Designing an Agile Supply Chain Starts with B2B Integration
- May 24th, 2013
- By: Loraine Lawson
Gone are the days when supply chain redesigns took 3-5 years; today’s supply chains have to respond to changing business needs quickly, according to a recent Logistics Viewpoints guest commentary.
Not too long ago, companies considered supply chain design as a project to conduct once every three to five years—if at all,” writes Toby Brzoznowski, executive vice president of LLamasoft, Inc. “Today, there is a strong and ever-increasing trend of companies making supply chain design a core business function, and using this competency as a competitive weapon for their business.”
Granted, Brzoznowski has a reason to make the case for in-house re-designs of supply chains. After all, LLamasoft sells supply chain design software. But despite the bias, it’s hard to argue with his main points:
- Business practices now require fast product development and deployment
- Supply chains are increasingly operating in a volatile world market, that requires swift changes thanks to changing fuel and labor costs, as well as natural or man-made disasters
He also points out that modern supply chain technology means companies now have the capacity to perform more analysis and respond to change in a way not possible with supply chains that relied on paper for every process, from ordering, invoicing and payment through delivery.
CIOs will recognize this shift: It’s the same change that happened with IT systems and software in recent years, as “agility” became the key goal not just for software development, but the entire IT infrastructure.
As any CIO or IT leader will tell you, agility isn’t easy to achieve. Brzoznowski’s recommendation is that companies form a supply chain design center of excellence.
That’s a mouthful, but at it’s simplest, any center of excellence starts out by bringing the key players together — procurement, supply chain managers, logistics — to discuss what works and what doesn’t.
It can also be a way to identify quick tactical wins, Brzoznowski points out, which can then provide the justification for further investments in technology and staff.
Ultimately, achieving agility in supply chains will require automation of B2B systems, so you can respond quickly to changing business demands and the volatile world market. B2B integration suites can be a good first step, because they allow supply chain managers to quickly on-board and integrate with new suppliers.