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Technology in the supply chain – intelligent, integrated, and frictionless

Abhishek Bikram-Singh
3 Aug 2022

Insights obtained from managing our clients’ supply chain processes have enabled us to develop a portfolio of intelligent supply chain technology products that act as a bridge between their supply chain ecosystem partners and enterprise systems.

Throughout this series of articles, we’ve referred to the six pillars we’ve identified that underpin the intelligent supply chain.

  • The six pillars of the independent supply chain:
    1. Intelligent network design and risk management
    2. Smart forecasting and integrated business planning
    3. 360° sourcing analysis and supplier collaboration
    4. Touchless and agile order to delivery
    5. Supply chain as a service
    6. Supply chain control tower and end-to-end performance management

Technology is integral to all these elements. Indeed, it’s present in just about every area of our lives. It’s effected changes in our ways of working that we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago – and with the global pandemic, it has become even more important. In many instances, it was absolutely necessary to embed technology in all our processes to ensure business as usual.

Two broad process types

It’s important, though, to remember that it’s not all about the tech. The technology serves the process, and the process serves the organization and its customers. With supply chains, this principle is demonstrated by the building blocks necessary for effective operations, which are:

  • Visibility – to make decisions in real time
  • Agility – to manage deviations from planned outcomes
  • Connectivity – across a widespread partner ecosystem of suppliers, customers, and service providers.

We can broadly categorize supply chain processes into:

  • Enterprise-centric processes – to manage processes within the enterprise, be it planning, forecasting, or transaction management
  • Ecosystem management processes – to manage interaction, communication, and collaboration with supply chain partners in the ecosystem.

While the positive impact of technological advances has created huge efficiencies in enterprise-centric processes, significant challenges remain in managing the ecosystem management processes.

This is because of distributed supply chain environments across the ecosystem partners, disparate standards used in processes and communication interfaces across the ecosystem, and multiple technologies used across the ecosystem, creating challenges in data collaboration.

Intelligent supply chain technology

The technology needed to address this challenge should be able to integrate varying data, process, and technology standards used in various nodes of the supply chain ecosystem.

While in the enterprise space, technology seeks to generate efficiency through process standardization and harmonization of data standards, the technology used in managing the supply chain ecosystem seeks to address the disparity in processes and data standards.

Specialist technology types used across the supply chain ecosystem comprise:

  • Macro-services – monolithic applications such as an ERP, which streamline and digitalize not only supply chain operations, but also enterprise services
  • Micro-services – smaller applications that deliver specialized functionality for individual operations such as order fulfillment or planning
  • Nano-services – applications that tackle individual pain points within macro- or microservices functions, such as order validation.

My colleague Jörg Junghanns has written more on this topic in his article in this series.

“Value tech” tools

At Capgemini, we understand the very real challenges our clients face in managing their supply chain ecosystems to deliver visibility, agility, and connectivity.

Insights obtained over the years in managing supply chain processes for our clients in varied industries and geographies have enabled us to develop a portfolio of “value tech” products that seek to address this specific challenge of our clients. These act as a bridge between the supply chain ecosystem partners of our clients and their enterprise systems.

Our “value tech” tools deliver value by enabling efficient and frictionless process flow management and partner collaboration, and by providing process visibility. Since these are meant to address the specific challenge of disparities in the ecosystem, they do not need any significant change management efforts for deployment. They are designed to adapt to changes in the supply chain ecosystem such as additions of partners to the ecosystem, making it agile and scalable.

Areas in which we have developed value tech tools include:

End-to-end planning
  • Demand baseline forecast generation tool – a sophisticated statistical modeling tool to run a “best fit” forecasting model
  • Cloud-based demand planning collaboration tool
  • Sales order generation tool – converting client data in any format into ready input for the organization’s ERP system
  • Stock norm generation – scientific stock norm generation for the organization’s replenishment orders
  • Customer collaboration tool – web-based tool to collaborate on replenishment order generation
  • Stock allocation tool – using defined business rules eg. proportionate, fair share, this tool can allocate constrained stocks to sales orders by defined channels or by customer priority
  • Inter-company inventory planning tool – supply planning and collaboration tool for inter-company goods movement
  • Return order management system – web-based platform for managing requests, approvals, and documentation for all types of returns.
Master data management
  • Request management system – business workflow and ticketing solution
  • Inspect +/- MDM data quality monitoring tool

Value from experience

All these tools were developed to fill the gaps in our clients’ technology landscape and to meet specific needs – and they’ve proved to be highly useful.

They are versatile and easy to install, and are the products of the insights we have gained managing the supply chain operations of our clients over the last 15 years. They have made our clients’ supply chains frictionless, predictable, intelligent, and agile in response to ever-changing scenarios.

About author

Abhishek Bikram-Singh

Managing Consultant,Intelligent Supply Chain Operations,Capgemini’s Business Services
Abhishek has over 15 years of industry experience in managing different supply chain functions. He has worked with clients across industries to define their current order fulfilment and MDM maturity with respect to people, process, technology, and governance, and to develop their target operating model.

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