Disruption and the Antifragile Supply Chain

Bristlecone’s second annual Pulse event concluded a week ago – a platform for leaders in supply chain and visionaries in technology to design their future strategies.  I’m looking through the presentations, videos and social media posts from our conference, delighted to share more content with those of you who were unable to join us in person.  (We’ll be updating our website, bcone.com, over the coming weeks.)

Irfan A. Khan, President and CEO of Bristlecone, opened the sessions with a discussion on disruption.  He shared examples of business and technology disruption, the value of a digitized supply chain and the potential of the platform economy.  Later speakers addressed these topics in relation to supply chain, Internet of Things, Advanced Planning Systems, Analytics and Procurement.

One idea Irfan discussed was the antifragile supply chain.  A concept defined by popular economic thinker Nassim Taleb, an antifragile system is a system that, instead of breaking under stress and change, thrives under it.  The antifragile grow and improve from external shocks.  As supply chain leaders, we are better set to deal with risk factors if we can make our supply chains robust rather than fragile.

An antifragile supply chain would have:

  • End-to-end visibility, making it possible to detect, understand, and endure the changes affecting the supply chain
  • Real-time adjustment, to react while there is still a chance to influence positive change
  • Benchmarking against both industry peers and one’s own internal needs and goals
  • A network approach instead of a pipeline, avoiding single points of failure

The headline speaker at Pulse was John Rossman, former Director of Enterprise Services at Amazon.com.  His leadership lessons on disruptive innovation weaved together management advice with examples of newer technologies.  Rossman urged leaders to have elastic capabilities in their businesses.  In describing Amazon strategies, he recommended to “create your own disruption, else someone else will do it for you.”  As Managing Director of Alvarez & Marsal, Rossman has found it important to “never let a good crisis go to waste” – to learn from disruption and plan how to be more effective in the future.

We are better set to deal with business risk factors if we can make our supply chains “antifragile”.  Surviving disruption will rely on investment in digital transformation – proactively and strategically.  The value will be cumulative and the benefits long-term.  By introducing resilience and flexibility into the system, businesses can maximize profitability, obtain real-time insights, and improve customer relationships.

The Bristlecone Pulse event gave its attendees the opportunity to look beyond daily operational activities – beyond integration, short-term technology ROI and functionality.  It challenged supply chain leaders to plan for future disruption and to not rest on traditional views of competition.  Per Taleb: “There is an Irish revolutionary song that encapsulates the [antifragile] effect: ‘The higher you build your barricades, the stronger we become.’”  It’s time to prepare our supply chains for the coming disruptions, so our businesses can thrive in the future.

Reference: Taleb, Nassim N. (2014) Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.  Random House

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Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers: Business Imperatives for a Supply Chain

Ever since Bitcoin – a cryptocurrency and online payment system using virtual currency – made inroads in 2013, Blockchain (the technology behind the Bitcoin platform), has grabbed attention of all. This is because Blockchain technology is extendable across industries, and is not restricted to Finance. In fact, it will be prudent to say that Blockchain technology can be extended to any transaction that has value – money, property, and goods.

I think that Blockchain technology is going to create a remarkable impact on the way we do business in the future.

What exactly is Blockchain technology?

A Blockchain is a distributed ledger of records that is tamper-proof. It is a decentralized database, which can be viewed by everyone who has access to the Blockchain network. How does this work? All stakeholders connected with a transaction or “block” can see it. Once all concerned stakeholders arrive at a consensus and approve the transaction, the block is updated cryptographically, after which it cannot be deleted or modified in any way. The next block simply sits on top of the previous block, thus creating a chain of records that is shared with all stakeholders.

Eliminating middlemen

Every transaction requires only the concerned parties, and does not need any intermediary, resulting in saving precious time and cost. For example, smart contracts using Blockchain technology can automate contract execution for terms of agreement between two or more parties. Besides financial transactions, identity management, electronic voting, supply chains, royalty payments are just some of the areas that Blockchain technology can facilitate and disrupt.

Blockchain technology with distributed networks represent a true peer-to-peer exchange of everything. This explains why it has generated so much of interest and investment.

Blockchain in Supply Chain

Supply chain networks will derive tremendous benefits from Blockchain technology, and I believe that it’s just a matter of time that we see huge strides in this space. IT and Retail majors are already looking at applying Blockchain technology to Supply Chains very closely. According to a Wall Street Journal Report, Wal-Mart is running a Blockchain technology pilot in the first quarter of 2017 to track and trace pork in China and produce in US – two of the high-volume product categories in the largest markets. Closer home, our parent company – The Mahindra Group – has piloted Blockchain technology to improve its supply chain finance business. We expect that use of Blockchain will significantly reduce time taken for invoice discounting.

Typically Supply Chains speed and agility is impacted due to lack of transparency, trust and gaps in technology. Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt supply chains by providing this open, yet secure ledger leading to a transparent chain with reduced risk and increased trust.

Add Transparency to your Supply Chain

Blockchain technology can be used to add transparency at every stage in the Supply Chain. Product movement can be tracked across every node in the Supply Chain, till it reaches its final destination, providing real-time visibility into the supply network. At every stage, only the concerned parties are signing-off on the transaction. You could also track high-value items, verify product authenticity and automatic certifications. The possibilities are endless.

Become Agile and Efficient with Smart Contracts

Smart Contracting will let two partners sign a contract by approving each other’s terms. A seller can publish the pricing, terms and conditions, discounting and any other relevant information, and any buyer on the Blockchain can find a suitable contract, and sign off on it. The network becomes more efficient, and there are no process overheads since there are no intermediaries. I think Smart Contracts will completely disrupt Supply Chain networks in the near future, and change the way people do business.

Build Trust and Opportunity

Supply Chain networks that use Blockchain technology will build trust amongst all parties involved. Since the chain is transparent, all parties can see previous transactions. This means that sellers will know which buyers will pay on time. Consequently, new business deals become easier, the chain improves in efficiency, and reputations are built based on transaction history.

Improve Quality and Get Proactive with Smart Products

As Supply Chains become more dynamic and alive with IoT integration, adding Blockchain technology to your network will more than double the benefits. Imagine IoT-enabled products sending information directly to the blockchain, which in turn lets manufacturers see real-time product performance. The information is authentic, in real-time, and will let manufacturers see faults as they occur. Not just that, they can also be proactive, improve service levels and product quality.

Blockchain technology can help build agile, trustworthy and cost-effective Supply Chains.

Are we witnessing a technological revolution in progress?

In my opinion, we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg – much has been happening, and will happen with Blockchain technology. A gamechanger that may unfold slowly, albeit surely over the next decade or so, Blockchain technology is likely to have far reaching implications on every digital transaction we make in the future.

That being said, the Blockchain concept is really new – so both the technology and model will need a lot of work. Tech majors or edgy startups – everybody believes that Blockchain technology has real potential – and if it goes the right way, it will cause more than a minor upheaval in business in the years to come. Blockchain technology is likely to change both business-to-business and business-to-consumer interactions.

The Supply Chain industry definitely stands to benefit from Blockchain technology. As I see it, we must adopt, adapt and deliver the best possible value to our customers.

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Every business aims to be the best, but the changing demands of the global marketplace makes it difficult for them to stay relevant. That’s when business firms look out in the open to find an answer, to find companies with similar pain points and the solutions used to overcome them. Hence businesses, especially those in the field of supply chain, crave for a platform where CIOs from across industries can come together and discuss their strategies and industry best-practices. Having helped over 250 customers around the world to address their procurement, supply chain, and analytics needs, Bristlecone—a leading supply chain advisory and analytics SaaS+ firm—understands the need of the hour and what it takes to optimize one’s supply chain and operations. That is why at Bristlecone Pulse 2017, a premier supply chain customer-facing event, thought leaders from the field of supply chain management will gather under one roof to share insights on actionable technologies that will give your business a competitive edge in the market.

John Rossman, an industry leader on Disruptive Innovation and author of ‘The Amazon Way’, is a featured speaker at Bristlecone Pulse 2017. A former Director of Enterprise Services at Amazon, he comes with over two decades of guiding and helping businesses transform their business models—across a wide range of industries including retail, insurance, education, forest products, industrial products, and transportation. In his talk ‘Leadership Lessons on Disruptive Innovation’ he discusses the importance of creating strategies around Internet of Things (IoT) that can help businesses to improve customer experiences, drive operational improvements, and build new business models.

Lora Cecere, founder of the research firm Supply Chain Insights, and author of the enterprise software blog Supply Chain Shaman, and a LinkedIn Influencer, will be a part of Bristlecone Pulse 2017, as well. With over four decades of varied supply chain experience, Lora offers a fresh perspective on the evolution of enterprise technologies. Her profound understanding of supply chain has also resulted in her co-authoring two books, namely Bricks Matter and Metrics That Matter. Her insights and profound views are often sought out by renowned publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, ComputerWorld, and Financial Times. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, Lora’s session—Network of Networks—will throw light on the importance of driving interoperability between the networks of technology providers and businesses.

Amber Salley, a Research Director on the Gartner Supply Chain Technology Research Team, in her research primarily focuses on supply chain planning technologies across industries. Her area of expertise includes Large-scale Cost and Culture Transformations, Business Process Re-engineering, Shared-services Development, and Large-scale ERP Implementations. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, she will lead a panel discussion on How BPaas is Driving Value Beyond Traditional Approaches. The session will also discuss how the performance of one’s supply chain can be improved through better asset utilization, automated replenishment, minimal transshipment, and cross-border regulatory compliance.

The ever evolving digital landscape has made life simpler for everyone around us, especially when it comes to the way we connect with everybody or everything else. But this digital evolution also has an unsafe side to it that neither individuals nor businesses should overlook. The onset of cybercrime, as a result of the digital evolution, has made the connected world vulnerable to digital threats, such as cyber-terrorism, malware, data theft, and the advanced persistent threat (APT). And these threats are impacting the security within the supply chain in a huge way. Jeff Klaben, Chief Security Officer at SRI International, will focus his session in Bristlecone Pulse 2017 on The Future of Cyber Security and How it Relates to the Supply Chain.

Bristlecone Pulse 2017, held from February 8 to 10, 2017 at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa will be a splendid opportunity to learn more about the intricacies of supply chain and how to get the maximum out of it.

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Is Cloud Applications Adoption Easy?

Cloud Applications Adoption:

Every industry and company has adopted cloud in some format. Cloud adoption is going to go up from here due to ease of procurement, anywhere accessibility, and improved productivity. As per the survey from RightScale 95% of businesses already have cloud footprint. Other reasons for the growth of cloud products are that they are more user friendly, have shorter update cycles, and get hassle free updates. Hence, software product companies are focusing to bring mature applications on the cloud.


Key drivers for the adoption of cloud applications are business need, friendly payment plans to start with, best return on investment (ROI) right from day one, and zero or low IT expenses in owning cloud applications. Other aspects to consider cloud applications are modern look and feel, ease to customize as per requirement, and high availability. All these benefits give more time and focus on the actual business.


Structured analysis of cloud applications is extremely important before making purchase decision. Some of the points which should be considered during the evaluation process are:
1. API Management—Does the cloud application provide application programming interface (API)? More is better.
2. Flexibility & Scalability—Ability to ramp up or ramp down quickly with lowest investment.
3. Service Level Agreement (SLA), Reliability, and Performance.
4. Integration—Data silos created by cloud applications should be handled.
5. Security—Able to connect to application securely.
6. Cost—Hidden costs and others.
7. Exit Strategy—Should not be locked in.
8. Support—To be fit as per business need and community support.


Rapid adoption of cloud imposes challenges to understanding the architecture of application, integrating with other applications—both on-premise and other SaaS applications, security, building and aligning the business processes towards business and IT goals of the organizations, keeping pace with changes in cloud applications, etc.

Primitive or Overlooked Criteria is integration of all. It is unrealistic to validate the integration at the very beginning. Even the business may not know all integration requirements at the kick off. Integration does not merely mean providing the connectivity between applications; but uniting them in a way that helps business processes produce the common goal with greater efficiency. This should further help to reduce the overall total cost of ownership (TCO) which was the original reason for adopting cloud application.

Facts show that organizations invest more to find solutions for integration related problems.


It is strongly recommended to take advice from an expert before adoption of cloud applications. And the key here is to choose the expert cautiously. Choose one who understands the challenges one may face, and has working experience on key cloud constituents. Here are some important aspects to consider. The expert/vendor:

1. Should understand Private, Public, and Hybrid cloud and segregate them and present the best model suited for the organization.
2. Should have excellent working experience on APIs, SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS.
3. Should have working experience in resolving issues related to integration (real-time, batch, and bulk) and data duplications between cloud to cloud applications and cloud to on-premise applications.
4. Should have the domain expertise to understand the business requirements and establish the expected business processes to get the maximum ROI.
5. Should be able to propose and work both on short term and long term strategies to align IT with business objectives.
6. Should have working experience of API management.
7. Should be able to make informed decisions based on the current requirements and experiences; not based on intuitions or assumptions.
8. And MOST importantly, should be committed to execution.

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The performance of most businesses is directly proportional to the effectiveness of their supply chain strategies. And it might come as a shocker, but even today many businesses have supply chain strategies that are not lined up to their business goals or these strategies are not communicated well enough within the business. Hence, it becomes imperative for businesses to take a pragmatic approach–after having gained an understanding of industry best practices–for developing supply chain policies and strategies that not only meet the needs of the business, but also drives real service and bottom line improvement.

Having helped over 250 customers around the world address their procurement, supply chain, and analytics needs, Bristlecone, which is a premier supply chain advisory and analytics SaaS+ firm, understands the need of the hour and what it takes to master one’s supply chain and operations. Bristlecone Pulse 2017 – a premier supply chain customer-facing event–is one place where top experts and industry leaders, who have mastered the intricacies of supply chains, will come together to share insights and educate participants on not just how to keep their supply chain safe and thriving, but also how to gain a competitive edge in the market. At Bristlecone Pulse 2017, sessions will be focused at the future of cyber security, how BPaaS is driving value beyond traditional approaches, and strategies on digitalizing the supply chain, innovation, analytics and IoT, among other topics. Some of the distinguished speakers featured at Bristlecone Pulse 2017 are John Rossman, Industry leader on Disruptive Innovation; Lora Cecere, Founder of Supply Chain Insights; Jeff Klaben, Chief Security Officer at SRI International; and Amber Salley, Director on the Gartner Supply Chain Technology Research team.

Bristlecone has enabled strategic, incremental value for customers across multiple industry verticals. And with its singular focus on addressing procurement, supply chain and analytics challenges, Bristlecone helps businesses to diagnose, design, enable and enhance their operations by encapsulating years of experience into pre-configured solutions, accelerated deployments and enhancement packs for the leading supply chain technologies. Gartner has recognized Bristlecone as one of the top ten system integrators and Bristlecone’s planning, sourcing, and procurement practices have been rated as the best in the industry.

Learn more about the future of cyber security and other aspects of supply chain at Bristlecone Pulse 2017, which will be held from February 8 to 10, 2017 at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa.

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Empowering 3 A’s (Agility, Adaptability, Alignment) of Supply Chain with Anaplan

Today, with globalization and technology advancement, immense opportunities are opening up in business. Companies can source globally, reach more customers, explore new business, expand product-lines, and exercise better control over an increasingly diverse line of businesses at a much quicker pace.

With this explosion in opportunities and scope of the supply chain, new challenges are also rising.  There are opportunities in terms of more avenues, suppliers, buyers, better control, and better connectivity. However, there are challenges because of the mammoth volume of data that is getting generated with every passing minute. This data deluge appears to be an insurmountable challenge when you are trying to do a what if analysis, a comparative study, a multi-dimensional analysis and finally generating actionable insights. If we refer to the concept of “Triple-A Supply Chain” (published in the Harvard Business Review by Hua Lee in 2004  the three A’s of the Supply Chain: Agility, Adaptability and Alignment, have become extremely relevant in today’s supply chain management. Because now it’s not only about maximizing profit or maximizing customer satisfaction but the combination of both, which is expected out of a highly effective Supply Chain Network. Today, supply chain effectiveness is the prime focus of business.

Planning is gaining more importance to achieve the best of the 3 As. Therefore, a shift from a conventional MS-Excel tool towards new intelligent tools is being witnessed widely and is taken very seriously in the present business environment. There are no second thoughts about MS-Excel being a wonderful tool that is very easy to learn and use. However, being a planner, I have experienced that planners work in silos when they use MS-Excel and this application is not effective to analyze large volumes of data with multiple levels of hierarchies. Anaplan is one of those visionary planning tools which is easy to use, has a quick turnaround time, no coding requirement, and has already been adopted by 60000+ users..Let us see how Anaplan can help the 3 A’s of Supply Chain (Agility, Adaptability and Alignment) with a focus on achieving effective and evolved Supply Chain Networks.
Agility: Being agile, is to anticipate/sense the demand-supply variabilities and being able to respond quickly and efficiently. Properly analyzed historical and present data, along with scenario analysis (What-ifs) are highly reliable pointers to the same. Anaplan’s multi dimension analysis ability helps extensively in being agile when analyzing data. Typically, a planning sheet contains multiple sets of data across various levels and hierarchies (e.g., product hierarchies, organization levels, etc.). [HD1] Multi dimension ability allows planners to analyze data at each level of hierarchy, across all dimensions in a single worksheet. Anaplan enables planners to quickly create scenarios and view them at various levels of hierarchy enabling agile and informed decision making.

Adaptability: Adaptability is mostly about the long-term  perspective of the company with regards to responding to the market changes. Efficient utilization of technology & capacity, establishing strategic partnership with key stakeholders (e.g. suppliers, contract manufacturers, and logistic partners) and structural changes in the supply chain network are among the key factors, which need to be kept in focus to turn a company into a more adaptive and future-ready unit for the markets.

Anaplan being a cloud-based application provides lot of flexibility and freedom to sync data from almost anywhere. The data sync with Anaplan across departments/parties creates a high visibility and predictability in developing planning models like long-term-capacity-planning (LTCP), short-term-capacity-planning etc and therefore helps the company to be more adaptive and prepared for future changes.

Alignment: Collaboration with suppliers and customers is the key to take a matured supply chain to the next level and the importance of collaboration cannot be over stated. Effective and seamless collaboration also helps in getting critical alerts, such as over commitment of supplier capacity, supplier/distributor resource balancing, and so on.

Mostly, planners or users from different departments/parties are unwilling to share their worksheets with others. This approach leads to siloed working and lack of collaboration. Anaplan provides restricted access management by assigning different roles to different individuals. This ensures that data privacy can be maintained while allowing data sync to happen which would be required for various calculations or analysis. Anaplan’s dynamic dashboarding ability can be easily used by top management to take decisions after analyzing multiple what-if scenerios without navigating across multiple sheets.

In the future, supply chain would be more data and analytics driven. Planning and analysis of data at each level of the supply chain will determine  its contribution to an organization’s success. In view of all these factors, Anaplan is a pioneering and highly promising tool, which can redefine the supply chain through its excellent enablers for planners, analysts, or higher management.

Do you want your supply chain to be agile, adaptable and aligned with Anaplan? You can contact us at:

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Warehousing Integration AND Challenges

Warehousing is one of the most critical functions in supply chain as it acts as a node in linking the material flows between the supplier and customer. In today’s competitive market environment companies are continuously forced to improve their warehousing operations. Warehouses have been going through various challenges such as supply chains becoming more integrated and shorter, globalized operation, customers are more demanding and rapidly occurring technology changes. In order to cope with these challenges, organizations are investing in specialized Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to manage their In-house (Private) warehouses and improving integration and collaboration with Third Party Warehouse partners (3PL)..

Need for Integration

Warehouses can be of various types like production warehouses, distribution centres etc., depending on their role and function within the supply chain. However most of them share some of the general pattern of material flow and typical operations include receiving, put away, order picking, packing, sorting and shipping. Whatever may be the warehousing strategy of an organization, integration automation is required between business management software or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and the systems managing the shop floor warehouse operations.

People in back office who manage sales, procurement, order processing, production planning, financials etc. in ERP system have to communicate the expectations and instructions to warehouse operators in real time and need to receive timely updates on status of activities performed and change in inventory.

Warehousing Integration


Fig: Need for Warehousing Integration

Expectations and Instructions from ERP include Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Delivery Instructions (Inbound & Outbound), Advance Shipping Notices etc.

Operation Confirmations from Warehouse include Goods Receipts, Goods Issues, Activity updates like Picking/Packing/Putaway confirmations, Stock Adjustments during cycle counts etc.

Master data and Inventory levels also have to be periodically synchronized between both systems.

Automating data flow through integration helps to eliminate manual data entry, human error, catch problems early, reduce lead times and improve customer service.


In-house or Private Warehouse Integration

Organizations who manage their own warehouses not only have to select and implement the best-fit WMS software, but, in addition, also face an even bigger challenge of making sure any WMS integration works with other systems, particularly any existing ERP software. WMS software package falls under the following three categories:

Native WMS module from current ERP vendor – In this case, the WMS module is designed and developed by the ERP vendor with the rest of the ERP system in mind. Therefore, the WMS is inherently and truly integrated because it uses technologies common to both systems. So there is no need for additional integration.

WMS add-on package offered by current ERP vendor – In this case, the WMS software is sold as an independent bolt-on package by the ERP vendor. Since both the software are provided by the same vendor, the integration solution is generally provided out-of-box through direct systems connection or via preconfigured content in middleware (generally from same vendor or partner vendor). So there would be very few custom interface programs during implementation. But it might not be truly plug and play as vendor advertises.

WMS from a third-party vendor – The best-of-breed WMS systems often fall into this category. For the organizations that need high end software capabilities, this may be the only valid option. Implementing this stand-alone WMS solution requires complex integration which has a tremendous impact on overall system stability and the efficiency of day-today work.

Below are some of the common challenges faced in this integration:

  • Time & Cost – Time and costs to integrate a proposed WMS software should also be a major consideration while evaluating TCO. Warehouse operations can be pretty complex in nature and integration needs to support different business documents and various business scenarios & rules involved. Gathering requirement, mapping in system, thorough testing and deployment can take a lot of effort & time.
  • Business & Time Critical – Warehousing transactions are very business critical and time sensitive. Any loss of data or delay in data transmission can have a major impact on other related business functions. For example, transactions such as PO goods receipts can affect the available to sell value in the ERP, and thus affecting potential sales.
  • Large Volumes – Daily volume of warehousing transactions can be pretty huge with demand for large number of order fulfilments and frequent real time updates. Integration should be capable to handle such volumes also scalable enough to manage higher loads in future with growth in business.
  • Application Standards – WMS software in the market come with different capabilities to communicate with other applications. Format of data exchanged is generally specific to each WMS like Text files etc. and multiple modes of transmission may exist like File transfer, Web services, Application Queues, Direct communication with underlying database etc. Due to lack of any specific standards or guidelines, it is imperative that integration takes a lead in analysing and deciding on the optimum solution to meet business needs.
  • Error Handling – Complexities in warehousing integration generally add to delays in identifying, monitoring, and addressing issues. Errors can come from multiple sources like bad or incomplete data from upstream system (Business users), failed jobs, logic errors in integration systems, logic errors in processing end systems. These can prove to be very costly if not corrected in time which may lead to returns, covering costs for overnight shipments to avoid deliver delays etc. So there is a need to have proactive monitoring capability in place to identify issues and communicate to business users immediately. High level of traceability has to be built in to seamlessly track business data flow in all systems involved.
  • Touch Points – Deciding on integration touch points is one of the important considerations during WMS implementation. There are some obvious candidates like item master data, orders, stock adjustments, receipts etc. but more exotic transactions need some thought. For example, Customer and Supplier returns, typically these are handled manually as the volume and workflow complexity usually means the cost for integration outweighs the benefit.
  • Resilience & ROI – For new warehousing requirement, ad hoc integration solutions may seem very appealing due to shorter deployment cycle. But they become hard to maintain and counterproductive should integration needs grow. Integrations need to be highly flexible, scalable and reusable. Deploying solutions with EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) best practices & future ready technologies, even though time taking, help to provide the required resilience & better ROI for warehousing implementation in long run.
  • WMS Vendor lock-in – Organizations only realize the dangers of lock-in once they are trapped with rising support and maintenance costs, slow and expensive change processes, and the prospect of prohibitive costs to develop an equivalent solution from scratch. Integration solutions can help to prevent vendor lock-in by avoiding short term vision. This can be done by documenting the processes clearly, retaining business logic at ERP end as much as possible even if it might be more convenient to move it to WMS end, preferring to add extensibility features from the beginning.



Fig: Challenges in Warehousing Integration

Third Party managed Warehouse Integration

Organizations who outsource warehousing operations to focus on their core competencies need full-scale business to business (B2B) collaboration with their 3PL Warehousing partner. This involves building and maintaining solid B2B integration strategy to support the business needs. While the challenges that are faced in In-house warehouse integration are still very much relevant here, the Business to Business nature of communication adds its own set of complexities.

Below are the additional challenges impacting integration:

  • Industry Standards – Communicating with 3PL partner using B2B standards (industry common language) can be very challenging for an organization due to lack the budget, resources and expertise to implement sophisticated technologies such as EDI and XML. To support B2B technologies companies might need to purchase specialized integration software. Additionally, they need to train or hire someone with B2B skills to support integration.
  • Security – Security is one of the biggest concerns in B2B integration. Business sensitive warehousing data should not be transmitted over open networks (internet) in an insecure manner. To meet the security compliance standards for B2B integration, organizations need to invest in systems capable of secure communication using protocols like SFTP, FTPS, HTTPS, AS2 etc. Data is transferred by secure authentication using certificates/keys and encryption-decryption mechanisms.
  • SLA Compliance – Service level agreements (SLAs) are a staple of customer and service provider transactions. SLAs establish objective criteria for assessing the performance of business-to-business (B2B) processes and operations. Several aspects of performance are measured with SLAs including the accuracy and completeness of data exchanged between businesses, timeliness, responsiveness, and visibility of processes that manage data exchange, how available and dependable B2B infrastructure services are etc. Compliance with SLAs governing B2B integration performance is important to nearly all businesses. Business activities can be obstructed if they fail to comply.
  • Partner Management – Exchanging B2B information effectively is only part of trading with a new partner. It is important to ensure that the physical supply chain can be monitored end-to-end and in real time. When onboarding new trading partners, it is worth considering how to achieve this level of visibility and how to deploy the information captured to improve the service companies receive from suppliers and provide to customers.
  • Auditing – B2B integration requires a centralized audit trail to facilitate regulatory compliance, risk management and customer service. As soon as an error or inconsistency occurs, history that led to point of failure is of immediate interest. It is important that a compete history complete history is available so that every single action in B2B server that led to failure situation can be reviewed and there is no ambiguity between company and 3PL partner.
  • Slow Maturity – Implementing Integration solution using B2B industry standards cannot be done in an ad- hoc manner. There needs to be comprehensive B2B strategy in place with a roadmap which complements long term vision of the organization. The true ROI and cost savings can only be realized once the model matures and adoption rates improve among the trading partners, which might take many years.

The integration of disparate best of breed WMS solutions to ERP platforms is an increasingly common trend in the emerging enterprise market space. This poses a major challenge and risk and having the right strategy and integration partner can make or break the success of Warehousing implementation.


Bristlecone has solved integration challenges across industries like CPG, Retail, Automotive, High-Tech, Chemicals etc. Our Integration services have enabled customers to build a clear integration strategy and helped them reduce integration costs and reduce time to rollout of critical business applications. Our Supply chain experience helps us see business processes end to end and helps us see the picture that many vendors can’t, the need of the business.

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Is Supply Chain Growth Enough?

Why Being Socially Compliant can take your Brand to the Next Level

The “parmesan cheese” scam had a global retailer discover that its parmesan cheese brands labeled “100% grated parmesan cheese” contained no actual parmesan – based on the findings by Food & Drug Administration. The story hit the newspapers by storm. That’s just one of several instances how well known brands have, somewhat, become lax in their dealings in procurement and overall supply chain management.
In another example, a leading sportswear brand made the headlines for its suppliers’ alleged labor exploitation around the world. A global food manufacturer in recent months was adversely impacted by horse meat being found in its products.

Such instances clearly throw light on the ever-increasing responsibilities of today’s procurement personnel. Their duty is no longer limited to cutting down costs. Their responsibilities stretch far beyond cost containment and budget adherence. They need to ensure their supply chain is not just agile, but socially compliant as well.

With social compliance, companies embrace every stage of the supply chain and pay heed to employee safety, protection from hazardous activities, forced and child labor and other pressing matters. Companies need to take measures for stringent rules and regulations and comply with standards to ensure that they take care of every stakeholder that is a part of the ecosystem.

Compliance failure can lead to injury, illness and death, not to mention lasting damage to the company’s brand. According to CAPS Research, in 2015, as much as 83% of all corporate spending went to thousands of global suppliers and a minimal amount was earmarked for corporate manufacturing plants, personnel, and operations infrastructure.

In this day and age, it is essential to closely and carefully monitor supplier raw material, performance and its compliance with ethics and global standards.

Big firms that rely heavily on contractors and sub-contractors with hundreds of suppliers, have a complex task ahead. Besides being agile and lean in their dealings, they need to ensure that protecting their ethical imperatives, image and standing is priority.

How contractors perform or what kind of behavior they show, and whether they are ethical in their activities will have a direct impact on the parent brand. Poor working conditions, child labor, inaccurate financial transactions, skirting environmental regulations, or substandard raw materials can turn into infamous headlines, negatively impacting the contracting organization. Thus, companies should focus on monitoring and vet supplier performance besides products. Government regulations enforce social responsibility, and consumers end up punishing the companies that don’t handle themselves responsibly.

Organizations need to focus not just on delivering great products, but nurturing the environment, internal and external. Companies should follow guidelines to avoid lapses that can hinder performance. When followed to the T, the pointers provided here will help brands to uphold their status.

  • Do not tolerate corruption in any form: Employers may implement clear anti-corruption policies for employees, suppliers, and the extended supply chain. Employee training should be included to support the implementation of such policies.
  • Promote diversity and inclusion throughout the organization: Diversity continues to be a hot-button topic, for a good reason. Fostering a diverse group of suppliers, employees, external partners, and affiliates will create a culture of inclusion, not exclusion.
  • Support environmental precaution and promote environmental responsibility: Organizations should strive to comply with, and whenever possible, exceed compliance with all applicable environmental laws, regulations and protocols. We suggest providing all employees with training and the resources needed to make environmentally conscious decisions.
  • Value, respect, and enforce human rights: Human beings have universal, natural rights and status regardless of legal jurisdiction and local factors. Organizations should not continue with suppliers who violate those rights.

Being socially responsible is not an end, but a journey. It takes several years – not to mention tremendous investments—to build a brand. Collaborate with suppliers who have strong ethical backgrounds and who understand that sustainability is built by embracing the interests of all stakeholders. Communication is the key. Let your suppliers and partners know your standing right from the beginning to ensure a smooth voyage and sustainable brand growth.

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Getting The Most Out of Your ERP Investments through Bristlecone ValueMS™ Part-2

The Bristlecone ValueMS Advantage

Our Focus Areas are detailed out below.


Our comprehensive set of AMS Offerings cover a wide range of spectrum from Application operations & Infrastructure support to Application Management and goes up to Value Delivery and benefit optimization.


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