The Crunch: Retailers have helped globalize the economy by adopting sourcing strategies with suppliers located in places like China, India, and Southeast Asia. But as more countries participate in global trade, the management grows more complex. Meanwhile, consumers armed with e-commerce technology are putting more pressure on retailers to deliver on both cost and quality. Amber Road’s cloud-based global trade management (GTM) platform streamlines the supply chain by automating the flow of goods across international borders. The platform combines enterprise-class software analytics with intelligent trade content and connects users to a global network of importers, exporters, freight forwarders, brokers, and carriers. By automating and integrating the information that flows between parties in the global supply chain, Amber Road enables retailers to optimize the value of their supplier relationships and compete more effectively in the marketplace.
Technology has given consumers an unprecedented level of insight into the things they buy. Ready access to ratings and reviews, coupled with the nearly endless supply of information on the web, means that finding the best price on the best product has never been easier.
Faced with these pressures, retailers must choose between building greater efficiencies into their workflow or giving way to competitors.
That’s what makes optimizing supply chain relationships such an area of opportunity, said Ty Bordner, Senior Vice President for Marketing & Business Development at global trade management (GTM) software provider Amber Road. Too many retailers continue to rely on personal relationship networks and manual methods — such as phone calls, emails, and spreadsheets — to manage the lifeblood of their enterprises. Amber Road’s cloud-based GTM solution digitizes all the information related to moving goods across borders, communicates it to all parties involved, and automates the process to make it more efficient.
“Important aspects we bring to the table are greater efficiency, reduced cost, and faster speed to market. That’s what digital transformation of the supply chain is all about; it’s a way to change your game,” Ty said. “Companies recognizing that can make transformational changes to the way they do business and the way they position themselves to anticipate future change.”
Those efficiencies help retailers build in agility to deal with the disruption of digital transformation. “As consumers continue to diversify the paths they take to purchase, they also expect more personalized service,” Ty said. “Our platform helps companies quickly respond to market changes and efficiently manage changing vendor relationships.”
Broad Functionality for Integrating an International Supply Chain
The cloud-based Amber Road platform replaces the nuts and bolts software of old-school supply chain management solutions by creating a digital model of those relationships. The Amber Road model not only increases the visibility of the data, but can also manipulate, process, and analyze it. The result is robust collaboration and communication across the supply chain.
“As you’re making buying decisions and communicating to suppliers, which are largely overseas, about products and specifications, you want the process to be efficient,” Ty said. “The way to do that is through a web browser and a cloud platform that allows the sharing of all relevant information.”
This central data repository is bolstered by analytics that identify opportunities to enhance business value — such as meaningful correlations between data elements or important statistical trends.
Routine tasks can be automated according to a process-by-exception paradigm where activities that require input are routed to the responsible parties. A continuous improvement model allows the system to learn over time and reduce instances where human input is required. These tools help businesses gain greater visibility over the movement of goods and services within the supply chain — with less effort.
“That means you can know where your goods are, where they aren’t and be automatically alerted that things are either happening or not happening,” Ty said. “For example, you can book the movement of your goods with your carrier through the platform, have that booking confirmed, move the goods, and then automatically audit the freight bill at the end of the process.”
Cutting Through the Complexity to Deliver a Seamless Experience
Centralized data storage combined with integrated automation and analytics tools make Amber Road’s GTM solution capable of simplifying the complexities of supply chain management.
“We’ve expanded the scope of what GTM software can do. We’re involved in all the information flows needed to move goods across borders, both within the internal walls of the business and with external parties like freight forwarders, customs brokers, and carriers,” Ty said. “Supplier collaboration and logistics are part of the overall GTM space, as is trade compliance. We’ve made great progress on adding functional capabilities to our platform, but we’re not done yet. We continue to make heavy R&D investments which provide our customers with digital supply chain solutions that bring greater value.”
The platform includes a network that enables integration and communication across the supply chain. Data quality validations verify that information entering the platform is accurate. Transactions such as purchase orders, factory orders, shipments, bills of lading, and customs entries carry detailed, line-item information to allow for comprehensive visibility, alerting, and reporting.
“Over the years we’ve developed a network of carriers, brokers, freight forwarders, and customs agencies all over the world. So we don’t have to re-create those connections every time we bring on a new customer,” Ty said.
Intelligent Amber Road application content helps businesses evaluate their suppliers not just in terms of quality but also social and ethical standards — such as adherence to fire codes or child labor laws. It eliminates potential vendors who have been placed on denied-party lists and ensures regulatory compliance.
The software is highly configurable and handles a variety of use cases. “Because of the complexity of the global supply chain world, there’s no way to build software that plugs in and works the same way for everybody,” Ty said. “But the important distinction to make is that we’re configurable, not customizable. We build robust configuration capabilities into our platform so our customers can use it without having to manage any unique customizations.”
But when support is needed, it’s there. “When you call up our support team and ask questions that relate to the global supply chain and the global trade world, our people know what you’re talking about, and that’s important,” Ty said. “We believe this one-stop-shop approach creates value.”
Enhanced Business Agility for the Evolving Retail Environment
By upgrading business capabilities and revealing opportunities to enhance value, Amber Road helps retailers meet or exceed the evolving cost and quality expectations of their customers.
“Cost and quality are where the rubber meets the road for retailers. When I shop on Amazon, I can say, ‘Show me the four- or five-star products only — those that have been rated by other consumers as having the best quality. At the same time, 10 cents here or there makes a difference in margins for businesses,” Ty said.
In addition to helping businesses strengthen through digital transformation, Amber Road enables them to leverage the increasing complexity of the supply chain. “It isn’t just about having a relationship with China anymore. It’s Vietnam, Thailand, and other parts of the world,” Ty said. “You want to be able to compare these sourcing locations because a 10-cent difference per product can be a big deal.”
Amber Road also gives businesses the agility necessary to make those comparisons and change course by staying abreast of the regulatory and institutional matters that can add complexity. Every year, more regulations crop up.
“Given all the moving parts that make up global trade today, having a GTM platform that can automate, verify, and analyze becomes imperative,” Ty said. Amber Road enables improvements in efficiency, risk management, and agility that can be the difference between a business moving forward and one that’s treading water.