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Logistics technology

Why choose a unified supply chain over siloed solutions?

We finally answer the question: which should you choose – point solutions or a unified platform for supply chain management? 

by Durga Pratiha | October 10, 2023 | 7 mins read

We finally answer the question: which should you choose – point solutions or a unified platform for supply chain management? 

We’re onto our last blog in the ‘Point solutions vs. Unified platform for SCM’ blog series. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far: 

In our first blog, we delved into the root cause for why organizations turned to point solutions to address specific logistics problems like lack of visibility, tracking, etc. and how this decision impacted their supply chain operations and efficiency.  

Transitioning to our second blog, we shifted our focus to the growing necessity for a unified platform in managing large-scale supply chains. By centralizing operations, a unified platform eradicates the hurdles of juggling multiple solutions and disjointed data sources. In essence, the combined perspective from both blogs underscores a crucial shift in supply chain management.  

In this blog we’re looking to answer the fundamental question that is on every supply chain leaders’ mind today: Unified platform vs. point solutions – which is better for supply chain management?  

We’ll explore the contrasting qualities of unified platforms and point solutions, discussing their origins, impact, and the transformative potential they offer to leaders in the dynamic landscape of supply chain management. By the end of this blog, you'll gain a comprehensive understanding of the pivotal choice between unified and point solutions, and how it resonates through the fabric of modern supply chain strategies. 

Perks and pitfalls of each perspective 

With the onset of the pandemic, many supply chain organizations hastily embraced technology in an attempt to continue meeting deadlines and fulfilling orders without delay or disruption. While the decision was beneficial in the short-term, it lacked the strategic perspective for medium to long-term. 

The rise of point solutions at this time can be attributed to several factors such as the growing complexity of supply chains, the emergence of innovative technologies and solutions, the absence of standardized supply chain integration, etc. Some of the quickly realized benefits of point solutions included: 

1. Swift implementation

2. Budget-friendly

3. Flexibility and customization restricted to specific functions (visibility, tracking, etc.) 

However, there were pitfalls to adopting and solely relying on point solutions as well. Organizations found that adding multiple point solutions to their solution stack meant that their data landscape was fragmented, and information was isolated across various systems. This hindered the flow of insights and operational efficiency. In addition to this, while point solutions were budget friendly as individual solutions, supply chain leaders found they often needed two or three point solutions to manage a specific function and this drove up costs significantly. 

Unified platforms, on the other hand, help supply chain leaders bring all their processes, data, and insights together in one solution. For instance, instead of using separate systems for keeping track of products, placing orders, and talking to suppliers, a single end-to-end platform for supply chain management that integrates seamlessly with your ERP and partner systems combines all these tasks under one digital roof. Unified platforms can help your organization: 

  • Gain a single pane of glass view of your entire supply chain
  • Eliminate the need for multiple point solutions
  • Automate and optimize your processes across supply chain operations
  • Streamline processes and make it easier to collaborate with your partners

    Gain a single pane of glass view of your entire supply chain 

 Agility and resilience are key for supply chains to thrive today 

In today's volatile and unpredictable business environment, supply chain organizations need to be able to quickly adapt to change and disruptions. Agility and resilience are two key qualities that can help supply chain leaders to do just that. Over the past three years, global events have underscored this, highlighting the importance of being prepared for unexpected challenges. 

Below are some of the disruptions supply chain leaders saw during this period:  

  • Several factory closures disrupted the production of goods. 
  • Shipping delays and congested ports due to increased demand and a shortage of workers. 
  • Travel restrictions and shortage of truck drivers caused several challenges in moving goods around the world. 
  • Extreme weather events disrupted crop production and transportation routes. 
  • The evolving geo-political situation disrupted agricultural production and exports from multiple countries, leading to higher food prices and shortages around the world. 

Businesses that were not agile were not able to adapt to these disruptions, and they suffered as a result. We’ve seen some of the biggest crises in supply chain take place during this time. 

The semiconductor shortage is one such global phenomenon caused by the lack of agility in logistics. The semiconductor industry is highly concentrated, with a few major players controlling the market. This concentration has made it difficult for businesses to get the semiconductors they need, even when they are willing to pay a premium. The shortage has caused problems for a wide range of industries, including automotive, electronics, and healthcare.  

Ironically, in recent years, the electronics industry has also suffered from a problem of surplus products. The surge in demand for consumer electronics during the pandemic led to overproduction, resulting in a surplus of microchips that manufacturers struggled to manage efficiently.  

The last few years have shown us that supply chains are vulnerable to disruptions, and that companies need to take steps to make their logistics operations more resilient in the face of challenges.  

Agile enterprises across the globe favor the adoption of unified platforms

For the companies aiming for agility and resilience, unified platforms are the go-to options due to their ability to seamlessly integrate functions, streamline operations, and allow for quick adaptation. By centralizing tools and data, these platforms enhance collaboration, enable efficient decision-making, and provide a holistic view of operations, empowering organizations to navigate disruptions effectively. 

Here's how unified platforms help organizations achieve these advantages: 

  • Visibility and transparency: Unified platforms bring together data and processes from different departments and systems, creating a centralized repository of information. This allows for better visibility into various operations, enabling decision-makers to have a holistic view of the organization's performance. Real-time analytics and dashboards help in making informed decisions based on accurate and up-to-date data. 
  • Agility: When the market changes or customers want something different, a company needs to move fast. Unified platforms play a pivotal role in achieving this agility by integrating various business functions and ensuring seamless collaboration. 
  • Resilience and risk management: With all the important data in one place, companies can spot potential problems and react before they become big issues. This is especially useful when there are disruptions like problems with getting supplies, new laws to follow, or when the economy is going through a tough time. 
  • Boosted collaboration: Unified platforms link partners, suppliers, and stakeholders in networked ecosystems, promoting seamless, real-time data sharing and collaboration, a feat unattainable by point solutions. This synergy bolsters resilience and risk management, helping organizations respond swiftly to disruptions, regulatory changes, or economic challenges, preventing issues from turning critical. 
  • AI & ML-powered automation: Unified platforms leverage AI and ML algorithms to aggregate and analyze data from various sources within the supply chain, such as inventory management, demand forecasting, logistics, and procurement. These algorithms can identify patterns, anomalies, and trends that might be difficult to discern using traditional methods. AI and ML platforms enable quicker realization of value by automating complex processes, optimizing decision-making, and enhancing overall efficiency.   

Implementing point solutions to solve for visibility, tracking, etc. in the short-term have led to the larger operational challenges that persist today, but the way forward is illuminated by the idea of a single, integrated platform. Supply chain leaders across the globe are aligning with this choice, and the validation is clear. The important choices in supply chain management rely on cohesion, adaptability, and foresight. Unified solutions supply the perfect environment for these qualities to thrive. 

With unified solutions as the preferred choice, the journey towards a more efficient, collaborative, and prosperous supply chain future is charted.