Long gone are the days of managing distribution and supply chain with a paper trail; or at least they should be if any enterprise wants the distribution segment of its business to be considered at all efficient.
Think about the old-school way of supply chain managed by paper-pushing:
Orders received by phone, by snail mail, or by fax
Purchase orders written out by hand and mailed or faxed to suppliers
Buyers telephone suppliers to update fulfillment orders (requesting more products, or slowing supply due to changes in demand)
Warehouse supervisors call trucking companies to schedule pick-ups, and rely on those trucking companies to provide delivery updates by phone
Printed bills of lading handed over to the end recipient
Physically counting inventory to see what products are getting low
Invoices coming and going via physical mail
Payments made by paper checks or bank transfers that require written authorizations
Lots of manual data entry, in general
None of the items in the above process are electronic, or “digital.” Do elements of the above list still exist as manual, non-digital tasks? Certainly, especially at smaller businesses or enterprises in industries that typically are slow to adapt to new technologies.
Microsoft Dynamics 365: The Solution to the Digital Revolution
The digital revolution is here, and it's vital for businesses to jump on board when it comes to retail and the digital supply chain.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the software backbone of any good distribution and supply chain management business (retailer, manufacturer); or for that matter, any business that has to process, receive, and deliver products – even if it is not their core business.
While the needs of a retailer are different from those, say, a wholesale distributor, the concept for supply channel management for each is the same. On the Strategic Solutions Northwest website, we describe Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail as this:
“It is an end-to-end retail solution that delivers unified commerce across all channels. It encompasses sales, mobility, intelligence, and productivity to help retailers and workers achieve more in a cloud-first, mobile-first manner. Retail offers comprehensive support to operate a wide range of business processes, such as merchandising, inventory, and channel management capabilities. It also provides immersive customer experiences across all touchpoints.”
A Wholesale Distributor Use Case
On the other hand, we have a use case that features a client, Virtual Supply, a national wholesale distributor with rapidly growing segments in direct retail and third-party logistics.
With the help of SSNW, the company was able to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations. Growing pangs were hampering its ability to meet the demands put on its retail and third-party logistics (3PL) segments. The software was not integrated, which meant a slowdown in processes with too many manual steps across Virtual Supply’s three divisions. It needed a quickly scalable, cloud-based software foundation.
Employing Microsoft’s Sure Step implementation methodology, SSNW built and customized the Dynamics platform, including a robust network of third-party solutions that could handle the starts, stops, restarts and other traffic-flow-related challenges businesses like Virtual Supply face in the distribution industry.
With Dynamics 365 F&O providing the platform, SSNW leveraged in-house customizations and built an advanced warehousing module that shifted all of Visual Supply’s typically bottlenecked processes into the cloud (Microsoft Azure). Processes shifted to automated ones and improved internal translation services across the company’s divisions opened up and improved lines of communication.
For more specifics on the Virtual Supply software implementation managed by SSNW, view the full case study.
Why Microsoft Dynamics 365?
Simply put, Microsoft Dynamics 365 is the best tool for managing all processes related to an enterprise's supply chain management; and SSNW has the experience to manage all the aspects of a successful implementation.
Shifting a digital supply chain requires a new set of processes that take advantage of the technologies that are available. It takes patience, but also the ability to act quickly and push the transition from the old way to the new way through, garnering buy-in from all stakeholders, making them part of the decision-making, providing ownership, and providing the proper training.
There’s demand planning, asset management, warehouse management, transportation, logistics management, procurement, and order fulfillment – all are part of a complete integration from legacy supply chain management systems to new digital-based technologies. Pre-existing data, even if in paper form or in dated manual-input systems, is extremely valuable and must be handled carefully with new system implementations.
Imagine having access to all of that old data, and all of the new data, in real-time. Decisions can then be made faster; restocking improves; distribution speeds up; and efficiencies are realized from end-to-end.
Benefits of a Digital vs. Traditional Supply Chain
If all of the above does not make a solid case for why a digital supply chain, managed through Dynamic 365, is better than a traditional supply chain system, here are some differences in the characteristics between the two:
SSNW is ready to help explore the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 to bring any enterprise into the digital age when it comes to supply chain management. Schedule a free consultation today.