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AWS joins Microsoft in providing supply chain visibility

AWS found that the core reason companies find supply chains challenging to manage is the lack of visibility across complicated networks.

LAS VEGAS -- AWS has joined Microsoft in leveraging their respective cloud infrastructures to help companies correct supply chain issues before they become problems.

AWS launched AWS Supply Chain in preview at the company's re:Invent conference this week. AWS introduced the service less than two weeks after Microsoft launched its Supply Chain Platform.

The services take different approaches to manipulate data from disparate IT systems to help managers monitor and adjust supply chain operations.

The Microsoft platform uses the company's Azure cloud infrastructure and several applications running on top, including Dynamics 365, Microsoft Teams and Power Platform. A core analytics component is the Microsoft Supply Chain Center.

The design of AWS Supply Chain borrows from the knowledge gained from operating the massive supply chain of parent company Amazon. AWS found that the core reason companies find supply chains challenging to manage is the lack of visibility across complicated networks.

"People don't have the visibility into where things are broken or where things are not functioning according to plan," said Dilip Kumar, vice president of the AWS Applications group, in an interview at re:Invent.

Dilip Kumar, vice president, AWS ApplicationsDilip Kumar

An agile supply chain requires visibility to see where stock is piling up so that managers can divert shipments to places where stock is getting low. "You need to be able to correct it soon enough; otherwise, you disappoint customers," Kumar said.

Many companies run supply chain management systems with several others to manage warehouses, transportation, demand planning, and order entry and fulfillment.

AWS doesn't expect companies to replace any systems with AWS Supply Chain. Instead, the service sits on top, and the in-house software below feeds information into a data lake. AWS then applies advanced analytics techniques, such as machine learning, to help managers see where supply chains are running smoothly and where there are bottlenecks.

AWS Supply Chain's value comes from how it can record changes in any of the connected systems and show their effects on the rest of the supply chain. That enables managers to move faster toward correcting problems.

"Once you improve the visibility, then the next step is where to take some actions to fix any defect in the process," Kumar said.

AWS trained the core analytics models used in Supply Chain on data from Amazon's retail operation, which has different data sets associated with various products ranging from kitchenware and sporting goods to electronics and clothing.

The customer model starts with a baseline level of accuracy and provides better insights in time as it is fed more data sets, Kumar said.

AWS offers pay-as-you-go pricing for Supply Chain. Companies using the product today include Lifetime Brands, Traeger Grills and Amazon's Whole Foods Market.

AWS started working on Supply Chain in 2021, the same year Adam Selipsky returned to the company after spending five years as CEO of data visualization company Tableau.

Kumar took over the application unit this year when it merged with the Amazon physical retail technology team he led for nine years. His strategy for the group is to build applications' core functionalities and let customers' own developers add features or customize the software through its APIs.

Antone Gonsalves is the networking news director for TechTarget Editorial. He has deep and wide experience in tech journalism. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked for UBM's InformationWeek, TechWeb and Computer Reseller News. He has also written for Ziff Davis' PC Week, IDG's CSOonline and IBTMedia's CruxialCIO, and rounded all of that out by covering startups for Bloomberg News. He started his journalism career at United Press International, working as a reporter and editor in California, Texas, Kansas and Florida. Have a news tip? Please drop him an email.

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