Low Code/No Code for Supply Chains and Logistics

The Challenges of Supply Chains

Supply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse, as we witnessed numerous deficiencies in food, medical equipment, and even manufacturing components across the globe. 

The increasingly fast paced and competitive landscape of products and services have necessitated innovative approaches for managing logistics and supply chain. Logistics pertains to distribution and organization of products within an organization. It includes warehousing and transportation and is considered part of the overall Supply Chain. Visibility and robust tracking of raw materials, components, and manufactured goods to distribution warehouses is a great use case for business value.

How important is Supply Chain? Consider this. About 40% of the food production is wasted in the supply chain! That is just the food industry. All industries and large discrete or process manufacturing organizations rely on efficiencies in their supply chain. 

The problems span breakdowns in provisioning parts and multi-tier supply networks and lack of visibility, Provenance, Trust, Security, and Control of robust supply chain executions. An ideal supply chain should operate as an extended enterprise: a collaborative network of organizations working towards a common objective. The objective is the efficiency in cross-organizational value streams towards timely and high-quality products to the consumer. 

Complexity of Supply Chains 

Supply Chains involve multiple suppliers and multiple levels of supply provisioning: from the raw materials to components to OEM to warehousing to distribution to manufactured goods for the consumers. Every participant needs to have confidence in the consistent flow of information and its security and reliability. Supply chains are at their core value chains. A value chain is as trustworthy as its weakest link.

Complex manufacturing organizations face challenges in siloed information about their suppliers, error-prone communications, broken logistics tracking, and the inability to monitor potential adverse events that impact the performance and responsiveness of the supply chain. In all this, manufacturers often operate on missing and even erroneous information affecting their product lines.

Warehouse and Supply Chain Management, which is critical in many industries, showed serious vulnerabilities during the pandemic, and we are starting to see movement to optimize and change both in digitization, automation, and diversity of sourcing

There is Vision … needs Execution

The challenges described above are well-known. Silos within an organization as well as across the supply value chain are one of the main causes of inefficiencies.  Several solution providers, consortia, and organizations globally have attempted to address global supply chain optimizations with a vision. 

One such example is the European Union’s NextNet – which stands for Next Generation Technologies for Networked Europe. The following illustrates their vision for optimizing Supply Chains by 2030.

(From Dr. Khoshafian’s upcoming book on Digital Transformation Debt, August 2021.+)

As articulated by NextNet: “Customisation, climate changes, scarcity of resources, acceleration of the technological development, etc. translate into threats and opportunities for the European manufacturing, distribution and logistics sector and ask for new and reconfigured supply chains and collaboration mechanisms.” 

Spot on!

However, more pragmatically how will the Supply Chain optimizations be realized – especially in the more immediate time frames?

In this and subsequent blogs and content we shall address this very issue with practical solutions that can be leveraged now. We start with one of the most important technological trends that is game changing: Low Code/No Code for Supply Chain!

The Low Code/No Code Revolution

There is a quiet revolution in programming languages. The paradigm that is at the core of this revolution is not recognizable as a traditional programming language. Also, the programmers of the revolution are not the traditional developers. We are of course speaking about Low Code/No Code: two terms that are often used interchangeably. Consider this. Conservatively more than 70% of applications will be built one or more Low Code/No Code development. Low Code/No Code is not hype. It is also not a panacea. It does have challenges. But it is revolutionary and is accelerating innovations for both enterprises and startups. This is Quite amazing and is coming as a revolutionary tsunami that will disrupt many organizations. Consider this: that there are now more than 10,0000,000 Java (one of the many popular programing languages) developers alone and the top 10 programming languages does not even list “Low Code/No Code.” Universities are by and large not teaching Low Code/No Code – especially as a programming discipline. There are few books on Low Code/No Code and the entire spectrum of platforms and solutions is fast paced and transitional. There are many options and paradigms – all under the banned of Low Code/No Code. 

Low Code/No Code is a quiet revolution. But it is real and powerful.

It is a revolution that is transformational. Not only in technology, but much more importantly in Culture. More specifically Low Code/No Code empowers the culture of innovation, disruption, entrepreneurship, and change. For enterprises it is the core of digital transformation. 

Subject matter experts in enterprises can also become Citizen Developers. This includes Businesses and Operations developing and modifying applications through Low Code/No Code platforms. IT is also becoming much more productive and scaling the applications with Low Code development. Low Code/No Code enables Business and IT speak the same language.

Low Code and Supply Chain

Supply Chain challenges can be met through several core competencies. Various Supply Chain tier participants as well as manufacturers, warehouse managers, and logistical distributors need to have visibility to the Supply Chain: tracing and tracking the shipment of components or goods. Furthermore, the requirement is acceleration and robustness in the development of capabilities, enhancements in the user experiences, and well as changes to the applications supporting the Supply Chains. 

A recent Supply Chain transformative winners and leaders in the Supply Chain solutions showed that collaboration – leveraging various tele-communication (virtualization) technologies was key.  Clearly, there needs to be a new model of collaboration. However, this new model needs to provide the necessary accelerators, design collaboration and continuous enhancements to be much more responsive and even autonomic.

In addition to developing rapidly and efficiently collaboration applications, there are two other areas

Here are the three Low Code/No Code areas for robust capabilities to address the many challenges of Supply Chains:

  • Low Code/No Code for Responsive/Progressive Application Development for Portals: productivity and the speed of development on multiple channels (Web, Mobile, Social, etc.) and change is exactly the sweet spot of Low Code platforms. 

The portal where multiple Supply Chain participants can collaborate becomes an essential building block for transformed Supply Chains

The user experience of the portal needs to be supported across all channels: seamlessly  and consistently. There will be many user experience elements – forms, dialog boxes, user-interface elements – as well as the organization of the collaborative Supply Chain portals where various participants can leverage the tracking and tracing of goods and services from source to consumer. 

Thus, the productivity of building and deploying collaborative Supply Chain portals easily and consistently deployed on Web or Mobile channels is critical.

  • Low Code/No Code Workflow and Business Process Automation: Supply Chain is also about end-to-end business processes. A Low Code/No Code business process platform will model, execute, monitor, and improve the end-to-end process. Other terms are also often used to denote end-to-end processes. These include “workflow” and “case management.” Some tasks will be performed by humans — for instance, approving the orders. Others could involve automation — for example, receiving the goods. There will also be tasks accessing systems of record — for instance, preparing and paying the invoice to a supplier tier. 

The Low Code/No Code capability stems from the ease of drag-drop modeling and then the subsequent execution of the process flows.

Workflow and Business Process Management platforms have long supported model-driven development (MDD). It is in essence Low Code modeling and execution where you first diagram how the tasks should be orchestrated, develop the UI portals through Low Code/No Code and then deploy for execution. Once the application is deployed, the various participants can then monitor the performance of the activities through interactive analytics. 

  • Low Code/No Code for Integration and Legacy/ERP Modernization: Legacy applications are systems of record. For complex applications such as Supply Chains often multiple system of record applications and databases are involved to support supply chain applications. 

Facilitating and automating the integration, customization, and modernization of this legacies is also critical for Supply Chain optimizations.

All Supply Chain initiatives will involve integration. Low Code/No Code solutions can accelerate the legacy integration constructs from managing the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the security & visibility protocols for various supply chain participants, as well as consistency of the data models across multiple applications. Integration orchestration with consistent data access and updates can easily be developed and deployed. Furthermore, with the responsive/progressive UI and the business logic in workflows the solution can extend and customize for specific Supply Chain scenarios: essentially accelerating the modernization. 

Takeaways

Supply Chain has many challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic stressed and accentuated the global supply chain vulnerabilities. Supply Chains in “normal” conditions already has traceability and operational inefficiency challenges. Its weaknesses make it vulnerable to disruptions – as we saw with the pandemic. In fact, there are many other potential disruptions of supply chains that could have a devastating impact on economies. Some of these include: 

  • Vendor Country challenges
  • Weather Conditions
  • Fuel Price Hikes
  • Political turmoil’s
  • Labor Union Challenges 
  • Mergers and Acquisitions that disrupt supplies

There are others. 

Low Code/No Code is an emerging revolution that can address optimizations for Supply Chains. This blog highlighted three complimentary Low Code/No Code capabilities can meet these challenges with the required visibility, tracing, tracking and especially acceleration in building or changing modern supply chain solutions – within and across the value chain. All the core optimizations for Supply Chains such as:

  • Optimized and On-Time Inventory Management
  • Visibility and Traceability across the Supplier Tiers
  • Collaboration to alleviate and mitigate risks
  • Easy of changing suppliers and connecting end-to-end intra and inter-enterprise processes and applications

How? What are some pragmatic case studies and examples?

If you are interested in getting robust answers to these questions learning more on exactly how Low Code/No Code achieves these objectives, contact LANSA


LANSA Hybrid Low-Code solutions are fast to deploy and easy to maintain delivering outstanding value for any application development project. Ready to get started?