Innovation is brewing across the supply chain. As organizations across industries look to become more nimble and able to visualize end-to-end, a need has arisen in the space not just to enable reactions to disruption in the chain, but to be proactive.
“Regardless of whether you’re talking about — retail, manufacturing or wholesale distribution — organizations are trying to become more agile,” said Fabrizio Brasca, VP of Industry Strategy at supply chain and retail solutions provider JDA Software.
At a high level across industries, organizations are already trying to improve their abilities to respond and react to disruption. Brasca gave an example on the retail end: the rise of consumer-centricity in the space.
“You’re going from supply chains that were centered around longer lead times, shipping containers and pallets to now fulfilling individual consumer demand,” Brasca said. “The stresses that puts on your supply chain in terms of complexity becomes quite significant.”
Brasca noted that, when talking about supply chain visibility today, there are two sides to the equation — with increased visibility just half of what matters.
“Visibility by itself is of limited value,” he noted. “Just because I can see something, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have the tools to do something about it.”
When retailers are shipping goods or manufacturers are bringing supplies in from overseas via ocean transport, they deal with long lead times with variable ETAs based on a number of factors — weather being a major disruptor, but also port traffic on either end.
“The expected arrival at a port could be up to plus/minus five days,” Brasca said. “Here, it’s one thing to know where the boat is — it’s an entirely different thing to know where the boat is going to be.”
Leveraging predictive analytics and a robust data infrastructure to reduce that ETA to a handful of hours on either end could have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to account for risk. Not to mention the cost savings benefit that comes with these capabilities.
Brasca elaborated: “Think about what organizations do to combat risk within the supply chain. Invariably, it’s to keep buffer inventory. Having a level of sophistication and granularity to minimize that variability allows you to be able to take those buffer items out of the supply chain. That’s a tremendous amount of value.”
Companies are looking for ways to leverage the prolific data points in a more broadly visible supply chain landscape to respond not just to disruption but to anticipate it and act intelligently.
Brasca gave a trucking example. Alone, a visibility solution allows managers to see where a truck is en route. But if it’s driving through a downtown core where there’s an active protest, that will still impact its ability to make timely delivery runs.
This is the second side of the supply chain equation: visibility solutions that extend into external data. Not just tapping into the telematics of the truck, but predicting, optimizing and updating the routes based on real-time traffic and information on social disruption.
These capabilities have begun to arise in the space, Brasca said, tied with advancements in technology.
“Capturing social media, weather, the whole world of the internet of things, disparate and innocuous devices that can produce data has become pervasive,” he said, noting that, as a result, there’s been an influx of capabilities or technologies that allow organizations to leverage that data in more proactive ways.
For their part, JDA Software recently expanded its partnership with predictive analytics company TransVoyant, which employs advanced analytics on real-time big data curated from a number of devices to produce live and predictive insights. JDA will roll out these capabilities across its portfolio of supply chain solutions.
“We’re merging together the two sides of that equation,” Brasca said. “We leverage to capture this disparate data, correlate it and use advanced data science to generate insight — to digest it, understand the impact and then allow our customers to be able to take intelligent action.”