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Posted Date: 12/5/2008


contributed by Gary M. Barraco, Senior Manager, Marketing and Alliance Development, ecVision (gbarraco@ecvision.com)

While it's hard to ignore the current economic and retail meltdown - especially as we watch daily sales tallies during what should be our favorite high-spending season - it's worth noting that smart consumer goods manufacturers and brand owners are still investing in supply chain technology.

These investments, some made quietly, are geared to help firms enhance their expansive supplier networks through technology portals. Case in point: Three giant retailers are deploying supplier portal solutions from ecVision to be used by vendors and internal sourcing teams as they collaborate on global supply chain management and shipment tasks.
IT Investments are the Upcoming Trend
Indeed, a recent survey indicates that an overwhelming majority of U.S. supply chain executives intend to maintain or increase technology investments next year despite looming economic woes, validating that technology spends that yield return on investments are smart decisions. The report, entitled "Logistics Technology Report: North America," eyefortransport, November 2008, points out that "visibility" and "event management" solutions have the highest value.

Another source, AMR Research Inc., supports the implementation of the proper supply chain control mechanisms that will establish disciplines that protect retail companies from undue risk. For example, AMR recommends seeking such supply technology features as:
* Robust workflow for event-based supplier management;
* SaaS deployment options to minimize IT workload and involvement; and
* Measurement tools to analyze the successes.

AMR also advises deploying in smaller projects to quickly illustrate ROI.

Managing the Supplier

The management of suppliers also is critical to the profitable execution of product supply strategy, and must be even more decisive during a time of recessionary spending when consumers are demanding lower costs. Supplier portals are a technological solution that creates value-driven, collaborative relationships.

For example, ecVision has customers currently launching supplier portals which utilize XpressCommerce as a common platform to standardize trade and customs documents, consolidate shipment data and provide a means of collaboration between the retailers, factories, agents and logistics providers. The projects are designed to strengthen the relationships with suppliers and maximize profit margins by coordinating processes, boosting productivity and providing greater visibility throughout the sourcing, production and shipment process. Future implementations include online systems for scheduling quality inspectors and reporting results back to the retailer, raw material reservations with mills and tanneries, and online costing negotiation and sourcing information sharing between retailers with common agents.

With this combination of solid business processes, technology retailers can tightly mesh supply chain and global sourcing operations while delivering greater value chain benefits to the consumer in the way of lower price points and higher quality products.

Noteworthy is the importance of a timely deployment for these types of projects. ecVision has successfully deployed solutions in as little as three to five months, putting the retailer in the position to quickly realize ROI. The rollouts are incremental, bringing more supplier partners online weekly to ensure lower total cost of ownership through greater utilization.
One firm, an Asia-based agent/exporter, plans to support in excess of 7,000 suppliers on its portal, and will use the technological advantages inherent to XpressCommerce to extend and diversify into new markets to achieve lower costs for the retail customers it services.

In addition to supply chain capabilities, XpressCommerce is a role-based/web-based solution that delivers the functions of product lifecycle management (PLM) and supply chain execution (SCE) systems in a single solution. The key functionality in XpressCommerce enables retailers to manage capacity and raw material reservations, global sourcing and costing negotiations, customer and supplier purchase orders, production tracking and shipment milestones. The framework supporting this functionality includes strong collaboration, reporting and visibility tools to provide management teams with the ability to make proactive decisions about their product lifecycle and supply chain operation.

Treasure Your Valuable Assets

Ultimately, a retailer's suppliers are their most valuable asset. By investing in technologies that yield greater value from these relationships, retailers will minimize risk and improve their supply chain efficiency. Effective communication and collaboration is a very challenging, key aspect to improving supply chain relationships. Supplier portal solutions can help companies increase their supply chain visibility and control, increase supply chain accountability, and accelerate time-to-market through proactive supply chain project management.

To learn more about supplier relationships, click here www.ecvision.com/Research Library/ResearchLibrary.htm to download free whitepapers and case studies published by ecVision.


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