Choose Market

Latest Magazine Dot Archive dot procurement Events dot Events Calendar dot Senior Appointments dot Tip off

Make it possible with quality POD

By: Contributed Content, Singapore
Published: Nov 21, 2011
The Asian procurement sector is like no other. Increasingly, the distribution process through the procurement supply chain must be timelier, more efficient and more accurate than nearly any other industry. If that was not enough, procurement consultants working on behalf of large businesses throughout Asia have to face issues associated with large travel distances between major population centres. In today's economy, they have the daunting task of complying with industry regulations, managing a mobile workforce and keeping an eye on all-important customer service quality.

An important piece of the mobile distribution solution that makes much of this possible in the procurement sector is a quality proof of delivery (POD) system. A POD system will not only increase accuracy in deliveries, but also ensure traceability of products - which is becoming especially important to prove product quality on delivery and ensure the right processes are able to be carried out in the instance of a product recall. To ensure that any POD system deployed into a procurement environment in Asia is successful, there are five key steps that should be followed:

1. Know what you have and what you need

Let's face it; no business buys technology because it is cool. They buy technology to serve an operational purpose, so knowing the reason why a business wants to upgrade or install a POD system is a vital first step.

Once an initial assessment as to whether a POD system will benefit procurement operations has been carried out, it is necessary to take inventory of what systems are already in place, both in the office and in the field. Often, the current system is home-grown - built piece-by-piece as new needs arose across the procurement and operations of the company. Although this has worked so far, it is important to implement a system that can grow with the company, and is completely integrated with each part of the chain. It is also vital to consider the benefits of the current system and determine what is working well and what needs can be addressed in a new system.

The existing methods used across a business's procurement operations may have achieved the goal of maintaining an overall picture of the current situation in the field, but there are advanced options available that can offer wider benefits. For instance, by utilising advanced handheld devices equipped with GPS tracking systems, not only can procurement deliveries be accurately tracked, but real-time delivery confirmations and customer receipts become a reality.

2. Create an IT roadmap

It is vital that all Asian procurement consultants conduct an assessment of their (and any delivery partners own) current information technology   infrastructure within the office and determine what they want to achieve in the future. Managers and consultants alike need to take into consideration how smoothly each business process is currently running and how each can be improved. Do current operations still rely on manual data entry and invoice generation? This process isn't just time consuming while duplicating efforts, but it also increases the opportunity for errors. A good rule of thumb is that every manual step increases the likelihood of data errors and as a result, the costs associated with those errors.

Can the dispatch operator see a real-time picture of each driver's location and which deliveries have been made? With the ability to converge information from multiple systems into one solution, a dispatcher can use a single, unified dashboard instead of constantly flipping between cumbersome programs to see the full picture.

With more information at the fingertips of staff and delivery partners, the distribution process will be smoother, records will be more accurate and companies in Asia will operate more efficiently, while making better, more informed decisions. Looking toward the future, it is important to take into consideration the company's future plans. Is it looking to increase the number of customers you handle procurement operations for? These are factors that need to be considered when choosing a new system. It is vital to make sure that the technology that is implemented not only meets the company's current size and needs, but is flexible enough to grow as the business does. That way, the procurement business won't be stuck with a solution that it will have to replace every few years.

3. Review technology advancements

Once it has been established what type of delivery systems the business is using, it is important to become educated on the latest advances in POD technology and what  impact the technology might have across a range of procurement operations.

With mobile solutions that provide end-to-end visibility and control over inventory, a procurement consultant will be able to see that every pallet, case or item tells a story - anywhere, anytime. Many of the elements necessary to attain accurate and complete traceability information while accepting and moving goods are now part of the handheld devices.

By incorporating these features into any new system, Asian procurement consultants will be prepared to accommodate new traceability information as it emerges. This will enable consultants to successfully track and trace any product that the company has accepted, processed and delivered down to the specific case, which is especially helpful if there are any issues around product quality or a recall.

Another important advancement in POD systems is the reduction of paperwork through automation and real-time data transmission. Not only does this eliminate errors, save time and increase return on investment, but it also takes the environment into consideration. By automating the invoicing and order confirmation processes using barcodes, reliable handheld scanners like Intermec's SG10T, utilising RFID tags, or other technologies such as magnetic strips, drivers in the field no longer have to worry about triplicate forms, signatures, data entry or pricing information.

Often, the options available to procurement managers are equipped with Bluetooth capability, which can wirelessly connect handheld computers to a mobile printer in the delivery truck, allowing drivers to print receipts, manifests, product details, marketing information and many other things for the customer. Not only does this provide an accurate record for the customer, but also electronic delivery confirmations that can be sent back to head office in real time. This automated process eliminates the need for manually entering hand-written invoices into the system, or spending excess time downloading data upon the driver's return to the office. The result is a clean and perfect invoice. All of these items contribute to the efficiency and accuracy of the entire distribution process and ultimately speed up the reconciliation process, improving cash flow.

4. Learn from other's mistakes

Once it has been established what the business wants to accomplish by looking at investing in a new POD system and how this will improve overall procurement operations, it is important to start looking for the right technology partner to help with the implementation. Once potential technology partners have been shortlisted, questions need to be asked about these company's previous implementations.

No company is perfect, but a good company will have learned from unsuccessful implementations and be happy to talk about why those experiences have made them better at what they do. These examples will also provide a solid basis for making decisions as to what hardware, software and services would best fit (as an example: is it better to rollout a full GPS tracking solution in the business, or is it better to scale back until the business grows?).

5. Make an educated decision

Finally, it is time to make a decision. By taking a look at all the information and insights the business has gathered, and comparing them with any recommendations provided by the technology partners that are being considered for the implementation, business will be best placed to decide what the future of their business looks like.

In a competitive environment such as the regional procurement sector, knowledge is power. More informed decisions lead to more competitive advantages - it's as simple as that. Procurement managers who rush into decisions without following the above steps don't only risk the business' bottom line; they risk the future of the business itself.


Contributed by Mike Mullen, vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific at Intermec.


Managing people? For HR and leadership strategy, Human Resources has it covered.

Get your marketing department up to speed with Asia's most read marketing site


Companies featured:

  • Intermec Technologies