Ed Bradley, Co-Founder at Virtualstock discusses the importance of supply chain data management to performance.
The experiences of consumer technology such as Uber and Amazon and the visibility and efficiency they provide, has now increased expectation of business users regardless of their sector. B2B buyers are now demanding this type of technology and supply chain visibility in the workplace, wanting to be de-shackled from the legacy systems which, historically, have been all pervasive within businesses, hospitals, schools and pretty much every other organisation.
For too long, users of business systems have had to put up with old, clunky interfaces with poor access to accurate data and information. This may have been acceptable for the last generation of operatives, but is certainly not for the new, tech-savvy generation who will settle for nothing less than a full and accurate view of all information on an interface that requires no training to use.
Many companies continue to rely on manually intensive and laborious processes to collect supply chain data from disparate systems and multiple trading partners, compiling it into anachronistic spreadsheets. With existing legacy systems, buyers have no visibility over product orders and when they will turn up. Often, in the NHS for example, a buyer will end up ordering two of the same products from different suppliers because their current systems don’t allow them to track orders and have clear visibility over arrival times. Buyers often complain about suppliers delaying the shipment of products and not always being honest about the timing of delivery.
These manual processes are wholly inadequate and potentially damaging in today’s world of increasingly complex, extensive and global supply chains which span many continents. Without real-time visibility over supply chains an organisation is hindered in its ability to detect and resolve issues and disruption before they escalate into major problems. Businesses are now expected to react faster to change, with spreadsheets no longer providing an adequate speed to market.
Buyers want the same anytime anywhere experience as consumers
The evidence to show that supply chain visibility can improve performance is incontrovertible. Some organisations are deterred from replacing or integrating legacy systems, or building internal bespoke solutions, as they can prove expensive and time-consuming. However, in an age of Uber and Amazon where experiences are immediate and seamless, this is investment is crucial. Buyers want these experiences applied to their supply chains which need to be frictionless and visible to optimise outcomes.
Technology can help overcome this challenge
Companies need an easy-to-use software system that can be plugged into, or on top of, any existing legacy system and create one centrally controlled interface that enables real-time visibility of the supply chain and management of data.
Having this real-time visibility of the entire supply chain is critical as it allows buyers to track the complete order lifecycle from creation to payment, with timely access to information about orders, shipments, deliveries, invoices and payments. It enables companies to respond quickly to changes in schedules or working with alternative suppliers to ensure stable supply. By consolidating all data into one central location, it creates a single information point about the status of orders. Improved visibility can make the planning process easier. Buyers and planners are able to predict lead times better and make accurate order counts.
Better visibility can lead to improving fill rates, reduce lead times, improve forecast accuracy and will also lower inventory levels which in turn translates into increased profitability. It also helps mitigate against serious and costly disruptions, and helps companies act more nimbly to potential disruptions in the supply chain.