Article

How can you be sure the view you’re seeing tells the whole story?

By Manhattan Staff,
Manhattan Associates Article Image

Today's supply chain managers need lots of information to do their jobs effectively, but it can be difficult to find the right information among the overwhelming volume of data that comes pouring in from different silos in the operation. With a supply chain platform you can realize the context of that data and how it impacts your company across multiple functions, divisions, people and divisions, creating "Whole Chain Awareness."

There are three basic approaches that technology companies use to help you manage all of the information: supply chain assemblies, suites and platforms.

However, supply chain solution assemblies and suites cannot provide the same levels of functionality and visibility as a supply chain platform. The reasons for this are obvious once you understand the inherent differences between each type of solution.

Assemblies are compilations of acquired applications intended to provide "product" for vendors to push to existing customers and point solutions for new customers. The drawbacks are:

  • The technologies behind the applications are different and hard to integrate
  • User interfaces usually have only cosmetic similarities
  • The applications produce redundant data that must be sorted through

Suites are made up of related applications (some acquired and some proprietary) that are connected by an integration "layer" that can help streamline operations and provide functional integration. However, the applications still:

  • Use disparate technologies
  • Rely on redundant data
  • Have limited cross-functional workflows
  • May be based on conflicting "middleware strategies"

All of the modules or applications of a supply chain platform operate within a tightly integrated environment that shares common data, components, and base code among different applications. This dramatically reduces complexity, enhances flexibility, and increases visibility and accessibility from one end of the supply chain to the other-creating the ability to see the big picture of your supply chain with all its options, possibilities and consequences. Manhattan refers to this approach as "Platform Thinking."

Because a supply chain platform is built around a comprehensive, integrated architecture that uses a single technology, it gives you the power to decide and execute according to the big picture-not just a piece of it. A platform-based approach to the supply chain provides a number of benefits, including:

  • Consistency
    User interfaces appear the same and various functions behave similarly in all applications. Also, a platform uses common business objects, so a purchase order, for example, is the same in all modules.
     
  • Cross-functional Awareness
    Visibility is provided across the entire supply chain, so each application is "informed" of steps taken or operations performed in another. This allows users in different departments to adapt appropriately and in a timely fashion.
     
  • Efficiency
    Common master and transaction data and a unified technology stack eliminates redundancy, simplifies upgrades, leverages shared modules (such as yard management or parcel rating), streamlines functionality, synchronizes communication, and lowers total cost of ownership.
     
  • Personalized Data
    Individual users can create customized dashboards that pull specific data from any part of the supply chain to provide real-time key performance indicators (KPIs).

The holistic visibility made possible by a supply chain platform does more than simply optimize the information that managers need. It improves operations by providing real-time, actionable intelligence, streamlines functionality through fully integrated technology, and protects the bottom line with lower cost of ownership and economies of scale throughout the enterprise.

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