Because of an increasingly complex supply chain, finance and supply managers in manufacturing and retail organizations face significant challenges finding and maintaining accurate inventory and delivery information. With important product information locked away in specific information systems, managers can’t easily determine item availability or report customer demand. They have to spend a lot of time coordinating with vendors over the phone or via email each time they need up-to-date delivery information.
Every additional vendor or supplier along the supply chain makes it more difficult to coordinate and keep all information in-sync. Each step upstream from the customer amplifies the bullwhip effect, resulting in highly inaccurate demand forecasts and inefficient order fulfillment. Improving information accuracy and eliminating delays in communication help to mitigate the bullwhip effect and vastly improve supply chain coordination.
The importance of simple, direct communication
Modern digital tools are the key to improving this situation by simplifying inter-partner communication along the supply chain. Instead of relying on ad hoc systems that use spreadsheets and email to keep track of information from suppliers, retail and manufacturing organizations need robust information platforms that are directly integrated with electronic communication channels.
Older partner organizations that digitized their records decades ago might still use traditional EDI standards that relay information to partners using a value-added network, or VAN. These systems are often industry-specific, like flight inquiry software or electronic stock tickers. Whether your vendors use these older systems or newer B2B communication standards like XML or JSON to exchange information, you should look for a single solution with multi-format support. The goal is to simplify and reduce the cost of data interchange by using as few moving parts as possible.
Just as importantly, the solution you implement shouldn’t be a stand-alone system that requires a user to key in data for transmission. Instead, it should receive all information directly and automatically from your internal business software (typically an ERP platform). Users should be able to simply select the information they would like to send, specify the intended recipients of this information, and click a button.
Furthermore, the communication solution should also allow your organization to send information to partners on a fixed schedule, or when particular conditions are triggered. You might want to send weekly performance reports, or initiate an order whenever stock levels in your distribution centers dip below a specific threshold. The system should support batch jobs that let you send multiple documents to multiple partners with a single click. The more ways an information exchange application offers for automating partner communication, the better.
Making full use of incoming partner information
Information that you receive from your vendors and partners is just as important as the information you send. Using an ERP-integrated solution is fully effective only if it’s implemented in both directions. Any digital information you receive from suppliers and other vendors should be sent directly to your ERP system so that your internal records are always accurate. Since ERP platforms typically offer advanced data visualization and forecasting capabilities, raw partner data received via integrated supply chain communication can easily be converted into meaningful insights.
Integrating partner information in both directions sets up direct, automated communication between both parties’ ERP systems, which eliminates a great deal of manual activity and opportunity for human error. That means less rekeying, fewer delays, and more accurate inventory and delivery information.
Enabling faster communication between partners by eliminating unnecessary steps and directly connecting their enterprise software is a great way to ensure accurate, up-to-date information about your products and logistics. PartnerLink by Visionet is a great example of a full-featured tool for both EDI and non-EDI organizations. You won’t have to rely on guesswork, and order fulfillment and replenishment will take significantly less time. For detailed information on how your specific technology infrastructure will interface with that of your supply chain partners, please contact Visionet Systems for a complimentary consultation.