How Are APIs Enabling Supply Chain Digital Transformation?

How Are APIs Enabling Supply Chain Digital Transformation?

Supply chain digital transformation is not a new concept. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has been the technology standard for sharing critical data in supply chains for the better part of 50 years. More recently, cloud-based computing and data storage, artificial intelligence, warehouse automation and blockchain have emerged yet it’s still not enough to keep pace with ever-rising customer demands or mitigate/avoid the constant barrage of disruption in the world.

Forwarders, BCOs, and importers are struggling to maintain proactive approaches to supply chain management; to achieve resilience and growth they need access to better business intelligence, stronger architectures, operational excellence and data-driven planning. In short, companies must go all-in with full supply chain digitization.That’s the path to gaining a real competitive advantage.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at what is the digital supply chain, how a digital supply chain workflow differs from the more traditional approach to supply chain, the benefits that are achieved by making a supply chain digital to create a “twin”, and how using application program interfaces (APIs) is the best way to achieve true supply chain digitization.

What is Supply Chain Digital Transformation?

Understanding what digital supply chain management is paves the way for driving the necessary transformation that will lead to greater flexibility, scalability and overall operational excellence.A digital supply chain leverages the latest technologies to replace traditional manual processes and seamlessly connects stakeholders with each other and the valuable data they need to make informed decisions. As BDO Digital explains: “Every node in the supply chain is leveraged for business intelligence and greater collective benefit.”

For example, real-time container tracking sensors can detect in-transit disruption or quality issues and relay that information to stakeholders to enhance mitigation efforts. Such data can also be used to gauge the performance of transportation partners and identify route inefficiencies--the type of information that can drive improvements in digital supply chain workflows.  

“The availability of faster and cheaper processing, cloud capabilities and data modeling and analytics is enabling closer coordination between supply chain partners,” according to SupplyChainBrain. “Software providers are enhancing applications in a number of areas, including shipment tracking, data integration at hand-off points, alerts about local supply disruptions, tiered supplier network mapping and overall supply chain visibility.”  

Tale of Two Supply Chains: Digital vs. Traditional

Minimizing transportation costs through building and managing a high-capacity, point A-to-point B distribution infrastructure--that is the focus of traditional supply chains. This approach is rife with antiquated management processes--manual data entry, manual tracking, phone calls, spreadsheets, etc.--and is ill-equipped to meet the global demands of today. Consumers and businesses require fast deliveries and visibility into “where is my shipment?” at all times.

Emerging and evolving technologies that are at the heart of a digital supply chain deliver the speed and automation that replaces time-consuming and tedious manual processes. One example of an emerging concept that brings the power of digitalization into focus is the Supply Chain Digital Twin. This detailed simulation of an actual supply chain enables stakeholders to analyze real-time data and snapshots to better understand a supply chain’s behaviors, predict abnormal situations, and formulate proactive plans of action, according to software supply chain software firm anyLogistix.

A supply chain that is digital  offers this important business advantage: easy access to more data than ever before. And while the quantity and quality of data brought to light with a digital supply chain workflow is impressive, the real game-changer is what you can do with that data.    

Whereas traditional supply chain analytics offer a certain level of insight, the digital supply chain takes things a quantum leap forward with the capability to drive prescriptive analytics. Processing billions of reliable data points to calculate potential approaches and predicted outcomes helps guide supply chain executives to the right decisions that support supply chain optimization and their unique business goals.

EY explains the limitations of traditional supply  chains:  “The linear global supply chain, designed with little flexibility in mind, has sought to meet consumer demands by lowering cost through scale, minimizing delivery time through inventory build-up and logistics capacity expansion, and upholding quality with stringent procurement processes. Yet the strain is apparent. These approaches are not scalable and run counter to the flexibility needed for today’s consumers, while the severity and frequency of climate events and the ever-changing trade regulatory landscape is making the linear global supply chain untenable.”

A lack of access to key data and the ability to share it seamlessly with partners throughout the network is why traditional supply chains continue to struggle and ultimately will lag beyond competitors who embrace supply chain digital transformation.

Benefits of a Digital Supply Chain

Making a supply chain digital offers many advantages, including greater flexibility made possible by eliminating redundant processes and integrating automation in place of antiquated manual processes. Other benefits include:

  • Enhancing the ability to easily discover bottlenecks
  • Monitoring risk at all times
  • Driving more effective transportation planning, greater inventory optimization, and other operational  efficiencies
  • Promoting cross-functional collaboration across companies, departments and all levels of management
  • Injecting actionable data and insights into supply chain processes
  • Improving resilience and futureproofing

How Are APIs Enabling Digital Transformation?

APIs are the key to successful supply chain digitization and transformation because they enable multiple applications in a network of partners to seamlessly exchange business-critical data, functionalities, and actionable insights. It’s an added layer of connectivity that is safe and secure. In short, APIs unify disparate platforms into a “Network of Networks” that drives efficiencies, helps control costs, and achieves greater scalability through end-to-end visibility. True supply chain digital transformation needs APIs, as they are the pipes to TRUE transformation.

Robust API technology delivers clean, standardized data of the highest quality to all stakeholders, which drives collaboration, innovation, and scalability. This is essential for true supply chain digital transformation. Using APIs, you and your partners can accelerate innovations that unlock new business models and revenue opportunities. APIs have a constantly evolving roadmap, whereas traditional EDI technology does not.

Companies that rely on APIs to automate shipping container delivery status experience the real power of end-to-end visibility and the in-depth insights that are derived from the underlying datascape. This not only solves the issues of today but also provides predictive analytics that ensure readiness for the future as well. Companies that do not embrace APIs and this age of supply chain digitization will be woefully behind competitors and most likely will not survive long term.

Digitally Transform Your Supply Chain With Vizion’s Container Tracking API

How’s the current state of your supply chain? Can you scale efficiently? Cargo owners continue to get more digital by the day, and supply chain digitization equates to OpEx efficiency improvement across your company. So, again, are you keeping up? If you’re not making moves now to embrace supply chain digital transformation, you’ll risk losing current customers and partners as well as miss out on business growth opportunities. Let us show you how Vizion container tracking API technology can transform your supply chain and provide the quality data and level of support needed to successfully manage the problems of today… and tomorrow. Schedule a demo with us today.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2021

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