How Software Can Help Better Manage the Supply Chain

Businesses looking to gain an advantage over their competitors need much more than just better products—they need to be able to manage the complexity of their supply chain network and collaborate throughout the chain to promptly address major unexpected issues. In addition to an analysis of the state of the market, this buyer’s guide offers a special report on global trade management (GTM) as well as product comparisons.

Supply chain technology used to be about “boxes,” with such labels as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Transportation Management System (TMS), and Warehouse Management System (WMS). Those boxes typically appeared within a bigger box—a company—whose idea of a system was a hierarchy of all those boxes connected by straight lines. Today though, Supply Chain Management (SCM) combines best practices and smartly applied tools whose ownership must be shared.

What we need now is some outside-the-box thinking, both among technology vendors and their customers—the people who enable and use the lines of communication within and between all supply chain boxes. That’s the kind of thinking that can deal with these types of supply chain what-ifs:

  • What if a truck driver shortage impedes transportation capacity?
  • What happens to the supply chain after a merger or acquisition?
  • What if a natural disaster disables a key supplier?
  • What if a company has to locate and reroute a critical shipment in-transit?
  • How does a company trace the source of product contamination?

To respond to these scenarios, companies need to rethink how they access transactional data within their supply chain systems. Global trade increasingly requires mobility and collaboration, and much of this is being achieved by locating supply chains “within the cloud”—using an on-demand, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), subscription model.

Today’s software delivery model is all about scalability—being able to expand one’s vision of supply chain flow as one’s supply chain grows, whether through increased business or through mergers and acquisitions. And the more a company’s supply chain expands, the more important it will be to ensure the quality of the data within the system. The old adage unfortunately still applies: garbage in, garbage out.

That makes analytics capabilities a key factor with SCM solutions, as they offer a way of analyzing more data, within larger databases. Companies with a constantly growing global footprint need to take control of their supply chains, especially if they are outsourcing more of their manufacturing functions to partners in other countries.

Certainly, the need for the traditional supply chain technology “boxes” is as great as ever, and we’ve seen and will continue to see a widening scope of capabilities within warehouse management and transportation management solutions. New applications are emerging that aim to connect the supply chain networks of manufacturers and their customers—for instance, a consumer goods company and its retail customers—to improve visibility as well as to better match demand with supply. In an era of razor-thin margins, it’s no longer acceptable to take a slow, cautious approach to SCM. Today, it’s all about the Perfect Order—getting the right product to the right customer at the right time, in the right condition and at the right cost.

For all partners in a global supply chain, performance is the ultimate indicator of how well practices and technologies are applied. And while new functionalities are developed and delivery models evolve, the best supply chain solutions will help users expand their transportation and distribution capabilities to meet the needs of their customers—not just maintain them.

Netfira’s supply chain inventory management solutions automate business-to-business e-commerce transactions between enterprises and SMBs and SMEs of all sizes, integrating seamlessly with the existing ERP or EDI accounting system, resulting in a streamlined, electronic buying and selling process. Netfira is SAP certified.

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