The rise in outsourced manufacturing and distribution has prompted a new way of thinking about supply chain management. Instead of focusing solely on internal operations, leaders have broadened their scope to encompass the entire value chain – from the consumer all the way to the last supplier’s supplier, and everything in between. Likewise, the flow of materials is no longer limited to what enters and leaves corporate gates. Instead it includes material moves across each step of the extended chain, many of which are well below the radar of brand owners. Equally important is the shift from simply managing information within the enterprise to the exponential jump in managing information across the enterprise and hundreds or even thousands of external trading partners.

From Siloed to Networked

These new realities require a change in supply chain management thinking from a traditional enterprise-centric world view to one that encompasses all ecosystems, including internal operations and those at external channel, supply and logistics trading partners. Don’t believe the marketing hype. It doesn’t matter how many new technology advances or artificial intelligence capabilities are added to enterprise-centric systems like those offered by ERP vendors, their scope is by nature tied to internal operations and disconnected from the wider supply chain. A leopard can’t change its spots.

The way to bridge this gap is by what industry analysts have coined a Supply Chain Business Network – to interconnect every tier of every ecosystem involved in sourcing, making, planning and delivering products and services. This is where e2open comes in, with a strategic network platform and a full suite of intelligent applications to manage the entire end-to-end supply chain.

e2open’s supply chain business network connects transactional systems of record within the enterprise to those at all external ecosystem partners. From a demand and fulfilment perspective, this includes all channel partners such as distributors, resellers and retailers, as well as direct and online sales to consumers. For manufacturing and supply, this encompasses all tiers of material suppliers, contract manufacturing and internal production. Lastly, the network connects all transportation and logistics partners involved in moving materials at every stage, from the initial raw materials through each stage of manufacturing and distribution.

Strategic Platform to Support Today’s and Tomorrow’s Needs

What makes e2open’s supply chain business network special is that it’s the largest of its kind, serves a wide range of industries and provides a strategic platform for growth. This includes universal connectivity to all partners regardless of the number and types of systems or their technical maturity. Artificial intelligence embedded in the network cleanses and normalizes data from each system to make it “decision-grade”. Data is updated in real-time and is always current, creating a live digital representation of the entire physical supply chain. Lastly, connections are bi-directional so that every decision is automatically put into action.

A well-established network is essential for time to value and total cost of ownership because existing network connections are reused to accelerate partner onboarding and maintenance. Otherwise, brand owners are stuck having to establish new connections to each partner from scratch – essentially bearing the cost of recreating and managing its own network. This approach is simply not scalable, especially for large deployments.

The network powers a full suite of intelligent applications to provide end-to-end visibility, sales, and operations planning (S&OP), execution and optimization. Data from different ecosystems is leveraged to improve performance of functional activities like demand and supply planning, procurement or logistics. Perhaps more importantly, it also allows for a new class of advanced cross-functional analytics to understand complex relationships such as the impact of logistics delays on business plans or production yield variances on the ability to meet service commitments. As multi-enterprise applications, these also enable collaboration between trading partners and orchestrate activities across multiple tiers in the supply chain. This provides shared value among parties, strengthening relationships and leading to better business outcomes.

The Key is to Get Started

A key takeaway is that thinking beyond internal operations isn’t just for those with advanced supply chains or have outsourced most of their manufacturing and distribution. It’s appropriate for companies at any maturity and provides significant competitive advantage as soon as you get started. The typical journey begins with an initiative to value-add existing investments in supply chain management tools. Once in place, the supply chain business network provides a platform for transformation that can unfold at whatever pace and scope is right for each company. The key is to get started because the world is quickly changing and if you are not taking steps now to manage the end-to-end supply chain, you risk being left behind.