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long distance connectionFor most suppliers the distance between their product and their consumers is a long and twisted path with little or no direct feedback. In a perfect world, this arrangement would work fine because retailers handle the direct consumer interaction and simply order more product from their suppliers to restock their shelves. And the tight margins, short lead times, localized demand cycles, and global distribution of the supply chain make it difficult to adequately plan production and delivery schedules. What's been termed 'supply chain visibility' has been touted as the answer to many supply chain issues, but is there any reality to this kind of monitoring?

Of course there is... if you use a single source for all your supply chain connections. A single centralized data repository can accumulate the details of every transaction to every trading partner and provide analysis of the transactions. Given enough information, this kind of system can check for out-of-bounds results and announce problems before they get out of hand. And with the proper parameters in place, can predict issues before they happen.

With only a few exceptions suppliers don't have the option of selecting a central processing repository because their customers (retailers) either dictate their choice of EDI provider or simply don't use a system that can be aggregated with the various systems used by the supplier's other customers. That leaves suppliers to fend for themselves even if they do participate in one or more of their customers' EDI providers consolidation efforts, which may actually make things more difficult for the supplier.

Since tracking products from manufacture to payment is generally agreed to be the most basic step in gaining control of the supply chain, finding a way to wrangle what can become an onslaught of data is a challenge. And getting off to a false start with the wrong system can be even more painful. Various systems are available from a variety of providers and ec-bp.com would like to know what solutions you've found to work (or not to work) in your situation. Last modified on Tuesday, 14 May 2013
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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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