A Supply chain is an entire system of producing and delivering a product or service, from the very beginning stage of sourcing the raw materials to the final delivery of the product or service to end-users.
Within the Supply chain management system, Product flow is an important step which involves the movement of goods from a supplier to a customer, and vice versa.
In this product flow of Supply Chain Management systems, we can observer two types of challenges.
One is the visibility challenges, and another is the allocation challenges.
The following challenges fall under the visibility challenges: -
- End-to-End visibility of inbound supply shipments and their status/milestones
- Alerting for any delays in the shipments that could impact the supply
- Accurate stock visibility across locations and predicting any shortfall based on the inbound supply statuses
The following challenges fall under the Allocation challenges: -
- Manual Data collection from multiple data sources to understand supply allocations
- Sub-optimal and inaccurate allocation due to fluctuating supply and demand plans
- Frequent ad hoc Allocation updates to SAP that consume manual effort and introduce errors
To address these challenges IBM’s Supply Chain Insights dashboard enables inventory planners to receive alerts related to inventory levels. This allows them to plan enough inventory to fulfill all customer orders, while minimizing excess stock on hand.
Currently, the inventory planner gets an alert in the Supply Chain Insights (SCI) control tower about Critical Inventory situation where the stock availability is less than expected.
Based on the alert, the inventory planner tries to understand what is the planned supply and demand picture during that week and opens a Resolution Room within the SCI to take actions like calculating the Allocation shortage (total supply -total demand), query the status of all the shipments where the predicted ETA > Estimated/committed ETA and then create an Expedited Purchase Order for the delayed shipments.
The actions to be taken mentioned in the Resolution rooms are only for reference and the inventory planner has to take those actions manually to resolve the alert of critical inventory.
Here, the Intelligent Workflow was designed to automate the actions given in the resolution room.
- The IBM RPA would read the steps in the Resolution Room and invoke the BAW process with the list of steps sent as input request parameter to the BAW process.
- The BAW has the steps mentioned in the resolution rooms implemented as a separate process task.
- The ODM has the mapping defined for the name of the step in the Resolution room with the name of the process to be invoked in the BAW as a decision table mapping.
- For example, in this case of automation of critical inventory the steps mentioned in resolution room were “Get Supply Plan”, “Get Demand Plan” and “Get Delayed Shipments”, “Expedite purchase order”. In BAW there were service implementation tasks for the steps mentioned in resolution room with names “SCI Supply Plan”, “SCI Sales Plan” and “Check Shipments”, “Expedite purchase order” respectively. The mapping was defined in the ODM decision table as follows.
So, overall, we saw how the Intelligent Workflow was designed using RPA, BAW and ODM to resolve challenges in the Product flow of Supply Chain Management.