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The role of IT in supply chain management

“Your shipment is on backorder.” We have all heard that statement in the past year. Or we have traveled to a retail location to find the items on our list are out of stock. Add a surge in eCommerce, and you may be wondering when or if you will find the supplies you need. The one-plus-year COVID pandemic has created havoc in both our local and national supply chain.

There is no doubt that the past year will highlight many case studies in supply chain management.

Are you a link in the chain?

You may think that your organization’s supply chain management only rests with the Supply Chain Manager and their team. After reflection, the realization materializes that a healthy supply chain depends on many divisions of your company, from Accounting to Purchasing and, at times, even HR.

Of course, your IT team or contracted partner also plays a role. I can say that it may even be your IT team that acts as the glue between groups and is a vital link in the chain.

When looking at the big picture, you quickly realize that your company is only one link in the successful distribution of your product. Success also depends on part manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Again, it is the IT team that provides a communication channel and the glue between partners.

The role of IT in the supply chain

A solid supply chain solution may separate the businesses that thrive this year and those that struggle. It may be your IT plan that throws your business a lifeline. What’s the role of your IT plan in your business’s supply chain management?

Business leaders know that IT makes information flow. It is this flow of information that makes the supply chain both visible and transparent. IT provides information to each business in the chain, and it allows leaders to predict future needs.

At a glance, it sounds as if your organization’s yearly IT plan will facilitate a smooth flow of goods and services. But, if your livelihood depends on selling and receiving goods, it is time to craft an IT plan specific to your supply chain.

Software and hardware solutions: 5 questions to ask

Your supply chain IT plan should include solutions to address a list of needs. Industry needs may consist of the following:

  1. Communication tools. Remember, you are not only communicating to those within your organization, but you also need to provide secure communication with your supply chain partners. Is communication to your supply chain partners secure? Cybercrime is sophisticated. Criminals know that organizations work at a breakneck pace and testing your people through spoofing, social engineering or phishing scams is a classic and simple way to break in. Prevent cybercrime and test the security of communication. Click HERE to learn about MainSpring’s Automated Security Awareness
  2. Data collection and analysis. Data is at the heart of supply chain management. Stay ahead of trends or problems by collecting data and providing tools to analyze. Does your IT team include a database manager, and is the management of data in your current IT plan?
  3. Inventory management. Is it time to update your inventory management system? Consider deploying tablets with an OTS software or custom app. Explore the need for RFD technology.
  4. To work with partners within your chain, it may be time to move collaboration to the cloud. Real-time data is critical to supply chain management and just-in-time procurement. Are your partners able to see real-time information? Recently, MainSpring published a blog on moving to the cloud.
  5. Supply chain OTS software. It is time to review the latest supply chain OTS software solutions. Do you need to upgrade your solution, or would a custom application better fit your needs? What is the status of your current software subscriptions?

Interview the links in your supply chain

Improved collaboration and real-time data cuts waste and allows your sales representatives to concentrate on business growth. Both sound ideal to business leaders. But I started this blog with “Your shipment is on backorder,”…that is a statement that both leadership and customers do not want to hear.

After the turmoil of the past year, make time to interview the members in your supply chain. It is time to review the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is also time for your IT team to be included in the interview process.

Ask for help

The use of IT within your supply chain management adds transparency and a layer of accountability for each participant in the chain. But what solution is ideal for your supply chain?

As a Chief Strategy Officer, I am often asked why a contractor or a virtual CIO (vCIO) may play a critical role in any supply chain discussion. It is helpful to look at lessons learned in the past. If you are a Supply Chain Manager or an IT specialist, you may have browsed the AllThingsSupplyChain.com site. Note that they have a special category for supply chain failure.

Supply chain solutions and technology change often. From new software packages to the latest RFD technology, it is hard to track the latest tips, news, and solutions. It is even more challenging to know which solution fits your need. Bad choices are costly.

A vCIO has its thumb on the market. They communicate with other technology leaders.  It is their job to know and understand the differences in today’s technology solutions. Perhaps, the best solution is to build on an established foundation. Your organization may need to make a significant change to protect the brand.

Consider the advice of a vCIO. Interested in discussing what a vCIO could do for your organization? Let’s discuss it and see.