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How B2B Integration Increases Supply Chain Resilience

Managing disruption is a constant challenge across today’s global supply chains and one of my presentations at our Enterprise World 2016 conference discussed some of the ways in which B2B integration can help improve the resilience of today’s supply chain operations.

Let me step back for a few moments and remind you of why managing disruption across today’s supply chains has become such a high priority for many businesses around the world.


In 2011, global supply chains were severely impacted by two major natural disasters, the earthquake in Japan and the floods in Thailand. These events triggered a number of supply chain improvement initiatives around the world which included both operational and information management improvements.

Supply chain disruptions over the past five years have brought an element of nervousness to many companies and regulatory bodies have been looking more closely at how companies recover from disasters and what plans they have put in place to try and minimize future supply chain disruptions.

Ten years ago companies were focused on disaster recovery however today things have moved on and companies are more interested in how they keep their businesses running during a period of disruption. This process is referred to as Business Continuity Management and this has been one of the fastest growing areas, in terms of supply chain related roles, that companies have been trying to fill in recent years.

Business continuity management essentially provides an ability to recover from any given event and this area is certainly becoming important from a competitive differentiation point of view. The person fulfilling this role could also be referred to as the ‘Master of Disaster’, a single point person within a company that employees can go to during a period of disruption and who would be responsible for managing disruption related business processes.


As part of business continuity management improvements, companies, especially manufacturers, implemented a number of operational based improvements to their global supply chain operations. For example near shoring production operations, moving production to new markets unaffected by natural disasters, implementing dual sourcing strategies and establishing ‘global plant floors’ so that if production was impacted in one country then production could be ramped up quickly at another location to compensate. You can find more information on these operational related initiatives in an earlier blog.

From a B2B and information management point of view, companies have restructured their ICT environments to make them more resilient to future supply chain disruptions. Since 2011, OpenText has seen interest from Japanese customers keen to move away from their home grown software based B2B environments hosted in Japanese data centers to cloud based environments, with information being held in data centers located around the world. For example, a number of Japanese consumer electronic manufacturers have taken the opportunity to not only move their B2B operations to the cloud, but to consolidate numerous legacy B2B networks onto OpenText™ B2B Managed Services platform as well.

In addition to moving to the cloud, companies have understandably improved their data backup and recovery processes, improved supplier contact and collaboration processes and looked at ways to improve end-to-end supply chain visibility. In essence, companies have really focused on three key areas relating to improving information management, namely improving flexibility of their B2B infrastructures, improving visibility and improving collaboration.


Despite the best efforts of many Japanese manufacturers to improve the resilience of their supply chain operations, a 7.3 earthquake hit southern Japan on 16th April 2016 and this had a major impact on global supply chains. For example Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Bridgestone, Sony and Renesas had to idle their plants to evaluate damage. In addition, the earthquake damaged two Aisin Seiki factories which make body components and die-cast engine parts for Nissan.

Further afield, due to restricted parts supply from Japan, Nissan’s UK plant had to implement non-production days and in North America, GM had to idle plants two weeks after the earthquake took place. So this is a good example of how an earthquake can impact manufacturing operations and how disruption ripples around global supply chain infrastructures.

It also demonstrates that despite best efforts, further improvements can be made to supply chain disruption management procedures. OpenText has a broad range of Enterprise Information Management (EIM) solutions and based on technology that OpenText deployed in its Election Tracker to monitor public sentiment to the candidates in the US Presidential Elections, I wanted to see if the same technology could be used to help provide improved management of supply chain disruption situations.

In summary, the scenario and solution I am now going to discuss in the remainder of this blog, a Disruption Management Solution (DMS), offers a highly graphical and intuitive method for reviewing major supply chain disruptions, identifying impacted suppliers and initiating orders with alternative suppliers where required. I will stress that the following is all conceptual in nature, but the underlying technology to access and present information exists within OpenText’s EIM portfolio of solutions today.

In the first screenshot shown below, The DMS dashboard home page consists of two main areas, firstly a window on the left providing a direct feed from recognized and trustworthy news sources highlighting three types of disruption, namely earthquakes, tsunamis and social unrest situations.

OpenText™ InfoFusion is used to search natural disaster related websites (news feeds and government agencies) and this information is aggregated and then displayed in the corresponding tab for review. The right hand window is a map plug in, which would be overlaid with various pieces of information from a manufacturer’s supply chain operations.


Screen 1 – Impact of Earthquake on Global Plant Locations

The DMS, via the InfoFusion connected panel on the left, has detected a significant 6.9 earthquake and the longitude and latitude coordinates of the earthquake are compared with all global plant locations. The plant locations are geo-tagged and highlighted by way of the red pins which are overlaid across the map. The nearest plant to the detected earthquake is located in Bangkok, Thailand. Clicking on the white ‘Thailand’ box shown on the map will take you to screen 2 below.

This part of the DMS shows a closer view of the selected disruption location, in this case Bangkok. InfoFusion has populated the two windows to the bottom left, identifying the location, disruption type and scale. The panel to the top right outlines the availability of the local transport infrastructure, namely airports, road infrastructure, rail networks and sea ports. InfoFusion would be used to scour relevant government information services to determine the health of these transportation infrastructures and could supplement this information by reviewing relevant news feeds or social media sites such as Twitter.

Once the ‘state’ of each transportation network has been identified then it is graphically displayed via OpenText™ Big Data Analytics (BDA) solution. InfoFusion would poll these news sources at a predetermined frequency and the analytics based graphics panel would be updated accordingly. In a similar way InfoFusion would scour the 3PL news sources and provider websites for information on the health of their service and a simple traffic light system is colour coded accordingly to denote the condition of their logistics infrastructure. In this example, UPS would be the only unaffected 3PL provider.eq3

Screen 2 – Identification of Impacted Suppliers

The map has automatically zoomed into the disrupted area. The contact information for every supplier is held within OpenText™ Active Community, this includes office or plant location addresses. This contact information can be exported, via an API, as an XML file from Active Community at a predetermined frequency, but at a minimum of once a day to ensure that any newly onboarded trading partners can be accounted for.

The adjustable scroll bar underneath the map allows the user to determine which suppliers have potentially been impacted near to the disruption zone. The scroll bar allows the user to select different distances from the epi-centre of the disruption, in this case a 6.9 earthquake. The selected 25 mile radius from the epicentre of the earthquake is then cross referenced against all the supplier locations exported from Active Community. Where there is a match a geo-tagged red pin has been overlaid across the map.

In this case we have seven impacted suppliers. We can now select one of the seven highlighted suppliers and review which orders are likely to be impacted, the user selects the red impacted orders button and they are then taken to screen 3.


Screen 3 – Identification of Alternate Suppliers

The orders from the selected supplier chosen in screen 2 are listed below the map and the associated order information would be extracted from OpenText™ Active Orders. There are seven impacted orders that will need to be addressed, ie alternative parts suppliers will need to be identified quickly. The user would select one order from the list and then select the alternate supplier button where five alternative suppliers are listed (and highlighted as green geo-tagged green pins on the map).

The user would then review the list of alternate suppliers and depending on chosen criteria, for example fastest delivery time, can then select the most appropriate supplier to fulfill the order requirement for the Bangkok plant location.

In terms of the benefits that this executive dashboard could provide:

  • Earlier warning of the likely impact of part shortages across a supply chain
  • Faster understanding of the potential impact of supply chain disruptions across both internal and external supply chain operations, e.g the condition of logistics networks
  • Faster decision making and contingency plans to be executed so for example alternative suppliers  can be identified quickly so as to minimize plant downtime
  • Ultimately aim to minimize supply chain disruptions and avoid production downtime

I have only provided a high level overview of the DMS concept in this blog post, learn more about B2B integration and how it provides increased levels of flexibility, visibility and collaboration.

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Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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