Many companies over the last 20 years have realized enormous value to both their customers and their bottom line through supply chain optimization. While there are many ways to approach these opportunities one particularly valuable area to be explored is the timely sharing of order and forecast data. Increasing the selective transparency between organizations in a given supply chain allows for better-informed decisions to be made.
Due to this area's popularity there are quite a few software packages that attempt to be everything to everyone. The downside of this approach is the same as what one finds with an ERP implementation, namely the complicated configuration and implementation necessary to (hopefully) meet 70% of an organization's needs. The cost for these products also tend to be prohibitive.
Several years ago B/E Aerospace recognized the opportunity to significantly improve in the area of supplier collaboration. While their underlying, internal systems were rock solid the direct, automated interaction with their supply base had not been a priority. Most interactions with supplier organizations occurred by talking on the phone, by sending emails and by printing purchase orders to send by traditional paper mail.
Accelerating, standardizing and recording communications between internal and external transaction representatives saved time both internally and externally, reduced expense on things like printers, PO forms and postage and provided a platform for further supply-chain coordination.
In order to promote speed of adoption the system was built to be very user friendly. The reduced configuration and user-focused approach to building this system has been said to make it more accessible to primary users than some of the costly packaged solutions offered in this space.
The landing page of the site is designed to provide an overview of items currently within the user's primary responsibility.
Clicking on a link from one of these "widgets" will navigate directly to the related details on the purchase order line search results (order management) screen.
The shipping and label printing module was designed to enable supplier shipping personnel to print labels at their own facility just prior to shipment. Printing barcode information determined important to the receiving organization opened up numerous receiving dock opportunities for improvement.
The ability to split a shipment into multiple boxes, execute a partial shipment, group shipments into higher level batches and more are all features of this module.
Supplier representatives have secure, direct access to relevant purchase order data through the Internet. By logging in supplier representatives can find and print a purchase order, send a comment within the context of a given purchase order line, set a promise date for delivery and more.
The purchase order line details screen is where full details of a given order can be viewed along with a full history of interaction that has occurred with that line from either the purchasing or selling organization. This clear, indisputable record of communication is valuable in avoiding any misunderstandings that might occur verbally.
A full reporting module was built on top of the system once it was finished. Most reports allow decision makers to monitor supply chain metrics and system administrators to identify an exceptions that may need attention.
A supplier-managed-inventory module was built as a second scope of effort. The ability for remote inventory data to be managed through this shared portal is just one of the several collaboration opportunities that presented themselves after initial implementation.