What are business rules? What do I use them for? Here's an explanation for non-supply chain people.
Well, when you buy big and fancy systems like a WMS's (which stands for Warehouse Management System) or TMS's (which stands for Transport Management System). It's usually super expensive and so complicated that you have to hire a consulting firm to help you implement it. Queue the words "business transformation" to be thrown around. Whatever the business is doing well enough to afford it and in the process of setting up a system - Business Rules are one of the things you're going to get asked about. Now, since consultants charge by the hour/day... here's a shortcut explanation to help you save some time and money.
Let's say that your business has grown to the point where you have so many orders going to so many places. That managing all of your transport carriers in a spreadsheet is no longer an efficient use of your interns time. To respond to this, you and the other managers go out and buy a TMS to manage this workflow.
When setting up a TMS, an overpaid consultant will ask about your carrier rates. Because the whole point of a TMS is to make it easier to manage the orders, the carriers, and the rates they charge (rates which charge depending on which part of a global pandemic you're in).
A Business Rule that can be applied here/setup to be applied automatically without the need for a human to assess the transaction. It can be something like "when going from Albury to Geelong, use the cheapest carrier". To clarify this, it means that when an order comes to your TMS, which says it's going from Albury to Geelong. The system will recognize these parameters. Assess the list of carriers you have loaded into your system, look at their transport rates, and then automatically allocate a transport carrier for you.
Congratulations, you've just learnt the most basic form of a business rule. That applies to your transport department, to a route that goes from Albury to Geelong. Now, if business rules can get that specific. Imagine how complicated things get when you scale this kind of analysis and application of Rule-making across your entire network of routes, transactions, and supply chain operations.
When done correctly - epic things are possible. Like having a system that processes hundreds, thousands, or even millions of transactions with minimal human interaction. This alone is a feat worth celebrating.
What's worth being excited about is - imagine you had your entire delivery network mapped out and automated with business rules. Imagine collecting that data over a while and then seeing the seasonal trends, the annual changes to the demand for your product, or how other things impact your operations (like the weather).
With that kind of data and analysis, you could move from reacting to a rainy day to preparing for one primitively. That kind of strategic thinking, that's what the best supply chain people do! And with your new understanding of Business Rules, you're a step closer to doing it yourself.