Guest Column | September 14, 2020

Mastering Integration For Supply Chain Industries

By Tushar Patel, Cleo

Global Supply Chain

Supply chain disruptions happen. From something as isolated and simple as a missed order or lost cargo to the global disruption that has been caused by COVID-19. Now that supply chains are stretched thin under the weight of the pandemic, their inherent weaknesses are showing. End-to-end visibility provided by supply chain integration is more crucial than ever if companies are to deliver the best customer experience possible, regardless of market circumstances. How can companies that want to be best equipped to face adversity and opportunity feel secure in the fact that they have mastered supply chain integration?

What Is Supply Chain Integration?

Before COVID-19, industry research suggested that the success of any supply chain is based on the extent of information and operational integration between the actors within that supply chain. Supply chain organizations recognized this before the pandemic as well, with 98 percent indicating they would expect to gain value from an ecosystem integration approach to managing operations.

Supply chain integration technology provides companies with an easy means of managing and navigating key end-to-end business processes, like order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, or load-tender-to-invoice. A modernized and centralized integration platform frees companies from the burden of outdated and legacy systems and enables them to provide a better experience to their digital ecosystem of customers and trading partners.

Who Benefits From Supply Chain Integration?

Manufacturers, burdened with market disruption and trade embargoes caused by the pandemic, can turn to modern integration technology to seamlessly connect to new suppliers, logistics partners, and distributors that will enable them to continue operations should an existing partner be forced to cease operations. On the shop floor, operational maintenance costs can be quickly identified and reduced by a modernized integration platform. In addition, legacy backend ERP systems – in which so many manufacturers have over the years invested significant capital and IT resources – can continue to be utilized by integration platforms that seamlessly connect cloud- and web-based applications to on-premise systems.

Shippers and logistics companies have been forced to frantically find new ports and depots for cargo in light of sudden and unpredictable market closures across the globe. Modernized integration enables a reliable, efficient, and flexible exchange of data between suppliers, partners, and other members of a digital ecosystem. This allows logistics organizations to rapidly engage and onboard new ports and shipping partners during upsets that would otherwise cause a delay in transportation and delivery.

Not only must logistics companies shuffle partners and destinations when business upsets occur, but they must also deal with international regulatory bodies. A  centralized integration approach, accessible via a single one-stop platform that enables both EDI and API integration, also can open companies to hundreds of pre-built business connectors and sophisticated data movement capabilities in an intuitive setting to navigate and manage sudden changes in logistics plans. Plus, once again, high-visibility integration between legacy on-prem ERP and TMS systems and newer cloud systems, creating a two-way “ground to cloud, cloud to ground” model.

In the case of retailers and wholesalers, a robust, end-to-end, cloud-based integration platform enables distributors to increase integration agility without increasing complexity. End-to-end integrations provide wholesalers with comprehensive insight across their digital supply chain, enhancing distribution outcomes thanks to unprecedented visibility into inventories, ERP and WMS systems, as well as logistics trends and data.

How To Measure The Benefits Of Supply Chain Integration

Abstract, conceptual benefits such as faster, simpler integrations and end-to-end visibility are wonderful in theory. However, they serve little value to IT teams that must convince their organization’s leadership to invest resources NOW to reap the benefits of ecosystem integration as the future unfolds. The hard stats of supply chain success, as boosted by modernized integration technology, are crucial to supply chain organizations’ realization of the full range of benefits.

Thankfully, the measurable benefits are quite noticeable. Modernized ecosystem integration enables supply chains to improve a wide variety of processes and metrics, including order-to-cash, visibility into fulfillment and delivery, reliably meeting customer and partner SLAs on time, and reducing chargebacks and non-compliance fines. Each of these metrics (all outcome-oriented KPIs) is measurable in hard stats and numbers and can be tracked over time to demonstrate the initial cost vs. long-term benefits of improved integrations. Once all of these capabilities and established metrics have been met, supply chains can feel confident knowing they have achieved mastery over supply chain integration for the greater benefit of their organization, and their relationships with key stakeholders.

To best serve their customers, every supply chain organization, regardless of whether it operates in manufacturing, logistics, or wholesale distribution, must be equipped with the necessary technology and capabilities to knock out of the park any situational curveballs thrown their way. Modernized ecosystem integration platforms make many supply chain challenges – from ensuring compliance to regulatory and legal standards, to tracking inventory through the supply chain, to rapidly exchanging information with and onboarding new partners – easier to overcome. It’s all a matter of putting yourself in control.

About The Author

Tushar Patel is Chief Marketing Officer at Cleo.