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When supply and demand don’t align, manufacturers can be left with too much product or not enough raw materials to meet demand. A McKinsey report found that 73% of respondents had issues with their supplier base, and 75% had problems with production and distribution due to the pandemic. 

It’s critical that manufacturers build a resilient supply chain because the costs of not managing your supply chain effectively from start to end are steep. You risk delayed deliveries and reduced customer satisfaction. It also opens you up to safety or compliance risks due to lack of total visibility. 

The future of supply chains lies in digitalization and advancements in technology, including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, blockchain and digital twins. According to Gartner, “25% of supply chain decisions will be made across intelligent-edge ecosystems through 2025.” These intelligent solutions provide greater insight into manufacturer’s supply chains and easier collaboration across internal teams and channel partners. They also provide real-time data to make quick, informed business decisions in response to fluctuating demand. 

Supply Chain Pain Points 

Having a resilient end-to-end supply chain can be difficult to achieve without the proper technology. Oftentimes, the causes of a weak supply chain are issues with visibility, operations, communication and forecasting. 

Lack of visibility 

Don’t accept limited visibility into your supply chain.  

Here are some examples of Microsoft tools that are helping manufacturers see more clearly: 

Using Microsoft’s Supply Chain Insights, an out-of-the-box solution currently in preview that’s part of Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing, organizations can review their first, second and third tiers of suppliers. Supply Chain Insights is equipped with risk-scoring technology. Rank your suppliers on previous history, such as their promptness with deliveries. Assign a risk score to your facilities as well, depending on their location, so that you can quickly see any potential issues based on weather data, environmental disasters and real-time news updates from Bing and other third parties. Armed with these insights, you can pivot to other suppliers or channel partners in the face of potential disruption. 

Microsoft Power BI is a tool designed for processing data, performing analytics and visually displaying insights for faster and easier decision-making. The user dashboards within Power BI make it easy to manipulate and display data to suit every need. You can easily share your reports and visuals with others. With data from every angle and aspect of your business, you can respond to changes in market within minutes rather than days.  

Poor communication 

The pandemic taught companies the importance of clear lines of communication and collaboration. The only way to make fast business decisions is for everyone to have access to one source of truth – quickly.  

Here are some examples of Microsoft tools that are helping manufacturers tackle this challenge: 

With Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, companies can collaborate via customer and vendor portals. Supply Chain Insights steps it up a notch by allowing you to invite channel partners to contribute their real-time data and reporting. Collaborate with your suppliers, vendors, customers or even your suppliers’ suppliers. Determine what you want to share with one another and how often that information should be updated.  

You can integrate your existing ERP systems with Supply Chain Insights, as well. Having a master list of your company’s data means that traceability of products becomes more transparent and easier to manage. Having all levels of your supply chain working together with real-time data leads to more informed business decisions and greater end-to-end visibility. 

Internal communication is also bolstered through Microsoft Teams, which enables both remote and in-office workers to collaborate seamlessly through the cloud.  

Operational disruptions 

Operational disruptions can come in many forms, such as out-of-order equipment, sick employees, an unorganized warehouse or a supplier going out of business. By digitalizing and automating aspects of your supply chain and processes, operational efficiency increases.  

Here are a few tools from Microsoft that can help you plan for the unexpected: 

Digital Twins uses advanced analytics, powered by machine learning, to predict and evaluate potential disruptions along your supply chain. Create a digital twin of your supply chain to run through “what ifs” such as a natural disaster, supplier factory shutdown or even a labor shortage. The technology will also provide suggestions on how to adjust your operations to mitigate risk.  

Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management has tools for scenario planning, such as production scheduling, 360-degree views of your supply chain, warehouse visibility and transportation management.  

Train and enable frontline workers with Dynamics 365 365 Guides. Provide interactive instructions and guided workflows through mixed reality formats that frontline workers can use on the factory floor – keeping them safe and your business going by reducing your equipment downtime. 

Using advanced analytics and machine learning with the help of IoT sensors, manufacturers can anticipate equipment outages with alerts triggered by data perform preventative maintenance before a small problem becomes a big repair. This predictive and preventive maintenance functionality within Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management’s Asset Management mitigates disruptions and increases production uptime, while improving the efficiency and longevity of your machines.  

Insufficient forecasting 

Even in good times, manufacturers face many challenges with forecasting, especially if their data and systems are siloed and access to channel partners limited. In the uncertain times we’ve seen in 2020 and 2021, visibility into what’s coming has been, at best, blurry. 

Here are some tools from Microsoft to provide more reliable and actionable demand data: 

With AI-enriched demand forecasts – fueled by supply chain, sales and marketing pipeline data in Supply Chain Insights – you can gain a more robust view of demand that’s based reliable historical data. This intelligent view of the future minimizes the accumulation of unwanted inventory and avoids supply disruptions.  

Through the Planning Optimization Add-in for Supply Chain Management, customers can adjust their demand levels and allow you to effortlessly juggle customer demand, material availability and capacity constraints.  

Unhappy customers 

On time and in full is an expectation that customers depend on – and one that many companies have not been able to deliver over the past couple of years. Manufacturers also can’t deliver subpar products to customers. Manufacturers need to be agile, responding not only to shifts in supply but also to changing customer demands.  

Here are some tools to keep customer satisfaction high: 

Dynamic 365 Sales and Supply Chain Insights can accelerate sales and revenue by providing sharper customer insights and empowering more effective communication between buyers and sellers. Dynamics 365 AI—Business Intelligence Insights platform provides sales reps and other customer-facing employees with the ability to solve problems and make the right decisions to meet customer needs. 

The new Inventory Visibility add-in for Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management enables manufacturers to handle a large volume of transactions while seeing cross-channel inventory accurately in real time. 

Advanced Warehouse and Transportation modules allow for handling and shipping your products with the greatest efficiency while providing total visibility to where shipments are at each step of the delivery process. 

Reach out to Columbus today to learn more about how Microsoft tools provide the technology, data and visibility manufacturers need to maximize operational efficiency, product quality and profitability – strengthening every link in their supply chain.  


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