Traditional supply chains are changing as new, growing pressures from organizations searching for growth find themselves in more and more competitive markets. Shifting customer demands mean organizations need to find a way to be agile; those unable to keep up risk losing their markets to rivals.
Mulesoft expert and APAC CTO Brad Drysdale explains the challenges faced by small IT teams that are being forced to find more efficient ways to operate due to IT budget restrictions in this article from the MuleSoft log. Some key points he made are:
In order to have a successful supply chain, it is important that they remain reliable while also becoming more and more agile. Within a limited budget, being able to become more agile while still staying under the bottom line can be a challenge for small IT departments.
Your existing B2B/EDI systems may no longer fit their purpose, as is the case for many companies facing these challenges. The systems "lack the real-time and responsiveness that is now required, and can take long periods of time to be configured to meet new business requirements," Drysdale said.
According to Drysdale, "The challenge can clearly be seen when you look at how an organization responds to changes in customer demands. As preferences change, new products are introduced and feedback is received. The organisation must be able to incorporate this feedback in real time and make rapid adjustments to product design and production processes."
These adjustments have a direct impact on a supply chain. "Current suppliers may have to change the mix of what they are providing or be replaced by others with different products. Such changes have to be achieved quickly to ensure the organization maintains its market position and satisfies customers’ demands. At the same time, many organizations are looking to expand their presence into new geographic markets or begin offering their products through new channels, such as online and mobile stores. Again, the supply chain has to evolve to support these initiatives," Drysdale said.
However, this can cause a growing cap between required support and what they can actually deliver. Teams can find themselves with a backlog of change requests relating to supply chain issues and not enough time to complete them quickly - which can have a direct impact on operations.
An API-lead approach can help manage the complex issues caused from B2B/EDI traffic and free up some internal resources for other uses.
An API-lead approach
According to Drysdale, one of the main challenges of managing EDI communication in the supply chain is "the fact that siloed approach. B2B integrations have tended to be put in place between the organization and each of its supply partners."
The connections handle everything in a business from invoices to purchase orders. As this supply chain expands, the work that has to be done to process these communications rapidly increases. Why? Because the logic used for back-end processing needs to be duplicated for each partner. When you add a new partner, the linkages become more and more complex.
A way to remedy this is by taking an API-lead approach. This changes the speed at which a B2B/EDI supply chain can function by decoupling message processing from business processes. "A set of defined services can then handle all messaging in a consistent way with only downstream business processing needing to be specific to individual partners," Drysdale said.
By creating an application network in which the applications, data and devices that make up a supply chain are pluggable and reusable, organisations can address changes more quickly and leapfrog past competition."
- Brad Drysdale, Mulesoft APAC CTO
Platform Support is Critical
There are three steps to achieving supply chain streamlining, according to Drysdale:
- Deploying a robust API-based platform is a critical step. The platform needs to have B2B-specific transports that allow the organization to send and receive B2B messages through B2B / EDI protocols.
- The platform must also have a set of B2B / EDI-specific message packs that allow messages to be passed, validated and transformed across different B2B / EDI standards.
- The platform should also have a robust trading partner management system that allows the organization to set partner- specific validation and processing rules on a per-trading partner basis.
A platform with these attributes will help an organisation to dramatically reduces the time taken to set up new trading partners and streamline processing."
- Brad Drysdale, Mulesoft APAC CTO
As a result of this streamlining, organizations will be in a better place to improve flexibility and agility to meet the evolving requirments of the business landscape.
This article was take from APAC CTO Brad Drysdales article, Supply Chain API for Agility
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