Supply chain automation opens up data silos

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The complexity of modern supply chains means they face multiple constraints at the same time. Firstly, numerous enterprises must be connected successfully for operations to move smoothly. In addition, there are multiple point solutions, ERP systems and a myriad of Excel files floating across internal and partner operations. To ensure success, companies need to embrace a new approach to supply chain planning and execution, leveraging a single operating platform (with a network and apps) along with automation to deal with the volume and complexities.

“There is a better way to negotiate today’s supply chain complexities. Brand owners continue to experience the shift from a traditional manufacturing role to being an orchestrator of its complex global supply chain, leveraging outsourced production, logistics and distribution partners,” said Pawan Joshi, executive vice president of product management and strategy for E2open, a provider of cloud-based end-to-end supply chain management software used by global companies across a wide range of industries.

“Without the right technology, companies find themselves stuck with silos of data and disconnected functional processes.”

A truly collaborative supply chain utilizes real-time data obtained through direct connections with all upstream and downstream parties in the network. Otherwise, companies make decisions based on old information and are unaware of what is truly happening in their supply chains. According to Joshi the market is forcing people to move away from traditional approaches and focus more on agility and automation.

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The landscape

The current system landscape is highly fragmented with a patchwork of multiple solutions that are very diverse. Joshi recognises that it will not change overnight and providers of digital technologies will have to be able to operate in this environment and create a path forward that can work out the complexities.

An important first step is the ability to integrate with any existing system at any node in the network and feed its data into E2open. When data is collected it needs to be synchronised and harmonised so each system refers to the same element in a similar manner. “When you have multiple tiers in the supply chain with thousands of products, you can’t rely on humans to make the decisions on every transaction on every product, technology needs to do that,” Joshi says.

For Joshi the biggest challenge brand owners face is the complexity of their networks. ‘Historically, the way companies would deal with that is by storing excess stock across their entire network,’ he explains. ‘Platforms like ours streamline overall operations and let the most talented people focus on what is really challenging.’

Automated systems can be used 80% of the time and any time there is an exception they will flag it up to the human who is responsible. There will always be problems that applications cannot solve and humans need to jump in. “Disruptive events, like the pandemic, create a new realization that the time has come to think about supply chain management in a more automated and end-to-end way,” Joshi concludes.

Barriers

Joshi says that the single reason that could prevent harmonisation is the way organisations are structured. Modern enterprises are divided in different departments that have little to no knowledge of what the rest of the organisation is doing. Until companies get over that model and embrace a single end-to-end worldview they might struggle to produce the needed results. Fortunately, technology can help bridge this gap. ✷

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