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When supply chains are stretched too thin, key initiatives can quickly be put at risk. Businesses are now taking steps to ensure against breaks in their supply chains.

Helen D'Antoni

March 5, 2003

4 Min Read

When supply chains are stretched too thin, key initiatives can quickly be put at risk. Businesses are now taking steps to ensure against breaks in their supply chains. For many, access to real-time information is perceived as a way of realizing this aim.

"The responsiveness that real-time visibility offers lets us operate with lower inventory levels," is how Nikhil Sagar, product manager of supply chain at appliance maker Whirlpool Corp., put it recently (see "Supply On Demand," March 3, p. 47). Real-time capabilities also improve Whirlpool's forecasting capabilities, which is important because inaccurate forecasts could translate into lost sales. Whirlpool isn't alone in its attempt to improve supply-chain operations by providing access to more timely information. Of 261 business-technology professionals recently surveyed by InformationWeek Research about their companies' real-time business strategies, half say that improvements in supply-chain efficiencies are driving their companies to cut the time it takes for information to reach key personnel in decision-making positions. Realizing a faster flow of information within supply chains is appearing on the to-do lists of IT executives at companies of all sizes. About half of business-technology professionals companies in InformationWeek Research's real-time business study say that the need for supply-chain efficiencies is prompting them to provide key decision makers inside and outside the enterprise with faster access to company information. What role is real-time information having on the management of supply chains at your business? Let us know at the address below. Helen D'Antoni
Senior Editor, Research
[email protected]
Tool Time
In the next 12 months, will your company make a significant investment in inventory-management tools to reduce the time it takes for operational data to reach key decision makers? Despite spending constraints, sites continue to improve their supply chains through IT investment. And to ensure the best stock decisions possible, four in five business-technology professionals say their companies will make significant acquisitions in inventory-management tools in the next 12 months to reduce the time it takes for operational data to reach key decision makers. Top of the Page
Payoffs Reported
Have your company's efforts to speed data to key decision makers resulted in supply-chain efficiencies? Potential vulnerabilities that accompany information sharing, including data corruption, are easier to rationalize when offset by favorable payoffs. Companies seeking supply-chain efficiencies through improved access to more timely information see rewards for these efforts. While a third of large companies boost beneficial returns due to faster information access, more than half of midsize businesses and two in five small companies report results for their real-time supply-chain endeavors. Making An Effort
Is the fact that business partners are unwilling to share information an obstacle in your company's efforts to collect and manage data in real time? Few executives, if they value their careers, should say no to company alliances that offer increased business opportunities, even if those opportunities depend on shared proprietary information. Yet some companies seeking real-time operations with their business partners are experiencing unwillingness on the part of business associates to disclose pertinent information. Nearly a third of sites report that the problem is so severe that it's hindering efforts to collect and manage data in real time. Structurally Proficient
Are your company's business partners technically able to share information in real time? Unwillingness to share information isn't the only factor that can prevent improved communications with business partners. Technical compatibility can jeopardize these ambitions, too. About half of companies with annual revenue less than $1 billion, slightly more than the 44% of large companies, say technical compatibility is an issue in realizing a flow of real-time information with business partners.

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