|Sense of Community Born of Difficulty
Overcoming the language barrier
Overcoming barriers between systems
Overcoming barriers of time and space
Overcoming barriers between companies
Overcoming barriers between companies and consumers
|Overcoming barriers of time and space|
|Wheres My Freight?
Until recently, when cargo owners wanted to know where their goods were and what condition they were in, the only way to find out was to telephone or fax a logistics manager at their warehousing company. Then those managers had to contact someone on the floor, or at an overseas office, or in some other location to find out what was going on, and then got back to the cargo owner with the information.
But what would happen if the cargo was still overseas, and it happened to be the midnight there? Everything would have to be put on hold until morning. Of course, when cargo owners cannot get accurate information, they need to maintain higher inventories to hedge against a shortage.
Linking the Flow of Goods and the Flow of Information
The Sumitomo Warehouse Co., Ltd.s Web-EDI system solves problems like these. Customers can instantly access information on their cargo at any timeand they can obtain the information from anywhere via the Internet. In other words, the flow of goods is linked with the flow of information in real-time.
The server runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so information can be checked at any time. This offers many big advantages from the customers perspective. For instance, it lets them schedule shipments for timely deliveries that follow market trends, thus obviating the need to hold surplus inventories. The time that cargo is warehoused is shortened, so warehousing itself is also undergoing changes, says Masushi Koyama, manager of Tokyo Information Systems Section of Sumitomo Warehouse. Sumitomo Warehouse got an early start on the computerization of logistics, building its first nationwide online network in 1974. In 1999, it connected its in-house data infrastructure to the Internet and also adopted an extranet that allows it to share information with certain other companies. Then, beginning in 2000, the company built a system that also allows searches on inventory conditions and provides monthly histories of incoming and outgoing freight; users can also trace the flow of import and export goods. The company is now working to accommodate the trend toward e-commerce by placing and accepting orders via the Internet on behalf of its customers.
In the past, we systems staff could build a system as long as we knew the operational flow of our own company, says Seiichi Terada, chief of Tokyo Information Systems Section. But to build programs like a system for taking orders for customers, we have to be familiar with their operations, too. The more players there are using a particular system, the more challenging it is to make a system that will satisfy everyones needs.
For goods to flow smoothly, information must also flow smoothly. Nowadays IT has become essential for warehouse operators.