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Keeping Pace With Supply Chain Evolution

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Just as businesses need to keep pace with the change of technology, the technology providers that help businesses remain successful need to stay ahead of the curve themselves. Corporations are scaling globally, integrating complex supply chains, working with small suppliers, ensuring international compliance and gaining access to more data than ever before.

For Infor, which develops business applications to manage the complexities of the enterprise, enabling its clients to keep pace with innovation demands consistent progress. One way it’s done so is through recent upgrades to its Integrated Business Planning suite of solutions for multinational companies that need to manage their supply chains.

Sesh Rao, product director for Integrated Business Planning, spoke with PYMNTS about how the world has changed for MNCs looking to optimize their supply chains.

One of the biggest forces of change, of course, is Big Data.

“There are disruptive changes,” Rao explained. “The ways industries interact with their markets and customers has changed very significantly.”

Part of that stems from the customer. Buyers access a multitude of channels to make purchases, so when a company is sorting out how to manage its supply chain and forecast demand, there are a lot of sources through which sellers can access data on sales. Forecasting demand has also increased in complexity, Rao said, because buyer demand is no longer sourced only at the point of sale. Today, a simple Facebook like, a comment on Instagram or search histories can all play into analyzing demand, and a social media comment is far more difficult to quantify.

“All of that is actually a measure of the demand,” the executive noted. “Sentiment analysis behind all of that is very important for what the demand is.”

For multinational organizations, customer demand is at the crux of supply chain optimization. Gaining hold of this data and having the power to actually understand what it means are critical, and according to Rao, it’s only going to get more complex.

“Big Data is going to get bigger,” he stated. “All of this data requires a lot of storage and lots of cheap computing.”

The globalization of supply chains has also led to new pressures on companies’ management of data. There is information coming in from all points in those chains, Rao explained, from customs, entry and exit points, suppliers and beyond.

“No one company really owns all of the data to manage a business properly anymore,” Rao said. “Most of the data that is out there; there is a cost to actually getting it and processing it.”

The need to connect into these points of data across global supply chains also correlates with increased demand for cloud-based solutions in ERP, business planning, supply chain management and other technological solutions.

“Companies are no longer willing to put all of these solutions behind a firewall within the enterprise and manage them,” said Rao. Take the oil and gas industry, for instance: With profits declining in recent years, often, the first part of the company to get the axe is the large, expensive internal IT department. According to Rao, that means these companies are handing off the management of these complex business planning systems to the service provider itself, and that’s generating more demand for cloud-based storage and computing.

Sure, the discussion of Big Data aggregation, storage and analysis and talk of cloud computing is all quite technical. It may seem that these topics are obscure and only apply to the largest of enterprises, right?

Wrong, Rao said. These trends in business management impact the smallest suppliers in the supply chain, too, which also become key partners for companies when they need to manage supply and demand and other strategies. And these shifts have very real consequences for every company in the supply chain.

Shifts in demand mean coordinating with suppliers, whose products must be transported in different ways, come from different parts of the globe and gain entry with various regulatory requirements. A lithium battery can’t be transported by air, Rao said as an example, so coordinating suppliers that ship via sea freight with suppliers shipping via air and ground transport not only yields a logistics challenge but even more sources of supply chain data.

Technology providers like Infor need to have the power to tap into these various sources of data and support all corporate partners within the supply chain, the executive said.

On top of all of this, as clients of Infor and other service providers are looking to reduce the total cost of ownership of these solutions, cloud storage and computing will be critical to the industry that needs to reduce its own costs. For top competitors, like SAP and Oracle, offering “more bang for your buck,” Rao said, is critical.

“Whoever are the pioneers in this will be the winners,” the executive concluded. “These are very exciting times, and it’s only going to get more complicated.”

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