The pandemic has shown how supply chain disruptions can bring industries to their knees. And even today, the push to fully restore the chain is far from over. Waiting, Microsoft announced the Supply Chain Platform and the Supply Chain Center to at least make it a little easier to manage.
The Supply Chain Platform is designed as the foundation for supply chain data orchestration, while the Supply Chain Center provides a “command center” experience for users and is part of of the supply chain platform.
Both new solutions aim to provide buyers with an easier way to manage the progress of their order and notify them of any disruptions. Together, they consolidate supply chain data and connect it to produce insights and recommendations for action. This unification of data and management is the raison d’être of the entire platform.
Ray Smith, vice president of supply chain in Microsoft’s enterprise applications and platforms group, pointed out that viewing supply chains as mere start-and-end points just won’t work anymore. .
“I think over the last couple of years we’ve realized that the old way was indeed insufficient to handle all of this disruption,” Smith said. “It’s a little too linear: how we do our selection, how we do our manufacturing, how we do our fulfillment, and how we do our distribution, they’re all disconnected silos, and they usually each have their own systems. So , bringing those systems together is really at the heart of the supply chain hubs, like bringing the data across all of those existing investments, even the legacy investments, to help companies get that end-to-end visibility and collaborate in the process. “
When asked which industries the Supply Chain Center is most applicable, Smith said it was designed to be industry independent.
“I think the big ones [industries] that weigh heavily on the supply chain are likely manufacturing, retail and consumer goods,” Smith said. “So those are kind of the big three that most people think of when they think of supply chains. But it really is a horizontal use case across all industries.
The two parts of Microsoft’s new offering work in tandem. The first part is the supply chain platform which provides supply chain data connectors on Microsoft Azure, Dynamics 365 and Teams. The second is the Supply Chain Center which generates insights using existing supply chain data and applications. The Supply Chain Center is designed to work natively with existing supply chain systems and harmonizes data from various enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendors such as Dynamics 365, SAP, Oracle and others. Other Autonomous Supply Chain Systems.
In a hypothetical scenario, Microsoft showed how Supply Chain Center can help a store maintain inventory when a cyber attack on a trucking company impacted product deliveries. The dashboard described affected orders or vendors and sent recommendations to mitigate the issue, as well as how they might affect business results. And using vendor updates and other data points, the platform can predict potential out-of-stocks, overstocks, and other metrics, near real-time.
For future inventory planning, the Orders Dashboard provides historical order data so users can modify their supply chains to operate more efficiently.
Additionally, the platform integrates teams to allow suppliers and buyers to communicate directly. Microsoft notes that a direct line of communication reduces delays due to missed emails and voicemails.
Smith explained that over years of collecting and processing data from different systems, Microsoft has developed a unique connector framework for data mapping.
“Microsoft has been investing in this space for over a decade, with Power BI connecting to multiple data sources, with Power Automate already having over 800 connectors to many of these systems,” Smith said. “It’s part of the supply chain platform, and productizing that into the center of the supply chain really enables a connector framework or a connector system in those systems, and enables a capability of mapping that says, hey, field, A, B, and C matches D, E, and F here. And we’re even using AI to do automatic mapping between different systems. Every customer will say they have supply chains unique, so this simplification of the connector and the mapping is a huge differentiation.”
The Microsoft Supply Chain Center is now available in preview. Existing Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management customers will automatically have access to the Supply Chain Center.