January 28, 2021

Supply Chain Management: Mobile App Navigates Long-Distance Logistics in India

Elaine Chang

Supply Chain Management: Mobile App Navigates Long-Distance Logistics in India

Biogas producer Sistema.bio faced a daunting supply chain management challenge – assemble, deliver and install 368 biodigesters in the rural state of Gujarat, 600 kilometers (almost 400 miles) away from its central warehouse in Pune, India. 

Image: Route of Sistema.bio biodigester parts from warehouse in Pune to installation at farms in India’s Gujarat state. Source: Google Maps

As if that wasn’t hard enough, Sistema.bio had 48 hours to kickoff the project – done in partnership with India’s National Dairy Development Board cooperative – and needed to source and then manage the movement, storage and assembly of more than 10,000 component parts that went into the nearly 400 completed biodigesters. The finished units, which convert manure into fertilizer and biogas for cooking, had to be delivered to customers by Sistema.bio field agents in remote areas with little connectivity, then installed and made operational in 50 days. 

Describing the project during a recent webinar, Sistema.bio Technical Director Himanshu Mishra said TaroWorks’ mobile supply chain management system (TaroWorks Enterprise) was instrumental in getting the job done.

“What led to the timely completion and the … satisfaction of all the stakeholders in this project, were a bunch of factors out of which one of the key factors was very robust inventory management and a supply chain that we could develop in a very remote rural area and be able to serve that last mile demand of the user within a certain time and within a high quality threshold.” 

Breaking Supply Chain Management Into Five Steps

To help speed up development of an inventory management and distribution system that would allow Sistema.bio to meet the tight timeframe of the India dairy farmer project, the social enterprise analyzed and visualized each phase of the supply chain. 

“Every enterprise has its own material movement and management challenges so it’s important to sketch it out and build a tool that matches our … flow of materials and flow of information,” Himanshu explained during the webinar. 

The objective was to make sure TaroWorks and Salesforce could be configured to reflect product movement from the central warehouse in Pune, to a rural warehouse nearer the customers, through the process of assembling the biodigester and packaging it for delivery to its final destination – the dairy farm.    

Five Links in Sistema.bio’s Logistics Network

supply chain management
Image: Supply chain visualized. Source: Sistema.bio.

Sistema.bio then identified five different sets of tasks needed to get the biodigester stored, transported between locations, assembled before installation and delivered to the end user. Appropriate forms and processes were created in TaroWorks for each of those five steps and the Salesforce CRM database was expanded to include the resulting data, which managers could analyze. The five stages were:

  • Requesting Stock (Done by Warehouse Manager)
    • Ability to transfer stock between warehouses.
    • Ability to plan and distribute sourcing to minimize lead time. 
  • Receiving Components at Warehouse (Done by Warehouse Manager)
    • Ability to receive stock in the main warehouse as individual components.
    • Ability to transfer this stock to the rural warehouse as inventory.
  • Assembling Components Into Finished “Package” (Done by Assembly Supervisor)
    • Ability to define “assembled” packages to convert components into finished “packages”.
supply chain management
Source: Sistema.bio
  • Confirming Dispatch of “Package” (Done by Logistics Associate)
    • Ability to track what has “gone out” from the warehouse (customer level).
    • Ability to send partial packages (based on project needs).

Himanshu said that being able to send partial packages containing some but not all of the product parts needed for biodigester operation was crucial given the time required for the biological process of converting manure into gas:

“It’s primarily the digestion process that needs to kick off … and kind of take its own time so we do have that flexibility of planning our installation in a way that we do a digester installation on day one and then we do a gas line installation on day number 30,” said Himanshu. “This ability to deliver partial packages also allowed the teams to be aggressively pushing on the digester package installation and … schedule the appliance package installation.”

  • Inventory Delivery and Arrival Confirmation in the Field
    • Ability for field agents to select customers to receive inventory and products for delivery.
    • Ability to report delivery completion.
    • Ability to provide evidence of delivery to the end user – using a photo and digital signature. (Done by Delivery Technician)
supply chain management
Source: Sistema.bio

Logistics Lessons Learned

Looking back on the successful completion of the National Dairy Development Board project, Himanshu learned several lessons, including the need to: 

  • Understand your full inventory workflow (i.e. different types of inventory movements) and make note of manual steps.
  • Define and streamline your products list. Confirm the level at which you need to monitor inventories (sub components, components, products or kits?).
  • Sketch your warehousing network and the pathways for product transfers.
  • Thoroughly train field agents on the use of mobile supply chain management apps like TaroWorks and offer frequent refresher training to get good adoption of data collection tools.


Video: Mobile Supply Chain Management Webinar

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About the author...

Elaine Chang

Chief Operating Officer

Elaine’s background in marketing research and data analytics has shaped her goal of helping organizations use insights from better data to create positive change in communities. She has a BS in Marketing and Finance from New York University, and an MBA from the University of Michigan. Elaine is based in Washington, DC.

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