Unlocking the Unified Supply Chain with Manhattan Associates at Manifest Vegas 2024

The Manifest Vegas 2024 conference featured a wide range of speakers, exhibitors, and networking opportunities for professionals looking to transform logistics and supply chain operations for the better. Everyone from Fortune 500 global supply chain executives and logistics service providers to innovators and investors gathered to share the latest developments in the space. 

To share some insights with those unable to attend, we’ve organized the key points from our panel session, “Unlocking the Value Potential: The Future of Unified Supply Chain & Logistics Technology.” Moderated by Liz Sophia, vice president, Field Marketing at Manhattan Associates, the session featured panelists Bart De Myunck, CEO & founder of Bart De Myunck LLC; Nimesh Patel, vice president of Global Alliances & Partners at FourKites, Inc.; and Bryant Smith, director of Product Management at Manhattan Associates.

During the conversation, the panelists covered a range of topics from advancements in unifying platforms for transportation and yard management to ways of eliminating traditional supply chain limitations. By unifying transportation applications, logistics functions that were once siloed are becoming more dynamic, sustainable, and profitable for companies.

Here are the three main takeaways from the session.

Unified Logistics Applications are Essential to Real-Time Analysis

The future of logistics applications lies in unified systems, which improve processes that are older, more cumbersome, more isolated, and more at-risk. This unification improves the user experience, collects better data for more strategic decision-making, and protects against weaknesses in application infrastructure that could lead to corporate security risks. 

It’s critical that the WMS and TMS operate together in one platform, instead of a handoff process from one system to another. Besides streamlining functions, logistics structures enhanced by technology allow for greater access to data in real time.

“Not only have we seen the supply chain become ever more complex, but we're seeing much more real time transactional demand on certain actions and processes,” according to De Myunck. “The increase in supply chain complexity and disruption demands real-time responses from our systems. Having separate systems works when everything is moving in a chronological and linear fashion. However, when you have a circular pattern where information needs to flow back and forth between functions, these systems must be unified.”

But what does it take to create such a unified supply chain platform?

“It's microservice-based and API driven, allowing us to have components that support different workflows and different data, all within the overall platform,” Smith explained. “Picture a brick sidewalk with each brick representing a component. You could have a yard workflow, a warehouse workflow, and a transportation workflow that comprise the entire sidewalk, but within each one of those items is a component that's driving that workflow.”

The unified technology approach takes into consideration the countless variables of an exact moment—from transportation delays to product availability—and creates a thoughtful response strategy.

“The benefit of this is that you get full visibility into the data that's operating within your supply chain,” Smith said. “So, it doesn't matter if a shipment is being loaded or unloaded in the warehouse. As a transportation user, you can see that in real time. You don't need to have that data integrated back up through an ERP system and pushed back down to your TMS.”

Such a feature saves valuable time in situations where you can’t afford to delay decision making.  

Sustainability is Achievable Through Smart Data

“A unified supply chain also eases a company’s carbon emissions and reduces its footprint,” Patel said. “The data allows companies to review processes and decide where they can try and make incremental changes that better their efficiency and the environment.”

Examples include gaining more perspective on transportation options, such as shifting to rail instead of trucking, or choosing another mode of shipping that has a smaller carbon footprint. Patel feels that this information can also be extended to manufacturing, “If you have visibility into what product or material is not going to arrive, do you delay your production schedule and prevent your manufacturing plant to run unnecessarily?”

It’s this type of unified data that companies are analyzing to reach their sustainability goals. “Again, it starts with having that data in a unified place and making sure that data is accurate. All the bricks in the sidewalk need to be working in together,” he added.

Resilient, Cost-Efficient Processes Remain Essential

Sophia pointed out that supply chain resiliency became a critical issue during the pandemic. Creating resilient solutions has always been an inherent challenge of the industry, but during the pandemic, logistics costs skyrocketed, and many shippers spent extraordinary amounts to obtain inventory and transportation to keep products flowing to their customers.

“In 2024, there's a clear focus on cost management and even greater resilience, which means being more dynamic and more agile in real time,” said De Myunck.

When taking these measures, businesses must also evaluate their impact on profitability because it’s unsustainable for companies to continue executing at the same level with rising fulfillment costs, inventory, and transportation costs.

Across every step within supply chain logistics, “we need to support companies with smarter systems that help them execute smarter, because businesses processes start to fail if you don’t have technology that’s reliable and resilient,” Smith added.

Following up on the panel discussion, Sophia, De Myunck, Patel and Smith recently conducted an insightful webinar where they discussed these and other pivotal industry trends. Click HERE to view.