Integrating supply chain management (SCM) and global positioning system (GPS) FAQ

Supply chain management (SCM) can work with a global positioning system (GPS) to create a powerful logistics data network. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about SCM GPS integration.

Global positioning system (GPS) technology can tell you where you are -- and where your most important assets are...

located. But it takes other systems, including supply chain management (SCM), to make that information truly useful. We spoke to Greg Aimi, research director at AMR Research, and put together some SCM GPS integration FAQs.

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How does SCM GPS integration work?

SCM systems are not likely to handle GPS data directly and there are few, if any, applications available in the market today to extract and aggregate GPS information to a point where it is meaningful for an SCM system. To get at this data, a logistics operation, whether external or internal, is the best place to start because they will have the best capability for parsing GPS information.

What's the business value of GPS?

GPS can be part of your supply chain visibility, which implies an information system that permits more diligent and detailed tracking of items across a whole network. GPS can help eliminate "black holes" where information is uncertain and by so doing can help with goals such as paring back excessive buffer stock.

What kind of organizations would benefit from integrating GPS and SCM?

GPS is still mostly of interest to logistics operations, especially trucking companies. However, those companies will sometimes open up GPS data to customers -- such as manufacturers. Manufacturers that operate on just-in-time principles could find great value in having more exact data on the whereabouts and status of orders.

What are the prerequisites for implementing GPS in conjunction with SCM?

GPS is just one of many technologies used to supply locational information. Companies will want to consider their goals and examine exactly how GPS will fit with other technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID).

I'm not sure that I'm ready for GPS integration yet. What should I be planning on longer term?

GPS is probably not the highest priority for many manufacturers right now. But the idea of being able to better track objects and assets will only get more compelling. It may get easier, too, as integration between various networks and devices becomes more widespread. That should mean that harnessing GPS will get easier over time. Remember, GPS is just part of a spectrum of technologies for tracking -- it should be considered in that context.

About the author: Alan Earls had his first exposure to computer programming on one of Digital Equipment Corp.'s PDP-8 minicomputers. He went on to serve as editor of the newspaper Mass High Tech and is the author of the book Route 128 and the Birth of the Age of High Tech, a photographic essay on a key part of Massachusetts economic history. He currently is a freelance writer, covering many aspects of IT technology and writing regularly for

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