In today's marketplace, more and more WMS and solution set providers are weaving performance and event management tools into their applications. The market is also seeing the emergence of major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and financial software providers looking to sell stand-alone toolsets.
One thing is certain -- the market for these tools is starting to heat up as companies realize the need to react to changes in their supply chains.
Most tools are becoming quite robust in being able to manage exceptions in the supply chain. It should be noted, though, that a tool is only as good as the operator and the data being tracked. And without a detailed plan of what you want to track and report, a software tool is no better than tracking events with paper and pencil.
Too many times we have seen companies believe all the sales hype and implement applications thinking they can run on autopilot. As anyone who has been through it knows, this, as well as the inherent squabbling between the solution provider and the end customer, is exactly why the Return on Investment (ROI) on implementations falters.
It is extremely important to know what you are trying to accomplish and what you are trying to track before you begin moving down the purchasing and implementation path. The old adage, "you get out of it what you put into it," really sums it up in this situation.
With that in mind, a good way to ensure you are getting what you want is to assign a person to be the "application guru." This person should be in charge of getting all parties within the supply chain -- warehousing, transportation, purchasing, and finance personnel -- to identify key data to be reported upon. All of these areas also need to provide input of critical performance indicators, have ownership in the tracking mechanism, and designate a point of contact to be notified when problems arise. This is not a warehouse or transportation issue, it is a "supply chain event." Everyone must share in the management of the total process for it to be worthwhile.
More often than not, organizations have a hard time defining what they want to track as well as identifying what data is able to be tracked in the application. And they sometimes get caught up in the grand idea that events being monitored can be emailed or sent to wireless devices. This is great, but we all know we can screen email and turn off cell phones/PDAs very easily.
You need a plan of attack well before you purchase a solution. Once you have defined what critical points in the supply chain are to be tracked using this cross-functional team methodology, only then are you in a position to make an intelligent selection.
Make a detailed and logical review of the critical data elements and events pertinent to your particular situation. For example, consider the "talking" GPS that so many of us have in our cars today. You enter the starting point and the final destination, and it effectively routes you there. When you deviate from the course it politely, or sometimes not so politely, corrects your error. If you treat your performance and event management deployment as a basic start and end solution with not points in between, you will reap very little benefit. Instead, you must pay attention to the constant, corrective voice to successfully meet your final objectives.
So, to fully gain the benefits of supply chain event and performance management applications, homework is key. Know where you want to go before you get there, and more importantly, how you are going to get there.
Dennis Kelley, project manager for the global supply chain consulting firm of Tompkins Associates, has more than 20 years of experience in implementing new technology and automation in retail, food, pharmaceutical and other industries. http://www.tompkinsinc.com/
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