27 July 2020
27 July 2020

How DevOps Aligns with Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Logistics and supply chain management organizations continue to transform rapidly. Learn why DevOps ways of working are a natural fit for this industry as it expands and accelerates.

Highly competitive industry; Established Players & Startups

Organizations who manage and optimize logistics, supply chains, and procurement are more competitive than ever

This is an area where established businesses and processes are facing disruption.

As an example, startups in the freight and logistics area offer customers new experiences. By comparison…

Still mired in largely manual and heterogeneous processes, supported by a variety of different tools, most of the industry’s incumbents simply can’t compete.

Accenture, “Digital Disruption in Freight and Logistics” (emphasis mine)

The risk of losing market share for established enterprises is real. Economic research has shown that it’s now easier for companies to gain market share by writing clever technology that is core to the organization’s business, as compared to gaining market share by mergers and acquisitions (Bessen, 2017).

In order to compete, both established organizations and those new to logistics and supply chain management must be able to respond to customer demands quickly. They also must foster cultures of innovation, where engineers are able to experiment and find new ways to deliver value to customers.

In my experience consulting with those in the logistics and supply chain industries, I’ve heard from organization owners that efficiency is also important. Profit margins can be quite narrow: these teams need to be able to regularly innovate and deliver value without massive R&D budgets.

This combination of factors makes DevOps processes a natural fit for organization. That’s because in essence…

DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users.

Donovan Brown, “What is DevOps?”

New data must be processed immediately with high accuracy

Data processing is essential for teams working in logistics and supply chain management

These teams must process and react to new data right away, but accuracy is key – information must be correct AND up to the minute. This requires teams to build systems which can ingest, and analyze, and report information back to customers at very high speeds. There is no time in this world for an old-fashioned wait to process and publish data to an external data warehouse.

Databases are very up to these challenges. Even classic relational databases now contain technology that supports immediate processing and reporting on data as it is ingested, and there are a host of new architecture choices in both on-prem and in cloud environments.

But there are so many possible architectures and optimizations these days, that teams face huge challenges: how do they continue to deliver value to customers at a high rate of speed while they also evolve their architecture to take advantage of new patterns and new technologies?

DevOps methodologies also provide patterns and workflows to help teams meet this challenge:

  • DevOps emphasizes focusing on constant feedback from customers. This is key to help the organization stay in tune with customer needs as they evolve their systems — it reduces the risk of sinking a large amount of time into a design that is not what the customer wants anymore by the time it is delivered.
  • DevOps focuses on incremental improvements which improve both the speed of delivery and the quality of changes. DevOps processes use automation both to reduce manual work and to validate code. Workflows emphasize early review using both automation and human collaboration to find bugs well before they can impact customers. As an organization advances with this methodology, engineers are freed up for more value-added work.

World events require the ability to pivot

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted industries across the globe, and disruptions to supply chains and challenges for logistics have been massive.

Not every company has been ready to adapt quickly. In 2016, PWC found that…

Lack of digital culture and training is the biggest challenge facing transportation and logistics companies.

Shifting patterns, the future of the logistics industry

Introducing DevOps into your organization helps you meet this challenge. DevOps practitioners recognize that cultural change is an essential part of increasing your ability to deliver value to your customers. DevOps is not only about taking advantage of modern technology and tooling; it is also about transforming your processes and your culture as well.

No organization will ever be “done” with training and adapting. But by working with DevOps and Agile principles in mind, a growth mindset increases in a company and both individuals and the company as a whole becomes better able to react quickly when dramatic change is required.

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