We’ve talked about supply chain control towers over the years but it’s time to migrate from something that’s simply observing and controlling to the notion of a full environment that provides a set of underlying facilities. In other words, an operating system.
We are accustomed to operating systems that run our computers, servers, and mobile devices. These have a set of features that by themselves deliver a number of functions necessary to run the devices. These typically include storage, communication, presentation, and other important features. But very few computers are useful without the applications we install on them to perform specialized tasks. The same is true for the SCOS (Supply Chain Operating System).
Most companies involved in the supply chain have multiple systems installed at the enterprise or in use via SaaS. When the right combination of systems is in use, each connects to the other and passes informtation. The field of software integration has been an active one as companies install systems that need to connect with each other. Automated connections are critical to timely updates of transactions particularly as the pace of business quickens.
Previous processes that required manual transport and batch updates of transactions were adequate if not time consuming, when inventory levels were less visible. But the advent of supply chain visibility has highlighted the need for real-time updates, and that requires integration at deep levels between software systems.
Traditionally this integration is a specialty of software providers who offer their integration services either included with their standard offerings or at additional charges. Direct integrations between standard or widely adopted systems can be offered as plug-and-play packages since the programming work can be performed once and distributed to multiple users as long as they are connecting the same applications. But not every combination of supply chain software has been connected to every other package. That means that lesser used combinations still require substantial programming effort to accomplish - and that can be expensive, meaning the cost may not be justified.
The concept of using an SCOS as the central hub makes sense as a way to lower the programming effort. In concept the SCOS is the same for all users and all applications communicate through the SCOS. This is similar to operating systems like Windows, Linux, OSX, and the others. It’s true that each application needs to be configured to run on each OS, but the number of OSs is significantly smaller than the number of apps to be connected to. So, conceivably every software vendor writes their integration to comply with one or more SCOSs and the overall supply chain network becomes a much happier and more productive place.