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By taking a platform-based approach to their supply chains, companies can achieve a holistic view of their information-technology needs, says Jeff Cashman, senior vice president of business development with Manhattan Associates. The technology can help them to cope with the challenges and complexities of modern-day supply-chain management, while aligning high-level operations strategy with IT investments.
Cashman speaks of the concept of "whole-chain awareness." It allows companies to function in a multi-channel world, especially one where working capital is increasing difficult to come by. Inventory is one area that is especially ripe for scrutiny, he says. Companies need to examine it from a planning and forecasting perspective, all the way to execution. They must have visibility within each category, then be able to take that view across the network for an understanding of total inventory levels. In the process, they can discover where to reduce inventory without compromising customer-service levels.
Over the past decade, says Cashman, the business world has moved gradually from "best-of-breed" software to application suites to complete platforms. The first two stages burdened IT groups with a high cost of ownership, not to mention substantial risk. Platform technology can help to mitigate those costs, while allowing for a high-level view of inventory. At the same time, he says, businesses don't have to "rip and replace" to make room for these new systems all at once. They can build on their capabilities as market opportunities permit.
The effort doesn't stop at the four walls of a facility, or even at the boundaries of a particular company. Cashman stresses the importance of collaboration with partners across the supply chain, for a truly comprehensive view of inventory, operations and IT systems.
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