Do You See What I See… in Your Supply Chain?

December 22, 2011
In honor of Christmas, I would like to use the famous carol “Do You Hear What I Hear” to guide my discussion of supply chain management. I’ll use several lines from the song to show how important it is to see, hear, know and listen to what’s going on in your supply chains.

Do You See What I See?

Star shining brightly in the sky, Fishbowl Inventory BlogHow well can you see what’s going on in your supply chains? Does it take a lot of time to compile all the data on your sales, orders and deliveries, and then transfer it to Excel spreadsheets? That’s not an efficient way to manage supply chains, nor does it give you a good picture of how your business is performing. Most companies are too complex to keep track of information so slowly. In the article “Today’s Supply Chain Secret Sauce: More Visibility, Fewer Silos,” Michael Koploy, an ERP Analyst with Software Advice, says, “Very few supply chains can be considered ‘simple’ anymore. Even companies with streamlined product lines often source from all over the world. Therefore, access to accurate data in real time is vital to an organization’s ability to plan, analyze and react.” Koploy rightly points out that using spreadsheets creates unnecessary risks. Data could be typed in incorrectly or become outdated before it’s put to use. It’s better to scan product information into a database with barcode scanners. This virtually eliminates the possibility of errors finding their way into data. The business world is fast-paced, and it can leave companies behind if they don’t seize opportunities and solve problems quickly.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Once you can see the latest supply chain data, you need to be able to hear what it’s telling you. This means sorting and making sense of a whole bunch of numbers. “The problem is many companies either don’t have access to [data], or are spending too much time trying to make heads or tails of the data,” says Karin Bursa, Vice President of Logility. “The right visibility affords the supply chain team to proactively identify and resolve issues.” You don’t want to spend too much time just figuring out how to read the information you collect. If you use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, you can get a comprehensive picture of what your data is trying to tell you – everything from your supply chains to your sales. Instead of trying to put all of these different parts of your business into different boxes (Excel spreadsheets), you can see how they work together in specially designed reports.

Do You Know What I Know?

How can you be sure your ERP is giving you exactly the information you’re looking for? Koploy suggests you look for an ERP or inventory management system that allows you to do three things: 1. Instantly update your inventory and accounting records when any change is made, such as an order, sale or shipment. 2. Gain access that data from virtually anywhere. 3. Be able to set automatic reorder points and alerts to keep you informed on how your warehouse and supply chain are performing.

Listen to What I Say!

Why is all of this important? Because having the right tools and information helps you make decisions that are likely to lead to more success. And it will help you convince other people in your company to get on board and support you in your decisions when they see that they’re based on a solid foundation. “By creating more transparency throughout the supply chain, managers can prioritize where to invest in network improvements,” Koploy says. “Today, integrated software solutions are essential in helping leaders collect, manage and share the types of data that make this level of visibility and proactive decision-making possible.” (Emphasis added) Once the night wind, little lamb and shepherd boy have had their say, it’s time for the mighty king to tell his people to listen to what he’s about to tell them. When you make sure you’re listening to as many sources as possible and seeing important patterns, you will be able to speak and act more confidently as a leader. That’s my advice. Sign up for a demo of Fishbowl Enterprise if you would like to see what I see as a good investment for your business. And have a merry Christmas!