Extending Supply Chain Execution in Production to Improve Fulfillment

As market conditions continue to change, manufacturers are looking for any extra advantage against their competitors. Could a manufacturing execution system be the solution?


As market conditions continue to change, manufacturers are looking for any extra advantage against their competitors. Could a manufacturing execution system be the solution?

Manufacturing is becoming increasingly more complex as product lifecycles shrink and product mix grows, adding to the challenges of effectively managing in a globally expanding and dynamic market. Without adequate visibility to end-user demands and the ability to drive supply chain events to shop floor execution systems in real-time, manufacturers risk costly downtime due to the wrong product mix, material shortages or obsolete finished goods inventory as customer demands change.

As more manufacturing shifts to low-cost regions, visibility to events occurring in the supply chain becomes increasingly critical to the performance of the enterprise. Manufacturers must have real-time access to global enterprise information to help make better decisions and the ability to implement those decisions on the shop floor.

Lack of Supply Chain Visibility

How can a company make smart decisions about what to produce when there is inadequate visibility at the enterprise business application level about what product is moving through manufacturing?

Creating a manufacturing plan that reflects real-world market conditions is unlikely when the data used to create it (typically based on a forecast) is old or non-existent. It is impossible to be responsive to dynamic events, such as an unexpected quality failure at a subcontractor, without a consolidated, real-time view of the enterprise. World-class manufacturing companies recognize that the ability to share real-time information across their extended manufacturing and supply chain network provides significant competitive advantage in terms of fulfilling customer demands and increasing profitability and shareholder value.

As manufacturing shifts from forecast-based planning to demand-based planning, companies are being driven to rethink how their manufacturing applications connect with other enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain planning (SCP) systems. If a large distributor signals a demand change for a particular product, manufacturing must be able to adapt and respond in real-time to change production schedules and product mix to meet the new requirement. Providing greater visibility of real-time demand signals directly to the shop floor allows business managers to make more informed decisions.

The Gaps in Supply Chain and ERP

Current SCP and ERP applications were designed to improve enterprise operational efficiency. Yet, after millions of dollars of investment and implementation of these systems, manufacturers are still asking the fundamental, overarching question: What should I make?

While planning and supply chain systems have improved a manufacturer's efficiency, many of these enterprise systems exist within their own silo of information, unable to share real-time data with other enterprise systems. Additionally, manufacturing has been missing within enterprise strategies with most of the focus going toward supply chain optimization of existing finished goods. Typical supply chain solutions optimize the flow of finished goods through the supply chain network to the end customer. They do a good job determining the most efficient way to coordinate with all the supply chain resources, such as transportation, distribution and warehousing, as the product moves through the channel.

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