Many companies today don't know how to go about differentiating their supply chains, said Woore. "Very few can express how they're going to compete." He urged companies to examine the technology they need to align their systems with customer requirements. The IT organization, in particular, must match its efforts to the larger goal of business growth.
Confusion can reign if multiple parties within a business have the authority to purchase information systems. "As a frustrated operations manager who got into IT seeking business solutions, I can vouch for that being a challenge," Woore said. IT executives need to build "a true partnership" with others in the organization, especially operations and sales, to align their efforts and enable future growth.
One important technique to achieve supply-chain differentiation is sales and operations planning. Systems tied to that process can take in data from customers, aggregate it and parcel it out to all relevant parties in a timely manner. "A company that can harvest that tool can drive additional growth," said Woore. S&OP can be an important means of unifying all of the functions within the organization. "It helps to defeat internal silos."
Woore cited the example of Technicolor, which recently implemented an S&OP process that allows it to access data on customer demand, then relay it to any one of 38 production centers in North America. The company is able proactively to balance supply and demand, engendering "unprecedented collaboration across the supply chain."
A "top-down" approach by senior executives is necessary to aligning IT with the business and supply-chain sides of a company. Woore views IT as being "more of a servant to the organization.... It's facilitating the discussion, not deciding what's needed."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, sales and operations planning, inventory management, global logistics, supply chain services, supply chain IT solutions, supply chain planning
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