To meet these demands, supply chain visibility, execution and optimization must extend from producers/suppliers to end consumers, a critical expansion that marks a departure from the traditional focus solely on manufacturing and distribution.
The key to enabling end-to-end supply chain visibility, execution and optimization? Data. Or, more specifically, the ability to leverage, learn from, and interact with critical supply chain data by getting it to the right people in real time and at the point where value creation occurs. With that data, customers know exactly where their orders are and when they’ll arrive. Executives can monitor distribution schedules, quickly spot a potential problem and proactively respond. Field sales can take or change orders at the point where business transactions happen. And field service employees can get the parts they need without worrying about inventory inaccuracy or slowing down the repair process to accommodate manual data entry. But accessing and interacting with that data can be hard, especially if you have multiple back-end systems, remote operations, and users with different devices needing real-time information.
The way companies do business is changing at a rapid rate, an evolution that can be mapped along a linear spectrum that ranges from analog (manual processes) to digital (expansive process automation). Despite significant advances in technology, many businesses still rely on manual, analog processes, making it difficult to improve operational efficiency while meeting customer demands for efficiency—especially when external trading partners and remote facilities are involved. Constraining operations with slow, error-prone manual tasks and input limits visibility and impedes growth while potentially harming the customer experience, making businesses more likely to lose customers to competitors who can act—and react—quickly, efficiently and in real time.
Today’s business environment is increasingly driven by digital business—those that make the shift will have a significant business advantage largely enabled by the ability to effectively collect, distribute, analyze and use their data. To get the most out of this data, businesses must move away from growth-impeding analog processes and instead leverage technology solutions that integrate with and extend current enterprise systems of record and drive visibility, execution and optimization across a digital supply chain.
Technology is the critical driver of a digital supply chain. Making the shift to a digital business requires a strategy that not only leverages on-premise, mobile and cloud supply chain solutions, but is fully integrated, simple to deploy and maintain, and is device-, system of record- and location-agnostic. The best solutions can also provide machine-to-machine and Internet of Things (IoT) offerings to further create competitive advantage. When companies use technology to automate, optimize and connect their business, they’ve created the digital supply chain framework that enables them to make informed decisions and execute transactions at the point where business happens.
“Digital technology has the power to drive a convergence of supply chain elements,” write Gary Hanifan, Aditya Sharma and Carrie Newberry in “The Digital Supply Network: A New Paradigm for Supply Chain Management,” an Accenture Strategy report. “In so doing, it can help companies capture huge savings and competitive advantages by fostering networked processes; optimizing the complete enterprise instead of individual functions; uniting designers, suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, logistics service providers, retailers and even customers; and inspiring new ways of thinking and working by enhancing visibility, collaboration and innovation.”
Consider Old Dutch Foods, a leading snack food provider in the midst of this analog to digital evolution. Now that Old Dutch has automated data collection inside the warehouse and created an off-premise mobile app that field sales workers use to optimize direct store delivery operations, Old Dutch Foods has moved away from slow, limiting manual processes and is closer to becoming a digital business. Because critical information gaps—both inside and outside the warehouse—have been closed, Old Dutch now has greater visibility and insights to make immediate, real-time adjustments. The company can now update production schedules throughout the day, rather than waiting for end-of-the-day data entry, which allows for nightly production schedule adjustments to immediately accommodate real-world situations like product promotions. They can also better match supply to demand, which reduces spoilage and ingredient shortages.
In business, like life, things change rapidly. Supply and demand fluctuates, manufacturing problems arise, acquisitions and divestitures happen, shipments are delayed, products are damaged, customers change their minds. That’s why the ability to quickly and proactively adapt is so important. Companies that can adjust and respond to demands or challenges at the specific point of activity are not only more efficient—they have a stronger competitive advantage. The time to move toward digital business operations is now. And with our digital supply chain solutions, we can help you make this transition a reality.