POINT OF VIEW
Deliver supply chain integration using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
This Point of View is for retailers and businesses struggling to sustainably integrate increasingly complex supply chains
It is easy to imagine a great line of companies passing goods up the chain to the retailer, who distributes them to consumers.
This idealistic view has never been the reality, and the world is changing to make the picture more complex. Here are five reasons to reconsider the supply chain and to talk to Responsiv.
The impact of circular supply and sustainable supply is that more information must be collected and passed up the chain, and that information must be handled in a cost effective and timely way.
The retailer is no longer the head of the chain. They must now participate in chains created by others to recover goods sold to consumers and direct them in whole or in part back into the retail chain.
Circular Supply Chains already exist in some industries but for many the concept is new, and perhaps the most important move to sustainable supply. I will talk more about this later.
Sustainable Supply Chain Management is also concerned with ensuring that suppliers are conforming to regulations and managing their carbon footprint, water use, and honouring acceptable worker rights.
The move to Just in Time (JIT) supply chains on a global scale delivered significant benefit by reducing the cost of holding stocks of materials, reducing spoilage, and avoiding goods and materials from being discarded through changes in fashion.
Supply chains are often considered in terms of the companies that participate in the chain, missing the connections between them, their relationships in the chain and outside it, and the impact of political and geographic distance.
Supply chains that focus on a single country, material, or group of companies are subject ed to systemic risks that cannot easily be managed. The challenge is to understand the risks and gather information quickly enough and far enough in advance to allow retailers to respond.
Supply Chain Strategy
Supply chain strategies are often focused on delivering values to be associated with a specific brand, followed in every case by cost and reliability.
New regulations that seek sustainable supply chains are adding sustainability as a third principal objective.
Supply Chain Strategies developed only five years ago are likely to need revision to accommodate sustainability and specifically the data collection required for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting.
By way of illustration, many UK Supermarkets operate farming schemes to assure quality, and differentiate their goods. This is important to distinguish their brand and market placement but only when price is acceptable, and availability assured.
These considerations of brand distinction, market placement, cost, and availability are just some of what must be included in a successful and insightful supply chain strategy for any industry.
As with many unexpected changes to the environment, the demand for sustainable supply chains is an opportunity for some, and perhaps the end of the line for others.
Those that embrace and respond quickly will likely benefit far beyond satisfying the regulators.
Retailers and suppliers that embrace and respond first will likely gain advantage from the new information that extends beyond satisfying the regulators.
A business that can sense and respond to changes in the supply chain will be significantly more stable than others. This is about collecting information about the nature of the supply chain and the companies that participate. Sustainability requires information about the energy used, carbon produced, and nature of raw materials, which is also useful in assessments of the reliability of the supply, and identification of alternative supplies.
At Responsiv we believe that supply chain visibility is at the heart of any strategic supply chain. By improving transparency in the supply chain, the insights can be used to support informed decisions and improve decision quality.
Let’s take each point in turn.
The world is changing, and reliability of supply, unstable pricing, and other pressures are causing companies to re-consider how they can improve the reliability of supply.
Just in Time (JIT) supply chains can be fragile. They are subject to logistics and many other risks that have nothing to do with specific goods. Their attraction is that they avoid large amounts of cash and goods being tied up in warehouses and reduce the possibility of goods going out of fashion and being discarded.
Supply chains that lack multiple equivalent supplies for critical components are also brittle and subject to delay, price fluctuations, and many other risks.
Reliable supply chains must continue to be economically attractive and cannot be allowed to undermine the drive to sustainable supply.
Sustainability in this context has two specific meanings.
The first is that supply must be at a price and from a source that can be sustained in the long term both by the supplier and the consumer. This means that a fair price must be paid with reasonable terms, and that the goods must be from a source that is reliable and maintainable.
New regulations extend this meaning to demand practices that can be sustained by the planet and by human society. This means that people should not be persecuted or taken advantage of, and that pollution should be controlled and reduced where it is possible.
When the dust settles all businesses need to buy at a price that allows them to make a suitable profit. Any additional costs, especially in high volume environments, risk undermining the ability for a business to operate profitably.
Now that you are convinced that information controls the world, we need a mechanism to share the right information between supply chain participants in a format that makes sense, quickly enough to be useful and actionable, and securely enough to prevent undermining of commercial models.
IBM API Connect provides all the functions needed to provide a secure and robust API capability. Responsiv use this technology to deploy robust and high-performance API solutions that include a developer portal to manage external developers, testing facilities including a sandbox to allow external developers to test their software, analytics collection, secure API hosting, and API traffic management that can separate different priority traffic and protect internal systems and resources.
Responsiv Cloud API Platform provides this capability as a cloud service.
To access portals and websites that are intended for people, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pretends to be a person. This allows businesses to push and pull information through portals intended for people, and to do this task regularly day and night. It’s not real-time but it is much more frequent and cost effective than a manual alternative.
We need a mechanism to accept data from our suppliers and customers as soon as it is offered. This means that our suppliers can sense and share their changes in state in real-time.
Surges and relaxation of supply can be sensed by an organisation and shared with their customers and other suppliers to allow them to respond appropriately. For example, a company that assembles material from several suppliers may wish to slow down deliveries from one supplier to allow another to catch up.
API focused integration allows suppliers to push information to you. It does not work so well when you have to go and ask.
Organisations that present secure APIs can accept information from their trading partners and from credit agencies to maintain a current view of their suppliers and share demand. Demand prediction can enhance this approach and is made more valuable when the information is shared.
IBM API Connect can be used to present a single API to accept a particular stream of data, and to protect it and shape the demand by segmenting suppliers according to importance. Data can be accepted between particular times, at a specific rate, or by volume.
Many companies have a website or supplier portal designed for human use. They websites and portals do not always have a set of APIs. This is where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) saves the day.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
To access portals and websites that are intended for people, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pretends to be a person.
RPA allows businesses to manually fetch information or check for availability across not only their suppliers but any alternatives that have been found.
We need a mechanism to share information with suppliers by request and in real-time. By presenting a set of APIs we can allow our partners to request immediate information, or to subscribe to information when it becomes available. This means that our suppliers can sense and respond to our changes in state.
API focused integration allows suppliers to request information from you.
Organisations that present secure APIs can accept information from their trading partners and from credit agencies to maintain a current view of their suppliers and share demand.
IBM API Connect can be used to present a single API to request information from you, and to protect it and shape the demand by segmenting suppliers according to importance. Data can be requested between particular times, at a specific rate, or by volume.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Responsiv is a business technology company that specialises in connecting people, systems, and businesses. We help companies to understand the problem and simplify the solution. Our experience is extensive, including IoT, supply chain transparency, Open Banking APIs, data replication, and business process automation.
Responsiv is relied upon by international banks, emergency services, health services, local councils, and government agencies. Our reputation for delivery speaks for our understanding of the problems and how to solve them.
We work with commercial businesses of all sizes. The nature of enterprise integration means that we work with your partners and your technologies, including Microsoft, OpenSource, IBM, HP, your own legacy systems, and many others.
We provide professional services, cloud automation services, and remote development and managed services from our Bracknell offices.
So, what now? Get in touch to find out how Responsiv will help develop and manage your supply chain strategy.
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Richard Whyte has been building enterprise IT solutions for over 20 years. He is known for creating innovative practical solutions that provide a strong foundation for future development, whilst solving immediate problems. Previously the European CTO and Principal Architect for IBM Systems Middleware at IBM, he has an MBA, a degree in Statistics and Computing, is a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered IT Professional, and Fellow of both the Institute of Technology and the British Computer Society.