7 minute read

A few years ago I moved to Arizona from Colorado and traded my lawn mower and snow shovels for a salt-water pool. I am thoroughly enjoying that favorable trade. I've never owned a pool before, so it took some time to understand how to sense, analyze, and respond to changing water chemistry to ensure the optimal pool experience. I know: I sound like a supply chain practitioner, but I just can’t help myself!

Automating the Perfect Balance

My pool came with an automation system that allows me to sense and control certain parameters such as temperature, pump speed, operating times, and pool features (lights, waterfalls, etc.). The pool control system also provides analytics to view performance and parameters over time. I can even set up limits on key parameters, which enables my pool to send system alerts when these parameters fall outside of those limits.

I can also communicate with my pool through my computer or mobile phone from any place where I have an internet connection. However, my system did not have the equipment to automatically adjust Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP), which is a measure of the water’s chlorine level, or pH level. My pool automation platform had the foundation for automatically responding to changes in ORP and pH, but lacked the sensors and acid tank.

So, being an engineer, I decided to invest in the sensors and the muriatic acid tank and injector to take full advantage of the pool platform’s capabilities. This additional equipment provides the ability to automatically sense, analyze and respond to keep my pool’s water chemistry at near ideal levels.

Pool Automation System screen

My experience with my pool led me to think about multi-enterprise process automation across a supply ecosystem and how automation is a journey not a destination. Numerous case studies exist that show how automation of supply chain processes can be beneficial. However, you need a platform that has the capabilities to support supply ecosystem automation. The rest of this article will discuss the foundational capabilities your supply ecosystem platform should have to enable automation.

The Path to Dynamic Supply Ecosystem Collaboration

To automate you must first digitize partner operations as much as possible across the supplier ecosystem. Automation of dysfunctional and disconnected multi-enterprise supply chain processes based on spreadsheets and a hodgepodge of systems will only lead to making suboptimal decisions, rework, and frustration. Multi-enterprise supply ecosystem process automation needs the ability to capture near real-time operational data across the extended supply ecosystem.

Once rich operational data (including order status, in-bound and on-hand material availability, production status and production capacity availability) is captured in real-time, that information needs to be shared with trading partners. Unfortunately most supply ecosystems are made up of hundreds of raw material, packaging, and contract manufacturing and co packing partners all running different operational systems with different data standards. This heterogeneous network of systems and standards make collaboration a nightmare when each partner directly connects to every other partner.

A Multi-Enterprise Supply Chain Business Network (MESCBN) Platform enables many-to-many network connections, meaning a member of the platform only needs to connect once to the platform to be able to collaborate with all of their partners on the platform. A MESCBN Platform, like the one offered by Nulogy, extracts, transforms, and loads a synchronized and aligned stream of supply ecosystem data so that all partners have the data they need to dynamically collaborate.

An important foundational component to automation is exception-based process management. Just like my pool automation, supply chain automation is built on the ability to sense changes, set limits, and automatically take action or communicate an alert when a tolerance is exceeded. The supply ecosystem platform has to be able to identify what can be handled automatically and what needs manual intervention. It should leverage machine learning and data science to drive intelligent decision making and continuous improvement.

Your supply ecosystem collaboration platform should support collaborative numeric and visual analytics so that partners are basing decisions off of the same data. Automation builds on analytics and the ability to generate and optimally solve structured problems based on user-defined parameters. The collaboration platform also needs to support dynamic collaboration. Dynamic collaboration means capable of action and/or change, while static collaboration means fixed. Static collaboration is not capable of supporting complex or highly variable processes and can only handle standard transactions. Dynamic collaboration can handle more complex and variable processes and the management of both standard and non-standard interactions.

A Journey, Not a Destination

The path to automating complex supply chain processes is a journey not a destination. As with all journeys, to be successful along the way requires preparation and the right enabling solutions. A multi-enterprise platform purpose-built to enable dynamic supply ecosystem collaboration can lead to faster and better decisions, lower costs, and more time available for higher value activities, like enjoying your salt-water pool. Which reminds me, it’s time to swim some laps.

Additional Reading:

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Written By
hank-canitz
PUBLISHED
Apr 06, 2022

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