By: Alex MacPherson, Director of Solution Consultancy and Account Management of Manhattan Associates of Manhattan Associates
Over the last two decades the term ‘cloud computing’ has become a well-known (and used) part of everyday vocabularies, however, over the last five years the term has evolved; today, the hype and buzz is all around ‘cloud native’ computing. Unlike many other technologies the definition of cloud native computing has both technical and cultural dimensions too.
The key principle that elevates cloud native above traditional cloud solutions is that instead of being vertically integrated, these applications are built using loosely coupled components that allow each element to choose the right technology stack and infrastructure to solve a particular task. Furthermore, they can be built, tested and released independently, reducing hard-coded dependencies, (crucially) making modification easier and deployment faster.
While the pandemic has undoubtedly been a catalyst for renewed cloud adoption, it has also highlighted the importance of flexible, agile and robust global supply chain networks reports Alex MacPherson of Manhattan Associates. After all, never before have the networks that feed, clothe and provide billions with medicine been more relevant than they are right now. Here are three reasons I believe every supply chain director should be considering cloud native solutions as part of a post-pandemic future.
Shifting consumer behaviour
One of the primary benefits of cloud native solutions is to reduce the time between forming a business idea and delivering it into production. Furthermore, cloud native architecture works best when workloads are highly unpredictable or temporary.
This makes cloud native apps ideal for adapting to the huge shifts in consumer behaviour and habits witnessed in 2020 and into this year: from ecommerce booms to the increasing popularity of ‘new’ purchasing options like buy online, pickup in store and curb-side pickup, cloud native apps affords an organisation the flexibility to pick and choose which parts of the application to abstract, meaning these apps are better designed to handle higher frequencies of changes.
This level of flexibility enables companies to foster a culture that’s more conducive to implementing new, innovative ideas not just within IT, but throughout the entire organisation. Nowhere have we seen the importance of this flexible, agile approach more in the last six months, than in the retail supply chain context.
At a time where customer behaviour and consumer trends are shifting at such a rapid pace ensuring that your entire supply chain network has the flexibility and agility to adapt and pivot to meet the fast-paced, shifting expectations of customers is a must for all brands moving forward, regardless of pandemics or not.
Robotics and automation in the supply chain
The Global Warehouse Robotics Market was valued at USD 6.12 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 25.8 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 27% over the forecast period 2020-2025.
Today, a wide range of factories, laboratories, warehouses, energy plants, hospitals and other industries are increasingly reliant on robotics and automation, with the pandemic accelerating questions around the use of robotics and automation, shining a spotlight on some of the deficiencies in existing businesses and retail models – areas where robots can certainly help.
As brands begin to introduce further automation and robotics into their supply chains, the only practical way to ensure the continuity and security of these ‘cobot’ networks is through an effective cloud-first approach to the software and platforms that allow for robots to integrate with their environments and co-workers seamlessly.
Additionally, with digital twin technology, retailers can also replicate different fulfilment models and determine the most efficient and profitable way to handle orders, enabling deliveries to reach their final destinations in the quickest, most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way.
Furthermore, analysis of real-time data may reveal whether direct delivery from a retail store, another distribution centre, or perhaps even directly from the factory, is the most efficient and effective choice. The twinning process can even build models that highlight the impact of variables such as different delivery times, weather or traffic issues, and at every stage, each variable or scenario delivers new data making the next simulation richer and more accurate.
The IoT: connected living means a connected supply chain
The number of devices connected to the Internet, including the machines, sensors, and cameras that make up the Internet of Things (IoT), continues to grow at a steady pace. The latest forecast from IDC estimates that there will be 41.6 billion connected devices generating as much as 79.4 zettabytes of data by 2025.
This technology has clear benefits to organisations and their supply chains. Whether it’s censors in warehouses or RFID tags in retail stores; through to streamlined delivery networks or even individual products, the IoT has the potential to make every element of the supply chain smarter, more efficient, transparent, profitable and ultimately, more sustainable too.
However, the sheer size of the data that it creates; the distributed edge networks in which this data is created; the platforms required to manage the devices, and the continual cycles of DevOps style software upgrades required (to ensure the data integrity and safety of the network) means that without an effective cloud native approach to the whole IoT technical environment, the benefits cannot truly be embraced.
Whether it’s adapting and thriving against the challenges of shifting consumer behaviour; or adopting and integrating new technologies like robotics, digital twins and the Internet of Things into your existing technology stacks and business plans; the key to success in 2021 (and beyond) lies in maintaining an ‘always on’ approach to innovation – an approach that can only be achieved through the use of cloud native technologies.