Marks & Spencer is strengthening its electronic business-to-business supply chain with an Internet-based Windows 2000 solution, and at the same time saving £12m over three years.
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Using Microsoft's Windows 2000 Server operating system and running Microsoft BizTalk, M&S is seeking to add most of its main suppliers to a single supply chain and integrate this with its customer transaction system to enable streamlined deliveries through shared information.
M&S's Information Tech-nology Shared Services (ITSS) is overseeing the roll-out, and expects to complete it by September this year when it will extend to more than 500 suppliers.
ITSS manager Mike Yorwerth said, "This is fundamental to enable our business to go forward, so M&S can be flexible in responding to customers' needs." The £12m savings were established using the Rapid Economic Just-ification methodology, and confirmed by the Giga Information Group.
The new system will enable M&S to collect details of customer transactions from more than 300 stores in almost real time. This information will allow suppliers to deliver more efficiently to the distribution centres, allowing greater product availability and selection.
On the inventory side, BizTalk will look at a transaction's contents and route it to the appropriate destination. At its peak, this process will handle 250 transactions per second.
The bolstered supply chain will replace a daily batch- and file-transfer solution over electronic data interchange (EDI) between M&S and its suppliers. With BizTalk, the information will be exchanged in real-time, helping overcome problems quicker.
And Yorwerth said that, as the new system used the industry-standard XML language, writing custom interfaces between each ITSS applications will no longer be necessary.
Also, the information garnered from the new system will make it easier for M&S to launch new direct marketing initiatives and real-time promotions, as well as complete customer basket analyses.