Unpacking: Supply Chain Tech Talk

Continuing our #Unpacking series, today we take the tech out of supply chain terminology.

A great deal of technological wizardry goes into getting your goods from A to B (and C and D and etc.), but it need not be as baffling as some of the acronyms and industry lingo make out.

Here to help you bust that jargon is a clarification on some of the terminology you're sure to hear as you liaise with logistics partners.

You can also learn more about the types of technology we use at Capacity LLC here.

Shipping and Transportation Warehouse Technology

Technology Terminology in Supply Chains

Explained in plain English, here are some of the common terms that you'll come across and how they affect your supply chain:

EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) - In its simplest form, this is your business system talking to that of your logistics partner(s) to exchange key data. The message format will be standardized to ensure the data communicated is seamlessly received, which is why it can often take some time to design, test and activate a complete EDI agreement before fully rolling it out. The information exchanged will usually form the basis of your personal communication with logistics providers, so it needs to be complete and up to date.

LDI (Logistics Data Interchange) - A variation on EDI that may be used to communicate similar systems that transfer logistics data.

ASN (Advanced Shipment Notice) - Closely related to EDI, this notification is designed to let all relevant parties know that a shipment is on its way. It confirms a variety of data to the recipient's system, from when and where the goods left their origin point, right down to the type and quantity of goods on their way. Sometimes used as a series of data transmissions, this is vital information for anyone involved in the inbound planning of goods from another location.

Portal - This is the online interface that you'll use to connect to a provider's system to access whatever information they offer about your shipments. Data transfers like the EDI and ASN feed the provider's database with key shipment information, which the portal allows you to access in whatever form of solution your chosen logistics partner provides. For that reason you obviously need to have authorization to access the portal site and control over who else gets to do so.

Extranet - Like the Internet, this is a network that connects separate parties via the same software and protocols. Unlike the more familiar term, though, Extranet describes a private network that connects organizations directly, or over a secure link over the open 'net.

WMS (Warehouse Management System) - The system implemented to organize and control the position of products in a storage facility like a warehouse or distribution center. This may take a number of forms in terms of the software and provider(s) used, but the WMS will essentially manage the required movement of your goods through your logistics partner's system. It's always worth asking potential 3PL providers about their WMS so that you understand what processes and tech are in place to monitor your products through this crucial part of the supply chain.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) - Often used in warehouse management, RFID is typically used with tagged products that can be scanned to communicate data via radio frequency systems. This can mean tagging products, pallets, containers and many other entities in the supply chain to track location and manage inventory levels. As radio systems transmit data instantaneously, RFID is a useful system for keeping supply chain data up to date.

Of course this is far from covering all of the technology terms you'll come across in our expansive infustry, but that's why we have a series of posts to handle the subject! Watch out for more on supply chain tech talk in the near future.

And if there are any industry terms that you'd like us to take a look at for you in a future #Unpacking post, supply chain tech or otherwise, don't hesitate to let us know in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook!