Supply chain management is a series of efforts invested by multiple parties to meet demands. Product manufacturing & product servicing, both parties can be suppliers. However, the trigger is common, which is DEMAND. Take an example of automobile industry wherein the customer orders a car in the showroom. The showroom employees promise an ETA of 30 days. The JIT (Just-in-Time) process starts here, which is an inventory management philosophy aims to produce the product only when there is a demand. Usually OEMs don’t make all the spare parts. There is a series of vendor who supplies them in multiple tiers. In this case, the OEM becomes a customer of another supplier.
In supply chain industry a supplier can be a customer and vice versa. In such business scenario, integration and orchestration becomes a complex process, which needs automation. Here is where the cloud-based application can reduce the manual task and help us in executing the demand.
Microsoft Azure’s Logic Apps can help the SCM industry in the design and deployment of workflow to handle long running business process. Every OEM has a pre-defined business process which must interact with different systems to fetch, process and publish the data. We need an integration architecture by stitching together a series of services along with LogicApps. LogicApps can work efficiently with other Azure services via API calls, with on-premises via on-prem data gateway & with B2B via Enterprise integration pack.
The key is to develop system workflow within LogicApps which then interacts with different data apps or on-premise database. A particular piece of complicated logic can be outsourced to Azure Functions. For example, the vendor for an OEM is again a customer for another 3rd party. To track the delivery, this piece of workflow can be outsourced to Azure Functions. Azure Service Bus can help integrating this architecture with queues, topics & relay. Azure service bus can be a publisher & subscriber, which can trigger Azure functions. Microsoft calls Service Bus an ‘Enterprise Integration Message Broker’. Many manufacturing companies still rely on their legacy applications and databases for a part of their operation which usually reside in their on-premises environment. Azure Relay Service can help such service exposures to cloud-based applications without enabling VPN.
The situation of heavy data ingestion with millions of messages from mobile device, IoT sensors or application is not uncommon in Supply Chain. Black Friday sale is one such example which triggers millions of messages. In order to handle such situations, Logic app can be used with event-based integration components of such as Azure Event Grid & Azure Event Hub. The shopping order from millions of users is ingested to Event Hub. Based on the source & content, Event Grid can trigger a logic app to process the supply chain for customer delivery. At the same time, Event Grid can post a message to Azure Service Bus.
Workflow – Customer to use workflow to design & build the business process as per their organizational requirement
Connectors – Microsoft has hundreds of pre-build connectors integrated to logic app. If an SCM vendor already uses D365 or Sales force or on-premises Databases like PostgreSQL, Connectors provide quick access to these Applications.
Triggers – Logic Apps works only based on triggers, either by above mentioned pre-build connectors or by other Azure services which are integrated to it. Every time a trigger fires, Logic Apps engine creates a new logic app instance that runs the workflow.
Actions – The steps within the workflow are Actions, which uses connectors to fetch/process/publish the data.
Enterprise integration Pack (EIP) – For seamless communication with multiple suppliers of OEM, automated scalable enterprise integration workflows can be built by using EIP.
Azure Logic Apps solve integration issues and automate business process not only in Supply Chain Management, but also can be used in various other industries. The entire HR function of an organization from Hire-to-retire can be designed. Monitoring & sentiment analysis of social media tweets of a particular hashtag can be accomplished especially while conducting an event wherein we expect thousands of people to post about the event with the same hashtag. Azure Logic Apps automatically scales to meet your needs, makes integrations faster, and helps you build robust cloud apps with minimal code.
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