In this article, I’m addressing the concept of the Frictionless Enterprise from a supply chain perspective.
Let’s start with first principles. What does it mean to be frictionless? The straightforward answer is that the user experience should be as smooth and intuitive as possible. The ramifications of this can be considerable. In supply chain terms, a great deal of energy and effort will be needed in the background in order to make it happen, because the user experience relates not just to external audiences such as the ecosystem of customers, partners, and suppliers, but to internal stakeholders, including other parts of the organization, such as finance and sales.
Implicit in the concept of frictionless operations is, of course, the need for integration: when everything is joined seamlessly, the likelihood of interruption to the flow will be minimized.
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Integration – horizontal
Integration needs to be addressed at several levels. First of all, and within the domain of the supply chain, individual disciplines need to come together. For instance, demand planning may still be operating independently from other planning processes, in its own silo. The same may be true of individual fulfillment functions, and also of discrete logistics functions.
Secondly, these separate functional areas – planning, fulfilment, logistics, and further disciplines – need to be integrated so as to create a single, intertwined supply chain.
Thirdly, the supply chain itself needs to become a seamless part of end-to-end operations, in an enterprise-wide process that also includes analysis and decision-making, sales, planning, procurement, manufacturing, and fulfillment, all the way through to finance.
Integration – vertical
Everything we’ve addressed here thus far entails the removal of what we might term horizontal frictions. But for a supply chain to be truly smooth and seamless, it needs to address vertical integration challenges, too.
By this, I mean integrating not just functions, but the data that pertains to them.
Let’s take a procurement operation, for example. If a requisition operation has access to a consistent, clean, data set, and if it can also make use of robotic process automation (RPA) tools and intelligent automation routines, then the entire transaction can be pushed through the system without anything to interrupt its flow.
In a further example – this time, of fulfilment – a similarly dependable data set will enable a sales order to flow smoothly through stock inventory to check availability, before automatically triggering fulfilment and again, perhaps using intelligence to determine the most appropriate logistics response on a case-by-case basis.
Exception handling will only be necessary when there are gaps, errors, or inconsistencies in the data. The more robust the data set, the fewer such setbacks there will be, and the better the entire supply chain will function.
What’s more, that same robust data needs to be available to other, related processes beyond end-to-end supply chain operations, and with the same levels of transparency and immediacy. It is the bedrock on which the entire digital enterprise is built.
Integration – three-dimensional
Enterprise-wide, for frictionless operations to be achieved in the supply chain, another major and obvious consideration needs to be factored in – and that’s geographical integration. In most organizations, supply chains are global. Elements of them operate at this trans-continental level; other elements may work within a continent or land mass; others again may be across a region (such as Europe or Latin America); and others again might be just within a country, or only with that country’s immediate neighbors.
What’s needed here is consistency and a clear plan. Does the enterprise centralize the orchestration of its supply chain ecosystem? Or does it integrate within continents, or within regions, recognizing the need for differences, and then unite those in some way? It’s rather like a Rubik’s cube, in which the horizontal and vertical factors we considered above all come together with this third dimension, that of geography – and, as with the Rubik’s cube, a plan is needed in order to navigate permutations and achieve alignment. This can be achieved by implementing a control tower to provide visibility across your supply chain.
One approach to this geographical challenge, and indeed, to the entire proposition of the frictionless supply chain is to take advantage of Capgemini’s market-leading business transformation platform – the Digital Global Enterprise Model (D-GEM).
It brings order to things. It achieves measurable results. As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it makes the user experience as smooth and intuitive as possible, whether those users are customers, partners, or members of the workforce, and no matter what role they play in the supply chain ecosystem.
Jörg Junghanns leverages innovation and a strategic and service mindset to help clients transform their supply chain operations into a growth enabler.