Yesterday Microsoft launched a new product – Microsoft Supply Chain Platform. According to the tech giant, this new platform provides businesses with the tools they need to ‘navigate every challenge” within their supply chain.
Supply chains are forecast to be a critical threat to the continuity of businesses in 2023. The delays experienced during the pandemic have created a backlog in shipping and labour shortages have produced fewer products and materials.
On top of that, China’s zero-covid lockdowns have dramatically reduced the number of goods coming out from the world’s leading manufacturers. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have also stymied international trade.
Shipping companies are also experiencing delays because existing warehouses are not large enough to facilitate the demand for online shopping.
Existing supply chains have been described as “efficient but brittle” – noting that International shipping channels run like clockwork until a crisis causes a disruption.
Microsoft notes that supply chains need to be more resilient and agile. But the only way to build resilience is to bring back on-shore or near-shore manufacturing.
In the UK, Brexit has all but ended affordable shipping. Small businesses say they have either had to sever relations with European partners or open up warehouses and manufacturing plants in Europe. All of which is a detriment to the UK economy.
How Does Microsoft View Supply Chain Agility
For the re-development of manufacturing in Britain to get off the ground quickly, a certain technology would be needed that connects makers with takers and sellers.
And that’s precisely what the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform is designed to do. With the existing infrastructure, companies are reliant on the “just-in-time” model that involves purchasing stock when it is required rather than pre-ordering in bulk.
For the foreseeable future, ordering goods from overseas hamper the ‘just-in-time” approach. There is little scope for immediate delivery and delays between ordering to receiving could take several weeks or more.
The only option firms have to avoid delays is to buy stock in bulk and store it in warehouses. However, that means shelling out a huge amount of capital and building bigger warehouses. The increase in risk may be too much to bear in a fragile economy.
Microsoft hasn’t been specific in its explanation of how the Supply Chain Platform (SCP) will ease agility and reliance but they do say the software will enable firms to “quickly respond to changing market conditions.”
The solutions seek to resolve existing issues by expanding the overview of supply chains using data intelligence and custom solutions.
Whilst existing Enterprise Resource Planning programs (ERPs) focus on supply chain execution and management that cannot adapt to the current change in global circumstances, the SCP increases visibility, predicts disruption and mitigates risk.
For SCP to function effectively, a large number of companies will need to purchase the SaaS in order to generate relevant data and fulfil orders. You can see how the software will help companies build home-grown supply chains, but there could still be stumbling blocks caused by a shortage of relevant goods. Britain’s manufacturing infrastructure is practically dead.
What is Microsoft’s Supply Chain Platform?
Microsoft’s latest Software as a Service (SaaS) is a gamut of the companies existing services bunked up with additional solutions provided by partners including Grupo Bimbo, Mercedes Been and Tillamook.
SCP seamlessly integrates with various Microsoft services including Dynamics 365, Azure, Teams and the Power Platform. It also works with various supply chain data centres and applications that help organisations to efficiently manage and execute their existing supply chain needs.
Built into the heart of the Microsoft Supply Chain Platform is the Microsoft Supply Chain Center – a centralised hub which is designed to give users a quick start.
A ready-made “command center” that draws data from existing supply chain sources such as including SAP, Oracle, FedEx, FourKites and Overhaul. Data can be filtered into customisable workflows, data reporting, and applications – with more data presumably added as more companies build supply chains.
In the Supply Chain Center, there is ‘Data Manager’ which provides users with more visibility across the supply chain. Theoretically, this should give you more scope to resolve supply chain issues by identifying opportunities and executing directly from within the SCP.
Microsoft Supply Chain Center Tools
Customers that already use Microsoft Dynamics 365 automatically get access to the Supply Chain Platform’s built-in management tools. Solutions include:
Azure AI Modelling
The artificial intelligence built into Microsoft Azure is considered an enterprise-grade machine learning tool with the capacity to deploy customised AI solutions.
Enterprises can capitalise on SCP’s machine-learning capabilities by delving deeper into the supply chain to understand where vulnerability and risk might be lurking.
Whilst on-shore sourcing is limited, AI modelling in Azure should theoretically help account managers hedge risks and rewards in what is expected to be a rollercoaster year.
If we understand how AI modelling will work in SCP correctly, firms should be able to identify a broader pool of suppliers and buyers to seize opportunities.
Supply And Demand Insights Module
Azure AI models can be programmed to provide oversight of supply and demand. With access to a wider dataset, account managers should be able to predict supply constraints and shortages.
Microsoft says that building data from the supply chain network will help businesses forecast future markets. With this information to hand, you are better placed to make informed decisions about whether to purchase immediate stock or overstock and avoid missed orders.
Smart New Insights
Smart news insights seem to be an interesting feature which gives decision-makers access to the latest news within the industry. This can help keep the supply chain ecosystem informed of potential bottlenecks and pave the way for real-world planning.
Order Management Module
At the moment, decision-making is juggling with the idea of sticking with a just-in-time inventory or twisting by overstocking with bulk orders. The order management module should be able to help you organise a tried-and-trusted risk-free model.
Order management will, of course, be driven by supply and demand, but the management module should be able to provide insights that remove some of the risks of twisting when the need arises.
In an unpredictable future – but also an unpredictable economy – data insights that enable you to generate predicted outcomes are essential for placing and receiving orders.
SCP build into accounting software which should assist with managing cash flow. This could be critical for small businesses that tend to pay suppliers on time but allow customers to slip beyond the due date. This is another reason existing supply chain models are considered “brittle”.
The order management module features pre-built “connectors” programmed by technology specialists. Microsoft says this function can help firms quickly meet orders by utilising delivery services and third-party logistics.
Microsoft is all for encouraging and promoting a sustainable future. Identifying localised partners builds into these ideals and helps companies to streamline the rising cost of logistics.
With the recent increase in fuel prices and the noose of ESG scores, casting your tentacles to team up with location-based partners across the UK so supply chains are more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly.
For example, rather than sending half a truckload of goods halfway across the country, you can team up with other shipments heading in the same direction. This enables you to share shipping costs and reduce the carbon footprint of the logistics industry.
Diversifying your supply chain not only makes you more agile and resilient to meet the demands of your customers – you could attract potential investors.
The capacity to micro-manage shipments of supply and demand gives you more potential to grow. And because you contribute to fewer CO2 emissions, the insightful use of the SCP can help you to improve your ESG scores – which is shown to invite investors.
Team Up With MicroPro
Today’s businesses rely on IT technologies like Microsoft’s Supply Chain Platform and Microsoft 365. Dynamic IT systems that operate in the cloud enable a business to run more efficiently and effectively.
However, business technology is only profitable if the software is running smoothly and the components of your IT infrastructure do not cause friction.
Micro Pro has been working with businesses in London and southeast England for over 20 years specialising in cloud computing and system management.
Our seasoned professionals are experts at planning architecture to reduce the risk of Microsoft’s cloud-based software causing system crashes. We also have specialist knowledge about cybersecurity, compliance and cost saving.
Microsoft’s Supply Chain Platform appears to have huge potential for UK companies to find solutions to goods shortages. The software won’t solve the wider problems by itself, but by helping firms to create a seamless network of data and communication, CSP could have a big role to play in building back Britain in the post-Brexit, post-pandemic era.