Digital Supply Chain
Elevate performance and gain competitive advantages by digitizing your supply chain.
Get insights for digitally perfecting your supply chain.
The digital supply chain is the supply chain of the future. And the future has already begun.
Whether you’re a modern, market-leading innovator or a decades-old company that takes a more traditional approach: you will be conducting transactions through a digitized, automated supply chain. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Enterprises that have already shifted to digital supply chain technologies report astounding improvements in performance and profitability.
Recent studies revealed:
76% of executives from manufacturing organizations furthest along in digitizing their supply chains say that new, digitized methods have helped them with speed and have also improved the reliability of manufacturing and distribution.
Supply chain digitization drives competitive advantages.
The recent experiences of market leaders demonstrate the advantages that some organizations are already enjoying as a result of digitization. Some of these respondents may be your competitors, who may already have significant advantages over their slower, analog peers.
They’re collaborating more effectively with their supply chain partners, monitoring transactions more effectively from end-to-end, and they’re predicting and preventing disruptions that could affect their performance in a big way. They’re also saving money in the process.
They’re doing all of this by implementing technologies and processes that enable them to make smarter, faster decisions while building better relationships.
Your supply chain represents an enormous expense to your organization. In the industrial manufacturing sector, the average amount spent on the supply chain is 5% of operating costs. So even the smallest percentage of savings can have a monumental impact on profitability. If this figure holds true for your organization, imagine the financial impact that improvements in efficiency would make to your bottom line.
To be financially responsible in this era of fierce competition and unparalleled market disruption, it’s critical to explore the advantages of digitization. The performance of your organization depends upon it. Our experienced team will help you select, implement, and optimize the digital supply chain solutions that will best suit your operational goals.
What is a digital supply chain?
A digital supply chain is an ecosystem of suppliers, manufacturers, and customers who are connected and fully integrated through a secure digital network.
Key processes are data-driven and digitally executed to provide accurate, end-to-end visibility into every transaction, all the time.
Transparency between business partners helps them predict and prevent supply chain disruptions before they even occur. Actionable insights achieved through the application of analytics and AI enables smarter business decisions.
And the incorporation of innovative blockchain technology creates an immutable, permanent ledger that gives every participant a single, reliable version of the truth. Rather than engaging in disagreements over where a problem occurred, every member of the blockchain can see precisely what happened and when.
The digitized supply chain creates a collaborative ecosystem of partners who can cooperate and communicate seamlessly and efficiently despite differences in location, size, and level of technology.
In short, it establishes a thriving network of business partners who can move with greater speed, agility, and confidence to optimize organizational performance and productivity. And that’s good for everyone on the team.
Why digitize the supply chain now?
The urgency to adopt a digital supply chain is being driven by a variety of internal and external challenges, many of which are completely beyond your immediate control. The more urgent issues are likely very familiar:
- Increase in geographically dispersed partners
- Increase in the number of platforms being used
- Disparities in the levels of technology installed in partner organizations
- Inability to work quickly and accurately with manual documents and processes
- Inability for all partners to monitor the status and movement of their transactions
- The need to speed up processes – from onboarding to distribution of information
- Increased emphasis on cost reduction and enhanced profitability
- Rising customer demands and expectations
- Staff limitations in both IT departments and customer service
- Uncontrollable disruptions such as weather, political and social upheaval, criminal activities (data breaches, piracy, terrorism), and even biological threats (COVID)
- A fiercely competitive marketplace that is constantly evolving
The problem is that they create a web of complexity that simply can’t be managed by traditional approaches.
The digitized supply chain begins
with connectivity and visibility.
The process of creating a fully digitized supply chain begins by connecting you with your business partners and automating your processes through B2B integration and B2B collaboration networks. Then, you can enhance the value by adding capabilities such as document conversion services, small business partner automation, AI, and blockchain. Here are some of the key elements that can be combined to digitize your supply chain:
- Artificial Intelligence
- People and Culture
Data is everywhere—you must collect and analyze it effectively.
Your organization manages an overwhelming amount of data from internal and external sources. This includes data from your business partners plus new sources of information such as third-party providers of weather forecasts and social media posts. The more data you collect and analyze effectively, the better your decisions and your performance will be.
Managing data that comes in a variety of formats – structured and unstructured – is a formidable task when using traditional supply chain methods. Digitization of data on a reliable platform enables the collection, transformation, integration, and visibility of the data relevant to your supply chain.
Things to consider:
- What data formats are you dealing with?
- How much data are you managing, and how?
- What important data are you missing?
A B2B collaboration network connects you with business partners and other members of your value chain.
The B2B network is the foundation of your digitized supply chain. It’s the network that facilitates the connection, collection, integration, and automation of data exchange. Additional services can help with the translation of documents, faxes, email attachments, and others that may be needed to achieve 100% integration with your partners.
For example, if you have small partners who continue to communicate with you manually, you can digitize a wide variety of fax, email, and other documents and transactions by leveraging small partner automation tools. With the right platform, you can achieve the connectivity, integration, and visibility you need to expedite seamless, error-free transactions.
Things to consider:
- What percentage of your partners are still using manual processes?
- What B2B networks and platforms are your other partners using?
- How quickly can you onboard them?
- Do the B2B platforms you’re considering (or using today) offer enough reliability, security, visibility, and support?
Cloud deployment brings supply chain capabilities to a whole new level.
Most organizations are now leveraging the cloud in some way. Cloud solutions can not only provide better reliability and security; they can also deliver better performance over on-premise solutions. Furthermore, moving to the cloud can offer financial benefits – such as moving from CapEx associated with operating your own platform to OpEx that can be adjusted as needs change.
In addition, new, innovative applications are constantly being developed and deployed on the cloud to manage the supply chain more effectively. Additionally, organizations are developing their own applications that they can distribute to their entire supply chain quickly.
Things to consider:
- Are you capitalizing on the speed and scalability of cloud-based solutions?
- How much can you save by shifting to the cloud from in-house IT operations?
- What data do you want to locate on private versus public cloud?
- What volume and size of files do you expect to store on the cloud?
- How scalable, secure, and reliable is the cloud you’re considering?
Accessible dashboards present real-time details on demand to a wide variety of stakeholders.
It’s important to have quick access to timely reports and that the information is presented in an easy-to-understand graphical format. Dashboards that present relevant KPIs not only enable you to monitor and manage transactions but also track the performance of your partners. Importantly, business user-friendly self-service dashboards with regulated access liberate you and your partners from IT staff dependency.
Things to consider:
- Do you have dashboards that can be customized to your organization’s processes and information requirements?
- How easy are the graphical interfaces to use and understand?
- How real-time and accurate is the information contained?
- Do all the right stakeholders have access or are you limited?
- How quickly can you alter dashboards when the need arises?
- Do you require IT assistance to make minor modifications?
Make your supply chain smarter with AI.
A critical benefit of leveraging the cloud is the ability to add AI to your supply chain. An AI-powered digital B2B network can retrieve order and transactional data up to 90% faster than traditional methods. Platforms powered by AI can analyze data to predict and prevent problems that might not be revealed in manual processes. AI-based tools can examine and analyze weather conditions, inventory levels, social trends, news, shipping delays, border crossing times, and numerous other factors that could impact your supply chain.
Then, these AI capabilities can proactively help make adjustments to processes and initiate notifications to affected internal and external staff. They can generate fast, accurate insights and guidance to help mitigate issues that might otherwise disrupt your supply chain – saving time, money, and the effort required to manage these processes in the traditional manner.
Things to consider:
- How hard is it to detect the emerging issues that can delay or disrupt your supply chain?
- How do you normally identify and react to possible delays, and how long does this take? Does this rely on certain individuals with specific knowledge?
- How do you inform your partners of disruptions?
- How long does it take you to resolve an issue from identification to mitigation?
- What is the cost of delays to your organization?
- Manual and time-consuming processes require an extensive paper trail.
- Platforms and systems remain siloed as participants rely upon different database structures, terminology, and record keeping.
- Emailed spreadsheets and other documents are out of date and difficult to trace, confirm, and secure.
- A secure, synchronized record of transactions is shared between partners.
- Permissioned partners have end-to-end visibility into one centralized, trusted, and transparent record of transactions.
- Real-time traceability across the supply chain minimizes delays.
Blockchain creates a single, immutable ledger of transactions.
According to a recent survey of the industrial market, 84% of Chief Information Security Officers indicated that their biggest challenge is a lack of visibility across their supply chain. Blockchain is a relatively new technology that provides end-to-end visibility into transactions to every permissioned member of the business partner ecosystem.
At each step along the way, blockchain quickly and accurately confirms the execution and reveals the information to those who are involved in the transaction. Every member has self-service access to the same data, ensuring a single source of truth and infusing trust, transparency, and traceability into the supply chain.
People and Culture
Talent and culture are critical elements of a strong, smart supply chain.
The implementation of a digitized supply chain is more than just a transformation of technology. It requires the cooperation and endorsement of supply chain employees within your organization and among the staff of your participating partners. This shift to a data-driven culture requires thoughtful planning and training to ensure you not only create, but retain a skilled and enthusiastic staff.
Things to consider:
- What skills will be required to manage your digitized supply chain?
- Do you have those skills within your organization, or can you train existing staff?
- How long will it take to instill new knowledge and to put it into action?
- Can your technology provider assist in the training of staff within your organization and the organizations of your business partners?
The digitized supply chain is faster, more visible, more trustworthy.
The benefits of a digitized supply chain are realized almost as soon as you’re up and running. And new benefits continue to mount as revolutionary innovations are. When compared to the efficacy of the traditional, linear approach, there is little doubt of the advantages your organization will gain once the digitized supply chain is implemented.
Traditional Linear Model
- Little to no end-to-end visibility
- Manual search
- Sequential process
- Event-driven processes
- No predictive capabilities
- No notification capabilities
- Distributed, diverse records
Digital Supply Chain with
AI and blockchain
- End-to-end visibility
- Natural language search
- Orchestrated process
- Insight-driven processes
- Dynamic, predictive capabilities
- Automatic alerts and notifications
- Single, immutable record of transactions
Start smart with a team you can trust
Comprehensive services and solutions for digital supply chains
IBM Sterling Supply Chain: This suite of industry-leading solutions provides critical capabilities for digitizing supply chains. This includes:
IBM Platinum Business Partner
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Many IBM Sterling Supply Chain solutions are specialized for the unique needs of various business sectors, ensuring that standards are met for privacy, security, and other important areas related to business transactions and transmissions:
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