The supply chain is the core of any business. Most people attribute the supply chain to that of a large corporation, but every business has a supply chain. You have suppliers, purchasing, production, distribution, and finally customers. The end result of every supply chain is always customers. The problem with any supply chain is it is only as strong as the links in the chain. If a link is weak then your supply chain breaks down. This has impact on customers which in turn can negatively impact your business.
Twenty years ago it was pretty easy to hide a breakdown in the supply chain from your customers. You could make up for a slowdown in production by speeding up shipping or increasing your acceptable rate of failure on products to higher levels and making up for it on warranty exchanges. Customers in general moved at a slower pace and were used to doing business at a slower pace.
Today technology has dramatically impacted the supply chain process and the way it interfaces with customers. Customers are digitally connected and dialed in. They want answers, they want them now, and they don't want to wait. They expect you to have their personal portal updated with a tracking number and estimated shipment date within 10 minutes of placing an order. Telling somebody it might take up to 14 business days is no longer acceptable.
Though technology has made your supply chain more transparent, it has also improved the links in your chain. Retailers for example are completely tied together through technology. They have advertising management systems that forecast what products should be put in your ads based on trends. They have inventory control software that will automatically monitor inventory levels, and make purchase recommendations based on projected demands. This application is most likely tied to their digital purchase order system where the category manager can approve the purchase via their blackberry.
Technology has rapidly and dramatically improved the ability to manage the supply chain process more efficiently, as well as making information virtually on demand for customers.
It does not come without its complications though. Each CIO that is in the process of migrating, upgrading, or changing supply chain technology needs to take the following things into consideration:
Improving the technology you utilize for supply chain management will increase your productivity as well as the bottom line. You will work more efficiently with fewer payroll demands, and improve your customer experience by being able to provide them with real time on demand information.
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