The consumer world seems overwhelmingly digital. From smartphones and smartwatches to IoT devices like thermostats and Amazon Alexa we’re constantly and instantly connected. But what about the supply chain? Is every order initiated by an automated function and passed along at light speed to the manufacturer who instructs their robots to build the order and put it on a pallet?
It wasn’t long ago that Apple was lauded for its finesse in managing its supply chain. Getting its bazillions of iPhones from China to the US and everywhere else required some groundbreaking advances and a lot of tight controls. Those lessons have gone mainstream as the world took notice and of the company’s strategies and success. And partly because of that expansion, the supply chain now extends to areas as unexpected as social media.
Today’s supply chain is no stranger to big data, at least not when it comes to generating it. Think about the millions of transactions passed between trading partners every day that are triggered by the billions of register transactions caused by retail sales. These deluges of data have been both the lifeblood of the supply chain and part of its biggest challenges.
You already know that IoT is a term used to loosely identify items that have been imbued with enough intelligence and communication abilities to send messages across the internet. First of all, this means that these items are not human in the ways we normally think of humans using computers to send information via the Internet. But that doesn't mean that some of these 'things' can't be humans, or at least humans carrying with devices that do the communicating for them. The connections and the information are triggered by conditions as they change.
3D printers are available to everyone with even a small budget. That means that even though what they produce may not be up to the quality level you would manufacture or sell yourself, the ability to directly control, modify, and create items is moving to consumers. And they are taking advantage of these small printers matched with predefined designs and low cost design services.
The cloud and its advantages are everywhere, right? Every mobile device and every consumer web service is based on cloud technologies. Every day startups take to the cloud, building new applications, hosting data and services in publicly available storage sites and moving data between local storage in the office and inexpensive hosting. But even with all this activity and concentration on the benefits of cloud based environments a frighteningly small percentage of B2B transactions move electronically.
To say that software is moving to the cloud would be like coming late to the party. Yes, there is still software on your desktop machines and on your servers. But even the most ardent and heavyweight applications have found their way to cloud based platforms. For the supply chain this is particularly good news (and good practice) since the essence of supply chain business is distributed around the globe.
Confusion reigns over whether hosted or software as a service (SaaS) is the better choice for that next software overhaul. It doesn't help that so many hosted vendors are touting their wares as SaaS or Cloud. Of course, there's a reason for the blurring of label lines – SaaS is on an upswing in most markets. Put another way: everyone has their heads in the Cloud these days.
What are our collective perceptions of SaaS, Cloud computing, and Hosted solutions. Of course we are mainly interested in supply chain solutions, but the definitions appliy to any application. If you're not completely certain, here is a primmer on the major differences and some discussion of the advantages of each. This falls far short of a full detailed explanation, but the basic concepts are accurate.
Some time ago we sent out a survey asking about your perceptions of SaaS, Cloud computing, and Hosted solutions. Of course we were interested in EDI solutions, but the question is a generic one that applies to any application. The responses we received ranged from fairly detailed explanations of each, to "I don't know what these are." So for those who are unfamiliar with the differences, here is a primmer on the major differences and some discussion of the advantages of each. This falls far short of a full detailed explanation, but the basic concepts are accurate.