Supply Chain: Looking Toward Disruption to Calm the Chaos
It’s very trendy these days to claim the mantle of “disruptor.” It’s also a somewhat new phenomenon.
A person labeled disruptive, as recently as 10 or 15 years ago, would have been escorted from the building with their personal effects in a box. Now it’s one of the most common themes among entrepreneurial startups to offer “disruptive technology.”
Everyone, it seems, wants to disrupt everything.
But it’s one thing to be a disruptor when there are no consequences to the disruption. As anyone in the supply chain/logistics field can tell you, literal disruption is the last thing anyone needs. Indeed, there’s been more than enough supply chain disruption in the last few years, where “disruption” takes the form of 8.2 percent inflation.
What the industry is looking for from “disruption” is a way to calm the chaos.
In other words, companies need to have data flowing smoothly throughout all aspects of their operations to streamline effectiveness. They don’t need to spend extensive man-hours inputting the data into multiple entry points and then dealing with the inevitable inconsistencies and incompatibilities.
While that represents a simplification of the supply chain’s technical side, it’s still more technical, advanced and disruptive than the manual operations that continue to dominate the industry.
Because of outdated processes far too many people are having to think about every aspect of the shipment process, precisely because so much of it has been – here comes that word again – disrupted.
The disruptions are touching every point in the chain, and they’re leaving everyone from shippers and carriers to 3PLs, port operators and warehouse operators looking for solutions.
Established global companies are finding that the disparate and disconnected systems they could get away with in the old days cannot meet their needs in the tumultuous environment of today. Even a challenge as simple as data flow between a TMS and a WMS, if not upgraded, can now produce shipping and receiving nightmares that put a company at a severe competitive advantage given the current state of the industry.
Just about everyone is looking for something:
Freight operators are looking for better ways to send and receive bookings, ISF details and invoices.
Carriers are looking to improve efficiency by automating as much of the shipment cycle as possible.
Software providers are looking to connect to customers who have many different partners and operating systems.
Third-party logistics companies are trying to achieve greater visibility for customer data.
Trucking companies need to transition from legacy transportation systems so they can integrate with customers using newer systems.
Other companies need to find ways to connect legacy ERPs to more modern API systems, without ending up with such a confusing platform that they have no idea how to use it.
My colleague, Brian Glick has 20 years of experience in the industry, with heavy emphasis on fixing supply chain technology departments from the inside, giving him considerable insight to address issues like these.
“We kept seeing the same problem, that there is no standard for data sharing or integrations between partners and vendors,” he said. “So we built a universal standard adapter that plugs into any system, giving shippers, freight forwarders and software vendors an efficient way to connect to any partner or vendor’s software.”
It sounds like the sort of thing many startup founders would be quick to label “disruption.” These industry wide innovations are the antidote for the true disruptions that have already done far too much damage.
While disruption has come to have many different connotations, for engineers, innovators and forward-thinking supply chain problem solvers, it is the only way in which we can calm the chaos.
Conrad Claassen is a software engineer at Chain.io where he helps to construct the connective fibers that drive Chain.io’s industry-leading data visibility and translation platform. Focusing in process automation and operational visibility, he has experience streamlining user experiences and efficiencies across multiple industries including finance, entertainment and supply chain. Conrad is a Miami University (OH) alumni.
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