There’s nothing especially novel about the basic idea of supply-chain collaboration and integration. What’s new today, says Saunders, is that the notion is beginning to bring the right individuals together, to talk intelligently about subjects such as inventory, capacity and sales. For the first time, companies have access to detailed information, starting from the point of sale and extending all the way back through the supply chain.
The way in which a company captures data governs whether it will have the right information at hand. Consistency is key, says Saunders, “so that every level understands what the information is. And that your transaction data is the same all throughout the supply chain.”
It takes top-level executives to drive the effort toward collaboration and consistency. Also crucial to the initiative is the participation of vendors, manufacturers and other partners outside company walls. “You have to make sure that everybody is marching to the same beat,” says Saunders.
After 20 years of struggling to achieve supply-chain integration, suppliers and retailers still run out of product on the shelf. Yet customers are becoming less and less patient about stockouts and other kinds of glitches. It’s up to the supply chain to guarantee that the right product is residing in the right place, says Saunders.
As always, people are the first priority. “We are challenged globally to get the right number of people on our teams to be able to drive our supply chains the way we want to,” says Saunders. Individuals can build up their body of knowledge with the help of industry organizations such as APICS and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals. At the same time, he says, companies must fully address the issues of business process and technology.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, supply chain integration, supply chain collaboration, supply chain planning, inventory management