The traditional supply chain process is a fragmented one. With the push to maintain a competitive edge in today’s ever-shifting marketplace, in which end consumers expect products to arrive almost instantaneously, siloed supply chains — with disparate and often manually oriented systems — can be inhibitory, if not outright disastrous. Such segmentation not only creates issues between supply chain partners, it also impedes company operations as a whole. For example, if sales and marketing are disconnected from logistics and warehousing in terms of data and information sharing, operations will never be as streamlined as they could be.
Accurate data is crucial for every actor in the chain, whether they’re working inside or outside of the enterprise. In any industry, protecting certain portions of data as proprietary is understandable, as this can mean the difference between gaining or losing market share. But emerging technologies, such as blockchain and integrated software solutions, can guide supply chain partners and interdepartmental employees in the best practices for sharing data while still maintaining privacy for certain aspects of operations.
Integrating Internal Systems
Warehouse and materials management, transportation management, customer relationship management (CRM), and vendor management systems are all mergeable. With a well-thought-out data flow design, everyone within an enterprise is afforded easy access to the right data, at the right time.
Real-time analytics, shipment tracking information, and efficiency-monitoring data — which may include information on storage environments and the likelihood of equipment malfunctions, as well as immediate updates on customer orders — can all be used by sales departments to maintain higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, systems are now capable of sending out alerts if a shipment will be delayed or arrive early, while also providing precise data regarding the condition of the item.
Constructing a Supply Chain Consortium
Sharing data is no longer an all-or-nothing proposition. Each link in a particular supply chain now has the ability to keep sensitive data out of the hands of competitors while still maintaining a collegial environment that supports common objectives: reducing costs, meeting customer needs, and increasing return on investment.
Blockchain is a perfect example; with this technology, only certain data — such as GPS tracking, ambient transportation conditions, and bills of lading — can be released to either a single partner or the entire consortium. Transactional data, such as customer or vendor payments, are still kept private. Alternatively, users may choose not to store any proprietary data on the blockchain.
Local and international compliance requirements create another layer, adding to the expenditure matrix. Within a supply chain consortium, compliance agreements and other documents can be implemented as smart contracts that are auto-executed and auto-enforced between specific partners.
The Benefits of Supply Chain Integration
Initially, the task of reorganizing internal business logic and establishing a consortium that will agree to a central data sharing system may seem daunting. But once the integrated system has been implemented, the benefits far outweigh the initial effort and cost.
Quality control and compliance issues can be resolved more quickly, if not immediately, and companies are afforded more time for proactive innovation — meaning they can shift away from lower-end tasks and focus on areas with more potential for revenue generation.
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