Daily Archives: January 7, 2008

the doctor Gives You The Top Ten Marketing Ideas … err … The Top Ten Supply Chain Improvement Ideas That You Might Overlook

Chief Marketer recently ran an article titled Top Ten: Marketing Ideas To Consider in 2008 designed to help marketers, but, scanning it, I couldn’t help but notice that every idea was also applicable to your supply chain – in the right context of course. So, even though most of these wouldn’t be on my top ten supply management improvement ideas for 2008, I’m going to cover them anyway because they’re still good ideas – and some of them are actually quick hits that you’ll get immediate pay back from.

  • Time to Green
    Thanks, in part to Al Gore who has now invented the science of “global warming” as well as the internet, Green is on everyone’s lips these days. If your products aren’t green, you better find a clueless third world economy to sell into because you might find that, as more green alternatives hit the market, especially affordable ones, your products stop selling. Although we’re not quite to the point where it’s “Go Green or Go Home”, we’re getting close.
  • The Great Outdoors
    Get up, get out, pile in a high miles-per-gallon vehicle with the latest emission reducing technology (or at least a good catalytic converter in working order), and drive until you see nothing but trees, plains, or semi-desert. Then sit and observe nature for a day. Notice the balance and the cycle. Then go back to the office and kick your sustainability programs up a notch.
  • Get Game
    Gaming permeates society – and it does for a reason. It connects and entertains people at the same time. But, more importantly, as a few thought leading companies are starting to find out, it’s also a great training and communication tool. Instead of using the same “process” handbooks and “training” manuals, develop some customized games that help your new hires get to where you need them to be in a matter of weeks, instead of months or years. (Even oil companies are realizing that they can cut the training time required to prepare new hires to correctly and safely lay pipes in the oil-fields by two thirds with simulation gaming. Moreover, they are also finding that these new hires are more productive on their first day than those that used to get three months of dry class-room training.)
  • Mobile – I Can Hear You Now
    Take a clue from UPS and Fedex and give all of your logistics workers hand-held RFID scanners to help them more efficiently identify, track, and deliver your shipments on time.
  • Join the Club
    Use enterprise technology that takes the best (but not the worst – remember why the doctor remains faceless and spaceless) collaborative technology developments from today’s social networks to help you interact with your supply chain partners more productively.
  • Rise of the Widgets
    Select supply chain software that presents extensible APIs and configurable interfaces that you can use to customize the software to your needs.
  • Roll Video
    Your employees aren’t the only ones who don’t want dusty manuals. Communicate with your supplies using the full capabilities of today’s multi-media and video conferencing software. Send them training videos instead of training manuals when you need them to use your systems (or system interfaces) and hold visual conference calls now and again to help with team building.
  • From Behavioral to Contextual
    Stop focussing only on one-size-fits-all technology and process improvements and start looking for this-size-fits-me technology and process improvements occasionally. Some things just work better in context.
  • Focus on the Experience
    Just like consumers want to “feel good” when they buy from a retailer, your internal customers want to “feel good” when they work with you. Make working with the supply chain organization something everyone in the company wants to do.
  • … As-A Service
    The supply chain is becoming more and more service oriented – Software As-A Service, Logistics As-A Service, Warehousing As-A Service, etc. Those that master the new service-oriented approach first stand to gain the most.

Integration Point: Another Way to Get Your Trade Data in Order

I know I risk sounding like a broken record when I continually repeat myself on a topic, but some topics just can’t be ignored – and at least this time I’m introducing you to another company with a solution that I believe could help you with your trade data management efforts.

I recently had the opportunity to review Integration Point‘s solution, and I believe that they are definitely one of the few providers with a chance to approach a solution that could theoretically be extended to tackle your global trade data management problems 100% in the future through a single, integrated, web-based platform. Right now, they’re probably a good two-thirds of the way there, and that’s currently further than any other solution I’ve had the opportunity to review so far.

Before we dive into their capabilities, let’s step back and define the problem again. If you review the Introduction to Global Trade wiki-paper over on the e-Sourcing Wiki, you quickly realize that Global Trade is quite involved, with the basic import and export cycles taking (at least) 14 steps each in the average case. Furthermore, in order to execute global trade, you need to effectively tackle ( 1 ) customs, security, and classification, ( 2 ) free trade / secure trade zones and agreements, and ( 3 ) regulatory compliance. Effectively tackling each of these challenges requires the ability to track and instantly access large amounts of data to create the forms and documents that different regulatory bodies require for the purposes of import / export, security verification, and regulatory compliance. Add extra emphasis to the “instantly” – the information needs to be accessible in real time – and this includes the ability to query up-to-date classification codes, tax laws, regulatory requirements, and denied party lists in real time.

As far as I can tell, with respect to the key supply chain destinations that compose most global supply chains (mainly, North America, the European Union, China, and India), Integration Point, with their extensible modularized web-based platform, has effectively solved the core customs, security, and classification challenge as well as the free trade / secure trade zone challenge. With solutions that address import and export classification (HTS codes), import documentation requirements, export documentation requirements, C-TPAT, AEO, denied party screening, FTA qualification, duty deferral, customs warehousing, customs control processing, and advance security filing – they have most of what your average multinational based in the US or the EU needs. Furthermore, they’ve built their platform to be extensible so that if you have additional classification or security needs, they can extend the solution to meet your needs. Maybe that’s why they already have over 80 multinationals as clients, including 11 of the Fortune 100.

The solution also integrates with a wide range of ERP and competitor trade platform software – including SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, MAPIS, BPCS, MFG/PRO, American Software, EXE, Manhattan Associates, PKMS, and Infor – and they can usually integrate with additional software in reasonable timeframes since everything was built in house on a single, .NET-based, platform.

This only leaves regulatory compliance – which is a difficult challenge for any vendor because most of the major acts, like REACH, RoHS, WEE, etc. in the EU, require significant amounts of low-level manufacturing and product design details that are only found in, often archaic, PLM systems. However, their platform can track any product-specific data you like, can store any regulatory-specific requirements you like, and they can build custom searches and custom-matches as required by their customers – often in just a few hours – so if you know what the concerns are, you can track them and make sure they are checked before each award is made or each shipment approved, so if your needs are elementary, with some effort, you can extend it to serve as a basic regulatory requirements tracking system. However, it won’t be a full solution until they build in basic PLM data integration, tracking, and matching capabilities as well as the requirements of the major regulatory acts in North American, the EU, China, and India.

Integration Point also has the right viewpoint when it comes to global trade management – it should be proactive and not reactive. You don’t want to know about exceptions after a shipment has been approved, you want to prevent shipments with known problems from occurring in the first place. You want to make sure that the customer is not on the denied party list, that the distributor or 3PL has the proper transport licenses, and that you have the right export licenses before you even approve the order. You want checks to occur automatically as soon as each relevant piece of information is entered, every time something changes, and again just before the shipment is loaded – since denied party lists can change daily.

It’s definitely worth checking out – as they have more integration than Global Data Mining. However, that’s not to say that Global Data Mining isn’t a valuable solution too – as they are particularly good at mining your transaction data to find inaccuracies in classification or tariff & tax overpayments that a transaction-based compliance system like Integration Point isn’t customized for. The reality is that global trade is so complex that one solution probably isn’t going to cut it for a long time, if ever, but I do believe that starting with a web-based platform, like Integration Point’s, is a good start. For your reference, other players in the space are TradeBeam, QuestaWeb, Kewill Systems, and Management Dynamics.