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Issue Date: January 2008

Unravelling the supply chain

1 January 2008

Jane Thomson, MD: Softworx, believes that operating a supply chain that is both efficient and chaos-tolerant has become increasingly difficult.
Jane Thomson, MD, Softworx
Jane Thomson, MD, Softworx
Supply chain management (SCM): one of the revolutionary promises of IT solutions. Intelligent software that not only drives out huge operational costs but maximises productivity gains. Jane Thomson, MD: Softworx, master distributor of Infor in sub-Saharan Africa, explains that operating a supply chain that is both efficient and chaos-tolerant has become increasingly difficult in today's uncertain world, making business-specific SCM software a must, "SCM helps managers 'manage'. It essentially simplifies the complexities of a company's supply chain."
Thomson explains that SCM means different things to different people, and that industry differences do, therefore, matter, "Because SCM spans supply chains in manufacturing, retailing, and transportation and logistics, it is imperative that your SCM vendor delivers a comprehensive solution best-suited to your industry." SCM solutions thus need to be not only implemented, but, more importantly, owned by the company.
What most companies do not initially realise, however, is that SCM is a category of solutions and not a single product - hence Thomson's reference to a comprehensive solution. As such, SCM comprises a range of solutions.
Thomson explains that SCM has become a vital element in a company's set of IT solutions incorporating a wider spectrum of applications than the traditional activities of inventory control, order tracking, customer service, finance and human resources associated with other solutions like ERP. "SCM comprises the key components of strategic network design; demand, distribution and manufacturing planning; production scheduling; transportation and logistics; warehouse management; RFID and event management. So, while other software can be used as a partial solution to addressing supply chain needs, SCM solutions can more effectively match all of a company's business priorities. This means they bring invaluable benefits."
Take the element of supply chain planning for example. In a typical supply chain setup, this will encompass demand, distribution and manufacturing planning. In terms of demand planning alone, an SCM solution can equip the company with forecasting tools, a web-based collaboration interface, and sales and operations reporting and metrics thereby helping the company predict and shape customer demand with greater accuracy.
Apply this same thorough approach to each and every element of the supply chain and the promised benefits become overwhelming. "By applying SCM solutions consistently throughout the chain, managers will ensure they get both a holistic overview and detailed snapshots of the business. This will enable them to manage the business's growth and expansion," says Thomson.
Companies must thus take both a macro and micro view of their supply chain, and find a package of solutions that is able to deliver the reduced costs and increased profits that SCM promises. In this way, they will unleash the true potential of their supply chain and realise SCM's invaluable benefits.

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