Shelter From The Storm

In today's uncertain environment, companies need to properly assess and take steps to insure against the gamut of risks that threaten their supply chains.


"My suggestion is to utilize the level of granularity that your software provides and build proper processes on the back side so that automatic notifications go out, via email or other communications technology when something occurs, so all the proper people do get notified," says Tom Kozenski, vice president of product development for RedPrairie Corp., a Milwaukee, WI-based software company that offers solutions from retail store operations up the supply chain to manufacturing.

"You have to take the time to set up the processes, both in and outside the software, so the right people are notified and nothing falls through the cracks.

"A second point is that someone must be charged with keeping the data accurate and current. What if you're automatically sending email notifications to someone who doesn't work at a company anymore? That would turn into an item for the post mortem after a disaster, when you ask, how could that have happened?"

Real-Time Information

From another angle, the real-time capture of information about product and materials as they flow through the supply chain also enhances visibility throughout a company's operations. Whether through RFID technology, barcode scanning and radio frequency communications, or any other sensing and identification technology that can be applied, ready access to granular, real-time data improves companies' ability to detect specific disruptions or disruptive influences closer to the source and assists in organizing and executing a timely response.

"Of the many types and sources of risk in the supply chain, from shortages of supply that prevent your being able to deliver products to customers; to the risk of counterfeit sources of supply, or inferior quality ingredients making their way into your products, one means of mitigating risk lies in the intelligence going into the design of your supply chain network," comments Warren Sumner, vice president, marketing and products for Clear Orbit, Austin, TX. "For example, making sure you have back-up sources."

In terms of visibility, he adds, "We focus on providing instantaneous real time information on the status of all materials, whether raw materials or finished goods or work in progress, moving from supplier partners through the manufacturing facilities, into the supply chain and out to customers."

ClearOrbit provides barcode labels, RFID and software that integrates its technology with large ERP systems like Oracle and SAP, to provide users with extended visibility and control internally, as well as upstream into their suppliers' operations and downstream into their customers.

"The more real-time visibility you have into all your materials in their various stages of completion and transport, the better you are able to react to a disruption, a supply problem, or any other kind of risk, and to deal with changes or problems."

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