As an emerging part of enterprise resource planning, supply chain management software includes a variety of specific tools and resources to help companies to make their supply chains more efficient, and to optimize the purchase and handling of materials and supplies coming into a business. Here are thirteen of the individual tools that make supply chain management software packages so valuable to companies.
Shipping Status Tools: Alerts and Updates
One of the popular tools built into supply chain management packages is functionality related to providing timely information on shipping. Typically, large companies have large-volume supply chains, with many different types of cargo being shipped around the country or around the world. Digital alert and update features make shipping transparent — and track these processes for stakeholders.
Order Processing Tools
Another type of supply chain management tool works with supplies at the point of intake. Order processing helps companies to better understand what’s happening when they receive deliveries of supply chain products at the door. Order processing tools can include many different types of metrics and identifiers to help the business with intake analysis.
Lean Inventory Tools
The idea of lean inventory or just-in-time inventory is something that’s relatively new, and has emerged along with certain kinds of supply chain management software tools.
The idea is that companies can only order what they need immediately, to cut down on warehousing space, inventory costs, and the general procedure of storing supply chain materials for use in product development. Lean inventory tools can provide quite a bit of return on investment for a business, and decrease the need for business real estate, while also streamlining a labor force.
Sometimes the supply chain management platform can also help companies to manage what goes on every day in a warehouse that’s handling inventory. Some people don’t think of SCM as being focused on internal inventory, but the reality is that with the comprehensive design of supply chain management platforms, vendors have created tools to help with warehouse management, including performance tools, and tools for evaluating and analyzing the condition of inventory materials.
In addition to various shipping tools, supply chain management software systems could also incorporate specific types of freight handling tools by industry.
For example, with the evolution of cold chain logistics, and new regulations concerning refrigeration and freezing for perishable goods, SCM platforms can have tools that will certify that supply chain materials have been kept at a certain temperature right up to the last mile of delivery.
Bid and Spend Tools
Another major area of supply chain handling is cost. Sophisticated supply chain management platform tools can help companies to dig down and take a granular look at what they’re spending on each type of supply chain item. These tools can also assist the business in evaluating bids from different providers, to spot any opportunities for efficiency or improvement.
Contract Relationship Management
Along with assistive features for cost issues, supply chain management platforms can also help businesses to get a better understanding of how they relate to their vendors.
Vendor relationship tools will show the history of a business partnership and how it affects a supply chain. They will show the level of value and quality that vendors have brought to the process.
Supplier performance reports are just one example of a feature built into supply chain management tools that will show, in general, how a given supplier has contributed to a business model. With these sorts of information in hand, decision-makers can act more confidently to change or otherwise manage supplier relationships.
Other supply chain management tools work on a predictive model. They help the enterprise to anticipate demand, in order to speed up or slow down supply chain processes.
Demand forecasting can be part of a supply chain management dashboard that allows companies to manage a supply chain in a much more modern way. In the early days of industry, companies simply guessed about how much supply chain product they would need, and often kept large amounts of materials lying around for production purposes. Demand forecasting and related data resources help companies to innovate for cost savings and business process improvement.
With modern supply chain management tools, it’s also possible for companies and their suppliers to work together on supply chain processes.
This is valuable for stakeholders, because it can eliminate many different kinds of challenges like communications issues, bottlenecks in requisition and ordering, etc. With self-service Internet portals, companies can authorize suppliers to do certain kinds of documentation or automate parts of the ordering process.
There’s another element of SCM that’s focused squarely on security. Companies have to think about what types of data may be sensitive — for instance, data about types of supply chain orders and volumes could be useful to competitors, or financial data may leave involved parties vulnerable after a data breach. So a range of supply chain management tools provide security for data in transit, and globally monitor whatever data assets are inside a general SCM system.
A given company may have compliance responsibilities according to its industry. Compliance tools are built with those responsibilities in mind. Again, with product-centered businesses, compliance may be related to cold chain storage or other handling requirements. With other businesses, it may be related to financial data and customer identifiers. Either way, compliance tools help to maintain compliance standards.
Audit tools help outsiders to come in and take a look. These SCM features can be useful for e-discovery or for other situations including legal challenges. Or, they may be helpful in business-as-usual where it’s standard practice to keep an outside set of eyes on documenting business processes.
Long Term Supply Chain Evaluation
Like other kinds of enterprise software, supply chain management packages can often be split up into short-term and long-term focused tools. Long term evaluation tools may show key trends in how supply chain products are used in demand ebbs and flows. Aggregated analysis may make it easier to pursue change confidently, and to know what’s really going on in complex business processes that seem opaque to day-to-day observation.
Think about how all of these SCM tools empower a business to innovate in the digital age.