New Links In A Digital Chain - Forbes Article by Fabio Caversan

February 08, 2021 by BY FABIO CAVERSAN, AI RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR AT STEFANINI

An article by Fabio Caversan, originally featured at Forbes here: New Links In A Digital Chain

From data analytics to cloud solutions, SAP software has become a critical tool for businesses large and small. SAP confers a range of connectivity, integration and streamlined functionality benefits, helping with things like creating tighter connections with clients and automating routine tasks. Together with a digital assistant (DA) and the expanding power of artificial intelligence (AI), the potential for SAP software is virtually unlimited.

Unlocking that potential is perhaps more important now than at any time in recent memory because a Covid-19-altered professional landscape has introduced new technical and logistical challenges while simultaneously forcing companies across a wide range of industries to adapt to new and evolving preferences and priorities from consumers and professional partners.

Kinks In The Chain

One of the areas where the global pandemic has been most notably disruptive is in the supply chain, where the near-absolute manufacturing dependency on functional logistics has made import, manufacturing and export a difficult proposition.

"Faced with unprecedented pandemic challenges, business owners and decision makers have had to adapt with remarkable speed. But with challenges come opportunities. It’s essential for decision makers to recognize and take action to capitalize on those opportunities."

Fabio Caversan

AI RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR AT STEFANINI

Procurement has also been affected. As the pandemic spread across the globe, a series of cascading shortages and disruptions made the case for distributing risk stronger than ever. Distribution challenges have arisen as a result of warehouse staffing difficulties, and retail itself has been forced to adapt to lockdowns, quarantines and different shopping patterns amid newly variable demand.

New Priorities

In the face of these new challenges, creating a more resilient and sustainable supply chain has emerged as an urgent priority. In a general sense, that means:

• Reducing physical labor dependency across transportation, logistics and warehousing.

• Modularizing production and making it easier to shift lines due to demand changes.

• Remote-enabling business-critical systems for employees who work remotely.

• Bolstering supplier risk management efforts for all planning initiatives and establishing full transparency across the supply chain.

Those priorities will need to be addressed across a supply chain landscape that will look very different than it does today — in the context of an evolving labor supply and transformative new tech tools that will enhance connectivity and facilitate digital sharing.

Solutions And Opportunities

What does this future AI-enabled resilient supply chain look like, and what will it take to not only withstand the pandemic pressures of today but address the evolving logistics and distribution challenges of tomorrow?

First, it needs to be both dynamic and responsive. If there is any break or slowdown in any one step of the supply chain, AI tools can fix it live. The pandemic has shown how disruptive sudden spikes in demand can be, and every link in the chain needs to have built-in adaptive capabilities. Technologies like the IoT, edge and cloud computing, big data lakes, sensors, autonomous systems, cognitive AI, RPA, and digital twins can be used to facilitate functionality like:

• Smart procurement: Helping industries in sourcing using machine learning/deep learning (ML/DL) algorithms based on history purchases, pricing and industrial trends.

• Supply chain SSOT: A single source of truth (SSOT) across the supply chain for all partners helps to adapt dynamic demands and supply scenarios.

• Supplier risk management: With new visibility across the entire supply chain, n-tier risk management and trend performance data analysis help companies avoid sudden supply chain disruptions.

• Simulated supply chain optimization: Simulating new supply chain strategies based on business model changes and current and future supply, demand and logistics constraints makes it possible to identify the most effective and cost-efficient options.

• Intelligent data management: Detailed information management capabilities, capturing highly consistent and minimally redundant supply chain transactions to gather supplier insights, diagnostics, market intelligence and risk management data.

The last functionality unlocks a third-party enterprise view, maintaining an integrated, up-to-date view of enterprise relationships (including spend analytics) with suppliers and third parties — all in real time. It enables supplier segmentation, augmenting the user’s ability to categorize a supplier base into different segments and even suggesting the “right” supplier segment to order from. It facilitates supplier risk data management, collecting and integrating data from multiple sources and using AI to identify hidden patterns and anomalies, translate risk data to insights and provide supplier scorecard/delivery success rates.

Next Steps

The question, of course, is how do we begin to create the technical and operational infrastructure to build systems that thrive as part of the supply chain of tomorrow?

The first step is to define what an intelligent supply chain looks like for your company, assessing your current capabilities, establishing your go-digital strategy and preparing a plan to execute that strategy. That strategy should be based on a trio of pillars: an intelligent process, an experienced partner and the right products.

• Process: Begin by determining critical processes and services in your supply chain. Form a team — possibly in conjunction with your tech partner — and establish methodologies and frameworks for tech selection, systems design and implementation that best address your business goals.

• Partner: Identify a partner who not only demonstrates the right technical capabilities, industry-specific experience and expertise but who has a proven record of accommodating client goals and working collaboratively to address challenges.

• Product: Consider cloud-based products over on-premises solutions to optimize scalability. Ideally, you want products that can be easily integrated into your existing IT infrastructure and applications and that won’t require major customizations or reconfigurations. Ease of use is a critical and often overlooked consideration: Choose tech that is easy for your partners and employees to use. 

Robust methodology, steady leadership and a trusted partner can overcome common challenges like high or unclear expectations, employee resistance, inappropriate use cases, and unstructured or overly siloed implementation.

Building A Robust And Resilient Future

Faced with unprecedented pandemic challenges, business owners and decision makers have had to adapt with remarkable speed. But with challenges come opportunities. It’s essential for decision makers to recognize and take action to capitalize on those opportunities.

Building a more efficient, effective, robust and sustainable supply chain isn’t just possible, it’s quickly becoming essential. By following the process, partner, product framework, it’s possible to use SAP software and new tech solutions to begin to evolve toward the dynamic, responsive and connected supply chain of tomorrow.

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