Digital supply chain management

Future of the supply chain: from relationships to ecosystems

Trade connects everything in the world.  The cattle grazing on the Argentinean Pampas leads to filet mignon on dinner tables in Europe. Shade grown coffee from Kenyan farms gets office workers in New York City through the day. Supply chains are ecosystems in delicate balance, they have a particular rhythm of life that they follow: a heartbeat, a pulse.

And whether we know it or not, we’re all active participants in supply chains. Each of us has our own specific roles and tasks contributing to the value incrementation and consumption of the products.

Beyond buyer-supplier relationships

Supply chains are more than just buyer and supplier relationships, they are ecosystems of trade. Yet often, companies view buyer-supplier relationships as processes that flow in only one direction. But this isn’t true, integrated services providers in transport and logistics, finance, insurance, inspection and authorities are essential participants in the whole ecosystem. All play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity of the supply chain.

By digitally connecting all these players, you can improve the health of the whole ecosystem. But to create a true, connected ecosystem, we need digitization of long chains and multi-tier networks. This will facilitate inland and cross-border transactions, support companies’ direct and indirect sourcing, and involve service providers at multiple levels. A true digitally connected supply chain will contain a mix of data like physical supply chain event data, and the business-related documentation exchanged between parties.

Digital ecosystem engagement can replace supplier management

There are multiple players that drive a company’s supply chain. These functions often have their own IT systems and physical service providers to help them deliver their services as expected. The downside of this, however, is that data gets trapped in departmental silos. The classical monolithic ERPs don’t provide the collaborative facilities that can tie the functions together and maintain a complete, aggregated overview of the supply chain. In addition, there are only a few specialized digital bridges outside the enterprise to connect the supply chain ecosystem participants. As a result, supply chain professionals often view themselves in silos rather than as a part of a larger organization.

The first step a company can take to change this is to transform the way supply chain professionals view their functions. They need to see everything they do as part of a cross-functional, interdependent ecosystem.

How to engage your ecosystem

Next, supply chain pros need to invest in digitization and platform connectivity in three main areas:

  • Ecosystem workflow automation: saves overhead costs, reduces human errors and increases agility
  • Ecosystem resilience: predicts and prevents disruptions
  • Ecosystem sustainability: protects brand and reputation

For any supply chain, the benefit of “opening shop” on a digital platform solution is scaling and differentiation. By gaining access into platform data they can add value to their current offerings.

The great benefit for the overall enterprise will be achieved by engaging not only in one type of ecosystem but in trying to create collaboration across the ecosystems. The effectiveness that comes from network collaboration can be scaled and repeated to other customers.

Introducing Tradeshift Pulse

In order to tap the potential of ecosystem collaboration, we created Tradeshift Pulse. Tradeshift Pulse lets enterprises collect relational and physical event data alongside their financial event data already being collected on the Tradeshift platform. By connecting these two types of data, Tradeshift Pulse is poised to establish a new standard for services within the supply chain domain.

Tradeshift is naturally well-positioned for three main reasons:

  1. We can connect any company in the world on an industry-neutral platform
  2. We embrace all roles in the trade ecosystem on equal footing
  3. We can leverage the push and volume of large brand owners to drive players with the automation, resilience, and sustainability space on the platform

Pulse can help enterprises and service providers build customizable, full-service supply chain apps to deliver sustainability, resilience and automation in ecosystems.

About the Author

Tradeshift Frontiers creates real-world business value from new technologies that will significantly impact B2B commerce and global supply chains in the next five years.

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