Demand-driven supply chain management isn’t new. What is new is the sheer amount of data available and our ability to draw insights from it. Traditional methods of demand forecasting are based on historical demand levels, but those single data points may not be reflective of the current demand environment. The more traditional aspects of supply chain and distribution models have been a mainstay in many popular industries for decades. However, digital transformation is changing the way organizations approach their supply chains – with new, technology-first processes gaining significant ground.
A “digital supply chain” can be described as the practice and application of modern-day technologies to digitize every link in the typical supply chain. The entire ecosystem has a digital component running through it like an electric current through a wire – and it’s not just for planning and forecasting, but also more manual processes like manufacturing, transportation, and delivery.
For example, organizations can leverage Internet of Things (IoT) electronic sensors and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for real-time tracking of the movement of goods across each step of the production, shipping, and logistics processes. APIs for real-time digital connectivity enable performance management and optimization of even the most complicated supply chains by integrating new means of data processing.
In fact, this end-to-end connectivity also means that a digital supply chain can be fully integrated starting with the customer all the way through back-end processes such as process management, material flow, supply and demand planning, resource planning, and inventory levels. This provides the much-needed transparency and visibility into an organization to cater to the needs of its customers, improving the customer experience and optimizing efficiency operations.
BRINGING DIGITAL SUPPLY CHAINS TO RETAIL AND MANUFACTURING
Today’s retailers and manufacturers are grappling with rapidly changing consumer demand, a geographically distributed supplier base, and an ever-growing list of fulfilment channels. To that extent, these organizations are looking at technology to help them predict and sense demand better and design an effective supplier collaboration network where they can serve their customers on multiple channels.
To make matters more complex, many large organizations have a wide geographic presence, so their planning and forecasting systems have multiple instances and versions spread across regions and time zones. This set-up can hinder a unified, end-to-end view of the ecosystem.
While the adoption of cloud-based SaaS applications has helped enterprises reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO), the need to have these cloud applications integrate with each other as well as with on-premise applications and systems – in real-time – is crucial to the success of the operation.
All of this requires consistent connectivity and exchange of data – aggregating views across channels to create a single view of the customer – and delivering a truly unified customer experience. To convert this into reality is easier said than done since transforming the supply chain and making it both adaptive and intuitive requires integration, consolidation, transformation, and routing of data in real- or near-real-time.
THE POWER OF PLATFORMS
To address this gap, there is a comprehensive platform solution that attempts to meet an organization’s supply chain goals. We refer to it as a “Hybrid Integration Platform” (HIP), and it can support a myriad of integration use cases, including multi-cloud integrations and hybrid deployments.
HIPs are low code/no code offerings that sit on top of an organization’s application layer and leverage standard connectors to exchange data. This creates an application network that connects employees, trading partners, and customers to provide real-time, end-to-end visibility for predictive and adaptive decision-making.
By connecting the disparate systems and applications, organizations can optimize their digital supply chain processes multi-fold:
- Record their interactions with customers (what was ordered, how much, where, and when).
- Analyze customer touchpoints (web, mobile, in-store, or call center).
- Predict product demand and fluctuations (planning and forecasting systems).
- Provide a self-service portal for customers (configure the products and services, get a quote, place an order, make changes to existing orders, pay for the orders, track orders and do returns management seamlessly).
These modern HIPs leverage APIs and event-driven architectures for real-time connectivity and collaboration between customer service representatives, field technicians, suppliers, and logistics providers, delivering manifold improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the service value chain.
THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL
Organizations that take the time to research and make the investment in API-led and event-driven application networks will gain unprecedented insight into their customer base. This information has the power to completely transform the customer experience and drive new efficiencies in the digital supply chain.
It can also open the door for driving predictive and adaptive business decisions, instilling a major competitive advantage in the marketplace. Remember, in today’s “always on” world, it’s all about staying connected.