Supply Chain Management – Using APM and BTM to Optimize Logistics

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Almost every business today uses some form of supply chain management. For smaller business, this may be as simple as placing orders for materials that are needed to perform a job and managing a small inventory. But as businesses grow and become more interdependent upon other businesses, supply chain management becomes an absolute necessity if the business is to operate profitably, minimize inventory carrying costs and meet changing market demands.

Supply chain management deals with a number of logistical issues. Configuring the distribution network, developing strategies for product distribution, balancing trade-offs so that operations are the most efficient and effective as possible may remain primarily activities managed by individuals, but many areas of supply chain management have become increasingly computer dependent. Integrating information such as forecasts, inventory, and transportation are just some of the many aspects of supply chain management which are functions that computers are able to perform far more effectively than individuals. 

Many firms use an approach called CFAR or Collaborative Planning Forecasting and Replenishment to provide the supply chain partners with visibility of forecasted demand in order to satisfy future needs.   The process for obtaining this visibility is done by sharing sales forecasts and supply planning information between trading partners.  By following this approach supply chain partners operate in synch.  As a result, they are able to minimize their inventory carrying costs at the same time they improve the quality of service and availability of product to their customers.  Essentially, buyers and sellers are working together to satisfy their end customer.

Application Performance Management (APM)

Application performance management allows a business to monitor the performance of the various business processes and their underlying IT transactions that implement the supply chain. Typically, there are many different applications within the IT stack used to run a supply chain management process.  Some applications may handle RSS feeds which are subscriptions of various industry forecasts. Other applications may manage the inventory of raw materials, keeping track of quantities and locations. While, still other applications may keep track of work in progress. And there are applications that handle inventory information about finished goods. In addition to these applications, it is typical for the common business to have applications that manage cash flow.

The existence of these multiple composite applications makes the IT environment extremely complex with lots of IT transaction dependencies that must be available and performing in order for the supply chain process to be effective. It is physically impossible to evaluate how well each application is performing without real-time monitoring to provide visibility into each transaction as they traverse each application.

All of these applications need to be able to share information with each other; otherwise the information provided will fail to support efficient supply chain management. The information would be fragmented, and failed to provide an accurate picture of the entire supply chain.

Business Transaction Management                                                  

Transactions form the basis of every single application. Each piece of data is a transaction. What happens to a piece of data as it moves from one application to another is vital information. Business transaction management gives you visibility into the key questions any supply chain manager is asking.

  • Where is my shipment?
  • Have the orders been placed?
  • What is current demand?
  • Where do supplies need to be delivered?
  • What forecasts have the potential of impacting the business?
  • Have vendors been paid?

These are all questions that business transaction management provides answers to, because every transaction is traceable. Business Transaction Management (BTM) provides 360° visibility into the entire IT infrastructure. No application connected to it is overlooked. What happened; when it happened; and why it happened is available through convenient role-based dashboards allowing for forensic evidence analysis to determine the root cause of any failures.

Complex Event Processing

Complex Event Processing (CEP) is a tool that when used as the core of a BTM solution enables predictive alerting about problems before they impact the supply chain process.  When augmented by business rules in a situational management approach, it can even enable the prevention of problems.   

What makes a complex event processing (CEP) engine capable of providing the answers that are needed by supply chain managers? The engine must be designed to handle supply chain events such as order flow, inventory, incoming shipments and outgoing shipments. The right system will be able to handle orders, warehouse inventory, delivery and service scheduling, synchronization of inventory and supplies, logistics and finished product management, etc.

The CEP must also have capability for inference which enables it to predict changes in the environment that will impact efficient IT function by analyzing the patterns in the event cloud. It must be able to identify and learn as it changes what is business normal vs. business abnormal for your business. It should be able to identify when software resources are underutilized. It should be able to identify an emerging application issue. And it should assist IT departments with troubleshooting complex issues such as slow transactions or logic errors.

When it comes to supply chain management, Nastel Technologies has developed an application performance management/business transaction management solution that is recognized by some of the largest manufacturers, retail businesses and financial service firms in the world as the solution they depend upon. AutoPilot is an APM/BTM solution that assures performance and scalability. The answers that a supply chain manager needs to have answered are available instantly.

When a new supply chain scenario needs to be tested, AutoPilot's complex event processing (CEP) engine makes it easy to see how changes in the environment will impact the supply chain. If a new application is being considered, AutoPilot makes it possible to perform trial runs through the every application impacted, so that rollout is smooth and trouble-free.

Putting AutoPilot in place to monitor supply chain management assures high performance and availability of this essential business process. It means that supply chain managers have a more powerful tool to work with as they handle all the logistics of keeping a company operating at peak profitability.

 

Denise Rutledge enjoys researching and writing about technology products. She writes on many financial and business topics, including software solutions that impact business performance in the financial industry. In addition to working with clients to develop website content, she writes on how to make a living as a writer on her writing blog.

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