Easing supply chain challenges means implementing better tech

Gary Cassell Br303 Headshot
Updated Aug 5, 2022

For well over a year the topic that’s been top of mind for companies across the globe is supply chain issues. There were positive outlooks heading into 2022, but the continued effects of the pandemic have forced disruptions across the manufacturing industry, as well as other sectors like the labor market, energy and transportation.

The solution: low-code platforms.

A 2021 survey found that 90% of companies continue to deal with “extraordinary cost increases because of supply constraints,” with more than 60% predicting these issues will persist through 2022. With challenges showing no signs of easing up, it will be more important than ever before to orchestrate people, systems and data into consolidated workflows to help ease supply chain woes.

The trouble in getting products from manufacturers to consumers is estimated to have caused revenue losses upwards of 20% for retailers alone. Businesses across the board are looking for software that provides visibility into every step. Low code alleviates inefficient processes, reinforces enterprise-scale applications and automates important tasks to help businesses better adapt to ongoing issues while building a more resilient supply chain.

The path to a connected supply chain

Only 29% of tech workers have a “high intent” to remain in their current roles this year, while e-commerce sales will make up an estimated $1.06 trillion in 2022. There is a clear imbalance between the need for digitization and the people to power it. With 62% of organizations citing supply chains as the top priority for digital investments going forward, the digital component of supply chain management is more important than ever. Yet the lack of a skilled developer workforce and increased software demands has moved low-code development into the spotlight.

Ideal end-to-end supply chain visibility was incredibly complex before these bigger issues arose. To move toward a connected supply chain, organizations will have to leverage technologies that digitize and automate end-to-end supply chain processes, align internal systems and connect customers and partners. These solutions would be enterprise-level, scalable and accelerate manufacturers' digitization journeys. Here are some reasons why businesses should use low-code to combat ongoing issues.

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1. Real-time end-to-end visibility

Even the most adaptive brands are falling victim to the fragmented supply chain. The reality of the situation is that obstacles will always be present. The ability to prevent future snags, or reduce their impact across the spectrum, is the best and most immediate first step that low-code can impact.

There are extenuating circumstances in the baby formula shortage currently in the news. But, from a supply chain perspective, for example, a low-code solution could have provided a manufacturing executive with a dynamic dashboard to keep a pulse on operations across the enterprise to ensure processes in place showed the potential for a shortage on the horizon.

What tends to happen without low-code capabilities in place is businesses don't know they have the problem until it’s too late. The manufacturer should know that if a primary production facility is in danger of shutting down, then there will be a severe deficit supply as it relates to consumer demand — and they should know that before it happens, not weeks after.

It's an ongoing technological issue within the supply chain that results in severe shortage issues. If businesses tie everything together in a functionally connected supply chain, they will know these issues will happen far enough in advance, or at least have the opportunity to proactively mitigate them.

A low-code platforms process mining capabilities, which are modules that can be plugged into current systems to map out real-world scenarios to pinpoint inefficiencies and help bring together siloed systems. This enables accurate information to securely flow end-to-end across the supply chain when it is needed, both internally and externally, providing engineering and manufacturing leaders with an integrated and collaborative change management solution.

The goal is to reach nearly 100% visibility in real-time to create an internal and partner operating model ecosystem. This extends current source systems and enables collaboration and secure information flow between all involved parties in the supply chain so problems like the baby formula shortage won’t occur.

That type of data flow includes a manufacturer’s suppliers, distributors, dealers, logistics partners and customers so bottlenecks or new areas of improvement can be pinpointed within processes as they happen. Better collaboration also gives employees better adaptability when problems arise and pivots are needed.

2. Orchestrated planning and execution

Visibility is important, but so is orchestrating and enabling execution to ultimately get products to stores and customers faster. This involves connecting and unifying existing apps and improving their user experience (UX) for full automation.

Low-code capabilities essentially act as a digital orchestration layer that sits on top of outdated UX designs of older apps without the cost, complexity, delay and pain of traditional system consolidation. Low-code further automates technologies by leveraging the cloud, robotic process automation, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

For example, automated processes on the manufacturing floor would allow plant managers, operations managers, supervisors and associates to focus on key critical work while pulling together divergent processes across shipment lifecycles, including cost estimation, billing and payment, scheduling and invoice generation. This way, businesses can enable connectivity and transparency to make supply chains more alert, and drive smarter and more agile ways of working across the entire trading partner community.

3. Ongoing optimization and innovation

It’s important to use a low-code platform with a backbone for workflow and process optimization. Having access to the right data across the supply chain enables organizations to discover and continuously optimize supply chain processes, resulting in improved efficiency and cost.

The ability to sift through data from multiple systems centralizes information to cut down delays and reconcile redundant data sources. Implementing a workflow solution triggered by IoT sensor information can improve overall equipment effectiveness. Connecting sources efficiently also ensures changing compliance requirements across a network of disparate vendors doesn’t trigger lengthy and costly fees.

It also encourages innovative alternatives as technologies like the metaverse will change how low-code deals with supply chain issues. So-called digital twins can simulate products and processes to optimize asset allocation in more immersive hypothetical scenarios. Algorithms and scenario planning have existed before. Businesses just need to be able to leverage them to put themselves in a position to be more proactive and develop better mitigation strategies. For example, low-code can help produce digital twins of products in the metaverse to create a hypothetical picture of what will happen if a business makes a certain change.

The journey to a connected supply chain via low-code should not be thought of as a traditional one-step approach to achieving complete connectivity. However, enabling low-code tools with an agile approach will help ease the financial and technological supply chain shortfalls still plaguing a range of industries. With more than 65% of application development activity projected to be created using low-code platforms by 2024, now is the time for businesses to take advantage of their benefits to gain more control over the supply chain.