In an exclusive interview, Monica Truelsch, Senior Director, Solution Strategy, Infor shared with IAA magazine on improving transparency, collaboration, and visibility between stakeholders and the importance of innovation.
- Numerous unplanned events are causing supply chain disruptions, how can we achieve end to end visibility and control?
Today, a digital network that leverages real-time information is vital to see, control, and proactively manage inventory and shipments from the production source to their destination. However, a lot can happen along that journey especially when so much of an organization’s supply chain data resides with other companies and partners. Therefore, improving transparency, collaboration, and visibility between stakeholders will remain paramount to access real-time data on all processes that occur before and during transit — from planning, sourcing, production, handling, transport, and last-mile delivery.
Specifically, we are seeing a critical need for end-to-end connectivity across the supply chain, enabling all parties involved to share information in a timely and cost-effective way. When we talk about supply chain ‘visibility’, what we really mean is that companies want more information from trading partners and service providers about the current and future state of their orders.
Has the supplier acknowledged the purchase order sent to them, and the expected delivery time frame to fill that order? Has manufacturing begun on the products ordered? Has the production run passed quality audit review and is it ready for shipping? Has the shipment left the supplier facility and has the carrier provided an expected time of arrival for the shipment at its next destination? Has the carrier advised of any unexpected delays in moving the shipment? If the shipment will be transloaded for the next leg of a journey to the buyer, how can we tell if it has been successful, or if it is sitting on a dock somewhere?
Leveraging a networked cloud solution enables all parties in the supply chain journey to update information on order progress. What is equally crucial is replacing manual order tracking with more automated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, accessible to all parties — these are the fundamental requirements to gain greater end-to-end visibility and control over one’s supply chain operations. At the end of the day, these solutions should add more simplicity, not complexity, to existing supply chain processes.
- Infor’s solutions are cloud centric, how much does SaaS figure in Infor’s solutions?
As an industry cloud company, we believe that modern businesses are increasingly finding greater value in cloud-based ERP and supply chain solutions. This was especially true in the face of the global pandemic, where SaaS solutions proved particularly valuable in providing businesses with the network connectivity and flexibility needed to scale their operations. This was crucial in enabling companies to maintain agility and resilience during great economic uncertainty and volatility.
This tremendous demand for SaaS was also reflected in our business growth, which tracked 20.2% in YoY SaaS revenue growth in FY21. In the past year, we have also crossed US$1 billion in run-rate SaaS revenue growth, achieving 18% YoY growth in Asia Pacific alone.
- How much cost savings do customers stand to gain by adopting cloud-based “as a service” model?
Customers stand to gain a great deal in cost savings by adopting SaaS models. For starters, legacy and on-premise infrastructure incur huge operational costs from the hardware and maintenance required. Given that businesses are responsible for managing their own security infrastructure and resources, this often incurs additional security costs as well.
Where SaaS systems truly deliver the most value, however, is in opportunity cost — and this is where it goes beyond a mere comparison of operational expense. Business is moving at a more rapid pace than ever before, and organizations can no longer risk being caught in rigid and siloed legacy cycles which hinder agility. SaaS enables enterprises to keep software functionality up-to-date and scalable with the evolving needs of their business, without the painful disruption of operational updates. Furthermore, the speed at which new software options or user counts can be scaled in response to changing economic conditions means that companies can more easily and quickly capitalize on new business and market opportunities, dispense critical capital during challenging times and realize faster time-to-value from their technology investments.
At the core of it, cloud-based SaaS systems help companies pivot quickly, grow more profitably, and adapt to changing economic environments more successfully — all of which impact the business bottom line.
- What are the technologies being used to transform the warehouse to ensure operational efficiency?
Some of the core trends and technologies in warehouse transformation today include support for more robotic automation and digitally supported fulfilment operations. In many regions, there are growing shortages in available labor, or warehouse utilization and the number of stock keeping units (SKUs) being managed. This is where visually rich warehouse management software (WMS) solutions, like Infor’s, can support faster optimization of available space, while integrated labor management features optimize another critical resource. Support for diverse automation technologies, from picking and packing to labeling, scanning and a range of robotics, are also helping modern warehouses operate more cost-effectively with labor and resource limitations, and maximize productivity per volumetric footprint.
- And Infor has integrated MES and ERP systems to provide an “out of the box” solution for its customers?
Every manufacturing operation has its unique business needs, but Infor’s vertical-specific approach to ERP means that the businesses we serve can enjoy faster time-to-value from integrated systems, such as MES.
The addition of Lighthouse Systems’ MES software to the Infor portfolio in 2021 gives us a unique opportunity to expand integrated Internet of Things (IoT) value. This means that we can better help companies manage their networks of people, technology, activities, information, and resources more effectively and economically. By collecting machine data from the shop floor and integrating it with top floor ERP order data, Infor can deliver the manufacturing insights to meet complex demands.
Beyond that, we pride ourselves on our 60:30:10 approach to ERP implementation. By investing in industry-specific innovation, we provide up to 60% of the software capabilities a customer needs out-of-the-box, tailored to specific sector needs. The remaining 30% then comprises minor configurations, while the final 10% are specific tweaks for each enterprise’s unique business needs and competitive differentiators. This approach allows us to slash the amount of time typically spent on customization and configuration, accelerate the implementation process, bring agility and innovation to customers that much faster.
- When talking about data consistency and real time visibility, how can this be achieved, and are there any shortcomings?
Over the past few years, we have seen an enormous growth in ‘real-time visibility’ solutions across the supply chain, but there remain constraints and limitations that hinder their effectiveness. Historically, most of the leading real-time visibility vendors today originate in the trucking carrier space, and the addition of other modes such as rail and ocean container vessels is rather recent. These solutions often start with distinctly regional focuses for monitoring shipments in transit, either in North America, or in specific countries within Europe or Asia. As a result, true cross-border and multi-leg, multi-modal tracking capability has been challenging to achieve.
This is further compounded by regional market differences in carrier size and the development of sophisticated, new technologies — not to mention language issues, governmental oversight, regulatory environments, and freight ecosystems, which limit the ability to provide end-to-end transit coverage for international shipments. With this in mind, we have geared our Infor Nexus platform to actively pursue cross-border and cross-ocean supply chain visibility for over two decades, bringing real-time data visibility and insights to our end-to-end digital twins of complex global supply chains.
Our approach to visibility is centered on order and business context, and we have built proprietary data harmonization and standardization capability into our network applications for years. This is specifically targeted at overcoming many of the data quality and consistency challenges that pure carrier tracking technologies are dealing with as they expand beyond their original solution coverage. Global supply chain visibility must address global supplier connectivity, as well as 3PL and forwarder integration, varied booking, tendering, and tracking technologies for discrete shipping modes, the parallel processes of customs clearance in international shipping, and all the attendant cost inputs and service levels that factor in to supply chain performance and overall cost of goods sold.
Ultimately, the business expectations for real-time visibility must still be tempered by the realities of regional differences in technical and commercial maturity, to support real-time tracking. A more holistic approach to supply chain visibility can combine the best of real-time and event-based visibility, with the essential order and business context to help drive higher supply chain performance, greater supply chain control and tighter spend management in global freight budgets.
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