What Are Microservices in Supply Chain Software?

Microservices in supply chain software refer to the use of independently-deployable applications to complete a business process. Their use ranges from order management to customer intelligence, and they have stark advantages over the traditional, monolithic design of supply chain management software. Supply chain managers need to understand microservices and how they can significantly improve warehouse management.

Common Terms to Know Regarding Microservices in Supply Chain Software

Before diving into the use of Microservices, supply chain managers must first understand a few basic terms relating to them. They leverage a (Representational State Transfer) RESTful API, requiring less bandwidth to function, says TechTarget, to perform actions on data. Remember, an application program interface (API) allows two or more programs to communicate through the use of specific function calls. The RESTful API focuses on four primary terms and actions on data, including links to other HTTP resources, which can be any media. Most often, these actions are designed to interact as a client-server relationship. The terms to know are as follows:

  • GET – Used for retrieving information from a resource.
  • PUT – Enables a client to change or update data within a resource.
  • POST – Creates the resource in the first place.
  • DELETE – Deletes the resource.

Why Microservices Are Replacing Monolithic Applications

Most traditional business applications are referred to as “Monolithic applications.” Monolithic applications refer to those that require extensive coding and changing at the same time to make minor updates to data. Most monolithic applications cannot be updated without reinstalling and updating everything within the program.

Microservices-based applications rely on APIs, but they have greater flexibility than the typical API. Moreover, they are designed for continuous improvement of systems. Since innovation is essential to supply chain success, as noted by Eric Johnson of American Shipper, microservices offer an opportunity to continuously introduce new technology without disrupting the existing structure of a system. Some of the key advantages of using microservices in supply chain software over monolithic applications include:

  • Agility – Microservices allow software developers to build and test new processes and functions within compartmentalized areas of an application.
  • Efficiency – Fewer resources are necessary for the system architecture, allowing for more efficient use of coding.
  • Resiliency – Reduced disruptions ensure functionality across the whole system without risking failure.
  • Cost savings – Faster coding results in less downtime and continuous improvement as well.

How Microservices Are Taking Hold in Supply Chain Software

One of the easiest ways to understand microservices in action in today’s supply chains is through an example. If a company wants to create a new algorithm to improve data storage and retrieval, microservices can be used to connect and insert the new function into the system.

Major companies are using microservices to manage internet calls from 800+ types of devices. Some notable users of microservices today include:

  • Netflix.
  • Amazon.
  • Target.
  • PayPal.
  • Twitter.
  • Gilt.
  • eBay and more.

The Future of Microservices in Fulfillment

The use of microservices in the warehouse will continue to expand. Some Order Management Systems (OMS) and Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are utilizing microservices to varying degrees. One can expect this trend to increase as companies seek to augment the amount of automation in their fulfillment centers. Microservices are an ideal way to interface with a mix of humans using RF, voice or vision-picking systems alongside Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that will be doing the same types of tasks. With interest growing in a faster, more reliable way of upgrading systems, not to mention the ongoing push for better visibility through blockchain, the use of microservices will become a critical factor in defining the successes or failures of modern warehouses.