Microsoft envisions how IoT will impact supply chain management

Microsoft is pitching its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform Dynamics AX as the way for companies to manage a more intelligent supply chain in the age of IoT.

For a quick primer, companies have long used software to aggregate and manage data for all of the activities they have to do to create the products and services we use. These software platforms help manage everything from purchasing supplies, keeping track of inventory, to marketing and sales, and so on. As ERP management software became more and more popular there has evolved a huge array of providers, everyone from IBM, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft.

What is new and interesting is the amount and types of data are exponentially growing because of the Internet of Things (IoT). As more and more devices, everything from elevators to refrigerators, become internet-connected, companies can use that data to make more informed and efficient decisions about how they manage their resources.

A few examples of the impact of cloud-connected IoT include predicting when a factory machine will break down and preventively fixing it and managing a fleet of delivery trucks to ascertain real-time costs for shipping products. These types of capabilities in future Enterprise Resource Management platforms could save companies huge amounts of money and enable them to deliver better products and services to consumers.

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Accordingly, Microsoft is positioning their Dynamics AX platform as the ERP for Supply Chain Management in the IoT age. In a Dynamics blog post, Microsoft provides an example of how one of their customers benefited from a large-scale, cloud-connected supply chain, managed with Dynamics.

WASH Multifamily Laundry Services maintains and operates over half a million washers across 75,000 locations. To help gain greater scales of efficiency they started tracking everything with data by attaching sensors and barcodes to their equipment, to using GPS tracking with their fleet of repair vehicles. The result is their fleets and machines can be monitored, and consequently coordinated, in real time. And the company can save money on gas by being more efficient with scheduling repairs, getting machines repaired quicker, and better managing when a machine is a loss.

Tommy Gates WASH’s VP operations now describes the company as “no longer being a data entry company” thanks to Dynamics. Instead, they have automated workflows, centralized their data repository, and done away with multiple data silos within the company. Anyone who has slogged away in a cubicle farm made up of a rigid hierarchy of siloed departments can appreciate the more enlightened and data driven approach that WASH has taken to heart.

Microsoft is hoping that Dynamics will be the future of Supply Chain Management in an IoT world. And, the hope is likely correctly placed, as managing these interconnected systems in real time with predictive analytics will be transformative. But the Internet of Things has received a lot of hype in the past few years and it is still in many respects a wild west of standards and processes. Hopefully, initiatives like Microsoft’s use of ERP platforms for better supply chain management will lead to making the IoT revolution an everyday reality.

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