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As a supply chain management executive, it's critical to manage risk effectively, maintain a competitive advantage to attract new business, and balance customer demands with the need to control costs and improve the bottom line. But connecting, syncing and tracking manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, customers, logistics organizations and all of the systems serving each is not an easy task and often puts supply chain execs in the unenviable position of producing some semblance of order.
It's not that technology is the issue. Numerous software vendors out there tout the impact their next big products will have on supply chains, but they're missing the big picture. Supply chain managers don’t need any more back-end resource tools. With most major organizations already relying on several EDI, CRM, MRP and ERP systems for the bulk of their business, they have enough tools – both on-premise and cloud-based – to get the job done.
What supply chain management executives are looking for are ways to use these great tools to gain visibility into and capture insights from their daily workflows. That’s why the modern solution for optimizing the supply chain isn’t a supply chain technology at all. It’s integration technology.
The Need for Integration
Integrating information, systems, and people delivers the real-time view of the holistic supply chain that connects the entire logistics ecosystem. Information moving among geo-located companies, people and systems, including purchase orders, invoices, shipping notices, transport logs, financial data, and even sensor data, can easily become unorganized data sprawl without strategic integration.
Because of the nature of this information, however, good business integration hardly ends with ecosystem connectivity. Supply chain organizations also require:
• Reliability for maintaining maximum uptime and meeting customer SLAs
• Scalability for accepting new trading partners quickly and efficiently
• Data transformation, automation and intelligent routing to get data to the right place at the right time and in the right format
• High-speed transfer functionality for moving large files inside and outside company walls
• Encryption in motion and at rest for responsible management of sensitive information
• End-to-end visibility for tracking, internal auditing and meeting external compliance mandates
• Big data gateway technology to funnel information into and out of data hubs for analysis
There’s also the unstructured weather, customer support and even social media data that may need to be aggregated and analyzed for insights down the road. It’s this “all data” approach – as opposed to “some data” – that delivers a holistic view of the business and leads to optimized transportation routes, employee efficiency, reduced inventory, reduced freight costs and visibility into buying patterns.
Deploying a platform that delivers all of this integration functionality will differentiate supply chain organizations now and in the future of this highly competitive industry. Here are three types of integration capabilities – all of which can be found on a single platform from leading providers – supply chain management executives must consider to meet their growing business demands:
Support for external trading partners means reliable connectivity to current customers as well as rapidly onboarding new business partners and customers around the world, which vastly improves speed to revenue.
A supply chain management operation, then, must support:
• Multiple protocols to enable all types of new business, new data streams and aggressive growth
• Secure file transfers with audit trails, robust end-to-end encryption and the reduced risk associated with external firewall access
• Any-to-any data transformation and automated data mapping for all types of files needed to do business
• Visibility across the full supply chain to drive better analytical decisions and optimize operations from production to destination
• Reliability to avoid downtime and any major disruptions to business activity, which can severely damage customer relationships
Connecting the systems that power the business, from ERP to ESB to legacy EDI and cloud solutions, is critical for supply chain managers, and understanding the full function of each tool could eliminate redundancies and streamline operations.
Consider an application integration technology that:
• Consolidates disparate technologies into an interoperable single-platform solution connecting people, digital processes and essential business systems
• Utilizes event-based processing and workflow orchestration to fully automate the environment, reducing lead times and improving fulfillment
• Eliminates process disruptions with comprehensive monitoring features that detect and deliver proactive notifications, anticipating business issues that might lead to production outages
• Ensures industry and government compliance for inventory management, cross docking, fulfillment, packaging, warehousing and integrated logistics operations
Big Data Integration
Looking to the future, many supply chain organizations are beginning to leverage the tsunami of data being generated to perform deep analysis for business optimization. Secure, dynamic information flows between data lakes and other data hubs enable the analytics that can help differentiate your business. Supply chain service providers generate data from a variety of transportation mechanisms, RFID tags, mobile devices, and more, and getting timely insights necessitates a solution to handle the variety, veracity and volumes of data generated.
A truly unique big data integration gateway, then, provides:
• Simple-to-use adaptors to interface directly with big-data infrastructure, such as HDFS and Amazon S3
• Accelerated protocols to transfer huge quantities of data between locations efficiently
• Full visibility into information flows, which is integral to improving overall efficiencies across high-traffic logistics networks
• Support for varied data formats, from fully structured X12 and EDIFACT to semi-structured and unstructured raw data
• Limitless transaction flows for data sizes big and small with carrier-grade scalability and extreme elasticity under even the most demanding requirements
The flow of goods – from raw materials to their end use – through the air, over land and sea, and across borders requires the global coordination of business data. With connected information, the organization is better armed for the demand planning, purchasing, sales forecasting, and logistics optimization functions critical to maintaining a competitive edge in supply chain management.
A single-platform technology that enables B2B integration, application integration, and big data integration positions enterprises to optimize secure internal and external business and IT connectivity, and ramp up process efficiency across the entire supply chain. Only then can the supply chain management professional truly realize the strategies that increase operational efficiency, build big data capabilities, and improve customer service.
Source: Cleo Communications
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