Five 'I's' of Supply Chain Visibility
Summed up eloquently by David as the Five “I’s” the five capabilities that would make for a great personal productivity software also can be extended to become the critical capabilities of an ideal supply chain visibility and control solution:
Interception: The solution must be configurable for line managers to place process sensing “listeners” that actively seek process deviation. For example a fulfillment manager might place a “listener” to intercept any delays in picking an express parcel due to labor shortage in the warehouse. An elegant solution would have an easy to navigate visual modeler that can be quickly configured by business managers and process owners.
Interpretation: A signal becomes a message only when it is correctly interpreted. The visual representation capability of the solution must allow the managers to quickly deduce the impact of the event intercepted by the “listener”. For example the alert from delayed express shipment should not only trigger alert to the fulfillment manager but also display if any linked shipments to the customer need to be rescheduled or expedited. This can be specifically useful if the express shipment was a part of customer’s scheduled plan for a critical project and it needs appropriate communication and resolution.
Investigation: A supply chain event cockpit would provide the manager a single control dashboard to not only monitor and interpret the critical events across the supply chain but also to quickly access other required information to take the corrective action. This goes beyond the plain vanilla BI offerings and should have “what-if” scenario generation capabilities to help manager quickly decide the best solution to get out of the soup.
Integration: Once the manager is through with the interpretation and investigation, the application must go beyond being the visual dashboard and analytical tool. Capability to trigger changes in other applications or start workflow do seem surreal like a Star Trek pilot control board, but with companies on their way towards SOA enablement and a robust portal strategy, this capability would certainly deliver the maximum bang for the buck.
Implementation: There are many products in the market that promise the proverbial manna of complete supply chain visibility but not many are easy to implement and integrate with existing applications. An ideal solution should cause minimal disruption to existing processes and infrastructure and act as an “ether” layer on top of other applications.
Now where do I start looking for such solutions?