Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Collaborate In The Supply Chain

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Real-time, integrated systems provide rapid responses.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2006

Collaboration is key to building strong relationships with your most profitable vendors. Retailers need to see beyond their current inventory levels into real-time inbound inventory information held by suppliers. With purchase order lifecycle management (POLM) playing a larger role for retailers, it's recognized that supply chain management (SCM) technology can enable quick reaction to market shifts and unforeseen delivery problems.

Strong POLM functionality gives retailers the ability to define a tracking system to monitor processes. Automated alerts based on user-defined thresholds allow retailers to solve problems before they arise. A solid merchandising solution gives retailers the tools to handle the challenges of inventory planning and the processes that create business value. The right product assortment increases customer satisfaction and enables retailers to sell more merchandise at full price. Next year, more retailers will use integrated collaboration solutions to monitor new products through the manufacturing process, as well as track fluctuating shipping dates.

When a merchandising solution is used in conjunction with an SCM solution, retailers receive up-to-date delivery information translating into faster time-to-market and increased sell-through, as well as a reduction in inventory carrying costs. An SCM application also provides the ability to manage the various steps of the supply chain effectively and to use technology to enable vendors to be more reliable and more responsive. Relying on historic data and inventory levels can be dangerous to the bottom line. Complete supply chain visibility allows partners to work more closely and, as a result, build stronger alliances that translate into profits for both parties. Web-based, security-driven collaborative tools enable accurate, up-to-date, easy communication amongst partners throughout the supply chain. Exception-based tracking and reporting help identify and correct problems before they become critical. In order to maximize ROI, retailers and vendors have to standardize practices and technology that will deliver the infrastructure to enable closer collaboration.

What Should SCM Applications Offer?

  • Tracking — This includes workflow management for POLM, production, preproduction, chargebacks, store openings, and unlimited business processes.
  • Bidding — SCM applications should offer a live chat, e-mail, and audit trail to enable a bid owner to ask questions pertinent to the job and receive a prompt response. Receive, evaluate, and award bids with automatic purchase orders generated from the ERP.
  • Logistics — Provide visibility into shipment tracking and ensure product moves quickly postarrival. Pick/pack and ship functionality provides remote partners or internal shipping owners the ability to create labeled cartons, eliminating the need to send preprinted labels to partners.
  • Quality Control — Ensuring that the product meets its quality rating is critical to the products' sell-through and to the reputation of the brand owner and retailer. Gain insight into product quality by initiating processes to monitor and report on quality levels and approval thresholds, resulting in accurate supplier ratings.
  • Social Compliance — Knowing that goods are produced in an environment meeting the quality and environmental standards is important to the wholesaler, retailer, and consumer. Gaining the trust of the consumer can only be done providing that you work with suppliers that can prove they follow these requirements and have high ethical standards.
  • Partner Portal — Retailers, manufacturers, importers, and distributors can stay connected and have instant access to pricing, detailed product information, and order status information from any location.