Complexity in multi-channel order fulfillment systems is expected. Most leaders in supply chain management (SCM) look at complexity to inform their decisions. An upcoming report entitled “Supply Chain Transformation Strategies: IT vs. Operations in SAP Customer Landscapes,” suggests that leaders in the realm of SCM utilize multi-channel order fulfillment to keep their business operations seamlessly flowing. They use technologies to help them with their order management and utilize business networks to aid in procurement for their companies. One of these demonstrably successful multi-channel fulfillment operations is from IBM. In a recent interview about their Supply Chain Business Network (SCBN), we were able to take a look at how the tech giant ties together its visibility capabilities and order management portfolio into one seamless unit.
Advanced Sourcing Deals with Multi-Channel Complexity
As we mentioned earlier, multi-channel order fulfillment has needed complexity. Once a company starts leveraging multi-channel order fulfillment, the systems that deal with those orders will become inordinately complex. Statistically, leaders in the field of supply chain management are more likely to have a holistic view of the problems associated with their product delivery. While customer demands are the primary driver for SCM, leaders in the field also listen to other stakeholders before making a decision, allowing their SCM to incorporate complexity and a multi-channel methodology.
One of the ways these industry leaders manage to succeed is to incorporate newer, advanced sourcing techniques into their business. Advanced sourcing is a complex beast in and of itself – it requires the integration of harmonized datasets and increased visibility to offer managers and planners insights into what they currently have available so that they can communicate with supplier confidently. New technology, such as IoT and mobile apps, have made data gathering a lot easier. However, operations still require technology to combine order management, increased visibility, and business networks for procurement to deal with proper multi-channel complexity.
Understanding how Visibility, Order Management, and business Supply Networks Work Together
Business supply networks are responsible for managing, exchanging, and integrating supply chain data in the cloud, as well as between on-premise systems within and among enterprises and multiple suppliers. The methods that IBM uses for their business supply networks are based on a technology known as electronic data interchange (EDI), which predates the technology we use today for the World Wide Web. EDI needs to evolve to work alongside the modern world, moving into areas such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and machine learning.
Order management tools have made their way into the retail sector in a big way because of the benefits they present to businesses that utilize them. Many retailers currently have different systems for managing their commerce and on-premise inventories separately. For the store to be fully aware of what it has access to, these systems need to be combined to offer a better idea of available assets. The vast majority still use spreadsheets to help them navigate these convoluted systems, but a few have upgraded to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. An example of IBM’s involvement is Watson AI’s presence in the retail management system for REI, an outdoor equipment manufacturer. Watson helped the company sort their inventory so that they have better visibility, allowing them to fulfill more orders yearly than they were able to beforehand.
For SAP customers, a few things should stand out. Supply-chain business objectives need a scalable, enterprise-wide platform to be successful. Instead of siloing data, businesses should seek to harmonize all the different repositories they have into a single data store. Open adoption of technologies to help this should take place within the supply chain, not through the leveraging of new IT equipment or software. Manufacturers would benefit from incorporating more build-to-order while retailers would benefit from less build-to-order for similar reasons. Neither type of company should be tying up resources needlessly.