Crafting a more transparent supply chain

To tackle disruption and improve profitability, supply chain management tools are offering manufacturers and distributors a chance to improve visibility over the supply chain

As businesses respond to the disruption of the past two years, information sharing will be key to generating long-term relationships between manufacturers and distributors based on transparency and trust.

For manufacturers and distributors, transparency is essential, particularly in the event of major supply chain disruptions caused by events such as the Suez Canal blockage and Covid-19 pandemic. “You need to know why there’s been this disruption and be able to communicate that with your customers,” says Andy Reid, the head of international product marketing and global competitive intelligence at cloud-based ERP provider Epicor.

Customers are also demanding more visibility about where products are sourced from. That means manufacturers and distributors need to know exactly where and how products are being made, particularly if their supply chains are complex and multinational. If companies don’t do this, they could lose out. “Competition is really hot in this area,” says Reid. “If you can’t supply a product or give your customers enough information about how it’s made, someone else will.”

But supply chain transparency can be easily improved with the support of cloud-based software. Epicor’s supply chain management software can track even the smallest of individual product parts back to source. Reid says: “If you’re a hardware distributor that’s also doing some assembly as a value-added service, you need to be able to track where the individual parts have come from, so if one keeps failing you can go back to the supplier, resolve the issue and maintain quality. Our systems can capture serial numbers and information about individual product parts and store them securely.”

But tracking the performance of suppliers, maintaining communication and keeping costs down can be a major challenge as you grow your business. “Distributors operate in a highly competitive environment,” says Reid. “They tend to be high volume, low margin businesses and are always looking for ways to keep costs down, increase margins and profitability. To do that, you need to prioritise information management.”

Those who want to run the supply chain of the future will need to shed the old mindset of waiting for a new technology to become the norm before embracing it

For companies that approach supply chain management with the right stable of tools, they can minimise inventory risks and costs while conforming to industry standards. Visibility into costing, tracking, country of origin and managing the flow of raw materials is essential to achieving transparency throughout the supply chain. Epicor’s cloud-based software supports this, while helping to reduce annual audit costs with regular inventory counting, enabling profitability at scale.

Improving communication with suppliers is also key. Epicor does this through its supplier portal, which enables customers and business partners to interact online using a self-service tool. It provides either an integration solution (for suppliers who can connect to companies) or a web portal (for suppliers who can’t) through which businesses and their suppliers can communicate. It enables documents to be viewed, status information about sourcing requests shared and graphical charts with insights into EDI data provided. These web-based analytics present supply chain activity and alert manufacturers to unexpected or non-compliant supplier actions. It allows for real-time visibility into orders, carriers and warehouses so teams can respond to supply chain breaks immediately.

Andy Coussins, SVP and head of international at Epicor says: “There is a tremendous opportunity at hand for manufacturers and distributors. This will only be realised by using emerging informational technologies like mobile, analytics, and cloud alongside operational technologies like sensors, machine-to-machine communication, and robotics. Tomorrow’s manufacturers and distributors need to be leaders when it comes to adopting technology. Those who want to run the supply chain of the future will need to shed the old mindset of waiting for a new technology to become the norm before embracing it.”

Supply chain transparency means knowing exactly what is happening at every stage of the supply chain, enabling swift communication with stakeholders based on reliable data. It enables companies to minimise delivery disruption, identify operational improvements, uphold standards and boost trust with suppliers and customers.

Partner with Epicor today to build a transparent, resilient and profitable supply chain.

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