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How to Add Executive-Level Visibility to Process Improvement Strategies

Running supply chains is nothing new for most major brands and retailers; big organizations that are the leaders in the industry have made all of the right investments in technology. But something is still missing even in the utmost efficient companies.

I recently spoke to a top executive at the nation’s oldest men’s clothier – a privately held company with plenty of clout and plenty of investment dollars to make sure their high-end products are manufactured to precise specifications.

But even the distinctive and time-honored retailers with supply chain operations that have been refined and perfected over the years lack the visibility necessary to maintain the levels of agility and speed in today’s fast-paced world. The geographic stretch across the globe alone has driven the need for greater sophistication in order to remain competitive.

According to the APICS Dictionary, supply chain management (SCM) is defined as the design, planning, execution, control and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building a competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally. But it omits the need for collaboration with the suppliers and production facilities.

Interest in supply chain management has steadily increased since the 1980s when firms saw the benefits of collaborative relationships within and beyond their own organizations. Companies are finding they can no longer compete effectively in isolation from suppliers or other critical players in the supply chain. But collaborative practices are relatively new to the manufacturing industries, including apparel and footwear.

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Supplier relationships were somewhat estranged for hundreds of years – with buyers simply demanding goods at the best price point and highest quality and little negation about profit margins that benefit the production facilities and suppliers that support them.

However, the change has come, and in a KPMG report, supply chain leaders have noted the importance of putting their supply chains at the center of their business strategies, and making investments into the technology to support them. The end results will be operation efficiency and collaborative innovation, which will lead to growth and security.

“Obtaining real-time visibility across all tiers in the supply chain can significantly increase speed to market, reduce capital expenditures and manage risk,” said Jeff Dobbs, global sector chair for Diversified Industrials and a partner with KPMG in the U.S. “Moving toward demand-driven supply chain is probably the single most important step a global manufacturer can take today.”

But this could prove challenging as Dobbs pointed out that “much of the supply chain technology is outdated.” In fact, 44 percent of respondents in his report said they still use email, fax and mail as a means to communicate issues about demand in the supply chain. “The winners will be the ones who can network real-time across their entire supply chains, reducing the information lag that costs companies significant time and money,” adds Dobbs.

Today’s dynamic environment requires manufacturers to find new, intelligent ways to address the shortage of communication between the wide range of suppliers and providers needed to operate in an environment of change. They need to invest in transforming their business operations to be more effective, connected and adaptive. This requires looking at the enterprise as a holistic ecosystem where bilateral collaboration is teamed with visibility, not just at a functional level, but from 3,000 feet up where executives can affect process change.

“With new data technologies proliferating to enhance partnering, shared efficiencies and visibility, we’ll start seeing some breakthrough and disruptive innovation in manufacturing – not only to the products but also to the process,” the KPMG report noted.

Recognizing this, supply chain solutions firm ecVision has launched cloud-based innovations that leverage the connectivity, community and insights that come from existing platforms–PDM, PLM, ERP and TMS–to help companies fuel more agile, intelligent and collaborative supply chains to succeed in today’s increasingly global and networked economy. Combined with strong technology that has evolved over the last 16 years in software development, linkage relationships to tie in every major test lab, audit company, and certifying organization in the industry, and support on both sides of the globe, ecVision provides companies with complete visibility into supply side trading partners and a single interface for managing the advanced supply chain needs of critical, high-value partners. Using the suite of business practices in every functional area, companies can quickly enable efficient, targeted and transparent collaboration with their suppliers.

A business cannot achieve its cost, revenue and cash flow goals without being able to efficiently engage with customers and collaborate with its supply chain. Supply chain leaders, both young and old, are beginning to recognize that they can gain new insights and enable new processes that allow them to manage supply chain volatility and meet market demands by being connected to a community of partners and peers, and this is what our latest innovations deliver.


Gary M. Barraco                               

Vice President, Industry Development | ecVision