Looking for a common thread between supply chains and procurement operations today can be challenging: As companies' efforts reach global scale and incorporate complicated relationships between third parties, each one takes on its own unique characteristics. However, sourcing professionals must identify the hallmarks of success in the field if they want to ensure their own organizations end up on the right path.
Spotting IT's influence
According to Spend Matters, a commitment to technological advancement is one of those valuable through-lines connecting the most effective companies. One workable definition of an above-average supply chain is an organization that gets more production for its investment, and integrating new tech is one way to achieve this universal goal.
The source pointed to Hackett group data stating that IT-friendly procurement operations are able to turn to automation for their most basic everyday processes. This means more than implementing robotics in manufacturing and shipping operations, and also includes back-office technologies that make data entry and access easier. Communication of accurate figures is an indispensable part of procurement networks today, and automating that part of the process can be as significant as more manual tasks.
Spend Matters pointed to recent improvement within Dell's supply chain operations. Instead of launching a splashy IT project, the company opted for a more low-key approach that proved no less effective. Instead of using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, the organization now shares its data through a universally accessible online database. This is the kind of IT progress that doesn't frequently make headlines, but still transforms the way supply chain organizations communicate and operate.
Information is a resource with real monetary value today. According to The Manufacturer, supply chain organizations are finding savings and effectiveness benefits in their management of data. For instance, using automated supply chain management software will enable them to analyze and clean up data coming in from their suppliers. Once they have the information they need, it's time to perform analytics - another highly automated process.
Rolls-Royce Director of Purchasing Gordon Tytler explained to the news source that when employees have less engagement with day-to-day processes regarding transactional data and analysis, they can turn to matters that need their immediate attention, such as hands-on supplier management. Just like the automated systems that are gaining traction on factory floors, the idea behind back-office IT innovation is turning repetitive or non-creative work over to algorithms and letting employees get on with value-adding operations.
The future of the supply chain back office
Any company that is still handling too many of its data entry and back-office tasks through closely monitored manual activity may be losing a chance to move more quickly. Just as the heavy lifting in logistics can be taken on by automated processes, there are IT solutions to make everyday office works less monotonous.
The search for value often involves freeing employees to work on more strategic matters. The more automated a supply chain is, the better it will be at taking this approach. That's why the most advanced procurement organizations tend to be the farthest along in their IT integration and transformation.