All infrastructure equipment ages and the equipment utilized within the supply chain is not immune from this aging.  With the speed of change and the impact of the changed technology this can be a big deal in the supply chain as it relates to improved capabilities and improved stability in the supply chain.  The network and communication technologies supporting the network and wireless capabilities within the office and the warehouse is one small example of the infrastructure that can benefit greatly from improvements.  The speed and bandwidth improvements are dramatic from just a couple of years ago as it relates to the network technology and these may justify by themselves the upgrade in equipment.  On the other hand, the workstation technology has really not seen such dramatic improvements outside of the 64 bit technology upgrade. 


All equipment is purchased generally based on a three year cycle of replacement, however in my experience that three year cycle in many cases is extended until the point when the failure rate reaches an unacceptable level.  I do that myself with my major purchases such as a car where I keep the car for a minimum of 10 years, until the rate and cost of repairs reaches an unacceptable level.  In both examples you lose out on improvements in technology that reduce the overall cost of ownership and also increase the functionality and capabilities resulting from the new replacement equipment.  The interesting thing though is that each piece of equipment has its own specific reasons for failure and also for improvements resulting from replacement. 


Quite a while ago PC’s went through a period of dramatic and swift improvements and during that time it made some sense to replace the PC on a shorter time cycle and that is when the three year cycle was added as a baseline for IT equipment replacement.  Now the winds have shifted and PC’s are no longer providing dramatic improvements in usability in the same short period of time.  This has shifted now to network technology and equipment where performance and capabilities improvements are delivered on a quickening cycle. 


Another area of improvements in capabilities, performance and cost is in mobile technology that is resulting from the explosion in consumer mobile technology.  These changes are coming in the form of replacing mobile scanning devices with smaller smartphone and tablet technologies.  A great deal of this is the result of businesses recognizing the benefits of technology that is at once very familiar and accepted by the workforce along with the reality that the cost of this mobile technology is dramatically improved.  While the smartphone and tablet may not be the most rugged equipment in a warehouse setting, it can be ruggedized through cases and due to the cost of the equipment can be replaced at a fraction of the cost of the legacy scanning technology.  


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?