Technology has already changed the dynamics of the supply chain. It's no longer a linear process, as products flow from one player to the next, according to Tom France, director of global transportation and logistics for Caterpillar. It's now a network, with information flowing between partners at all points in the chain.
And that increased transparency has boosted the need for broader collaboration at all points, France said at Infor's customer show earlier this month in New York, NY. "If the data flow doesn't match the physical flow, you're not moving anything," he said.
If the customs agents at the port don't have the correct information about the shipment, for example, it will likely be delayed. And that could have a ripple effect for all of your partners. The ideal supply chain works on time. "Early is bad, late is bad," France says. "It needs to be on time" or the entire system gets backed up.
But "sharing information is only the first step" in this collaborative supply chain, France said. True collaboration involves pushing data to partners and giving them access to complete information about where things are and why. Data sharing and increased visibility allows partners to work together to identify issues – and resolve them.
Rather than just receiving notification of a delay, all of the partners will receive information on why something has been delayed. That information can be used to improve their forecasts and expectations.
To successfully capitalize on this new supply network, however, you have to choose your partners carefully. "Information sharing is critical" to success with these new dynamics, France says. If your partners aren't willing to work with you, they – and you – will get left behind.