The United States has never experienced a global outbreak like that of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Panic buying that caused strains in the supply chain, creating shortages and/or empty shelves or retooling their processes to make new products to support healthcare, police and other first responders dealing with this virus and stopping production all together. As states begin to re-open their economies, companies will need to address any areas of risk within their supply chains. Will they be able to manage the influx of orders from their customers? Will they have to change their processes to support the economic recovery? If so, how?
Most companies examine their procurement, manufacturing and logistics processes first when they look to make improvements to their supply chain, often looking to new technologies. However, the supply chain is only as good as the processes that support and manage it. If your information technology (IT) supply chain is not integrated and cannot support the entire order-to-cash process electronically, you will not gain the cost saving new technologies can provide. In addition, you may not be able to support your customers’ needs during and after the restart.
Why is it critical to support the order-to-cash documents electronically and efficiently? Ask yourself, what would happen if:
- Your company lost 1, 10, 100, 1,000 or more new orders?
- Your customer would not accept your products because you could not provide the status of the shipment?
- Your payment was delayed because your invoices were incorrect and/or rejected.
- You could not process the high volume of orders because too much of your processes are manual?
Electronic data interchange (EDI) has been around since the 1980s, and has been the standard for doing business electronically. While companies may have changed to other formats, they often don’t think of EDI as strategic to their business. During and after the re-start, doing business electronically effectively may be the difference between gaining, losing business or going out of business.
As states re-open, companies will need to restock shelves and replenish inventory in their warehouses.Will your IT infrastructure be able to handle the increased volume of the inbound orders and the corresponding documents?
Some of the basic questions asked before starting the assessment you should be:
1. Can you guarantee to your auditors that you never lose data?
2. Do you know if you have ever lost data?
3. Do you know where each business document can be found at any point in your processes?
4. Do you manually review reports generated by each process?
5. Are your electronic documents completely integrated into you applications or is there manual intervention anywhere in the process?
6. How long does it take to onboard a new trading partner and what impact does that have on your business?
Unfortunately, many companies see IT as a necessary evil and not a strategic differentiator. With the Coronavirus outbreak, this line of thinking needs to change. Companies need to consider that it will require time to improve their electronic supply chain and may not see immediate return on investment. Though, not making improvements may have a bigger negative impact.