The Internet is having a profound and permanent effect on the manufacturing industry. Last month we saw how manufacturers could find new customers and partners world-wide using online Exchanges. So, once you've successfully bid for and won those lucrative orders, how do you ensure you fulfil the contract on time, on budget and satisfying fluctuating demand? In fact, how confident can you be when you are even submitting the quote? Simple, it's all in the planning.
A plan shared is a lead-time halved
Internet-enabled planning and scheduling software allows a company to integrate information such as inventory levels, demand forecasts and production schedules with similar information from suppliers and customers.
If you are a manufacturer of packaged dairy products, for instance, you can arrange to integrate your planning software via a secure extranet site with that of your network of distributors. You then have access to their demand forecasts, and can tailor your own production schedule accordingly.
Perhaps their demand forecasts indicate an imminent rise in sales of ice cream. You want to be sure you can meet that demand, not only in the amount of ice cream you produce, but also in terms of the goods you need from external suppliers. So in turn, you might arrange for your cream and flavourings suppliers, your packaging supplier, and your transport supplier to have instant internet-based access to your production schedule so that they too can plan their production around the forecast increase. The data sharing is instant - at internet speed, so the moment your distributor forecasts the rise, you can begin scheduling production and your suppliers can prioritise the goods and services they need to supply. The entire chain is then ready to respond to the increase when it comes.
The Fast Beat the Slow
The above is a simple example, but Internet-based planning software is particularly important for those companies with large and complex supply chains, operating in highly competitive markets where responsiveness and flexibility are key to winning contracts and satisfying customers. With internet-based planning and scheduling, you can ensure that your entire supply chain is mobilised to respond quickly to incoming RFPs and new contract wins.
The software allows you to collaborate electronically with your partners to provide rapid quotes and delivery times to potential customers. It also gives you the in-depth knowledge of your partners' inventory levels and production schedules that you need to choose the most time and cost-efficient combination of suppliers for each order, so you do not, for instance, end up ordering 10,000 cartons from a supplier who only has 5,000 in stock. With visibility of this reduced inventory level, you can multi-source immediately to fulfil an order.
Some you win, some you lose, some you plan. In the new networked economy where orders may come in unexpectedly from anywhere and new markets are opening up all over the globe, quick response times and the ability to fulfil orders in ever-shortening timescales makes the difference between a deal lost and a deal won. Remember, it's all in the pl@nning.
Michael Klemen is Applications Marketing Director, Oracle EMEA. Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com