The Supply Chain's Digital Revolution Moves Beyond Vendor Management

Published : December 19, 2014

ipad-with-virtual-world-map-of-peopleFor a modern supply chain, it isn't enough to simply do— moving things from point A to point B is barely enough to keep a company's head above water in an ever-more-complex marketplace. Top-down views, end-to-end connection and predictive over reactive approaches rule the day and push businesses into the future. The vendor management software selected for a given workflow must not only take these needs into account, it must have the ability to scale and expand as new challenges arise.

The solution is a robust understanding and implementation of technology to amplify its effects.

Clouds to Weather the Storm

When it comes to a top down view of the world, it's hard to beat clouds— the information-storing variety, not stratocumulus.

Keeping reports, statistics, contact information and real-time data in a cloud allows everyone who needs them to stay on the same page. Larger vendors should be technologically equipped to exist in the cloud already, and any effort expended in getting a smaller, less savvy vendor in the cloud is effort well-spent in the long run.

IBM's Tom Ford recently discussed logistics in the cloud with Forbes, pointing out that heavy hitters like China's Ningbo port and the U.S. General Services Administration are already making judicious use of this technology to stay on track with fulfillment goals.

Less Human Interaction = Less Human Error

Taking humans entirely out of the picture is a recipe for disaster in a supply chain, but minimizing their presence and automating tasks that take well to it is just good business.

When menial or predictive tasks are automated— or at least programmed to provide an automatic forecast to use— it frees up human intelligence, providing more "brain power" to tackle the more complex tasks that demand it.

Solutions Design Director Jeff Rauscher points out to Apparel Magazine that humans tend to focus on what's directly in front of them, while automated logistics processes can take past performance into account. These processes can be leveraged to automatically break up bottlenecks in the supply chain before they have a chance to form.

Interconnectivity in a Changing World

While some industries are more vulnerable to sudden volumetric impacts like an unexpected celebrity endorsement than others, the fact remains that supply and demand for almost anything can change in an instant. When companies step away from legacy IT systems in favor of adaptive technologies, they end up more "tuned in" to the market as a whole— they get customer feedback more rapidly, they're kept abreast of shipment concerns as soon as they happen, they stay in touch with their suppliers through vendor management software.

Each link in the chain moves the others, ensuring that problems aren't left to fester or spread, and that lucrative opportunities are taken advantage of before a competitor steps in. Will Green of Supply Management discusses a recent conference where attendees were told that the "Internet of Things"— that is, connections between components, clouds, employees and even social media— is driving the logistics industry and reinventing the way logistics is viewed and implemented.

The speaker, Gartner VP Noha Tohamy, explained that companies as a whole still have a long way to go— that even many larger companies still rely on bare-bones, disconnected tech like Microsoft Excel to manage their vendors and supply chain.

Vendor management software is an excellent way to 'keep up with the Joneses' in an industry that's actively embracing digital solutions, but it's only one component to a successful approach. The true winners will be those that take the idea of connections and real-time data and determine best workflow combination of the two.

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Topics: Vendor Management

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