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Exploring the Power of Supply Chain Integrations: How SMBs Can Compete with Big Companies

Updated: May 18





Businesses are increasingly recognizing the need for flexible, dynamic supply chain operations that can keep up with the demands of a modern supply chain. Currently, only very large corporations have the level of digital integrations necessary to have complete visibility over their supply chains. Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) do not have the necessary resources to build these integrations, leaving them without the massive efficiencies that come with this level of digital visibility (e.g., lower costs, more resilient supply chains, and greater negotiating power with suppliers). So, how can companies of all sizes access the digital capabilities that are currently only accessible to large businesses with resources?


Businesses are increasingly recognising the need for flexible supply chains that can meet the changing demands of a modern world.

As the demands of the modern consumer evolve, it is imperative for businesses to identify opportunities to optimize their supply chain, particularly in streamlining the manual processes associated with sending, receiving, and managing supply chain information. Multinational corporations, in particular, possess a unique advantage in this regard, as they have the necessary resources to leverage integrated solutions with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, granting them enhanced decision-making capabilities and economies of scale. By digitally integrating their ERPs with their supply chain operations, large companies, who can afford these integrations, benefit from massive efficiency improvements, advanced data analytics capabilities, and superior experiences for their end users.


However, these integrations are not available for small and medium businesses (SMBs). Current solutions for creating digital supply chain integrations - such as Value-Added Networks (VANs), DIY integrations, Point Solution Providers, and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) Providers - fall short in providing SMBs with the level of low-cost flexibility they need to benefit from a digital supply chain.


Small-to-medium businesses lack the resources for expensive integration solutions, hindering their ability to benefit from supply chain innovations.

For small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), the absence of integrated solutions for supply chain management can act as a major hindrance to their operations, especially in terms of the manual processes associated with sending, receiving, and managing supply chain information. According to Forbes, 91% of SMBs have acknowledged the advantage of larger companies in procuring inventory due to their lack of digital visibility.


Furthermore, the absence of integrated solutions across the supply chain can impede crucial strategic initiatives such as rolling out same/next-day delivery. This is typically due to a lack of automated decision-making that usually accompanies robust digital integrations. SMBs' high reliance on manual processing makes it difficult to roll-out these high-value initiatives that depend on a high level of digital integration between supply chain steps. SMBs typically lack the financial resources to invest in these necessary integration solutions.


Businesses that can afford such integrations stand to benefit significantly from increased growth and efficiency. The lack of integration solutions is a clear impediment to the success of many businesses, particularly SMBs, as it prevents them from reaching their full potential within their supply chains.


How can companies of all sizes access the digital capabilities that are currently only available to larger businesses with abundant resources?


Digital, cloud-based integration solutions offer a new avenue for SMBs to access the advantages of digital supply chains. These solutions offer access to powerful technologies at a fraction of the cost of traditional enterprise software. With cloud ERP integration systems, companies can quickly implement integrations without the massive upfront investments in costly infrastructure and large IT teams that have typically been required. Furthermore, these tools are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly so that businesses can get up and running faster and with minimal training.

The importance of ERP integrations lies in their ability to provide real-time visibility into a company’s entire supply chain, from supplier orders and inventory levels to customer demands. This gives businesses a comprehensive overview of their operations, enabling better decision-making, cost control and improved productivity.


ERP integrations also facilitate the automation of essential processes such as purchasing, inventory control and financial management, freeing up resources to focus on value-added activities that drive growth. By integrating all stakeholders within the supply chain under one umbrella, ERP solutions enable collaboration and communication between departments for faster problem-solving and more comprehensive planning.


However, the present state of supply chain integrations is inadequate and failing to meet expectations. The following table highlights the five broad options in digital supply chain integrations that SMBs can access, emphasising the pros and cons of each.



Supply chain integrations like ERPs allow businesses to gain insight into automating key tasks and creating more efficient workflow.


By providing digital supply chain integrations, SMBs access six major benefits that make businesses more agile, efficient and competitive:

  1. Increased Efficiency - Digital solutions streamline operational processes and enable faster decision-making.

  2. Improved Visibility & Control - Supply chain visibility allows for better oversight and control over operations, from direct suppliers to customers.

  3. Automation - By automating routine tasks, more time is freed up to focus on strategic initiatives.

  4. Cost Reduction - Digital solutions can help reduce costs associated with manual handling and other inefficient processes.

  5. Data-Driven Insights - With access to rich data sets comes improved analytics capabilities that can uncover hidden opportunities or gaps in the supply chain landscape.

  6. Faster Innovation - Integrating new technologies such as AI, machine learning and blockchain opens up new possibilities to keep up with customer demand and stay ahead of competition.

These benefits highlight the importance of supply chain digitalisation in allowing businesses to gain increased productivity and visibility in business operations. Supply chain integrations enable businesses to gain better insights into their data, automate key tasks, and create more efficient workflows, all of which contribute directly to growth and success for organizations. Companies who invest in these solutions therefore have access to cost savings, improved delivery times, and other efficiencies that may not be available to those without the same financial resources.

More importantly, the Hub and Spoke Model is the key for SMBs to access the major benefits associated with digital supply chains. Switchboard, who is a is a low-cost, high speed integration provider that follows this Hub-and-Spoke model, enables integrations between any shipper and any supplier by translating data between IT systems.


Switchboard


Switchboard’s implementation platform simplifies digital integrations between companies and their trading partners. We connect any supply chain IT system to any other, so that companies can instantly send and receive accurate data with trading partners autonomously. Through Switchboard, companies can access the flexibility and visibility that is usually reserved for only the world’s largest and wealthiest companies.


Get in touch with Switchboard today to learn more about the massive value that digital supply chains can have for your business.

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