- Microsoft launched a new service under preview Tuesday to help manufacturers predict and mitigate disruptions throughout their supply chains, from bad weather to factory shutdowns, which have become more frequent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing connects the technology giant's various cloud capabilities to manufacturers' operations, said Çağlayan Arkan, vice president of manufacturing industry. One included application, Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Insights, allows manufacturers to create a digital twin of their physical supply chain.
- When a disruptive event occurs, companies can perform simulations through the twin to find out the best way to minimize the impact. For example, heavy rainfall in a region may subdue the need for allergy medicine, Arkan said. "So you look at your inventory, you look at what is happening from a weather standpoint, and you make near-real time actions."
After investing heavily in its own supply chain's visibility, Microsoft is introducing a way for other companies to do the same.
Five or six years ago, finding a product within Microsoft's supply chain could take a week, Arkan said. Today, the company has an operations center allowing it to see every single SKU, where they're headed and their estimated times of arrival.
"If there's a weather system coming in and a chip will be stranded at a port, I can recalculate," Arkan said of the company's capabilities. "I can perhaps use rail or other things. I can re-ensure, I can reroute."
COVID-19 woke many companies up to the importance of agile supply chains and operations, as sourcing challenges, countrywide shutdowns and wild swings in demand continue to stymie businesses. End-to-end visibility can help decision makers adjust inventory and demand planning in the face of unforeseen events.
"The pandemic was a huge slap on the face," Arkan said. "Everything stopped. You didn't know whether your suppliers were financially healthy, whether or not they were producing, and you didn't get any signals from the market. How do you match demand and supply?"
Arkan called Microsoft customers in the early days of the pandemic, asking them how the company could help. He said customers frequently cited the need for more visibility throughout their operations — data is plentiful, but it can often be siloed within different parts of a company or simply unstructured.
Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing aims to break down silos by connecting different systems across an organization. When everyone within a company — from the executive board to the factory floor — has the context around what a set of data means, it leads to better results, Arkan said.
"There's one version of truth," he said. "So meetings are no longer, 'Is it your data? Is it my data?' Meetings are, 'What do we do about this?'"