A change in approach towards an ‘integration mindset’ and the understanding that no part of the supply chain should be reported on in isolation are necessary for the success of the logistics industry, says supply chain technology and consulting solutions provider VSc Solutions.
“Solution buzzwords in the logistics industry are often abused as blanket statements for empty promises. The intentions held by those overused words are, however, still the stepping stones to success for the logistics industry,” comments VSc Solutions COO Grant Marshbank.
He adds that, if businesses do not move towards an integration mindset, this will result in only a subset, or snapshot, of what businesses actually need to make informed decisions.
Marshbank points out that, the solutions and advice currently available should enable the industry to not only compete locally, but also outperform a highly advanced global logistics industry.
Software should, he explains, not only create and store data, but should also be able to leverage data. Moreover, he notes, rather than just selling software, solutions providers should be able to assist clients in ensuring that their client environments are ready for new technology. He adds that doing so demands awareness and understanding of all the different systems that are operational both internally and externally to the client’s supply chain.
“This understanding should be supported by the ability to proactively facilitate true automated integration between the systems. Manual interventions at set periods in time are a reactive mechanism, and simply not good enough anymore,” he notes.
Further, Marshbank explains, the state of a supply chain can be influenced by many factors and it has become critical to collect and process data in real time. “Only once data managed by various pieces of software can be viewed together in real time, can a true view of the state of a supply chain be presented and used as a basis for informed decisions.”
He stresses that, it is this type of integration that is the differentiator between the current status of a business and industry and innovation leading to growth and achievement of strategic goals.
Marshbank comments that the visibility of the data that can help drive innovation is often promoted as a simple visualisation toolset.
He notes that the disadvantage of these simple toolsets is that they are not robust enough to establish connectivity between different systems. “The connectivity effectively normalises data into a format that can be displayed in real time in a method that is understood by those that need to make decisions influencing competitiveness.”
Moreover, another point raised by Marshbank is that business intelligence must lead to innovative decisions. He explains that what is needed is an intelligence layer to enable various stakeholders in the supply chain to make well-informed decisions.
He says that such an intelligence layer does not merely package the data. It first goes through a process of system integration, data normalisation, data analysis and converting data into information, and only then delivers the visualisation. He adds that these complex processes happen in a matter of split seconds.
“This lightning-fast process allows stakeholders with various levels of skill, and different areas of interest, to be informed by one set of insights. With a manual process, interpretation is largely subjective and demands a massive amount of resources that usually deliver the insight late, which means that the reaction will not be effective,” he comments.
Additionally, he notes that analytics must deliver objective insight owing to the fact that data in the logistics industry is typically poorly structured, and supply chains can learn by structuring their data properly. He highlights that, while deploying software in the supply chain usually sees “linear gains”, the industry can benefit exponentially from decisions based on integrated data that unlock hidden value.
“Real-time transactional insights trump flat analytics in terms of visibility of any business process, stock levels, return times, productivity, cost and waste management, comparing actuals to prior or forecast information and much more,” he points out.
Marshbank says, through a knowledge integration network, companies and software providers can work together towards a common goal that protects sensitive data while acquiring the most value to the benefit of the entire supply chain.
He suggests that, what is needed is a platform that allows for the successful translation of any electronic message into any format required by various enterprises or materials resource planning systems currently used by supply chains.
Moreover, Marshbank says the translation then allows full electronic data communication between client and supplier bases. He adds that to enable real-time supply chain management, the translated data needs to be presented in a single, secure platform that maintains full visibility and traceability of all transactions.
He concludes that the test for whether a system offers true integration is that it must deliver end-to-end, real-time visibility of data across the entire supply chain, including service providers, trading providers, warehouses and distribution providers. “Once-a-month integration via a manual process is not enough anymore.”