The past few years have been tumultuous in the supply chain space. Organisations have commenced implementations using sensor-based Internet of Things (IoT) data for creating revolutionary new processes; 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI) are entering pilot-mode at an increasing rate; and drone delivery and driverless vehicles may just be around the corner.
This has been fuelled by increasing globalisation, the digital economy and evolving customer demands. And as systems and information multiply, CIOs are investing in transformation projects to improve how they source, produce and move goods faster at a lower cost.
But a significant question remains: how can these investments be shaped into better customer experiences, and consequently, sustainable, long-term revenue streams?
Based on what I have seen in the supply chain space, organisations are differentiating themselves through transparency and flexibility across key systems – from enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management, to mobile scanners, customer relationship management (CRM), ecommerce portals and electronic data interchange (EDI) for automated transactions.
Leading organisations have therefore moved or are in the process of moving to cloud-based operational models that leverage integration to ensure consistency and visibility for employees and customers throughout the entire supply chain as part of an omni-channel experience.
For example, Australian third party logistics services provider for the automotive, commercial and industrial sectors, AMCAP, recently turned to cloud-based integration to consolidate multiple legacy systems into a unified platform.
Having shifted its IT environment from an outdated mainframe to a modern supply chain management system, it deployed an integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) to connect critical supply chain management applications, including its enterprise resource planning (ERP) and warehouse management systems.
As a result, the organisation’s employees now have granular control over supply chain processes and the data involved in these. All information is presented in a single interface without compromising data accuracy. This allows the company to respond to various customer demands much faster, demonstrated with its new real-time cycle count adjustments. Previously available on a weekly basis, its customer can now see to-the-minute updates on inventory information, speeding up order-to-delivery times.
As well as improving efficiency and visibility, other organisations which have gone down this route have achieved:
- Accelerated trading partner on-boarding and automating electronic transactions;
- Workflow automation for streamlined procurement, replenishment, credit limit and other processes;
- Enhanced ecommerce portals with real-time stock availability data from ERP and warehouse management;
- And improved in-person sales by enabling sales teams to showcase and order products and inventory when mobile or working remotely, based on real-time data.
These types of benefits cannot be delivered without the right technology and integration tools. Unfortunately, most CIOs are grappling with all kinds of strategic and tactical decisions for improving their supply chains. Many organisations still use outdated, costly and time-consuming on-premises middleware which inhibits their ability to move at a rate the market demands.
Additionally, there are still plenty of bait-and-switch scenarios fooling companies – legacy systems continue to be dressed up as pure cloud offerings, drawing organisations into significant investment without providing transparency into the limitations of these ‘solutions’. By modernising through a true cloud-based integration strategy, organisations can expect pivotal improvements across their businesses and the experience they are able to deliver to their customers.
Nathan Gower is an enterprise account executive at Dell Boomi.
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