Another way companies can ramp up supply chain collaboration is by finding methods that allow information to be synchronized so data can be moved across the supply chain quickly, effortlessly and with the appropriate safeguards. Additionally, participants must align their business processes, integrate information technology (IT) infrastructures and assure the compatibility of strategic methodologies. These steps require significant leadership commitment across collaborative partners, however the results of a fully integrated global supply chain speed of information, improved quality and processes, and a value-added, customer-driven process offer very real competitive advantages.
Assuming a company is committed to taking the steps necessary for a truly collaborative supply chain, it's critical to employ the best enabling technology. Traditionally, suppliers, carriers, manufacturers and e-business solutions providers have used established technologies, such as electronic data interchange (EDI) to streamline moving goods from point A to point B. This method, while efficient and accurate, is expensive, inflexible and time-consuming when collecting data, thus slowing down or even preventing a truly collaborative process. Although EDI will continue to be an important route to a standard file format, XML (Extensible Markup Language) is proving to be a more effective e-commerce format. It's compatible with real-time tools and is cheaper to set up and use, which encourages more members of the supply chain to participate. Eventually, companies will move beyond established systems to find new technologies that will enable real-time visibility and collaboration across all global supply chain participants.
As technology matures, so does the overall supply chain management process. It's rapidly changing from segmented, sequential planning and execution to concurrent planning and execution. Supply chain management, visibility and decision support systems, from companies like i2 Technologies, Manugistics, Optum and others, help supply chains become proactive so companies can assess various scenarios and respond to changes in customer needs, supplier availability and other factors. Also, the information has to be synchronized in each company's internal systems, including sales, order management and order allocation, which allows one department to act on another's information.
Collaboration, visibility and speed are critical components to unlocking the potential of any company's supply chain. The results of genuine collaboration with ready access to real-time data are enhanced value, lowered costs and a more efficient and responsive supply chain. To achieve this, the collaborative model takes committed leadership, strategic planning and leading-edge technology. While supply chain collaboration among enterprises is still in its infancy, the model is becoming more feasible, particularly as IT enhancements and attention to relationship management facilitate the timely implementation of flexible, collaborative partnerships. This collaboration of data sharing will provide the tremendous efficiencies companies need in order to remain competitive in the global economy.
Five Steps to Effective Supply Chain Collaboration
1. Commit to new business processes
2. Have clear objectives regarding core processes and desired results, with short- and long-term goals
3. Be prepared to share sensitive information, such as product development plans, production schedules and sales forecasts
4. Develop methods to synchronize information so data can move across the supply chain quickly, effortlessly and with appropriate safeguards
5. Align business processes with business partners, integrate IT infrastructures and assure compatibility of strategic methodologies