Adapting to the new dynamics of supply chain planning

The introduction of new technologies and concepts – some of which are termed “disruptive” – have led to new dynamics within the field of supply chain planning and altered roadmaps across the industry.

This will generate new challenges supply chain leaders must identify with, as new technologies intermix to provide them with the ability to construct a more demand-driven and customer-centric supply chain for their organisations. However, this will also present challenges with regards to adapting to the new digital landscape.

Supply chain planning: current processes, tools and challenges

Supply chain planning is the strategy for co-ordinating assets to optimise the delivery of goods, services and information throughout a network, and includes predicting future requirements and balancing supply and demand. Within the current landscape, organisations face a plethora of challenges, such as:

  • Network complexity: supply chain networks are larger and more complex, and there are higher levels of integration with third parties
  • Lack of visibility: there is greater demand for full traceability and tracking, and the capturing and management of outsourced SC activities
  • Market volatility: customer requirements are ever-changing, and there is greater demand for more data exchange within a network, as well as increasing product ranges coupled with reduced product cycles, it is harder than ever to predict supply chain pitfalls

The sensible firm will look to offset these challenges with a set of robust planning processes, which are often carried out using software tools. These tools integrate functions to feed into sales and operations planning (S&OP), demand planning and supply planning.

New planning dynamics: the roadmap to digitisation

The digital supply chain is an intelligent value-driven network that leverages new approaches with technology and analytics to create new forms of revenue and business value. Digital transformation is one of the top priorities for CEOs and supply chain leaders, as the value within organisations is largely a combination of the ideas and solutions they deploy in the form of digital supply chain solutions. These include:

  • Capitalising on the interconnectedness of all functions within the organisation
  • Virtualisation through dashboards and the supply chain control tower – monitoring, controlling, planning and optimising remotely and in real time
  • Enhanced visibility, providing a granularity which previously wouldn’t be available
  • Real-time data flows including product and consumer data, to enable organisations to respond profitably to real-time demand through radio-frequency identification (RFID) and the internet of things, and even predict customer needs and desires using big-data analytics
  • Providing evidence-based insights into risks

There is a need to assess what combination of “digital solutions” would be required to drive supply chain excellence within your organisation by building a digital roadmap to accompany the task of aligning top-level corporate strategy with robust planning processes. This digital platform enables organisations to take down the walls between silos (marketing, new product development, manufacturing and distribution) to build a completely integrated planning ecosystem with end-to-end transparency for all stakeholders.

Supply chain leaders who invest smartly and quickly in these disruptive supply chain configurations can create competitive advantages for their entire business model. Big data is providing organisations with greater data accuracy, clarity and insights, leading to a more contextual intelligence shared across the supply chain through data transformation, using analysis and interpretation modelling. And the use of cloud-based platforms, combining software, hardware and services, can drive real-time product digitalisation, traceability, authentication and personalisation across the unified commerce.

With the rapid rise of firms co-ordinating more of their supply network activity outside the four walls of their traditional onsite systems, using big data and cloud-based platforms to move beyond the constraints of legacy systems is crucial. The scale, scope and depth data supply chains are generating today is improving rapidly, providing ample data sets to drive contextual intelligence. More insights lead to better decision making and strategic business moves – reflected in the rise of optimisation tools, demand forecasting and integrated business planning such as SAP’s Integrated Business planning solution.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

With an estimated 25 billion intelligent devices – from fridges and cars to heating and lighting systems – being connected by 2020, IoT value proposition to the supply chain will increase. IoT-enabled devices give organisations the potential to continuously sense, communicate, analyse and act with regards to supply chain planning.

But adoption of this technology is a challenge that would present supply chain leaders with specific design choices to make, and the continuous stream of data these platforms and devices could overrun your supply chain planning processes if you don’t have the resources to deal with large and complex bits of data. Which is why working with S&OP process owners and planning teams to make decisions on which products and fulfilment methods can help get the most from IoT.

The cloud platform

Cloud applications deliver a transformational impact on the business and the supply chain operating model, by optimising opportunities for mobile collaboration and enhanced data analytics. A cloud-based supply network allows information to be more readily available, bringing greater value to operational processes regarding end-to-end visibility. Connected devices, global real-time data consistency and fast distribution of analytics enable cloud-based tracking and global real-time availability of SCM data and synchronised IT systems.

The challenges for supply chain leaders

With global supply chains evolving at a rapid rate, there is a new set of obstacles supply chain leaders will have to adapt to, moving away from the traditional challenges (cost, speed and quality) and acclimatising to the new roadmap provided by digitisation.

But in a rapidly evolving technology landscape, and a massive proliferation of new solutions, supply chain leaders and CEOs may struggle to choose the one that best fits their situation. New applications within the digital supply chain often represent profound change for an organisation, and the implementation strategy is key when deploying pilots, rollouts and developing capabilities.

Which is why it’s imperative to collaborate with a strong, innovative partner to help draw up a roadmap and guide you through it, paying attention to global trends, to ultimately create a supply chain infrastructure that will align to your strategy and your needs. The size of that partner is not always an indicator of how well they can apply themselves to your company’s needs – a small specialist partner can run large projects just as well, if not better, within their chosen niche than a large generalist one, which may be equipped with the resources, but not necessarily the expertise.

Olivehorse can provide support and bring forward new concepts and innovative solutions to offset the challenges leaders face in the new planning landscape. With our vast domain of expertise, best practice and industry knowledge, we can help make next-generation cloud-based digital supply chain enterprises a reality, providing technology, decision-making and advice in software aspects such as security, scalability and reliability.

We have 18 years’ experience in SAP supply chain solutions, and a passion for innovation in supply chain planning and creating value-adding solutions that work in the real world. That’s why we have partnered with Demand Driven Technologies, offering Replenishment+ to our clients – a simple visual planning solution (and the first to be DDMRP-certified) that’s easy to integrate into your existing ERP solution. We also offer SAP’s state-of-the-art Integrated Business Platform tool for cloud-based integrated supply chain planning, which offers unified planning across sales and operations, demand, inventory, response and supply as well as supply chain control tower dashboard analytics and monitoring. If you want to find out more, contact us using the details below.

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