Are Custom Industrial Management Systems Necessary for the Connected Supply Chain?

Supply chain disruptions caused a financial burden that amounted to a global average of $184 million in 2021. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having strong management systems. But following a standard template can do more harm than good, and more and more industry leaders are vouching for the power of customization.

When you’re part of a constantly growing, multi-billion dollar industry, every step of the process needs to be maximized for productivity. Whether it’s raw material sourcing, first-party data analysis, product flow oversight, or financial management, finding an effective method that best meets the needs of your business is essential. company.

But it’s not uncommon for supply chains to become disconnected when built on an uncoordinated set of legacy solutions. Integrating your technologies into your management system creates links between all the departments in your organization, and you can do this with a customized industrial management solution designed specifically for your business.

Current management systems and challenges

Cloud-based solutions have transformed the way we do business in the 21st century. However, many companies still use systems established decades ago to manage their supply chain. Legacy MRP systems from the 80s and 90s like IBM and Lawson are still running on localized servers with a dedicated employee to monitor them.

Even though new cloud-based and SaaS systems have been added, everything still needs to be run through this localized system. This creates a single point of failure in the supply chain.

A Gartner survey revealed that 47% of enterprises have continued to increase their IoT investments since 2020. These add-ons, including SaaS implementations, have continued to grow in popularity lately. As companies increasingly rely on cloud solutions, they need an industrial management system that supports these tools rather than limiting them.

Custom industrial management systems

Supply chain modernization is not new. In fact, I’ve held a patent for wireless tracking of parts in manufacturing and service facilities since 2015. Unfortunately, as IoT and cloud solutions gain traction, most companies remain tethered to their legacy management systems. .

From my perspective, building custom integrations to tie the old MRP system to the new cloud solutions is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot. Despite the slight improvements, there is still a single point of failure, which is a risky proposition for any business.

However, businesses cannot “go cloud” overnight. Starting with small victories — custom integrations and adding certain data to the cloud — is the start of a process companies need to follow. While custom cloud integrations are a band-aid, they can also act as a placeholder that drives communication and adoption of a more robust solution.

The investment of moving all your business operations to the cloud pays for itself, and quickly. Instead of spending hundreds of hours managing an outdated system, you can hire a few skilled professionals to take your supply chain management to the next level.

How to digitally transform the supply chain

Many organizations find it difficult to adopt a change in the management system because their employees are not trained or well equipped to deal with a cloud-based integration. Creating a system that can withstand fluctuating markets and generate consistent profits can seem like a daunting task. Here are 3 simple steps to get you started:

1. Unite local files

The first step in digital transformation should be to understand where your files and assets currently reside and start bringing them together. Most likely, data and applications are distributed across several different local systems. They may even have different filing systems that are only understood by a specific employee who “owns” that job.

Without a central repository, it is impossible to prioritize and plan for digital transformation. So start by uniting the local files. Gather files stored on different computers and place them in shared drives.

2. Deploy a communication solution

My advice to managers looking to transform their supply chain is: keep everyone on the same page when it comes to sharing information. Modernizing communications is the first step in customizing your management system.

Similar to file storage, business communication is most likely spread across different forms. First, indicate where people communicate. Text? E-mail? Lotus Notes?

If you had to choose one form of communication, could your business switch to it without buying new hardware? Can you use Microsoft Teams to send internal email from a mobile phone instead of email? Can you use Skype to hold a conference call remotely instead of meeting at the office? With digital communication solutions like Microsoft Office Workspace, this has become relatively easier to achieve regardless of business size.

3. Skeuomorphism

A worker accustomed to moving a sheet of paper from one board to another should be able to see this process even in digital format. If the new solution fails to mimic a familiar environment for the worker, they are likely to fall back to old workflows.

This is where skeuomorphism comes in. It’s the perfect way to customize your management system to better suit your business needs and help your employees feel comfortable in the transition. Your employees have experience working with your supply chain, and skeuomorphism is a way to help them use that knowledge and better control the new UI.

In a digital transformation we performed, we created a Kanban board to manage tickets. Instead of making the ticket look like a digital asset, we mimicked the piece of paper, including the shadow the paper makes when hung on the wall. This allowed the employee to perform the same task of moving paper as with the digital asset. The advantage is that, unlike a physical piece of paper, the employee can perform this action from anywhere and managers can review it from anywhere.

By prioritizing those who oversee your systems on a daily basis, you create an opportunity for them to improve their productivity while replacing large and outdated systems.

4. Stack new solutions on top of old ones

Once you have established a communication system for your supply chain, your employees will be able to integrate it into their daily workflow. Use it as a basis for introducing new systems to avoid overwhelming or confusing them.

Your first goal should be to make sure everyone in the organization can access the new systems you introduce, because otherwise it’s easy to fall back to traditional frameworks. Instead, build on top of the communication system they’re already comfortable with, and the transition to a digital management system will become easier.

Over time, as your business adapts to sharing information and resources, the cloud will take shape on its own. You will realize that the information is just one channel and fully updated with the latest information.

I hope that with this information you were able to find some key elements to help you on your journey towards implementing a fully customized industrial management solution for the connected supply chain.

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About Cecil D. Ramirez

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