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Unified Business Process, Rules and Events Automation Drive Customer Satisfaction
Today’s global economy strives to optimize productivity, costs, time-to-market and time-to-delivery in general financial and customer benchmarks. Manufacturing companies locate their facilities where productivity is maximized while costs are minimized. These products need to be optimally delivered to customers around the world, most of whom are probably not nearby. Distribution centers are strategically located as hubs within customer bases to facilitate speed and quality delivery of products to wholesalers, customers, dealers and retail outlets. One key to success in the shipping and distribution business is to be able to optimize routing, shipping capacity and speed to the most and highest priority customers while minimizing costs and errors.
Shipping and logistics companies face many challenges
Customer satisfaction with optimum business execution is a noble and necessary goal to thrive in the shipping and logistics business. However, business events and other unforeseen issues can conspire to wreck the best laid plans and transportation networks. Examples include:
- Storms that disrupt transportation networks, sometimes for days at a time
- Natural disasters that close transportation routes and damage/destroy equipment and distribution centers
- Transportation equipment failure that drives cascading delays and rescheduling
- Man-made events such as piracy and war
- Business events such as cancellations, requirements for additional capacity, etc.
Business processes form the core of competitive advantage and even the ability to deliver in the shipping business. Well-understood business processes supported by IT can make or break this type of business. Unfortunately, too many business processes in the shipping and logistics enterprises continue to have unnecessary manual steps along with only partially integrated IT applications. Some of the factors driving this include lack of well-understood processes and IT budgets that cannot support business process management (BPM) projects, the expensive middleware underpinning them or the services engagements required. This situation drives the no automation: error-prone manual processes scenario featured in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Limited business process automation drives error-prone and costly business process execution.
Figure 1 illustrates a situation where applications supporting shipping business processes may not be well integrated, forcing manual intervention that involves moving information to make the business processes work. Without workflow, even with some or all of the applications integrated through an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), coordination and integration error costs may be higher than necessary due to people doing low-value, rote workflow management through email, fax and phone.
A BPM strategy can mitigate some of these costs and errors by automating workflow coordination across the applications and people who execute the shipping business processes. Figure 2 demonstrates a somewhat improved picture of a shipping/logistics company using an expensive BPM system.
Figure 2. Expensive, closed BPM system drives business process improvement as well as cost and error reduction, but leaves room for further improvement.
A key issue with an expensive, closed BPM system, such as that illustrated in Figure 2, is that it may not work well with the integration infrastructure (e.g., ESB). Additional custom coding and multiple administration tools may be required, adding significant cost and complexity to the deployment. The BPM system may have consumed most of the IT budget, leaving little for integration infrastructure (or vice-versa), which also could drive unnecessary manual efforts, costs and errors. Further, intelligent decision making that leverages the automation a Business Rules Management System (BRMS) provides is not baked into this scenario. The BPM system has no easy way to deal with disruptive and opportunistic business events (as in the examples previously described) except through manual intervention.
In addition to lack of integration and high cost, traditional BPM systems also pose another key hindrance: the inability to respond and react to changing business conditions. In the shipping industry, these could include inclement and rapidly changing weather conditions, stock shortages and more. A BPM may not effectively make sense of and respond to these types of dynamic event deluges.
At Red Hat, we offer a better solution: JBoss Enterprise BRMS, which includes business rules management (BRM), BPM and complex event processing (CEP) into a unified, integrated development, deployment and management platform. JBoss Enterprise BRMS answers the various hindrances to success – lack of integration, cost and inflexibility – through a solution that is easily integrated, affordable and, perhaps most importantly, enables enterprises to observe and respond to changing business events in real time with high-quality answers, products and services. This is the essence of our vision for our customers: helping them build an Intelligent, Integrated Enterprise that enables them to be leaders in their industry, as illustrated in Figure 3.
Figure 3. The intelligent, integrated shipping company can respond to changing business events in real time with high-quality answers, products and services, optimizing the business.
The intelligent, integrated shipping company can drive its business success with IT. By optimizing business decisions and delivering the ability to anticipate and respond to business events with high-quality, timely responses, this shipping company can offer superior service to its customers at a lower price point while delivering higher returns to its shareholders.
JBoss Enterprise BRMS is a leading open source solution that supports intelligent, integrated shipping companies through its three core technologies: BRM, BPM and CEP. It includes powerful, efficient rules and process engines, easy-to-use authoring tools, management services and a repository.
With JBoss Enterprise BRMS, shipping companies can leverage BPM to create more efficient end-to-end delivery processes and business rules to optimize the movement of packages from shipper to receiver, making efficient use of vehicles, minimizing fuel consumption, etc. CEP further enables the business to respond appropriately when unplanned situations like weather delays or equipment failure require mitigating action. Ad hoc and adaptive processes can be triggered in response to detected events, and rules may be invoked to determine appropriate actions, enabling a rapid response to minimize business impact.
The latest version of JBoss Enterprise BRMS, 5.3, introduces new, easy-to-use tools designed to enable analysts and business experts to create and manage business rules and process definitions, as exemplified in the image below.
A simple web-based user interface provides drag and drop features for rapid modeling of process flows using the Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (BPMN2). Models are automatically validated for conformance to BPMN2 semantics and stored in a version-controlled repository from where they can be deployed to the process service for execution. The tool facilitates integration with business rules through process steps that invoke rule-sets for complex decision logic.
Business rules are managed in decision tables or simple domain-specific languages, enabling business analysts without extensive software knowledge to manage the rules that control critical business decisions, such as in the "Decision table" example.
With JBoss Enterprise BRMS 5.3, business users are truly empowered to manage and automate the rules that drive IT applications. Analysts and application developers can collaborate effectively via a single view of an organization’s business logic to allow encoded rules and processes to correctly implement business policies and procedures and comply with external regulations.
For more information see our pages on the Intelligent Integrated Enterprise and JBoss Enterprise BRMS.