Visibility plays a big role in day-to-day day routine supply chain management tasks, historic supply chain performance analysis and long-term planning. Companies need accurate transaction data to decide on how to ship, store and distribute their goods. Even before unanticipated changes occur in customer demand or shipment flows, many companies may choose to perform certain "agility actions" as part of their routine supply chain management process, which requires a certain level of supply chain visibility to be attained.
However, when business circumstances change-a sudden change in local customer demand has led to a stock-out at a specific location; a shipment got lost, damaged or loaded late; a bridge or road collapsed jamming a transportation node-having visibility becomes not just a question of routine operational efficiency but of maintaining an undisrupted flow of goods, meeting customer expectations or making it in time for a scheduled store promotion. When things deviate from plan, exceptions need to be spotted as soon as possible and the right parties in the company need to be alerted in time to respond with minimal disruption to the supply chain.
This is when event management plays a critical role in effectively escalating issues and driving the right response.
Aberdeen Group recently surveyed 349 businesses regarding their current practices and future initiatives for supply chain visibility (Beyond Visibility: Driving Supply Chain Responsiveness, September 2008), among them 275 companies with global supply chains. Key execution-related process automation differentiators reported by Best-in-Class participants with global supply chains include milestone tracking, event and workflow management, exception alerts, collaboration, and data checking/management.
Event management capabilities, including milestone tracking, issue escalation, role-based visibility views for other departments and external trading partners, role-based alerting, and collaboration tools (e.g. ability to post notes and attach documents to the platform, as well as exchange information and have the right manager review and resolve issues at hand, etc.) are the cornerstones of effective disruption management for today's complex supply chains. It is worth mentioning the role of workflow management in supply chain execution: if a company has sound processes and a defined workflow for supply chain decision-making, it will be more efficient in implementing agile, milestone-triggered supply chain activities, including seamless shipment processes and on-time customer delivery. Establishing these capabilities helps facilitate the much-needed collaboration across the supply chain.
Moving towards proactive supply chain monitoring and disruption management can help companies improve operational performance and build a more resilient supply chain for the future. In selecting a visibility technology to aid in these initiatives, companies should look for the Best-in-Class automation differentiators, focusing on moving beyond merely tracking events to proactively managing them and effectively responding to potential disruptions.
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