Kinks in the supply chain? Dynamics and Power Apps helps straighten them out.
Author: Amit Raina, Director Strategic Engagement, Arbela Technologies
Distribution is about movement and, ideally, movement — be it of products, data, people, etc. — should be smooth, streamlined, and with purpose (e.g., imagine going to the ballet and seeing dancers move in a clunky, chunky fashion, starting up for no reason, and stopping randomly: big miss).
That’s what we here at Arbela look at when we look at all distribution steps in every supply chain: how are they moving, where are they moving, when, and could they all be moving more efficiently. The tools we use to take a good look are Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management extended by custom tools built using Power Apps. But, before we dig into “the cure,” let’s take a closer look at the symptoms.
Where does it hurt? Common pain points in the supply chain
Misery loves company. Which is why the only upside about pain points in the supply chain is that most distribution organizations face the same ones.
- Lack of metrics: Distribution companies require metrics on everything from inventory management to asset to maintenance to human resources and beyond. The company that has all the info it needs to succeed is rarity in any industry.
- Warehouse mismanagement: In many ways, warehouse mismanagement is the outcome of the aforementioned lack of metrics (impossible to optimally manage a warehouse without the data), but there are other elements — such as THE elements (weather), shifts in customer demands, compliance with local regulations, etc. — that can have an adverse impact as well.
- Communication breakdowns: Real-time failures in connectivity, networks, and devices can lead to supply chain disruptions and have a ripple effect that hits vendors and customers alike.
- Misdirected/ineffective workflows: Some distribution companies are doing things a certain way “because that’s how we’ve always done it.” But for a growing business, looking to the past is rarely the best means of moving forward. Outdated workflows almost always mean missed opportunities.
- Competing systems: Within the wholesale and distribution business, multiple departments are almost always involved, and that usually means multiple systems, multiple extensions and apps, siloed data, and more. You can’t be on the same page if you’re reading from different playbooks.
Using Dynamics and Power Platform to address the causes, not the symptoms
The preceding list of pain points was brief, but over-arching. In fact, in our experience, it’s not just distribution: most of these issues permeate every industry we work in.
The good news is that there is a host of tools and tactics you can use to “stop the bleeding” in the here-and-now and create solutions to prevent these issues from ever cropping up again.
A depth and breadth of metrics
With Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management as your starting point, you can gain immediate insight into the workings of your distribution practices, platforms, and people. But that’s rarely going to be enough. Because distribution processes are where the inner workings of your business meet the outside world (as goods move from factories to warehouses, as inventory is moved to retailers, as vendors come and go).
Arbela can help you capture third-party and external data as completely as your internal data. Through technologies like AI and machine learning, we can then parse that data and deliver it (via Power BI) to stakeholders, empowering them to make real-time decisions on external drivers impacting distribution. Having the metrics is not enough. We’ll help you act on them, too.
Improving warehouse management
With Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, there is a host of tools to optimize every step in warehouse management. Predictive analytics can help automate inventory management, and Arbela can extend your Dynamics platform with custom apps. The goal here is not just fixing current warehouse management challenges, but ensuring you’re equipped to handle the unknown challenges that may come next.
Consolidating communication, workflows and systems
Common sense dictates that once everyone is on the same platform using the same tools that communication and productivity would improve. Common sense is right, but there’s more. Communication is not just among your team. It’s among your processes, too. And it’s not just YOUR processes and YOUR team: it’s those of the outside world as well. Typically, what disrupts distribution more than anything else comes from without rather than within.
If you’re using additional platforms and solutions in the Microsoft stack (e.g., Dynamics 365 Sales, Dynamics 365 Customer Insight, Outlook) you can consolidate communications data in one repository, creating a more complete view of and proactive plan of action for events in the outside world. With that data — and tools like Arbela Workflow Manager, which lets you remotely adjust who does what, and when, and where — you can then easily and quickly make changes to internal workflows that empower you turn adversity into opportunity.
Supply chain perfection? We’ll take preparation.
There’s no Microsoft Partner or technology provider than can ensure perfection in the distribution supply chain. Why? Because it’s always moving, it’s always changing, and there are external drivers pushing it in different directions. Look no further than the global pandemic of 2020 for proof.
With perfection permanently elusive, what Arbela and Microsoft can do is help create supply chain processes and platforms that ensure preparation. It’s a combination of the proper technologies (Dynamics, extensions, and custom tools built with Power Apps) and progressive business practices (Arbela’s team can provide assessments and strategic road mapping to help optimize) that fuel success in distribution and supply chain management. And of course, it’s distribution materials, goods, and products that keep the world moving forward.