Top five supply chain technology and integration challenges

Supply chain integration can be a challenging undertaking for manufacturers. Knowing some of the top supply chain technology mistakes and challenges can help make the implementation process run smoother.

There are numerous challenges that organizations face when implementing supply chain technology. Here are the biggest

supply chain integration mistakes companies make:

 

  1. Failure to secure top-management sponsorship and leadership. Since supply chain processes impact so much of a company's mission critical value-chain, securing top management sponsorship and leadership is critical for cross-functional commitment, driving enterprise-wide accountability, or allocating proper resources to insure a successful implementation. One tried-and-true solution is creating an executive steering committee to ensure that resources are aligned and obstacles are removed.

     

  2. Wrong Process, worst practice. Prior to an implementation, it is critical that companies conduct research to insure that the new technology is supported by the right process and is grounded in cross-industry best practices related to that process.

    The ultimate benefits of a technology are best gained by talking with others who have successfully applied such technology within their supply chains. Many supply chain technology providers can provide information on best practices or referrals to those companies that have gained significant benefits in utilizing the technology.

  3. Inaccurate and out-of-date information. Timely data and information are what successful supply chains are all about. Many of the initial benefits of supply chain technology automation have been neutered by the existence of inaccurate or untimely data. Before implementing any new software, the implementation team must first dedicate efforts to make sure that all data related in any way to the application is clean and accurate. The adage of "garbage-in and garbage-out" has a special meaning in supply chain management technology.

     

  4. No cross-functional representation. A broad-based team that is empowered to make decisions about planning and implementation will insure a successful supply chain deployment. This team should include the ultimate stakeholders in use of the new technology, and all those who will benefit with improved process flow and information. Systems integration is a critical requirement in most supply chain technology. It is essential that the implementation team have IT representation to lead the systems integration effort and address needs for inbound and outbound data or new integration and information reporting needs.

     

  5. Broad scope. While a long-term end-state is the goal, do not attempt to implement everything at once. Apply the 80-20 Pareto principle of impact. Focus on core needs of the process being automated and on scope that can deliver the initial benefits of an implementation. Celebrate short-term wins and incremental benefits. A limited focus on quick initial benefits from the implementation and sustaining value in subsequent future functionality releases can help in obtaining longer-term commitment to automation and change.

About the author: Bob Ferrari is the Managing Director of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC, a supply chain business process and technology consultant firm, and is the creator and Executive Editor of the Supply Chain Matters internet blog.

This was first published in December 2009

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