Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The IT Factor - Continued via THE Freight Dawg!

Eric Joiner, who has created a great resource for the logistics world, Freight Dawg Blawg, has posted my article and also added some valuable comments as well. Listed below is his full post for your review. Thank you Eric for allowing me to join the rest of the Dawgs...

Michael, having worked for a company that sold supply chain visibility tools (Celarix) and having implemented them (Tradebeams suite in another past life!)... I can add:

1. There is no visibility without trading partners who can contribute the data elements. Write data compliance into your transportation contracts with clearly stated data transmission requirements and the data elements you need. Not all carriers will be able to give you the same info on the same timing. Thats a factor in carrier selection as a balance against rates and transit times.

2. Clearly determine what milestones are important for YOUR supply chain. And they may be different depending on which product chain you are talking about...

3. Determine the ability of all your vendors to provide that information. This will vary by market and mode. You may well get PO invoices hand coded in China for some visibility tool, but you will NEVER get them done in France or the Benelux. Too much bitching, incomplete data and big expense. It just won't happen.

4. Have a hard look at 3PL solutions for visibility. Make Supply Chain visibility tools provision be a cornerstone of your 3PL/4PL contracts. Make the 3PL provide the technology because their potential install base, and carrier integration points may be better due to volume. Technology and visibility should be a key element in 3PL selection.

5. Strongly consider use of XML as a data communication format rather than EDI. Much more flexible and it can be customized easily. Most big carriers and integrators vastly prefer it to use of ANSI or EDIFACT messaging because it is readily tweaked and is cheaper to develop.

6. Develop your own SDK (software Development Kit) for XML for use by your carriers. Many integrators like UPS or DHL can provide these for their own tools. Decide what elements work for you, then ask all your carriers to develop to that standard. XML can feed everything from ERP systems to Excel spreadsheets if managed properly.

7. Avoid directly integrating to massive ERP systems like Oracle or SAP. Instead, think about having the messages go into some middleware database that can be easily hooked to a report writer, rather than trying to get special reports from SAP etc. Let the middleware feed SAP, but use a report writer against the database, not the ERP system.



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