Complete digitization of any supply chain would be a great achievement. Supply chains are hugely complex and there are many activities in the chain that still operate in silos. Digitization refers to the application of technology tools that can deliver an integrated solution across some or all the processes, in both traditional and service-related supply chains. However, digitization is only an enabler: it needs to be used on top of efficient processes that link those discrete activities.   

The service supply chain 

The service supply chain specifically involves the supply of parts, materials, personnel and services needed to deliver an effective service related to products. Here the focus is on the chain of services and the people who provide those services rather than finished goods in a conventional supply chain. It involves the processes required to manage servicing, repairs and maintenance, replacement, or recycling. Many activities such as transportation may be outsourced making it more difficult to understand the entire end-to-end supply chain.  

Any digitization initiative aims to deliver visibility into the processes for everyone: the suppliers of raw materials, components, and parts, the transporters of goods, and the customers. The service supply chain is no longer about reactive service event management. It is required to deliver cost savings, drive revenue growth, and provide a superior customer experience through speed and agility.   

Old “redundant” technology 

For too long, outmoded technology or insufficient tools have caused organizations to be unable to benefit from harmonizing operations. Enterprise-wide systems are not designed to satisfy the needs of the service supply chain. Manual processes to handle the complicated reverse flow of inventory are unsustainable. Companies are realizing that they must prioritize digitization tools due to the sheer volume of data involved. 

The trend is towards applying software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that, based on reliable data, can determine the best solution for every circumstance. For example, to establish the outcome for an item once it is returned, e.g., refurbish, reroute, liquidate, or scrap. It’s all about creating visibility into the ways of applying best practice to satisfy the customer. Data management is how we will unlock this visibility and get rid of redundant technology that may only consider one limited part of the entire process. 

 Turning data into information 

 Information is the key to smarter decisions. 

Data is the source of information. 

 Data cleansing 

Attempting to implement new software solutions where the data is not reliable causes delays and incurs additional costs. Raw or uncleansed data is a perennial problem for all supply chain operations from procurement through to reverse logistics. 

 Data integrity 

Companies that place a high value on data integrity have a competitive edge. Accurate inventory reporting is crucial. Product descriptions and definitions must be standard both internally and with supply chain partners to achieve maximum benefit. A data “dictionary”, defining the terminology to be used and naming conventions should be shared with suppliers, logistics partners and others. Achieving data accuracy needs constant attention. Doing this will eliminate confusion and minimize problems with data analysis and reporting. 

Real-time information 

Cloud-based software solutions simplify data collection and validation by accessing multiple different subsystems at the same time. Real-time analytics turn the data into information to provide the visibility that enables companies to create “what-if” scenarios. 

 Advances in predictive analytics have made it possible to make informed decisions and overcome obstacles before they occur. Users can react quickly and adjust to disruptions quickly as conditions change. Risks are highlighted so they can be mitigated. Advances in new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) are being used widely to enable better and smarter supply chains. 

Visibility is the key 

Visibility across the whole network is the cornerstone of superior performance in the service supply chain. The key to success is the efficient exchange of information through harnessing the right technologies. It’s all about aggregating and analyzing the data and converting it into usable information:  

  • Gathering data from internal and external sources into a single platform. 
  • Consolidating, cleansing and classifying the data 
  • Analyzing and enriching information with additional market intelligence 

 The information that results is used to optimize processes under different conditions and for different users in the supply chain, i.e., manufacturers, service providers and customers. 

Does your organization have enough visibility into your data? We can help! Stay tuned for the exciting news we will share next week! 


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