Modernize Supply Chain Management Powered by Appify

Modernize supply chain management with Appify

If you are to drive outside of any major metropolitan area in the world,you will see the very physical aspects of the revolution in supply-chain. At major highway intersections, there are massive distribution centers ready to serve our cities. The global supply chain market is expected to experience a compound annual rate of growth (CARG) of 11.2% from 2020 to 2027, a market increase from $15.85 Billion in 2019 to $37.41 Billion. Supply chain management is the flow of goods and services between organizations and consumers from the point of origin to point of consumption, and in our globally connected world this is a highly complex and heavily orchestrated process. We’ve all become aware of supply chain management more clearly in the past couple years seeing how disruption abroad impacts our own ability to receive goods and services and shifts in cost and supply.

57% of companies believe that supply chain management gives them a competitive edge that enables them to further develop their business and top priorities are improving service quality, focusing on performance management, and investing in data analytics. We want to show how Appify can be a custom solution for all the aforementioned focus areas in Supply Chain Management. 

The software underlying this process is Supply Chain Management (SCM) which can be considered as 2 core capabilities:

  • Planning
    • give a centralized view of the supply chain
    • allow businesses to plan production and resourcing
    • help businesses determine the right transportation mode, carriers and routes, and plan loading capacity
  • Execution
    • combine information about inventory and purchase orders to ensure manufacturing materials are available on time
    • help businesses generate production schedules, determine when products will be available for customers and their cost
    • automatically determine and respond to changes to plans according to circumstances
    • monitor every stage of the supply chain from price quotation to delivery

As a supply chain software vendor, your solution must provide these core capabilities in planning and execution, but your solution is, by definition, deployed in a heavily integrated and people centric environment. In a world of complex supply chains infallible performance is key despite heavy external dependencies, the recent pandemic caused global disruption that we’re still suffering the consequences of in even basic goods

Supply Chain Management Requires a Heavily Integrated Environment

For effective supply chain automation, the system must be able to get information on what’s happening within your company. Without this information, it can’t keep customers accurately informed about their orders. Supply chain integration requires close alignment and coordination within a supply chain, often with the use of shared information systems. Internally to your Customer this consists of  integration to manufacturing and warehousing systems, ERP’s, CRM’s.

The biggest challenge, however, is the integration to the various external companies from suppliers to shippers, and customers. These companies are likely to have their own SCM software solutions, their own standards and procedures, and security requirements. The most commonly identified issue with successful integration projects is inability to reach consensus or compromise. This integration challenge is being eased by global standards such as GS1 (https://www.gs1.org/standards).

Supply Chain Management Focuses on People Experiences

Despite rising levels of automation, the supply chain is still a heavily people-centric domain with people working in manufacturing, packaging, warehousing, and loading docks to the drivers, operators, and many administrative and customer service holding the process together. 

Keeping the products we consume every day moving is dependent on all these people having the information they need in a timely manner, wherever they need it, is the key challenge. Providing this user experience to a number of personas heavily integrated to a number of systems is a critical challenge facing SCM vendors. WIth so many solutions in play there is a proliferation of Apps and mobile experiences creating additional work and data duplication not only impacting employee satisfaction but creating costs that must be passed on to the Customer. 

Key product capabilities for your SCM solution

A comprehensive SCM solution will support both the Planning and Execution side of the problem, and include comprehensive capabilities for traditional integration to internal systems and data interchange capabilities for third-parties. 

  • Monitoring and Planning – SCM systems provide information like shipment date, time, ID, order number, freight data and much more.
  • Order Processing and Inventory Management – Order processing functionality streamlines order-related activities. It primarily handles the creation and delivery of orders, including those from multiple channels and drop shipments. Most solutions will offer this capability in its core offering, however there are many specialized systems which may increase the integration complexity.
  • Warehouse Management – precise level of control to physical warehouse operations. Like inventory management  there are many specialized systems which may increase the integration complexity.
  • Transportation Management – Transportation management tools direct the systems that handle supplies in transit.Typically, this is a mix of over-the-road fleet management tools and monitoring for other types of shipping, such as rail, air or sea shipping. 
  • Sourcing and Supply Management – Sourcing procurement and supplier management tools bring other slightly different angles to the task of evaluating your supply chain processes. Many of these tools look at costs, contract management, supplier quality and other issues. They help drive the sourcing and procurement of raw materials and supplies, as well as assess the technical aspects of the relationships between companies and their vendors. Sourcing and supply tools are vital in establishing key tracking methodologies for supplies and materials. 
  • Supply chain analytics – Business intelligence and analytics to help you understand how your problems originate, what you can do to manage risks and what events are likely to occur in the future. Analytics tools give your business the means to capitalize on existing data.

Each one of these capabilities must be flexible to cover various usage scenarios of your varied Customer requirements, but as an SCM vendor your opportunity is to own these core capabilities and keep third-parties out, particularly in warehouse and inventory management, to own more of the pie. As has already been highlighted SCM is typically heavily integrated and there are many usage personas that need a strong mobile experience. 

As an SCM software provider, invest in the core of your product and the remainder of this post will discuss how Appify can ease the mobile burden for you and simplify the integration to other systems so you can deliver a differentiated user experience to your Customers that can help you retain Customers and win new deals. 

Challenges facing SCM deployment

For every new customer you acquire you repeat the same implementation process, but the implementation itself is unique to that customer because their environment is unique and the details of what and how they service are unique. I’m sure you recognize the challenges below and know the implications of them to the implementation project you’ll propose:

  • Customers have many employees and personas, warehouse inventory locations,  and product objects, organizational structures, and logistics providers tailored to Customers, regions, and industry and regional compliance.
    • We’re going to need a large services engagement to scope, build, iterate and maintain this. Some will be configurable, but there will be customization.
  • There are business requirements that are not covered in the core product, requiring custom database tables and code to support.
    • We’re going to need a large services engagement to scope, build, iterate and maintain this. I’ll need developers that can build data objects, and all supporting code.
  • SCM doesn’t live on an island, it must integrate data with a number of other systems internally and externally that are related to the services the Customer provides. SCM needs to be integrated to multiple systems of record, including multiple variants of key data sources such as ERP, WMS, Inventory Management, CRM. SCM is crucial to removing obstacles to the success of moving products, and small delays in the process can have a significant domino effect in the overall supply chain. 
    • We’re going to need an external services company to do the integrations, rationalize the data models. The customer is not going to like that business data is getting duplicated, where is the source of truth? Now the customer needs a middleware solution, and that is going to at least double our project timeline and implementation costs.
  • The customer operates in multiple countries and all their processes are slightly different, and each country has its own regulatory and compliance rules, it all needs to be in local language.
    • Do we implement different solution variants in each country, or do we try and drive cohesive service practices globally? So now we have the pre-project to figure out how to do the project! More services, more cost, more time. 
  • Customers have de-centralized employees across manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution centers, but those in North America have iPhones and iPads, but in Europe they’re mostly on Android and the back office is on the web.
    • So now we need to build multiple mobile experiences! We need local services and language skills, and that’s going to drive up time and costs.

It is not hard to see why complexity grows exponentially, costs to customers continue to grow, and there is technical debt for every project but also in the core product supporting all the variations and innovation. It is reasonable to hear stories of global deployments that are far from complete after multiple years and have lost steam to progress.

No-Code and No Middleware: Appify is the modern solution to bridging legacy technology with new solutions in Supply Chain Management

In the decades SCM has been evolving so have other technologies, and the next generation of No-Code platforms, Appify, can solve these fundamental challenges, freeing your precious and expensive resources to focus on innovation of the core product capabilities such as extended use cases and AI. You can also give your customers a better experience, faster time to value, and significant reduction in implementation costs and risk.

With the simple addition of Appify on in between your existing stack and integrating with your data, these challenges become extremely manageable.

Appify Flex, an extremely powerful data modeling platform, is at the heart of this solution:

  1. Define the data model for the mobile or web experiences you need to create
  2. If the data object exists in an existing ESM solution, then connect to that object via API. No middleware, no integration, no data duplication.
  3. If the data doesn’t exist anywhere already, then it can live in Flex. 
  4. If an object lives in your ITSM product, but lacks a field you can store the field in Appify Flex – essentially extending the data model.

With the data model in place:

  1. Define business core processes and screens once, and build Apps for the different usage personas.
  2. See #1. Yep. That’s it.

All of this is done through drag and drop in Appify Studio, configured once and works across multiple mobile devices on or offline and on the web. 

Your best of breed field service foundation now has world class user experience – all in a matter of just weeks of configuration!

What about my customer deployments?

It’s exactly the same process that built the core offering:

  • Appify Studio to configure the solution, business logic, and screens
  • Extend existing data model to include customer specific data sources, connected via API to the Flex model
  • Country specific variants, simply configure country specific Apps with own data and logic as extensions to existing model in Flex

What were the challenges again?

  • Customers have many employees and personas, warehouse inventory locations,  and product objects, organizational structures, and logistics providers tailored to Customers, regions, and industry and regional compliance.
    • Configure in the Flex data model including regional or industry specific extensions.
    • Configure business logic in Appify so your Customer can manage it.
    • Configure a data model that reflects the user experience, obfuscating the underlying complexity if necessary
  • There are business requirements that are not covered in the core product, requiring custom database tables and code to support.
    • Flex is extensible, just configure the objects you need. If you don’t have an existing system to store them, then Appify Flex will store the data.
  • SCM doesn’t live on an island, it must integrate data with a number of other systems internally and externally that are related to the services the Customer provides. SCM needs to be integrated to multiple systems of record, including multiple variants of key data sources such as ERP, WMS, Inventory Management, CRM. SCM is crucial to removing obstacles to the success of moving products, and small delays in the process can have a significant domino effect in the overall supply chain. 
    • Just configure the object to reference the object in the external system, no middleware and no integration required. 
    • Don’t worry about maintaining object consistency or foreign key integrity, Appify manages it.
    • Appify 100% respects the security, authorization, and integrity controls managed by IT. IT is working to protect the business, and Appify works with IT.
  • The customer operates in multiple countries and all their processes are slightly different, and each country has its own regulatory and compliance rules, it all needs to be in local language.
    • Extend the data model as needed and configure Apps for each country or industry with the specific requirements, and they won’t impact everyone else.
  • Customers have de-centralized employees across manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution centers, but those in North America have iPhones and iPads, but in Europe they’re mostly on Android and the back office is on the web.
    • Configure once, the App will work on any supported device.

For all the shifts and advances that your SCM solution is progressing through, it is fundamentally about enabling Service inside your Customer organization, and that end user is not in a centralized location, and they are certainly predominantly mobile. 

This agility means you can respond to sales opportunities and customer requirements quickly and easily. Your customers can keep pace with their ever-changing business landscape and implement ideas at the speed of thought. 

It is real!

If you’ve been in enterprise software as long as I have, this pace and ease of innovation seems unbelievable, but I can assure you it is real, we’ve done it – repeatedly. Powered by Appify brings the success our customers have experienced and makes it available to be white-labeled for SCM software suppliers. The Appify mission is to make business life simpler, call today to see how we can make your solution simpler.

Focus on what you do best, and let Appify do the rest!

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Written by Jonathan Skelding VP of Business Strategy & Ops at Appify. Jonathan has been in the software industry for 30 years in a variety of global roles from engineering to services, alliances and sales.