Without a doubt, the world’s supply chains have been put to the test in the past 18 months. Yet when we think about this it’s usually regarding consumer goods shortages (not enough lavvy paper, an insufficient supply of semiconductors for cars and electronic devices, backlogs on raw materials to make pharmaceuticals, for example), not necessarily sustainable supply chain management practices, and climate change.
In this blog, we look at ways in which companies can leverage modern integration technology to do both -- improve supply chain performance and address sustainable supply chain management practices -- by using a digital transformation approach that supports the world’s environmental concerns.
A Changing, Healthier World
In the post-pandemic era, as a logical response to the wild supply chain disruptions we’ve experienced lately, the forces of digital transformation are seemingly on steroids. In manufacturing for example, due to changes in consumer expectations and the relentless rise of eCommerce sales and omnichannel fulfillment, we’re seeing increased adoption of D2C, the Direct-to-Consumer business model.
This approach is now seen as a means of boosting revenue and assuming more control over delivering a better customer experience. But there’s an added benefit to this model as well: it’s arguably better for the environment.
We’re seeing the D2C model become a major opportunity for manufacturers to undercut the wholesale channel through digital technology.
Early entrants in D2C quickly realized that lack of supply chain efficiencies impacted profit margins and prevented them from gaining operating leverage as they scaled up their business.
Excelling in D2C, therefore, requires supply chain execution excellence that matches up with delivery excellence akin to that of large retailers and online marketplaces like Amazon, as well as in decreasing supply chain operating costs.
It’s not easy, but not only are established global manufacturers like Nike doing well at D2C and creating tons of business value in the process, internet-born D2C companies like Allbirds, which has yet to even turn a profit, are building brand value by presenting sustainable supply chain management as a core differentiator.
Sustainability is a core tenet of Allbirds’ corporate mission and culture, and the company endeavors to be conscientiously accountable to consumers and society by keeping their supply chain carbon-neutral, something their larger competitors (like Nike) can’t yet claim.
Similarly, in the Logistics & Transportation sector, supply chain sustainability efforts have become a growing focus area as the industry evolves in response to increasing expectations among consumers, investors, and business partners for freight carriers to reduce emissions and help make vehicles and supply chains “cleaner” through innovative “green” initiatives.
One example is logistics firm C.H. Robinson, whose “Emissions IQ” program measures and reduces emissions across modes for global supply chains.
Encouraging directional trends like these to have rich potential to contribute in positive ways to lowering companies’ carbon footprint and driving greater sustainability.
But let’s look deeper now, at what exactly it is that companies are doing technologically within their supply chains to make “cutting out the middleman” possible, as D2C promotes, or streamlining supply chains in logistics and transportation to lower overall emissions and reduce carbon footprint. Because believe it or not, much of what makes for a successful sustainable supply chain management strategy actually happens at the fundamental level of integration technology.
Take EDI software or Electronic Data Interchange.
As a mainstream integration technology, EDI software has been around for years.
Pretty much any manufacturer, retailer, supplier, carrier, or shipper worth its salt relies on its EDI system in some fashion to move orders through the supply chain.
It’s a lot less cumbersome, faster, and more accurate – and therefore more “green” -- than doing invoices or purchase orders manually using paper. Plus, since so many supply chain players are super familiar with it, it’s practically the price of entry to conducting digital commerce these days.
What a lot of companies don’t know, however, is that EDI, successful eCommerce initiatives, and supply chain sustainability are inextricably linked.
Because multi-enterprise ecosystems are rapidly expanding in the demand-driven post-pandemic world, today's integration now is really about supporting end-to-end visibility across such mission-critical business processes as Order-to-Cash, Procure-to-Pay, or Load Tender-to-Invoice.
But why do you need that end-to-end business process visibility?
Because if your supply chain can’t efficiently process and deliver orders – or easily handle returns -- for customers, suppliers, carriers, or shippers, or if your process is too slow or error-prone, sustainability will never become part of your company’s lexicon.
What’s more, competitors who are aggressively digitalizing their companies’ operations, and are hyper-vigilant about their supply chain’s impact on the environment, will surely pass you by.
Truth be told, though, to achieve the level of integration visibility you need, and the sustainable supply chain you want, EDI alone is not enough.
With the advent of the cloud and the escalating pace of digital transformation, we’re now living in an API-first universe.
So, if your company intends to scale up and ride today’s global eCommerce wave, AND participate in the sustainability movement, you’ll need the ability to accommodate both API and EDI integration workflows equally flawlessly, ideally building these capabilities on a single platform that enables you to simultaneously manage both.
In other words, you’ll want integration solutions that can mature and evolve as the world changes and as your business grows – technology advances never stop -- so it’s best to look for an integration platform that puts you in the driver’s seat, enabling your business to scale up (or down) as needed.
This is where Cleo, and its ecosystem integration platform, Cleo Integration Cloud, come in.
From an outcomes-based standpoint, approaching integration challenges from a strategic, value-creation perspective first will help you focus your available resources on gaining the supply chain agility you need to continually achieve what’s most important to your business.
The Cleo Integration Cloud platform is intrinsically built around giving you choice. You can opt for an entirely self-service approach, a 100 percent managed services deployment, or a blend of the two tailored to help you achieve the business outcomes you deem important for business success.
Cleo also gives you the integration visibility to make real-time decisions -- about inventory status, manufacturing slowdowns, supply shortages (and whether you need to onboard a new/different trading partner), logistics & transportation/delivery schedules, pricing changes, and much more. It’s a modern, cloud-based integration platform specifically designed for today’s B2B business, and it enables you to keep both sustainability and profitability top of mind.
Why Cleo is Different.
First, we put API, EDI, and file-based integration technology on the same platform. We’ve enabled true end-to-end, B2B integration all the way into your back-office systems.
Next, we eliminated inefficiencies and key-person dependencies by automating manual processes, orchestrating business processes, and supporting any-to-any data transformations.
Lastly, we empowered both business and technical users with real-time, end-to-end integration visibility for any transaction and any trading partner – enabling your entire organization to have powerful insights that drive better business decisions.
Beyond all this, Cleo Integration Cloud also enables dynamic and intelligent integration by seamlessly connecting to eCommerce sites, marketplaces, and retailers through rapid business partner onboarding, agile reconfiguration of business processes, and governance policies. Through all of this, Cleo customers can stay in continuous alignment with evolving customer and regulatory requirements.
What business outcomes can Cleo Integration Cloud deliver for you?
- Cost savings, lower TCO
- Improved SLAs
- Faster order processing
- Happier customers
- Fewer lost orders
- Processing more orders
- Reducing violations
All of these benefits contribute to streamlining today’s supply chains, making them more agile and efficient, and ultimately more sustainable, both literally (in terms of longevity and technology futureproofing) and environmentally, in terms of performance that is flat-out better for the environment.
For decades, application integration, data integration, file sharing, and other challenges of the digital age have cost IT, teams, a lot of time, money, and heartburn – because making integration happen smoothly and keeping up with technological change has been near impossible to do well.
Cleo Integration Cloud makes integration easier and brings you into the new world where the best B2B integration capabilities help you – and the planet -- thrive.
So, think bigger with a single-platform solution that holds everything together, as explained in this short video.
Want to learn more?