In the final instalment of this three part series looking at how to achieve connected supply chains, Gary Cassell, Industry Lead - Global Manufacturing and Automotive, Appian Corporation, looks at how to bring the journey to life.
If job one of establishing a connected supply chain was to establish what you already have in place, and part two is identifying what you want to achieve and ‘what good looks like’, then the third and final chapter in the journey (although in truth it’s a journey that is constantly evolving), is pulling all those elements together.
Gary Cassell, Industry Lead – Global Manufacturing and Automotive, Appian Corporation comments: “You’ve done your discovery, you understand your process, collected all the data, spoken to the right people, and you’ve got all of the constituent parts for understanding what that good process looks like. Now, how do you bring it to life?”
Process first, tech second
He adds that for the few manufacturers who have arrived at this point, it is common to see technology simply thrown at the situation where manufacturers can get easily enthused about off-the-shelf tech applications that promise the Earth. However, it is here that manufacturers should tread with caution. By going down this route a manufacturer may ultimately find that they haven’t necessarily implemented the process that they want, because it has had to adapt to fit the technology.
Therefore, a key element of this crucial third part of the connected supply chain process is around staying centred on building the process, and finding the right technology to fit, support and enable it – not the other way around.
“It should never be about simply throwing technology at the problem. Organisations need to have the vision of where they’re heading. But to do that, don’t just go after the coolest new piece of technology and deploy it, hoping that it’ll solve all your problems. It never works that way.”
Gary adds that key to successful tech deployment is to start small to achieve cumulative gains, as a wholesale technology deployment which includes ripping up and replacing everything that currently exists will only cause disruption.
Of course, bringing in any new technology or tools is always going to be disruptive, and potentially be met with resistance, but it is important to manage that disruption in the right way. “Make sure it’s disruption that you’re leading, at your pace, rather than disruption that’s being thrown at you,” continues Gary.
He adds that another crucial element is agility; having the right measures in place to know if you are on the right track and gaining the resilience that you are looking for. This will ultimately lead your organisation to a proactive versus a continual reactive state. He adds: “It’s all about how quickly you can get the data needed to make a decision; how quickly you can then make that decision once you have the data; and then your ability to implement that decision.”
Like any connected supply chain journey, it’s a perpetual process of improvement, and it is at this stage where you can also apply some of the same safeguards that were discussed in stage one; rerun the discovery process, how does the new process perform compared to the old? What lessons have been learned? How do you refine it even further? The perfect process doesn’t exist, but you can make each process better with each iteration.
Path to a connected supply chain
- B2B integration
- Process mining
- Automation, IoT, AI/machine learning
- Data anywhere
- Low code
To move towards a connected supply chain organisations will have to leverage technologies that digitise and automate end-to-end supply chain process, connect your organisation internally, and connect your customers and partners. These newer and disruptive technologies include:
- An enterprise scalable platform that extends current source systems and enables collaboration and secure information flow between all involved parties in the supply chain.
- Process mining to accelerate discovery of the current real process as well as where bottlenecks are occurring.
- Workflow and case management to ensure all parties are connected and communicating to drive the best overall outcomes.
- A full automation platform that enables highly automated processes using technologies like Cloud, RPA, IoT and AI/ML to enable connectivity and transparency to make supply chains more alert and composable.
- Data anywhere capability to enable realtime visibility and execution versus the need to migrate data into another tool leading to delays and reconciliations of redundant data sources.
- And a true low-code platform that brings with it the tools needed to digitize and automate supply chain processes and accelerate time to value.
Gary concludes: “From a technology standpoint, having that ability to create and have a supply network that collaborates, shares information, and is transparent is imperative. Everyone is on the journey and there are technologies that will enable organisations to overcome the current challenges of data silos and the disconnected network. It’s not a case of do it today and it’s complete tomorrow, but investing in the right platform that enables the journey by leveraging current technology investments and evolves with the ever changing business environment.
“In terms of what you do with your information, visibility and transparency is key; to enabling people to make the best overall day-to-day decisions. Culture is also important, and an agile approach to change makes it much easier to accelerate the journey to a leaner, greener supply chain.”
Gary Cassell is an experienced manufacturing executive with more than 23 years leading and managing operations and supply chain functions. Gary has held leadership positions in plant operations, EMEA and North America aftermarket businesses and corporate supply chain where he drove large scale digital transformations with focus on strategy development, performance metrics, data-driven process improvement, Lean Six Sigma, and global initiatives in supply chain & logistics. Gary holds a MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
Gary has also written a number of blogs around supply chain challenges and how to overcome them. See links below: