How to transform your supply chain (without waiting for your ERP to recover)

Wholesale distribution and manufacturing (WD&M) has entered a new era where agility, speed and accuracy are no longer nice-to-haves, but rather uncompromising must-haves for meeting the new omni-channel B2B customer expectation.

Once the fast, convenient omni-channel ordering experience spearheaded by retail during the COVID-19 pandemic became the new standard, and B2B customers began to expect the same experience in their business purchasing processes, WD&M operations found themselves struggling to re-engineer their existing enterprise resource planning (ERPs) to keep up.

But the truth is, using a traditional, monolithic ERP to manage inventory and order management for omni-channel and e-commerce is more difficult than your ERP salesperson may have led you to believe. In most cases, if an ERP has these functionalities (or something that looks vaguely like these functionalities), it’s due to retroactive bolt-on capabilities that barely manage what they promise to do.

Nothing ever works quite like it should.

The result? Downtime while your ERP recovers, lost sales, an inability to fulfill commitments, and a radical drop in customer satisfaction.

That said, throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t ideal either. There’s no reason to radically overhaul your existing systems and processes with a brand new ERP. What you need are composable, augmentative, SaaS-native order management (OMS) tools that fully integrate with your existing systems, yet deliver much deeper, more flexible inventory processing and order management capabilities with minimal disruption during implementation.

You need Blue Yonder’s microservices. Here’s why.

Understanding the Limitations of ERP Systems

Traditional ERP systems are supposed to deliver seamless workflows and data management, optimized processes and real-time reporting and analysis. And, in some ways, they do — but for your business and your business only.

For WD&M operations looking to unlock the extensive benefits of true interoperability, traditional ERPs are a major roadblock.

Legacy ERPs lack real-time end-to-end visibility. Data sharing between teams and stakeholders in the supply chain is difficult, if not impossible. ERPs form data silos that make catching and adjusting to delays and errors up the chain impossible.

Many ERP processes are still heavily manual and spreadsheet-based, tying up labor resources and introducing the increased potential for costly human error.

Due to their monolithic architecture, ERPs are expensive to implement and even more costly to upgrade. Configuring them to accommodate changes in business rules, operating requirements, or new processes takes time, expertise and, you guessed it, money. Customizing them to meet your unique business needs is near-impossible. Businesses crystallize around out-the-box ERPs, not the other way around. They’re difficult and expensive to scale, introducing a lag factor to growth plans.

Training new staff members on how to navigate ERPs can take months, meaning businesses rely heavily on tenured staff to keep things running smoothly.

And if the ERP goes down, operations grind to a halt. Getting them back up, running, and properly calibrated is a time-intensive process. And while you wait for your ERP to get out of the ER, there’s a knock-on effect up and down the supply chain — which is particularly problematic if the ERP has been implemented to automate processes within that supply chain.

In the context of the modern B2B supply chain, traditional monolithic ERPs are a weak link — especially when they are used in isolation for supply chain management. However, when augmented with auxiliary services, they can form a stronger link in the larger supply chain.

What Happens When an ERP Fails

There are many famous cases of ERP implementation failures that have cost some of the world’s biggest companies hundreds of millions of dollars. You can read some examples in this CIO magazine article.

The Power of Microservices Architecture

The modern supply chain requires far more flexibility, scalability and agility than traditional monolithic ERPs can deliver. In response, Blue Yonder has developed a suite of inventory processing and order management microservices that allow wholesale distributors and manufacturers to respond far faster to changing business needs.

Microservices are modular software components that can be composed in multiple configurations to deploy purpose-built solutions for wholesale distribution and manufacturing operations. Instead of purchasing a full-scale enterprise-level solution, microservices enable WD&M operations to license specialized service offerings to address specific challenges or business needs. They can be used to optimize existing tech stacks and plug gaps in digital architecture by adding just the microservices you need, or configure lean, needs-based solutions tailored to your individual operation.

Microservices allow you to enhance and optimize specific areas of the supply chain without relying solely on ERP systems. Particularly for inventory and order management, WD&M operations can use microservices to respond quickly and effectively to emerging challenges with purpose-built solutions that work – and work well.

The result? Supercharged performance and productivity, boosted operating profits, reduced costs across the supply chain, and an increased ability to adapt swiftly to changing market conditions and customer demands.

Key Areas To Impact: Supply Chain Transformation Using Microservices

Microservices can be deployed to capture major value and efficiency in a number of key supply chain areas:

Order orchestration: The ability to fully integrate microservices into existing commerce platforms means WD&M operations can implement automated workflows for enhanced order accuracy and increased fulfillment speed.

Inventory management: With full end-to-end, real-time inventory visibility, optimized inventory levels, auto-stock replenishment, and better demand forecasting and planning, microservices reduce downstream delays and costs across the supply chain.

Logistics management and transportation: Microservices give WD&M operations the ability to optimize route planning, enhance shipment tracking, and reduce transportation and processing costs. With the interoperability these tools deliver, closer collaboration with carriers and logistics partners is possible, leading to a more seamless end-to-end service and improved customer satisfaction.

Transform Your Supply Chain One Small Step at a Time with Blue Yonder’s Order Management Microservices

In the new omni-channel world, wholesale distributors and manufacturers cannot afford to wait to implement solutions that will help them respond quickly, effectively, and decisively to ever-changing market demands.

With Blue Yonder’s suite of order management microservices, you can implement transformative solutions to address your most urgent needs, one by one, to augment your existing tech stack.

From allocation to fulfillment forecasting, demand planning, and beyond, Blue Yonder’s order management delivers:

Real-time inventory visibility giving accurate inventory availability across the network now, and in the future.  SaaS-native microservices you can pick, mix, and plug right into your existing architecture for faster time-to-value and remote staff training and onboarding.
Extensible architecture with customizable dashboards and mobile workflows to flex micro-fulfillment capabilities as operational scenarios evolve.Resiliency to respond and react to disruptions that impact order fulfillment ensuring your priority orders are fulfilled according to SLAs.

Speak to a Blue Yonder expert today to find out how microservices can transform your supply chain.