The Supply Chain Matters blog provides Part Four of our multi-part market education series focused on the emerging trend for what we have termed as WMS Accelerator technology.
In this commentary, we take a broader perspective to the needs for added agility and synchronization in overall supply chain material flows from the end of the production line, across warehouses and/or customer fulfillment centers to end customers.
In our prior Part One commentary, we explored a capsule history of the generations of Warehouse Management Application Systems (WMS), their need for being integrated with a system of record for customer or inventory replenishment orders, labor reporting and other data. We observed how over time, similar to legacy ERP systems, many of these WMS systems were subject to high levels of customization requiring added integration needs.
Our second commentary related to this series, highlighted the market entry of AutoScheduler.ai, a provider of WMS Accelerator technology representing a new approach for integrating existing Warehouse Management System (WMS) information needs among and between other supply chain execution systems.
Our Part Three commentary provided more in-depth perspectives on increasing needs for synchronized logistics and supply chain material workflows as well as the types of benefits this technology can provide. Our belief is that the extent of the COVID-19 disruption on customer fulfillment needs implies that Extended WMS will have to morph to Cloud based WMS technology that can leverage more intelligent supply chain and warehouse flow orchestration. This approach leverages object-based data integration and management, incorporates artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology, but at the same time, can augment the capabilities and presence of existing supply chain applications.
The New Normal of Supply Chain Capability
In a recent blog commentary that set the context for what is to come, this supply chain technology industry analyst outlined my belief of what supply chain management teams need to anticipate in the year 2021 and indeed the “new normal.”
We addressed a theme of three aspects of Renewal, that being New Thinking, New Definitions and New Directions.
Rather than fighting multiple localized fires each day or optimizing one facility at the expense of inefficiency or bottlenecks in another, new thinking is indeed an outside-in, overall process flow perspective.
With the massive and likely permanent preference among businesses for selling products online and in enhanced Omni-channel customer fulfillment channels, supply chain execution must now focus on fostering agility and orchestration between various material flows that begin at the end of the production line and flow to the point of expected customer delivery.
It is a re-thinking of just-in-time inventory replenishment movements towards just enough inventory to meet customer orders but at the same time, a more weighted context to other now more important risk factors. That will likely include required customer service level, non-delivery penalties and awareness to logistics bottlenecks or risks that span the multiple facilities that lead to customer fulfillment.
New thinking is defining efficiency as not just a focus of within a single warehouse, DC or customer fulfillment facility, but the broader interconnected supply chain execution flow of material and key information that transcends an end-to-end customer fulfillment flow.
New Definitions relate to an awareness that in supply chain execution and customer fulfillment processes, data is siloed among ERP-based production scheduling and TMS systems, various warehouse management, and even yard management or other operational management systems that control the automation of material movement. For supply chain execution, interconnected systems, data, and decision-making implies overall data convergence towards end customer delivery commitments.
New Directions are in building the foundation for more predictive (likelihood of what is to occur) and prescriptive (actions that need to take place to ensure needed outcomes) decision-making capabilities related to supply chain material and inventory replenishment flows. It is an awareness that added customization or additional integration of data and information of any single supply execution system defeats the objective of synchronizing and optimizing end-to-end flows of inventory and product fulfillment needs.
WMS Accelerator- A Data Convergence Engine
Our takeaway for supply chain operations and execution leaders for this series is to holistically view all existing islands of supply chain execution information as a singular problem. That includes business processes along with isolated data related to both physical and digital objects.
The deployment of an overlaid Cloud based digital twin technology approach allows for the analysis, optimization, and the simulation of various material flow decisions that need to be made among interrelated facilities. Capability can be supported by actual data generated by physical objects such as transportation, logistics, order pick, material handling or other software objects residing in multiple existing systems. These technologies can interleave with existing application tools to orchestrate processes and local decision-making in the context of outside-in customer fulfillment process needs.
The business benefits are in smoothed workload management requiring less labor and unforeseen disruptions. Additional benefits are in reduced bottlenecks, travel-distance, and physical touch points which can equate to added efficiency along with agility.
When disruptions do occur, which they likely will, management teams have an overall outside-in end-to-end process context what to anticipate for inbound and outbound, as well as material with higher priority.
It is a data convergence technology umbrella approach rather than a rip or replace systems approach, or single execution system customization approach. It provides for overall customer fulfillment under the aegis of more agility along with synchronization.
For supply chain operations leadership teams, new thinking, definition and direction for the “new normal” can well be a hybrid approach that considers a Cloud based WMS Accelerator overlay technology approach that allows for timely adoption of more predictive customer fulfillment material flows and decision-making.
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