Why Todays Supply Chain Control Towers Resemble a Ouija Board

October 11, 2018 Kelly Gilbert

With Halloween around the corner it seems the Ouija Board, known as the spiritual board, has similar capabilities to the Control Towers being implemented for supply chain visibility these days. The problem is the underlying data, not the pretty UIs seen at industry trade shows. It is true, digital transformation is at the top of the hype cycle. Digital transformation hard and soft ROI benefits have been substantiated... to some degree.

But what is it really that your users are looking for? They are looking for things that are exception-based. They do not want to be bothered if the shipment is going to be on-time. The users are NOT looking for another BI project. What they are asking for is a real-time exception-based dashboard.

The problem is a typical BI program where you extract, transform, load, create a data cube and have the data latency will not answer that question for that user. Nor will simply putting a pretty “Control Tower UI” on top work.  However, a Digital Supply Network that uses a transformation data platform provides a live dashboard with exception-based conditions focusing user attention where it is needed.

Additionally, users want to simply “Track My Shipment or Order” and not utilize the heart-shaped piece of wood called a planchette for a Ouija board for answers. Customer service reps are looking for quick and accurate responses to incoming customer calls. What the users do not understand is all the work that it takes to build the foundation and get in place the data for them to not require a spin. Which brings us to the realization that every time we try one of these supply chain visibility projects… it fails because of bad data.

Ultimately, the data is in a non-usable manner. This has been the underlying failure for those on the bleeding edge of these projects. They are now bleeding because the lack of usable data.

The data first needs to be “captured” from disparate systems and third-party sources and then brought into one place, so we can create those exceptions and real-time dashboard. Only the first step in avoiding the Ouija Board predication. We buy into Control Towers thinking that is what the users want and then fail because there is no “cleansed” and “linked” data behind those pretty screens.

So how is Elemica different from everyone else in helping get the data and creating that underlying platform? We have been building and deploying this Digital Supply Network platform for over 20 years at some of the largest companies in the world. Using data that is not only captured…. but cleaned and linked into this foundation. So how do we do all this?

The requirements of unstructured data, the IoT data, PDFs, or even the on and off ramps of blockchain networks are needed. We all know this is the different types of data that an IT organization must collect. This is what competitors such Value-Added-Networks (VANS), EDI Vans, or EDI Translators do. They go after all these data sources and capture it. That is what they do and say “Look at what we did. We digitized it.”

But that is where Elemica leaves a lot of the competition behind. Because if this data needs to be used for a sales order, as a simple example, and there is a difference in unit of measure on how they order it versus how it is shipped and sold, that unit of measure needs to be changed BEFORE your order management system can even accept that order automatically. The data needs to be “Cleaned”.

This cleaning layer within Elemica is built into the platform with the ability to pre-program business logic for that specific customer order and the associated units of measure for as-ordered, as-sold, as-shipped, as-invoiced, etc.  across all your trading partners systems. That is done automatically as part of the cleaning process. That “cleaning” process leaves most VANs and EDI translators behind.

It is the final aspect of the data requirement, the “linking” that leaves every competitor behind. This is where Elemica helps you avoid the millions of dollars and custom code, middleware and columns and rows reporting typically spent in a digital transformation project. As an IT professional, you start off with a sales order from a customer in your ERP system; The shipment booking order number is coming from your transportation management system; carrier status and associated GPS location data from a truck or ocean vessel signals for truck and vessel tracking in a multi-modal shipment… are coming from even more different systems.  There may even be external data feeds and APIs such as weather, port or traffic conditions of data coming from another system that is impacting the status of that order and/or shipment for predicting purposes for that customer service rep. These systems and associated transactions and messages all need to be linked.

Bottom Line is the customer service rep needs a single screen and not a Control Tower Ouija board that shows the linking across all those disparate data sources for that order and shipment status in the right sequence. Where it exactly is enroute and whether it will be on time based on predictive analytics. With Elemica, that data is on one screen with all the data linked and visible to the customer support rep. All that heavy lifting of data linking has been done by the Elemica platform.

Adding a “Pretty Control Tower UI” on top of this is the easy part. Elemica Visibility solutions enable the customer service rep to drill down into the GPS signals and visualize a map of the delivery and where it is at with geo-fencing. All automatically linked to a sales order that is in the ERP system and linked with the data from all those different systems. The customer service rep now has a true solution for “where is my order or where is my shipment”.

At Elemica we can help you accelerate your digital transformation while providing that digital foundation for supply chain visibility for the products you are selling, moving, and buying.  Go Digital. Transform.

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