Supply Chain Commentary: Sense, Shape, and Orchestrate Demand

Here’s a quick three-question test for supply chain professionals:

  1. Could you pinpoint the location and contents of a single shipment from San Francisco to Tokyo within a few minutes?
  2. How quickly would you know if a truck from Los Angeles to Denver had been compromised in a blizzard?
  3. If a customer in New Jersey is waiting for a package from China that will be delayed by a truck driver union dispute in the Midwest, how quickly would you be able to update that customer with a new arrival time?

To stay competitive, companies need to know—and be able to quickly act on—the answers to these and many other constantly changing logistics questions. But that quick decision-making is a struggle unless you have real-time visibility into the entire supply chain.

Achieving end-to-end real-time visibility across the supply chain can’t be an aspirational goal any more, it’s becoming a requirement to stay competitive and deliver the level of service customers want today.

That’s easier said than done, but companies can build these capabilities with an advanced, cloud-based supply chain software platform that scales to evolving needs.

Such a platform enables organizations to prioritize high-impact functions and build an agile approach.

See-Through Complexity

Like many in the supply chain ecosystem, logistics professionals deal with mind-numbing levels of complexity on a daily basis. They’re bogged down by unwieldy spreadsheets and legacy software systems in their own organizations, and also by process complexities imposed by external suppliers and partners.

In a perfect world, supply chain leaders would be able to accurately forecast all logistics demands, adjust those forecasts in real time, and make well-informed, cost-optimized decisions based on customized dashboards of trusted data. Most logistics professionals today don’t even have time to dream about having such capabilities, but with the advent of modern supply chain software platforms, the impossible is not only possible—it’s a must-have.

As supply chain professionals move to cloud-based technologies that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility, they can reduce or eliminate data silos, perform complex calculations in real time, leverage in-memory processing capabilities, and respond to changing conditions as they occur.

Visibility brings more competitive capabilities

Often, the goal of implementing cloud-based technologies is achieving end-to-end visibility that enables a business to be more competitive, work smarter and leaner, and provide a better customer experience. To this end, achieving real-time visibility in the supply chain can create opportunities for innovation. Some of these opportunities include the ability to sense, shape, and orchestrate demand.

  1. Sense demand. Real-time visibility into the supply chain enables business leaders to keep a finger on the pulse of ever-shifting demand by capturing market and customer data in near real time. Variations and pattern may emerge in the ebb and flow, allowing the supply chain organization to sense consumer demand more accurately.
  2. Shape demand. New technologies can run “what-if” scenarios based on emerging patterns, and can optimize supply chain processes for specific variables such as cost, customer demand, and delivery date. End-to-end supply chain visibility allows business leaders to factor in data from finance, marketing, and sales, as well as data from trading partners (customers and suppliers) and other groups. This enables the ability to make rapid, collaborative decisions to further shape demand.
  3. Orchestrate demand. When leveraging end-to-end supply chain visibility to sense and shape demand, supply chain leaders can make better-informed, more collaborative decisions with newfound transparency, then monitor the results and repeat the process to fully orchestrate demand.

The advantages of achieving end-to-end supply chain visibility are clear: better decision-making, more efficiency, and greater profits. To remain competitive, companies should reassess their supply chain needs and implement a technology that enables them to sense, shape, and orchestrate demand.

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