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Process Orchestration

The Missing Link In Supply Chain Optimization


The ideal supply chain –– how do you visualize it? A digitized ecosystem where people, processes, and technologies seamlessly connect and work harmoniously to ensure efficiency, productivity, quality, and economy? With the amount of software that's become available in recent decades, it's natural to expect each activity in the modern supply chain to be systematized, scalable, and repeatable. 

The reality? Even organizations that have adopted a digital transformation strategy still operate in the liminal space between automation and manual task handling. Yes, supply chain management software is often sold using buzzwords like "synchronization" and "integration," but when you look at the vast landscape of nuanced activities each tool is designed to perform, you start to realize that not all of these tools naturally work together. These analytical systems may be able to tell you a lot about real-time product flow, but they're unlikely to automatically alert all affected stakeholders.

The result? Errors, delays, friction between departments, missed opportunities, and growth inhibitors.

The Solution: Supply Chain Process Orchestration

Supply chain process orchestration addresses many of the challenges supply chain managers face, and it may be the best solution for your business if you're currently asking some (or all) of the following questions? :

How do I run my supply chain without spending hours on mundane tasks?
How do I manage staff turnover?
How do I ensure procedures, safety regulations, and standards are maintained?
How do I get real-time visibility over all supply chain activities?
How do I launch automated flow and activities?

Yes, implementing a supply chain optimization strategy can be a mammoth task. There is so much to consider, old infrastructure to let go of, and new technologies to onboard. What if you don't have the time or resources for such a big undertaking?

If your team has found "make-do" ways to get certain jobs done, you may be reluctant to add to the pressure by introducing something new.

But what if you didn't have to sideline your optimization plans? What if you didn't have to disrupt your business or reinvent the wheel in order to benefit from supply chain process automation?

Strategic implementation of process orchestration can create immediate benefits without causing upheaval or requiring change management on a granular level.

An accurate understanding of process orchestration can go a long way to helping you figure out why previous optimization strategies have failed to lift off, often thinking it means automating from day 1. We aim to define key concepts and differentiate between the many terms that often confuse process automation tools with other technologies. 

Discover The Secret To Supply Chain Optimization… Start With Your Processes

Defining supply chain and business process orchestration

Business process orchestration (BPO), not to be confused with Business Process Outsourcing, is the combination of the relevant technology to support people, processes, and data. Many activities can be optimized without automating them. Orchestrating is about dispatching automatically activities at the right time to the right people given their roles and constraints. It leads to synchronizing everyone across the organization to focus on what's important. BPO aids decision-making by providing all necessary data and real-time information required to be efficient.

Business process automation (BPA)
is the use of advanced technology to automate complex business processes or workflows and create traceable and transparent modes of working –– the definition also applies to supply chain process automation. It is of course, much needed as one of the key ingredients of business process orchestration (BPO).

By centralizing data and limiting the need for human intervention, automated processes can reduce errors and bottlenecks, improve communication, speed up task handling and decrease expenditure. Most importantly, a high level of transparency becomes possible when you choose to automate business processes.

Relieving skilled employees from repetitive tasks helps to improve efficiency and allows for more impactful use of time and resources. Process orchestration connects applications and streamlines processes to help organizations exceed customer expectations, minimize costs, drive competitive advantage, and enable decision-makers to allocate resources to activities that truly bolster supply chain performance.

It's important to distinguish between business process and industrial automation (IA) at this point. IA is the replacement of human labor in manufacturing settings –– think welding and assembly.

Robotic process automation vs. Process orchestration

Process orchestration and robotic process automation (RPA) aren't interchangeable terms – although this is a common misconception.

Robotic process automation refers to the mechanization of specific functions in a workflow, similar to those a human would perform – email responses, data collection, and input. Robots can be programmed or self-taught to execute certain tasks as they can understand what is on a screen and navigate systems as a human would.

Process orchestration
usually encompasses cross-departmental and system integration with broader applications. A process orchestration tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) to gather and manage data, connect and integrate data sources and automate repetitive tasks.

For example, if customer complaints are logged in your customer support software, they will automatically appear as tasks in your integrated project management tool. There, they are automatically assigned to the relevant person who will resolve the issue with information and insights from previously disparate systems. You can significantly improve customer satisfaction by choosing to streamline processes this way. An orchestrator tool can immediately integrate with your current system and tap into opportunities without affecting operations.

When should an organization use process orchestration?

Supply chain optimization encompasses priorities such as enhancing supply chain performance and business process improvement (BPI). Process orchestration is particularly useful in scenarios where bottlenecks and knowledge gaps prevent efficiency and growth.

A process orchestration tool is designed to help supply chains connect tasks to organizational goals and can be applied to a plethora of activities such as data entry, invoicing, emails, meetings, and approvals. A process that is repetitive or predisposed to errors, delays, and requires approval management can be automated with the right technology.

Business Process Orchestration in Supply Chain and Operations is particularly adequate whereby lead times are tight, stakeholders involved are numerous and scattered across sites and geographies, transaction volume is significant every day, examples are:

- Keep or Kill : A continuous portfolio health check to ensure cross functional alignment on the best SKUs balancing profitability and complexity.
- Production Order Tracking : Real time visibility and tracking of production step by step.
- Order to Cash Progress :
Every time an order is placed, a workflow with every step of the process from production to invoicing is created with all the necessary info.
- Supplier Delays :
Every time a change to the replenishment plan is identified (by calls, mails, or systems driven), the issue needs resolving with no mails within hours.
- Customer Returns :
Automated allocation of approval returns to the right person, and dispatch of the right steps with relevant SLA based on returns value.
- Out of Stock Management : Automated allocation of stock risks to the right teams at the right time.
- Luggage Handling : Route & process 1000s of items on time in full for 100s of people on the ground.

All industries are vulnerable to variables that could cause supply chain disruptions and harm the supply chain network – real-time visibility is critical for risk management. For future-focused organizations, this solution enables scalable growth and expansion.

Focus on four supply chain process orchestration applications

1. Warehouse and Factory Routines

Industrial activities rely on repeatable, standardized routine processes.

Orchestration anchors and scales operations in every warehouse without any spreadsheets, dispatch the right activities to the right operators, managers and leaders.

For organizations with globally distributed sites, a process orchestration tool can ensure that all essential work is executed in a standardized way – for example, ensuring that the right person refers to the correct shopfloor checklist and other order-related activities.

2. Sales and Operations Planning(S&OP) and Integrated Business Planning (IBP)

Predictability is a crucial challenge for supply chains, resulting in the need for integrated processes that align sales, finance, and operations.

Often, the S&OP process can become fragmented through the use of emails and spreadsheets that decentralize information. Robust process-enhancing technologies can help S&OP and IBP stakeholders get proactively involved in optimization initiatives and align with the greater organizational objectives.

By supplying contextualized information to the right people at the right time, communication remains fluid, and jobs get done without supply chain managers having to chase up on tasks.

Process Metronome, for example, can help businesses to orchestrate processes affecting forecast demand, order management systems, manufacturing, and planning with an layer on top of traditional data focused systems such as ERP, APS and WMS.

3. New Product Introduction

Supply chain operations are continuously expanding and growing in complexity.
Customer demand drives the release of new products and additional SKUs, often resulting in supply chain disruptions if not managed efficiently.

As new products are introduced, it's essential to integrate the correct supply chain optimization solutions to help you maintain productivity and manage the new product's journey from production to store.

Orchestration helps making smooth change to the portfolio whether driven from suppliers, internal efficiency or by customers.

4. Material Shortages and Replenishment

Inventory management and forecast demand are critical elements in supply chain planning. Businesses always aim to have sufficient stock to ensure sales opportunities are never missed.

Product availability is part of creating a successful customer experience. Ensuring optimal stock levels are maintained can also help reduce costs through strategic purchasing, ensuring maximum return on inventory invested.

It's not uncommon for an organization to have a wide range of products sourced from many suppliers, posing a challenge when training employees, managing inventory, and transportation while also maintaining warehouse efficiency.

Often, teams are required to use manual tools and processes, limiting productivity to one task at a time.

A process orchestration and process automation tool is one of the best solutions you can look to implement in this scenario, as it can help your team collaborate with customers and suppliers without relying on phone calls, emails, and other non-replicable shortcuts.

Inventory management becomes significantly easier as each interaction is traceable and automated.

Get inspired. Find out how Process Metronome’s customers are succeeding.


Average process adherence

Teams enjoy the benefit of maintaining what they designed and implemented together.

10 hours

Saved per week by managers

With Metronome, everyone knows what they need to do and when without unnecessary management time.


Average return on investment

After only 3 months, our clients are seeing both savings and the ability to grow faster.

The Big Disconnect: Four process optimization inhibitors that stop supply chain optimization

The concept of a digital supply chain is by no means new. Supply chain software continues to evolve and flood the market with an overwhelming number of solutions – the supply chain management software market size is to grow by USD 9.45 billion by 2025 [ Source ].

ERP, WMS, advanced planning systems, and tracking systems are just some of the technologies you're likely to encounter in the modern supply chain. But what has been done to support your processes?

With such an abundance of technology, how is it possible that so much of management's time is spent requesting updates, responding to emails, and arranging meetings to resolve the continuous barrage of daily issues?

Silos can cause enormous setbacks for supply chain managers.

Different teams and departments play pivotal roles in the movement of goods and services along the supply chain, but if they aren't integrated into a system that gives up-to-date insights on progress, the gap between people, processes, and systems will continue to widen. It is precisely this discord or disconnect that eats up valuable time and resources.

We explore the key inhibitors to supply chain optimization below.

1. Knowledge gatekeepers

Many organizations operate by performing a set of unwritten processes that have evolved over time through repetition and necessity. These business-critical processes are often locked in the minds of the people who perform them.

While these employees can be valuable contributors to your organization's success, they can also become bottlenecks and gatekeepers when something goes wrong, and no one can access the knowledge they hold.

Surprisingly, some of the world's largest organizations operate from this vulnerable position simply because documenting and digitalizing processes requires so much effort and time.

2. Symbolic standards

Having defined standards for all business operations is essential for quality and consistency.

However, the reality for many organizations is that these standards erode over time because the execution of processes deviates from the agreed service level agreements (SLAs).

This makes it difficult to onboard and integrate new employees because the task that should be performed a certain way has evolved into something else.

Another issue occurs when the outcomes of specific processes need to be evaluated; it can be challenging to attribute results since there is no traceable method of execution.

On the one hand, giving teams the flexibility to get the job done can be highly productive and good for business; on the other, inconsistencies make it very difficult to set and measure key performance indicators, and, ultimately, these blind spots become an expense for the business.

3. A chaotic environment

If your most skilled employees or key decision-makers are locked into daily meetings about the latest issues and how to fix them, where will they find time to focus on supply chain optimization?

Some companies accept firefighting as par for the course – a risky approach that affects operating costs and can be toxic for your company culture. Eventually, talented employees will leave for roles and businesses that offer less stress.

Because nothing is integrated, employees spend a lot of time scouring through emails, making phone calls, and holding more meetings to access information. The lack of visibility means there's a delay in alerting key stakeholders to supply chain issues.

You may have the processes and tools to deal with setbacks, but if operations are distanced from one another and information is not easily and instantly available, your supply chain starts to operate in a chaotic, haphazard way that leaves too much to chance.

4. Expense and complexity

Supply chain optimization is a strategic undertaking and often viewed as cumbersome and expensive – especially if you operate on a global scale and have to implement process optimization across widespread teams and business divisions.

When your key processes and systems aren't in sync, it becomes hard to imagine how all of this can be corrected without a massive overhaul or expensive supply chain optimization tools.

Some organizations start by trying to get more regimented with their workflows, using project management tools to streamline tasks, assign responsibilities and attain supply chain visibility.

But workflows don't take into account the dynamics of operations, and they aren't always contextually integrated into your business. There is always a desire to optimize and improve, but the fear of disrupting business processes and supply chain operations often undermines plans and intentions.

The exciting thing about Process Metronome is that you can start getting results almost immediately. By optimizing key operational processes, you can generate quick wins that will eventually support a large-scale supply chain process optimization strategy.

Learn more about Process Metronome here!

Supply chain management workflows or supply chain orchestration – What is the difference?

There can be a lot of uncertainty when reviewing and selecting business optimization tools. Workflow software can help you with planning and record-keeping, but it won't give you real-time visibility over the entire supply chain.

There are so many different elements and functions that come together in supply chain management; warehouse facilities, manufacturing operations, supply chain network, inventory management, and logistics, to name a few. To keep a finger on the pulse of all of these activities simultaneously, supply chain process orchestration is required.

What are supply chain management workflows?

Supply chain management workflows detail the actions needed for a product to successfully move from point A to B. These workflows may involve multiple divisions within the supply chain, for example, manufacturing, order fulfillment, and material management.

The benefit of a workflow is that supply chain management teams can visualize what needs to happen within a specific timeframe to deliver a product to the customer from start to finish – a useful element in supply chain optimization.

But what about all the things that happen in between? And what happens if each person has their own particular way of interpreting a workflow and performing a task?

A workflow isn't the glue between your systems and processes – it's merely a way to box tick after each execution. While this is valuable, it still leaves operations open to inefficiencies – this is where process orchestration comes in.

What is supply chain process orchestration?

Supply chain process orchestration synchronizes supply chain and business process.

By taking into account the real-life complexity of each stakeholder's role, a process orchestration tool like Process Metronome takes the pressure off individuals to execute key processes and automates tasks.

While someone may be working on one element of a workflow, they may have no idea where another colleague is in the process as the workflow may not be timeously updated.

A process orchestrator tool provides accurate, real-time data that enables key decision-makers to move forward with projects without disruptions and hold-ups due to lack of visibility, creating agile, responsive supply chains.

If you haven't heard of the term supply chain process orchestration before, you may expect this to be in available in a process automation solution and be disappointed about the lack of connectiveness between your workflows, your people, your assets, ressources and capacities; in a nutshell not comprehending the real world we live in.

Supporting your supply chain and business processes with process orchestration tools

Once you've defined your process, its steps, frequency, and RACI matrix, a process automation tool (or orchestration) will take care of things like task allocation and reallocation, meeting invites other tasks in the context of your dynamic digital supply chain environment. It will create instances of work pulling the right people, all necessary information from multiple systems, send automated tasks to customers or suppliers.

You will end up with a control tower of your business processes helping you manage the important from the non urgent. Seeing in real time the good, the bad and the ugly to improve your performance.

Companies moving onto the orchestration train save double digits in direct costs after a few months.

A smart process automation tool can play a pivotal role in your supply chain optimization strategy by connecting and integrating key systems, departments, and tasks.

Start Now With Process Metronome

The current economic, political and social climate affirms the need for resilient supply chains that meet customer expectations while tackling deeper issues around cost and sustainability.

Holding on to outdated processes that continue to silo teams and leave many blind spots for supply chain managers creates a volatile business environment that will struggle to manage external pressures and employee expectations for streamlined supply chain design that supports and enables productivity.

Supply chain optimization must be focused on key processes that reduce total operating expenses and add business value.

Process Metronome was created to bring a new level of supply chain visibility to key decision-makers so that processes can become coherent, repeatable, and scalable. Workflow automation is only one step in your supply chain optimization strategy; large-scale process automation is what brings it all together.

Gain insight into your current position today

Across your business landscape, numerous unique processes occur daily, enabling your supply chain to operate and perform. Each process may rely on several systems, and its outcomes may be measured by specific metrics that don't apply to other business functions.

Identifying opportunities for optimization can be challenging when the landscape you need to observe is so wide and varied. Wasting your time and resources on automating low-value processes won't deliver the return on investment you need to scale your performance improvement initiatives.

Process Metronome can provide a real-time, realistic overview of each process in your supply chain, helping you to identify opportunities and only optimize the processes that will bring you closer to your goals.

Define processes and job roles, and manage expectations

As your business evolves, new team members will come on board; old ones may leave, and job role parameters may change to accommodate the needs of your business.

Process Metronome can help you to eliminate conflicting and time-consuming reporting from different teams that are essentially trying to say the same thing.

Our process orchestration and automation tool helps you to improve communication by making data instantly accessible. This level of transparency aids uniformity and prevents supply chain issues, allowing you to successfully create and implement a RACI model that aligns key roles across your business.

You can create a more collaborative, sustainable, and productive work environment that helps you retain your best-performing employees and gives your organization a competitive advantage. 

Join hundreds already benefiting from sustainable processes.

You don’t need already well defined processes.

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