Authored By Han Law

Uncertain global environments around trade and other geo-political events have made agile supply chains the difference between a firm’s success, survival, or failure. However, traditional risk management practices have not been very effective. This is because of poor visibility, high data latency, and the unstructured nature of data present in many of today’s distributed supply chain networks. Over time, operating in such an environment will require an entirely new supply chain architecture to support and manage supply chains.

In order to create sustainable differentiation from today’s status quo, companies need their supply chain to adapt to:

1. Changes in the market environment and impacts of uncertainty

2. Changes in the operations execution environment

3. Internal changes in the supply chain

Successful adaptation can be achieved in two ways. First, companies must leverage multiple supply chains that can respond to multiple, dynamic, customer segment specific and personalized demands. The second scenario relies on better coordination through extensive application of information and communication technologies. Based off of other manufacturing customers, a three step approach is recommended to properly project manage this transition.

There are, however, two gaps we need to address…

Universal Visibility

In today’s industry environment, there is a relative inability to identify and predict key supply chain disruption events. This challenge is brought on by multi-echelon supply chains cutting across multiple enterprises. With each supply chain, firms face the challenge of inventory tracking within a node, as there is no use of data that may be available to sharpen the inventory visibility. Thus, firms become slow to react and unable to quickly redirect their inventory flows in the event of supply chain disruption. Universal inventory visibility across the value chain is a goal that promises to address this challenge. Planning, fulfillment, and service must be automated through the connected ecosystems and powered by AiOPs.

New Supply Chain Architecture

Current infrastructures are primarily ERP solutions that are only capable of tracking inventory within the enterprise boundary. There is no capability for visualization on-site, other than physical verification of warehouse stock levels. Instead, the packages rely on human/user-effort to update the ERP systems on the latest inventory level.  The key is to move beyond functional silos and think instead about how to architect the solutions through a network of partnerships and platforms.  Many think that the complexity of architecting agile supply chain is beyond their IT-OT capabilities. In fact, companies can leverage a variety of new technologies to comprehensively collaborate with, connect to, automate, visualize, and secure the supply chain. Everything from live visibility, segmentation, and automation will help manage operations at a new level of speed and scale.

Supported by new Supply Chain Architecture, companies can take several immediate steps to prepare for the future by re-imaging their applications, transforming their technology infrastructure to intelligent technologies, and integrating all ecosystem-based supply chains:

Advance Supply Chain Operations

People, machines, and materials are in constant motion within a supply chain operation. Proactively monitoring and managing supply chain operations happens by connecting machines, sensors, scanners, and video systems with secure, standards-based connectivity, This will improve operations, supply chain visibility, productivity, and safety.

Inventory Management

Obtain complete visibility into all assets, raw material utilization, and material handling within the facility to meet demand and inventory management goals.

Industrial Mobility

Enable a comprehensive wireless asset roaming environment across and between plants, fleets, warehouses, and storage yards.

An agile supply chain is now your sustainable differentiator and there is zero time to lose. Cisco’s intelligent and trusted Supply Chain Architecture focuses on customer experience, enabling profitable growth, consistently delivering in any environment, and more importantly achieving agility at scale.

Here a few more key resources to help you get started today:

Cisco Manufacturing

Cisco Portfolio Explorer For Manufacturing



Jordon Hargrove

Global Marketing Manufacturing Lead

ISG (Industry Solutions Group)