasing.
More often than not the problem isn't what meets the eye. Technology issues usually have an underlying cause that could have easily been avoided.
Over the last two years, we provided logistics tech support for over 266 businesses and collected data from 10,451 technology support requests received.
In this article, we expose the 5 most common logistics IT problems impacting small and mid-size supply chain companies.
1. Warehouse Wireless Instability & Handheld Disconnections
Poor warehouse wireless coverage, network instability, and random handheld disconnections makes it to the top of the list. Around 87% of the companies that we have worked with experienced one of these problems.
Most Common Causes of Wireless Instability & Handheld Disconnections:
Badly planned wireless warehouse implementation.
Very often wireless networks are implemented by companies that are not logistics systems integrators and they are unaware of the particulars of implementing a warehouse wireless solution. This ends up causing the network to malfunction often, because it does not meet the needs of the warehouse.
Companies select the wrong wireless solution.
Driven by the desire to reduce costs, companies very often select wireless solutions that are not intended for warehouse environments, handheld devices that are not compatible, or second-hand equipment that are often ineffective.
Lack of equipment standardization and configuration.
Not standardizing on a hardware vendor and device model will create major headaches and a painful troubleshooting process when things go wrong. Standardizing on a vendor, device model, and system configuration will help to avoid issues.
2. Printing & Scanning Issues
Logistic companies need to be able to print shipping labels and scan documents quickly. The inability to do so can cause productivity issues and other problems along the supply chain.
For the most part, printing and scanning related issues include: users not being able to print/scan due to connectivity issues, printer alignment problems, not knowing how to identify the proper printer in the network, printers not available in the WMS/TMS systems, scanned documents taking too long, and driver incompatibilities.
Most Common Causes of Printing & Scanning Issues:
Lack of proper planning. Many organizations fail to plan (or hire someone to plan) the deployment and management of their printing and scanning infrastructure in a way that is reliable and simple to manage.
Lack of printer/scanner standardization. You should have a standard printer/scanner in terms of vendor, model, deployment method, naming convention, and printing software (drivers). For example, if all of your label printers are from Zebra (vendor), and use model GK420 – this is vendor and model standardization. Then, install all the printers in a server and deploy them to all the computers from there. Use a naming convention that represents your business structure (city, department, unit number: MIA-WH-1)
Decentralized management of printing infrastructure. You should standardize and centralize the management of the printing infrastructure as much as possible. For example, install all printers in 1 server and manage all the printers from there. This reduces complexities and administration overhead.
3. WMS TMS Problems
At the core of most supply chain business two systems play a critical role: Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and/or Transportation Management Systems (TMS).
The critical role of WMS & TMS are often underestimated by decision makers when selecting the right TMS/WMS solution for their company.
Most Common Causes of WMS/TMS Problems:
System instability. Most software have services – a subset of applications within the software that perform specific functions for the program. Recurrent service failures cause system instability especially if this service(s) plays a critical role within the application. A very common problem across many WMS and TMS systems.
Improper software updates. Companies tend to introduce new software updates before properly testing them, so it creates unplanned downtime.
Poor quality database systems. Before buying a WMS or TMS businesses fail to evaluate them against business needs and future growth. As business and the amount of data stored in the WMS or TMS grows, system performance degrades because databases are not properly designed.
4. IT Infrastructure Problems
Your technology infrastructure is composed of computers, network devices, servers and software, it is the technical core of your business. It is the central component that interconnects people and data. And is the place where processing and sharing of information happens from sales quotes, emails, bill of landing, and more.
Very often, this core component of the business is underestimated thus resulting in system problems that impact business productivity and creates customer dissatisfaction.
The most common infrastructure issues that we’ve encountered across logistic companies include: slow network speeds, random network disconnections, computer and server performance degradation, security breaches, and unreliable equipment or software.
Most Common Causes of IT Infrastructure Problems:
Poorly architected infrastructure and incorrect implementation causing desktops, networks, and servers to fail.
No standardization of hardware and software solutions.
Lack of basic security, not just for technology systems, but in operations as well.
Technology underinvestment driven by the desire to reduce costs. This becomes counterintuitive, because you end up increasing costs as a result of operational deficiencies or the need to re-implement the solution to get things working right (i.e. implementing home technology solutions instead of business solutions).
5. Lack of Technology Management
Last but not least, technology management. This is one area where we see a lot of deficiencies originating.
There’s a myth amongst decision makers that technology can be implemented and not managed. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is not the case – especially if you expect things to run smoothly.
Technology, like everything else in life, needs to be properly maintained. The truth is, failing to properly and proactively manage technology exposes the business to technology failures and security breaches.
Most Common Symptoms of Poor Technology Management:
Unscheduled downtimes forcing business to come to a halt. I call this technology managing the company – not the company managing technology, which is the way it should be.
Lack of system monitoring to detect deficiencies and problems before they occur.
Lack of proactive maintenance plans to keep systems up-to-date and with the latest security and software updates to correct software and system bugs.
No historic I.T. operational data to make informed technology investment decisions and detect operational deviations.
According to Compuware’s study, 52% of responders classified supply chain operations as critically dependent on technology operating effectively, 43% consider it critical in distribution departments, and 39% in shipping & receiving.
Technology is a living breathing organism and a crucial part of any supply chain business. IT decisions need to be made AFTER considering what is right for your business. Then it needs to be implemented and managed properly so security breaches, unscheduled downtime, and all the other issues we discussed today do not happen to your business.