The last few years have highlighted how simple it is for global supply and transportation to get disrupted, affecting everyone from tiny enterprises to huge tech corporations. Examples include the pandemic, severe weather, strikes, container ships getting trapped, Black Friday, and Christmas shopping.
According to Mike Bassani, supply chain general manager for Microsoft’s Business Application Platform, “At Microsoft, like so many other organisations, we’ve been seeing major shocks to supply and demand: Geopolitical events, trade tensions, environmental disasters, the pandemic — the complexity across products and transportation is almost mind-boggling.” The variables “nearly paralyse the firms we’re working with, either as customers or in our peer group.”
The way most companies distribute the information they need to understand their supply chain and distribution systems across multiple disparate IT systems is to understand when a problem occurs or how to start fixing it. It’s getting harder.
Microsoft is the operator of the most popular planning software used in supply chains.
Microsoft Excel is everywhere. But much of the supply chain data companies care about ends up in Excel, which doesn’t help them automate common workflows or respond to crises. The new Microsoft Supply Chain Platform and Supply Chain Center aim to bring together a range of Microsoft tools and services to help companies of all sizes manage their supply chains.
“It’s about how we work together and get insights from everyone involved,” he says Bassani. “Whether you’re hauling a heavy load the middle mile or a pizza the last mile, many of the problems are similar.”
At Microsoft, we believe the way to solve these problems is to apply data, collaborate with colleagues and suppliers, and use AI to predict or explain problems.
Knowledge of Microsoft Platforms
Have some of Microsoft’s recent announcements been confused by seeming to put new marketing branding on existing services? It’s a great way to get a better sense of what Microsoft understands with its Intelligent Data Platform, Microsoft Industry Clouds, and other Capital P platforms.
The new supply chain platform isn’t a single product you can buy.
“Microsoft’s Supply Chain Platform is truly Microsoft’s holistic approach to supply chain,” he said Bassani.
The Power Platform includes PowerApps, Power Automate, and Power BI, but also has dependencies and integrations with Azure, Teams, Dynamics 365, and Office 365. The new Microsoft Supply Chain Platform builds on these existing services and Power Platform.
Bassani suggested viewing each of these platforms as an umbrella that brings together various tools, integrations, and partner offerings related to specific areas such as data management and supply chain management. Companies with their developer know-how can choose from these individual offers.
“They will take full advantage of the platform and customize it the way they want,” Bassani said.
Microsoft Supply Chain Center is a preview product that keeps track of the health of your supply chain and alerts you when problems arise.
Filling a gap in the Microsoft lineup.
Dynamics 365 has some supply chain and order management capabilities, but it’s an ERP solution.
“We didn’t have a complementary supply chain product, which is Microsoft’s supply chain center,” Bassani said.
It uses some of the same functionality and offers the same options as Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management and Order Management to see the sustainability impact of your logistics and product sourcing decisions.
Partners and resources for everyone
Bassani doesn’t want to customize the Microsoft Supply Chain Center too much, doesn’t have the expertise to plug in Power BI, Azure, Teams, and other Microsoft tools, or just doesn’t know where these tools can help.
Weekly business reviews against key metrics such as on-time inventory replenishment that show whether suppliers are meeting commitments. So you can keep your promises to your customers and rely on accurate data.
“I’ve worked for several companies and they all have this problem to some degree and the data is correct,” he said Bassani. “Who has more accurate or up-to-date data?”
Using Power BI to get accurate data from live systems means that you can discuss the issues you see rather than fighting over who has the right data. “They can access the Microsoft Supply Chain Center and leverage the collaboration capabilities built into Teams to share with people inside and outside the organization,” he said.
It also helps companies comply with EU legislation on supplier resilience and trace finished goods back to specific components and raw materials.
The supply chain platform includes partners through Azure Marketplace and App Source. Microsoft Supply Chain Center has several built-in partner services from logistics experts such as FedEx and Overhaus. It can be used with Dynamics 365, but can also be integrated with SAP and Oracle. Scale low-code via the Power Platform to keep suppliers up-to-date or automate inventory planning to ship products when demand is high. “If a supplier pulls in a new forecast that is out of tolerance, we can create a Power Automate flow to send an email asking for justification,” says Bassani. “They create this continuous feedback loop centralized in MSCC so I can get out of the world of emails, phone calls, and faxes trying to track what’s going on and use data instead. can actually drive the desired action, but currently it is done manually.”
With options for pre-packaged solutions and platform building blocks, Microsoft’s new supply chain tools are commonly used.
“Whether you’re at Walmart or your corner store, you probably have an opportunity to take advantage of MSCC’s technology,” Bassani said.