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.
It’s customary to think of supply chain professionals as department managers or technologists or even as programmers. But the role of today’s supply chain professional is changing to be a much more complex and responsible position. And it’s because the supply chain is becoming the heart of the business world. No longer is it possible for a company to simply have a great product. And letting the world know about it and be enthusiastic to know more and even motivated to buy just isn’t enough. Products now need to be available through multiple channels and deliverable based on customer preference. The complexity of today’s supply chain means the people responsible for it need to be more.
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.
The end of the supply chain (retail) is probably the only place that makes any sense for any kind of social media activity. At least that's the common belief. What would a supplier, manufacturer, 3PL, or any other part of the supply chain hope to gain from a Facebook page, a Twitter stream, or even a Google+ account?
Business owners have been using analytics to analyze their business data for many years. The real question is, what do we do with that data? Up until recently, there really hasn't been much guidance when it comes to interpreting and utilizing that data to meet your business needs. However, in today's highly competitive supply chain it is more important than ever to know how to utilize those analytics to solve problems in your supply chain. Think about it: If you can't use that analytical data to solve real world problems for your business, what is the point of the analytics in the first place?
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.
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.
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.
I've harped on the use of big data in the supply chain a few times already. In fact, historically one of the issues with the supply chain in general and EDI specifically is the amount of data generated by the plethora of transactions moving between trading partners. And as the demands for visibility increase so does the number and complexity of the documents.
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.