The shift to growth-oriented initiatives is causing companies to reach outside the enterprise to collaborate with others in its supply ecosystem. This multi-enterprise collaboration (MEC) is the technique by which organizations are able to progress along the path toward visible business. Its components involve the availability, analysis, and application of information to generate worth. In my last article, we began providing examples of MEC in action in the supply chain. Here, we continue our examples of MEC.
In Part III we looked at the need for—and value of—having visibility into product movement at the distribution center (DC), store, and point-of-sale (POS) levels in a direct relationship between a supplier and a retailer. But, the multi-enterprise aspects of this are further highlighted when you consider multi-step distribution models. [Figure 1]
Here, the inventory tracking challenge for the manufacturer is further exacerbated by the addition of the distribution intermediary that—without MEC—shields the manufacturer from seeing what is happening between the distributor and its many customers. But, using MEC, the problem of the manufacturer seeing only what is ordered by and shipped to the distributor is addressed by sharing, analyzing, and utilizing inventory activity information from the many points shown. [Figure 1]
ORDER STATUS REPORTING
From the moment a customer places an order until the requested product is received into the customer’s inventory—i.e., updated in the appropriate system(s)—that customer is presented with a classic challenge, that is, knowing whether they will receive what they ordered, when it is scheduled to arrive, and when it was actually delivered. Certainly, the first of these questions can be answered using purchase order acknowledgments (whether the order can be filled completely) and/or shipping notices (what was picked up by the carrier and roughly when it should arrive). Knowing whether the shipment is on time and whether it’s been delivered, however, remains a mystery for most customers unless they pick up the phone and call someone.
Even a call into the supplier’s customer support group can leave an information gap for the customer if the supplier hasn’t instituted appropriate measures to collect and make the necessary information available to that support organization. [Figure 2]