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Distribution Technology
Should computer and software engineers worry about how the products they develop will be packed, shipped and stored? Is how an item moves down a conveyor belt a part of the designers concerns? Most engineers and designers probably dont concern themselves with what happens to a product after it is mass produced and on its way to the public. But, maybe they should.

The proliferation in recent years of technological advancement - designed by engineers and desired by almost everyone - has created chaos in the worlds supply chain. Products become obsolescent quickly and when a new development comes on the market that is just a little bit bigger or better than the last one, previous versions dont sell. Warehouses are suffering from a phenomenon entitled SKU proliferation. That means that they have to, in the current economy, stock not only hundreds of different products, but hundreds of different versions (with various options) of the same product. A typical warehouse these days contains more than 57,000 SKUs (stock keeping units). Electronic products have come to the point where they are considered in nearly the same terms as perishable goods like food, for example.

Companies have, in many cases, found their warehouses filled with rapidly outdated goods that could not be sold and became nearly worthless within a short period of time. Worthless inventory has to be sold at a loss or completely written off. Warehouse managers are some of the few people on the planet, maybe the only ones, who eschew rapid technological development, simply because of what it means fo inventory and product turnover purposes. On the other hand, the combination of low product turnover and warehouse overstocking also impacts consumers - ultimately causing prices to rise.

All things considered, it becomes apparent that supply chain management is not just the latest buzzword, or the newest concept on the block. In fact, it is a very old concept, albeit with a whole new set of terminology (like enterprise resource planning, transportation optimization, and lean manufacturing) thrown into the mix. And, it is not even an option for the savvy company any more - it is an absolute must. The supply chain, particularly from a warehouse standpoint, must be managed and managed effectively, to avoid a loss of market share and money.

The good news is that there is help available. Numerous software products are currently on the market that simplify and streamline supply chain management and warehouse management. Wise operators will not only install supply chain management technology, but use it to its fullest advantage. These types of programs can provide upfront assessment, strategic planning, design and implementation - all created by supply chain experts. They enable businesses to evaluate their own progress against key performance indicators in meaningful and productive ways.

Engineers and consumers need to be aware of what is happening in the supply chain. Those who design products need to be aware that moving and storing them is something that has to happen in order to get them to buyers. And, consumers need to be aware that, in some sense, their rampant desire for all that is biggest, best and newest, can be a complicating factor for the entire supply chain.



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