Moving EDI data around the globe is old hat to most of the folks reading this ec-bp newsletter. Managing the connections and translations can get complex and picky when it comes to the details of the files and the changes that need to be incorporated into translators to make processes flow properly. For most EDI practitioners, their roles are fairly well defined and fit well with established concepts. But as mobile devices take over I think the line between what is EDI and what is associated with end user interaction is changing.
EDI is a significant source of big data. Of course that's no shock to anyone dealing with data storage or a VAN bill, but when you consider the volume of transactions and the number or companies involved, it would seem that there is a wealth of data in those transactions. The data now covers (depending on the trading partners) every aspect of the order process, from initial P.O. to final payment, with plenty of status updates along the way. So, what can be learned from all the data? It turns out that when looked at as an aggregate and put through the right analytical processes, there's plenty to be learned - and predicted.
Your supply chain is controlled by data. As that data flows between your company an your trading partners it tells a story. For most companies that story is the current state of events. It reflects the orders, shipments, product inventories, and even work in process. Once the current status has passed the data can largely be considered to have served its purpose. But there’s a lot more to be gained from looking at that data as well as the facts about the data (its metadata) that may help expand the reach and effectiveness of your supply chain activities.
It wasn’t long ago that Apple was lauded for it’s 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.
I was considering writing an article about which company will be most disruptive to supply chains over the next few years, when lo and behold what pulls into my driveway but an Amazon-branded panel truck delivering a drill I ordered a couple days ago. Is that fate or what? At the very top of my list in the ‘Disrupter Hall of Fame’ would undoubtedly be Amazon, and their recent moves in logistics represent yet another supply chain area that ought to be preparing itself for disruption from this ecommerce giant.
Retail drives a big portion of the EDI traffic along the supply chain. Whether it’s online retail or brick and mortar retail, the issues are the same. But let’s face it… sometimes it’s just easier to find the product you’re looking for by using a search engine online rather than wandering aimlessly through the aisles of a big box store. Increasingly, retailers are supplementing the in-store experience with apps on shoppers’ mobile devices.
There are plenty of social networks beyond Facebook. Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, and Pinterest have made themselves useful but haven’t been able to gain the traction of Facebook. But Facebook is gaining a reputation as ‘grandpa’s’ network as it becomes almost a public utility. The younger population that was responsible for popularizing the site is moving to newer systems like Snapchat, Kik Messenger, oOVoo, WhatsApp, Vine, Tinder, and others that specialize in fast paced interactions.
Let’s have some fun with math. What EDI translator does your company use? For that matter, what ERP, 3PL, or other service is on your short list? Next, how many trading partners do you have? And finally, what EDI, ERP, and other electronic systems do they use? It doesn’t really matter whether you have the answers to these questions. What you would get even if you use the smallest estimates available is a very large number of permutations. How is it possible then to maintain compatibility and also keep up with the accelerated pace of today’s supply chain?
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.
Omni-channel has become a dated term. In this age of digital information available anytime and anywhere there are precious few shopping decisions being made without fact based information. A MasterCard report from 2015 shows that 8 out of 10 purchases made by retail shoppers are informed by some kind of digital information. With 80 percent of purchase decisions influenced by shopper research, their decisions about just where to buy is likely to come down to convenience and timing rather than loyalty. Omni-channel shopping is now just plain shopping.