As an emerging part of enterprise resource planning, supply chain management software includes a variety of specific tools and resources to help companies make their supply chains more efficient. These tools also help you optimize production by increasing the efficiency of purchasing and handling the materials and supplies coming in. Here are thirteen of the individual supply chain management tools that make these software packages so valuable to companies:
1. Shipping Status Tools: Alerts and Updates
One of the popular features built into supply chain management software is functionality related to providing timely information on shipping. Typically, large companies have large-volume supply chains, with many different types of cargo shipped to customers around the country or around the world. Digital alert and update features make shipping transparent, tracking these logistics for stakeholders.
2. Order Processing Tools
Another type of supply chain management technology works with supplies at the point of intake. Order processing helps companies better understand what’s happening when they receive deliveries of different products. Order processing tools typically include several different types of metrics and identifiers to help the business with intake analysis, one of the many steps toward ensuring on-time delivery to your customers.
3. Lean Inventory Tools
The idea of lean inventory, also known as just-in-time inventory, is something that’s relatively new, emerging along with certain kinds of supply chain management tools. The idea is that companies order only what they need immediately, based on current and projected customer demand. The overall goal of this practice is to optimize your inventory planning by cutting down on warehousing space, inventory costs and the different procedures of storing excess inventory. Lean inventory tools can provide quite a bit of return on investment for a business, while decreasing the need for real estate and streamlining their labor force.
4. Warehouse Management
Sometimes supply chain management tools can also help companies manage a warehouse’s day-to-day inventory operations. Some people don’t think of SCM as focusing on the logistics of internal inventory. However, the reality is that with the comprehensive design of supply chain management software, vendors have created technology that helps with warehouse management, including supply chain performance tools and tools for evaluating the condition of inventory materials.
5. Freight Handling
In addition to various shipping features, supply chain management tools can also incorporate various types of industry-specific freight handling functionality. For example, the evolution of cold chain logistics and new regulations concerning refrigeration and freezing for perishable goods has changed compliance standards. Therefore, some SCM platforms have integrated technology that can verify that those goods were kept at the proper temperature right up to the last mile of delivery.
6. Bid and Spend Tools
Another major area of supply chain operations are the various associated costs. Sophisticated supply chain management tools can help you dig down and take a granular look at what you’re spending on each item that you take in and send out during production. These tools can also assist you in evaluating bids from different suppliers by helping you spot opportunities for improvement.
7. Supplier Management
Along with assistive features for cost issues, supply chain management tools can also help businesses get a better understanding of how they relate to their suppliers. Supplier management tools show the history of a business partnership and how it affects the supply chain. They can show the level of value and quality that each of their suppliers have brought to the process.
Supplier performance reports are just one example of a feature built into supply chain management tools that show, in general, how a given supplier has contributed to a business model. With this information in hand, decision makers can act more confidently to change or otherwise manage supplier relationships.
8. Demand Forecasting
Other supply chain management tools work on a predictive model. They help you anticipate your customers’ demand in order to speed up or slow down your supply chain processes. Oftentimes, demand forecasting is a part of a supply chain management software dashboard. This feature allows you to manage your supply chain processes in a much more modern way.
In the early days of the industry, companies simply guessed how much supply chain product they would need, oftentimes holding onto large amounts of production materials that took up unnecessary space. Demand forecasting and related planning resources help companies achieve cost savings and business process improvements through more accurate planning.
9. Collaboration Portals
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 challenges, such as communications issues, bottlenecks in requisition and ordering, etc. With self-service Internet portals, companies can authorize suppliers to do certain kinds of documentation and/or automate parts of the ordering process.
10. Security Features
There’s another element of SCM software that’s focused squarely on security. Companies have to think about what types of data may be sensitive. For instance, data about different types of supply chain orders and volumes may be useful to competitors, while financial data may leave the involved parties vulnerable if that data was compromised. 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.
11. Compliance Tools
A given company may have certain 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.
12. Audit Tools
Audit tools help outsiders come in and take a look at your operations. These SCM features can be useful for eDiscovery or for other situations, including legal challenges. They may also be helpful in business-as-usual, where it’s standard practice to keep an outside set of eyes on documenting your supply chain process flow.
13. Long-Term Supply Chain Evaluation
Like other kinds of enterprise software, supply chain management tools 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 supply chain analysis make it easier to pursue change confidently, by providing greater supply chain visibility than what would otherwise be possible. This provides valuable insight into what’s really going on in the complex business processes that seem opaque during day-to-day observation.
Think about how these supply chain management tools could empower your business to innovate your operations in the digital age.