Talking About Supply Chain Management
LaFauci: I agree with Tenthoff. Improved planning based upon longer visibility into the order (publishing) pipeline would reduce lead times. As supply chain management initiatives eliminate more of the routine tasks, employees will be freed to participate in higher value-added activities. Buyers can analyze supplier performance rather than write purchase orders. Customer service reps can service customers rather than enter orders. Sales reps can spend more time selling..
BTM: In an era when many companies are projecting negative growth and flat earnings, what arguments can be made for expending resources on long term projects such as the tightening of supply chain management?
Tenthoff: One thing we have discovered is that the expenditures do not necessarily have to be large to achieve real value. As information flow becomes better and better, companies on both side of the supply chain can move closer to adopting just-in-time inventory management techniques with considerable possible savings.
Toolan: Time is money. Redundancy, whether it [stems from] two departments manually entering the same information into separate systems, or two companies manually entering the same data into separate systems, is a terrible waste of time. Most companies have seen how "enterprise" system models have done much to improve productivity, reduce errors and reduce costs over the long term. B2B and e-commerce are really just an extension of the same concept. These are endeavors that must be viewed with an eye toward long term, because in the short term, they will be costly.
LaFauci: The long-term nature of these initiatives allows a "walk-before-you-run-approach." Companies can start with simple solutions, which effect the data exchanged between business partners, without tackling the onerous issues of back-end systems integration. Our experience is that you can make meaningful progress with modest investments. I agree with Toolan—B2B initiatives are the next logical extension to the enterprise systems we have come to rely upon to execute our businesses.