The Future of Supply Chain Management Software

Updated: Dec 22, 2019


Last week, Supply Chain Quarterly published my latest paper, titled "10 technologies that will reshape SCM software." My goal with this article is to further a discussion around what we (the community of supply chain practitioners, software providers, end users and others) need to do to move faster to solve some of the important and persistent problems in supply chains.

While these articles are typically limited to a certain number of words, I attempt to put forth some of the core principles for building future SCM software, irrespective of domain (e.g. manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, retail). I believe this could be a blueprint (albeit a high-level one) for companies to use to drive their product strategies.

Some will ask why I didn't talk more in the article about blockchain, or machine learning, or 3D printing, or robotics, or a half a dozen other rapidly advancing technologies. The short answer is that they are all part of the solution for the future. To say that any one of them is a panacea would be wrongheaded. My goal was more focused on discussing what are the real big blockbuster problems that persist and why our twenty-year old architectural approaches inhibit our ability, indeed increase our inability, to solve them. This argument sets the stage for what a new architecture might look like.

One of the main talking points in the article is the challenge that organizations have in consistently delivering precise function-and-time synchronization. Precision in this area is the holy grail of supply chain management, and one of the goals set forth by supply chain software pioneers in the 1990s. This goal remains elusive and is one of the most significant areas of value leakage.

Another theme is that the improvement pace in enterprise software tends to be significantly less that that in consumer technologies, or in individual technologies. While the improvement curve of things like IOT, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and in-memory computing seems to be approaching a vertical asymptote, the improvement curve for enterprise software seems to motor along at a measured, linear pace. One of the goals of the paper is to discuss architectural elements, that when brought together, might be able to close this growing gap.

Some will also question whether there should be more focus on network and "authority domain" aspects of supply chains and the software that helps manage them. This is fair criticism; however, the main focus of the paper is to explore the common thread that characterizes all SCM problems, irrespective of domain. I assert that this common "DNA" is grounded in control engineering concepts and that by understanding these first principles perhaps more common solution foundations can be achieved in the future.

Peruse the paper and let me know what you think. We will be building out these ideas and posting them on worldlocity.com throughout 2018.

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