In early 2004, World Wide Technologies (WWT), a systems integrator and provider of outsourced supply chain solutions, began a project with a large automotive original equipment manufacturer. The goal was to automate the OEM's vendor relationships and reduce spending on maintenance, repair and operations material.
This was a big job. The OEM had more than 1,800 vendors supplying 26 assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada and was handling all purchasing through mostly manual processes. "It was a paper nightmare," says Steve Krekeler, business operations department manager at WWT, St. Louis.
WWT was charged with developing and implementing an electronic transaction hub that would handle the exchange of data between suppliers and the OEM. A key task was to manage purchase orders and invoices in a real-time, collaborative fashion.
The collaboration aspect proved to be a real challenge since most vendors did not have the necessary technology to comply. "In order to bring automation and scalability into the fledgling program, WWT realized it needed a software partner to manage purchase orders and invoices collaboratively over a large supply base with minimum impact on staffing levels," says Krekeler. "It also was crucial to minimize the impact the solution might have on suppliers in terms of investment in IT and training."
WWT partnered with ClearOrbit, Austin, Texas, to deploy Purchase Order Collaborator (POC), part of ClearOrbit's Xtended Process Control suite. Krekeler says that ClearOrbit's solution differentiates itself by its simplicity and intuitive inner workings. Within POC, POs are sent out to a company's supply base in real time, he explains. Immediately after a PO is created in an ERP system, it is read by POC and almost immediately placed in a POC Web-based link for vendor pickup. POC requires no special supplier capabilities other than a Web browser. Moreover, despite being an independent best-of-breed solution, POC integrated directly into the OEM's ERP system, without the need for additional layers of data, Krekeler says.
"WWT identified early on in the OEM program that supplier-manufacturer collaboration required adequate technology as well as flexibility," says Mark Franke, vice president of supply chain operations at WWT. "The ClearOrbit team helped WWT on both fronts. The POC tool protected data integrity at all times while cost-effectively establishing a fluid communication channel with a heterogeneous supply base. At the same time, ClearOrbit was flexible enough as a software provider to tailor the tool to the needs of a complex program."
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