Desperately seeking supply chain success

Opinion

Desperately seeking supply chain success

Toby Poston
There aren't many high-profile success stories of companies moving their operations onto the Web. I'm talking about success in terms of profits made, or savings earned, not the internal targets for site visitors or transaction rates.

Tesco is the highest-profile UK example, and just recently EBR's parent company Reed Elsevier achieved some notoriety when it announced increased profits on the back of some well-judged subscription-based content services.

But most people struggle to come up with a company that has really got to grips with e-enabling its supply chain. Cisco was always cited as the company at the forefront of using e-supply chain technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Its name is not used in this context so much anymore, probably due to its recently announced $2.25bn inventory write-off. How much of Cisco's misfortune was due to management over-optimism, technology slump or e-supply chain cock-up we will never really know. Perhaps it would have written off $5bn if it had not invested so much in its ultra-sophisticated supply chain systems.

Nothing changes the fact that establishing electronic, information-sharing links with your supply chain is a good idea, now more than ever. Unlike many e-business propositions, which can lose their lustre during an economic slow-down, e-enabling your supply chain is a no-brainer.

As I said before, it is all about reducing costs and improving efficiency - a virtual mantra for recession management. So we've decided to bang the drum a little bit about online supply chains this month - and we have found a few companies, such as Sainsbury's and GE Lighting, who can point to real benefits from their forays into this field.

None of them are even close to achieving the nirvana of a fully integrated, automated supply chain quite yet, but they are getting there.

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