While the Inspectorio platform empowers companies with remote quality inspections, other remote work tools are similarly empowering companies to continue supply chain operations. In this article, we highlight some of our favorite collaborative remote work services to consider during this pandemic.
Among the many new realities snapped into existence by the Coronavirus, remote work is one of the most prominent. Many companies worldwide are now playing a quick game of catch-up to keep their supply chains operational — a task that can only be accomplished through remote collaboration.
At Inspectorio, our digital supply chain tools are playing a critical role in keeping brands and retailers in business. By laying the groundwork for reliable self-inspections, our platform has enabled firms of all sizes to continue manufacturing and shipping even as others have ground to a halt. Our machine learning algorithms continue to analyze continuously accrued data, helping stakeholders make informed decisions based on up-to-date changes in their supply chains.
But we are not alone in empowering companies to harness the power of remote work. In this article, we will share a list of other platforms that leverage key technologies critical to remote collaboration with supply chain partners, from video conferencing to project management and beyond.
Most firms require some degree of face-to-face interaction with supply chain personnel. These are some of the best software solutions for video conferences:
Zoom carries a lot of clout in the business world, and for good reason — they have streamlined video conferencing, team chats, and more. Their pricing ranges from free (up to 100 participants, 40-minute limit on group meetings) for small organizations to $19.99/month per host (minimum of 50 hosts required) for large enterprises. It’s worth noting that the security of Zoom conferencing has been called into question in the last months. It’s worthwhile to keep this in mind when discussing sensitive supply chain information.
Microsoft Teams is many things besides just video conferencing, offering document collaboration, one-on-one and team chats, a high degree of security, and customizability for global teams. This technology is free and can provide up to 300 participants with chat and collaborative hubs. Though they have been working to integrate Skype for Business into their video conferencing, their meeting services can be non-intuitive at first.
No, Krisp isn’t a video conferencing app, but it deserves mention here. Using artificial intelligence, Krisp quickly learns the frequencies of the speaker’s voice and eliminates background noise from both incoming and outgoing calls so that everyone can be heard clearly. It works even in extremely noisy environments like factories. This service ranges from free (120 minutes per week) to a contact-for-price enterprise plan (dedicated account manager, central deployment). The free plan only makes incoming calls quieter and does not quiet the environment of the user.
In communication with suppliers, file sharing must be both convenient and secure. Here are two services that tick both of those boxes:
Google Drive is intuitive, comprehensive, lightning-fast, and enjoys widespread use. Syncing happens automatically on every connected device, and sharing doesn’t always require long uploads — users can simply email someone a link to the file. Changes are saved for 30 days, creating a safety window in which to undo mistakes, and AI analyzes user patterns and streamlines workflows (a capability we always respect). Business pricing is $8/user/month and only charges for the amount of storage used.
Dropbox is a great choice for small to medium-sized businesses looking for a secure, reliable way to share files with supply chain partners and others. All file storage occurs offsite on exceptionally secure servers, making it an attractive option for sensitive materials. It also features unlimited recovery, user activity audits, and upcoming machine learning features that help put the needed files up front. Pricing options include $15/user/month (5TB of storage), $25/user/month (unlimited storage), and a contact-for-price enterprise option (customizable solutions). A con of dropbox is that it is more difficult to set up than Google Drive.
For brands with suppliers abroad, quality and compliance inspections are absolutely essential. Cutting-edge technology has revolutionized these operations, making them viable even in the era of coronavirus:
Inspectorio’s platform brings game-changing visibility and accountability to the inspection process — all while empowering factories to perform their own self-inspections. Through an open network of continuous data collection, the platform harnesses powerful AI to analyze risk, simplify decision-making, and reduce costs for brands and retailers. By bringing all communication under one roof, every stakeholder in the inspection process can react quickly to real-time data and decisions. Inspectorio also houses many features in one place: communication, file sharing, project management, and more. Click here to request a demo.
Tracking work hours and accounting for time zone differences (since many factories and vendors are located overseas) are easier than ever before with these versatile timing services:
Toggl is a powerful platform that enables work hours tracking on hundreds of different tools. It allows easy exporting of time reports that provide detailed records of how much time was spent on various tasks, and the platform automates timesheet management. Pricing starts at $9/user/month (automated time analysis features), and a contact-for-price enterprise option includes priority support and customizable solutions. A con to consider is that adding new clients can be cumbersome.
HourStack makes time tracking more visual by blocking time vertically, as in a calendar. This helps plan ahead by visualizing how much time is available for certain tasks. By allowing users to select certain tasks to complete later and estimating the amount of time needed, HourStack can automatically help meet expectations — a valuable feature when managing multiple suppliers and internal operations in this tumultuous period. Pricing is $12/user/month (unlimited time tracking, full integrations) for smaller companies and contact-for-pricing for enterprises larger than 200 (support, data migration).
The need for global teams to account for time zone differences, particularly on future dates, is what TimeAndDate addresses. With supply chains spread across the globe, users can compare one time and date in their location with those in another, making it easier to schedule meetings and coordinate. This platform also alerts users to holidays and office hours. Pricing is free.
Being able to manage large, far-flung teams online is crucial to operations during coronavirus. Here are some of the best project management apps and services:
Slack is perfect for teams that need quick, easy communication throughout the day. It is built for collaborating with other team members, and its platform synchronizes and homogenizes different forms of communication. Conversations stay organized by topic. Though it’s more renowned for communication than for project management, Slack works perfectly in tandem with other platforms and is excellent for staying in touch with suppliers. Pricing ranges from free (10 integrations, 1:1 video and voice calls) to contact-for-pricing enterprise options (≤500,000 users, high-grade security and compliance).
Trello has become an industry standard due to its lightweight simplicity, which allows intuitive organization of work boards and core planning. Users can define workflows, set deadlines, set up tasks for members, and keep a close eye on progress. Trello is free for most team needs, though they offer Trello Business Class starting at $9.99/user/month (unlimited team boards and templates). A con of Trello is its lack of a gantt (project bar chart) capabilities.
Perfect for larger undertakings, Asana is a totally project-based platform. A collaborative platform lets team members create sections with their own sets of tasks. Users can build gantt charts, monitor progress in real time, and use automation to take care of routine tasks. Pricing is free for basic, $10.99/user/month for Premium, $24.99/user/month for Business, and contact-for-pricing for Enterprise (increased security, support, and control). In March of 2018 the company announced its intent to integrate machine learning to help plan tasks better.
Whether it’s taking notes during overseas calls or brainstorming new workflows, here are two digital powerhouses for note-taking:
Evernote is a versatile note-taking app that can handle handwriting, PDFs, and web clippings. A mobile scanner replaces photocopying for documents and pages. Sharing notes is easy, and machine learning enables character recognition, itineraries, and organization. Pricing ranges from free (notetaking) to $7.99/month (organization) to $14.99/user/month (team note sharing). A con of Evernote is that the free plan does not include enough storage space for lots of scans, so a more expensive plan will likely be needed.
Bear is a clean, elegant note-taking solution for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It features a Hybrid Markdown editor that formats continuously, nested hierarchical organization, an archive feature to hide but not delete notes, and a clean experience. Pricing is $14.99 annually. Bear is only available on iOS products, which limits its compatibility among many organizations.
In this brave new world of remote supply chain management, administrators need creative ways of motivating and checking up on the well-being of employees. These platforms provide some of the best tools:
Chimp or Champ
Chimp or Champ allows employers to monitor employee happiness through a weekly anonymous happiness meter. This keeps a finger on the pulse of the team, allowing leaders to proactively work to improve morale and achieve greater success. Basic pricing is $1/user/month (weekly organizational pulse, feedback reports), $3/user/month (4-factor engagement assessment, monthly progress reporting), or $5/user/month (cross-team reporting, custom design, dedicated success manager).
WooBoard utilizes peer-to-peer recognition to stimulate daily interactions between remote coworkers. By integrating social features, games, and rewards such as gift cards, WooBoard lets administrators show appreciation for employees and connect teams together. Pricing starts at $3/user/month (up to 200 users), or contact-for-pricing for enterprises larger than 200.
Embrace Remote Work Tools
If there’s one thing the coronavirus pandemic is teaching us, it’s that the digital supply chain routines we adopt now aren’t a temporary fix — they’re here to stay. Companies have a unique opportunity to restructure and improve existing processes.
By choosing leaner, more efficient digital tools, they can cut costs and infuse their businesses with greater resistance to similar disasters in the future.